Not My Type: Adelebyfirstkiss©
My dear readers... I just wanted to thank you at the start of this for waiting for so long for these chapters. I wanted to do something different this time and actually have everything written before I started posting so there wouldn't be months of waiting between each chapter.
I thought that perhaps I should warn you a little about the somewhat religious tone this story sometimes takes. I assure you I am not a religious person necessarily -- and yet somehow I've seemed to have given birth to a character who is. Like Adele I was raised Catholic and I'm a little ashamed to admit that my knowledge of the Protestant Churches of the world is rather limited. I asked around my circle of friends, but they're apparently not much of a church-going bunch, so anything and everything I know about Presbyterianism was gleaned from the internet - if I've misconstrued anything or made an error, I whole-heartedly apologize. It is not my intention to misrepresent the Presbyterian Church. I welcome any corrections or comments.
Also... it is not my purpose in this story to be preachy at all. I could care less which religion you follow (if in fact it's any) -- I'm firmly of the belief myself that it doesn't matter what you believe in, as long as you believe in something. I've tried to make Nate as 'unpreachy' as possible, although he IS a Presbyterian Minister and therefore is expected to have opinions on God -- if you don't like the idea of the occasional discussion about the Big Man Upstairs, perhaps another story would be better suited to your tastes.
Thank you again... all the best...
Don't you just love it when there's a happily-ever-after? When the boy gets the girl and everyone's in love? Yeah, it's perfect...unless you're the one standing on the outside looking in.
I rose from one of Rhiannon's armchairs and crossed the crowded room to stand by the window. The snow covered beach and grey, ice-dotted sea beyond were dull and monochromatic - to match my mood.
It was Sunday and Sundays meant getting together at Rhi and Joe's cottage. The tradition began with their wedding seven months earlier and even the cold weather hadn't brought a stop to it. It wasn't just me, Lilly, and Rhi anymore. Now it was Adam, Joe and Lilly's other siblings, Matt and Chuck. Their little sister Violet joined us whenever she came home from art school. Adam's best friend Nate had taken to dropping by when his duties as a Presbyterian Minister allowed it. During the summer we would spread around the sunroom then onto the porch but the winter kept us indoors, confined to smaller, cozier environs.
The men had crowded around the tiny television, completely engrossed in a hockey game while Lilly and Rhi sat curled up on the sofa. Rhi had her feet in Lilly's lap—with her belly creating a formidable barrier between them—as Lil painted each toenail a scandalous red. Though the baby was due within the week, Rhi's utmost concern centered on the state of her pedicure. Typical. She had to be the most laid back first-time mom-to-be ever.
I spent more time with the Tanner family in the months since Rhi's wedding than I had in all the years prior to it. Somehow her marriage to Joe brought the entire Tanner clan closer together. Lilly especially thrived amongst her siblings in a way I'd never seen. Or perhaps Adam's influence made the difference. Both Matt and Chuck adored Adam from the get-go and even Joe had warmed up to him. That was aided no doubt by Rhi on one hand and by Adam's best friend Nate, on the other.
Reverend Nathaniel Fontaine was one of those people who walked into a room and befriended everyone instantly. He and Joe got along very well, which thrilled Rhiannon who was trying her best to help Joe become less withdrawn. Lilly loved it too because Joe's friendship with Nate somehow made him more accepting of Adam.
The happy Tanner family and their happy partners. It was picture perfect. As their friend, I felt mostly happy for them. But in moments like these, when everyone appeared blissfully content, a familiar ache crept up. I never got to have my babies; I didn't get to keep my husband. I didn't get to have that storybook ending.
I heard footsteps and knew without turning back that it would be Nate. I closed my eyes and wrapped my arms around my torso, anxious to still my shaking hands. My relationship with Nate teetered on the edge of disaster.
I liked him. It was impossible not to. And it was also impossible to do anything about it. What he needed from a woman and what I was capable of giving him were two different things. Instead of admitting it aloud, I'd done what I always did. I buried it inside and refused to acknowledge it. It was easier to pretend it didn't exist. It hurt less that way. At least, that's what I told myself.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Nate said from behind me. "Or do they cost more than that?" His voice had a slow, smooth drawl that sent a shiver down my spine. I hoped he didn't notice.
"I doubt they're worth even a penny," I replied. There was more bitterness in my voice than I would have liked.
Nate didn't respond. I switched my attention to the view from the window rather than see the surprise in his brown eyes. He stood so close to me I felt his heat. It was a stark contrast from the February chill seeping through the cottage's ancient windows. Hot and cold. Life was such a contradiction.
"Something's wrong, you're not your usual self, Adele. You haven't been for a while. Care to talk about it?"
I recognized Nate's tone -- all calm, almost detached, and hopelessly professional. He played the caring Reverend role so damn well. He'd probably recited that same verse to dozens of other people. Why did I want so desperately for him to treat me differently?
There was a sigh trapped in the back of my throat but I didn't give it the chance to escape. "It's just the weather," I lied. "The winter seems so long this year."
Nate reached past me to rest his hand against the glass window. He had elegant hands, long fingered and slim, with a masculine dusting of blond hair on the back of it.
"I like the snow," Nate murmured in my ear. "It covers everything and makes it clean. Underneath it everything sleeps and waits for spring. I think there's something hopeful about this time of year. You just know that soon it will all melt and change. Soon enough the cold will be gone and everything will be green and growing again."
"Do you ever have one single negative thought?" I found myself teasing. "Is there anything you don't like?"
Nate chuckled and I turned to watch him laugh in a deep satisfied rumble I felt all the way to my toes. He laid his finger against the spot between my eyebrows. His touch was cool and damp from the window but that's not why I shivered.
"I don't like seeing a scowl on your beautiful face," he confessed in a low tone only I could hear. He gently smoothed the wrinkle from between my brows. "Smile for me, sweetheart?" His hand continued across my forehead to brush a wayward ringlet from my face. I stood frozen in place as his finger traced my bottom lip before he curved his hand around my jaw. For the briefest moment I thought he might kiss me.
The intimacy of both the endearment and the caress ripped the air from my lungs. I gasped and I swayed on the spot, fighting the urge to relax against him, fighting the urge to pour out all my troubles, and worse fighting the urge to kiss him until we both were satisfied.
This was how it was between us, how it had been since I met Nate. One moment we were polite acquaintances, friends of friends. Then just when I wished he'd treat me a little differently from Lilly or Rhi, he would, and I'd feel myself slip into a place I couldn't let myself go.
Hot and cold.
It was driving me crazy.
"I'm sorry," Nate whispered as he read the shock and hesitancy on my face. I didn't trust myself to answer him, so I didn't. A flicker of hurt crossed his handsome face while he stared at me. The chill seeped around me again as he stepped backwards.
I opened my mouth to apologize just as a cheer erupted from the crowd on the other side of the room. The hockey game was over. Adam and the Tanner men rose to their feet, clapping each other on the back and laughing. My gaze shot back to Nate but the hurt look was gone, replaced by a placid Reverend's smile once more. The moment was lost.
Nate gave me a polite, frosty nod and crossed the room to sink cross-legged on the floor by the fireplace. His guitar rested against the wall and he picked it up and fitted it under his arm. He ducked his fair head and began to play softly. He didn't look up again.
Rhiannon and Lilly were both watching me -- Lil with a worried expression and Rhi with a cocked eyebrow. I knew both looks well and not a single bit of me wanted to hear what either had to say. Both were keen to have Nate and me together. It fit so well into their picture-perfect lives that way.
"Hey," Adam said to me as he moved from the livingroom towards the kitchen. "Want to help me get dinner ready?"
I returned his encouraging smile with a thankful one of my own. I knew what he was trying to do, but escaping to the kitchen suddenly didn't seem far enough.
"Sorry Adam, I'd love to, but I should go. I'm in court tomorrow afternoon and I still have a lot left to prepare for." I collected my purse and jacket and slipped my feet into my boots. "I'll see you all next week."
Everyone in the room said goodbye cheerfully. Everyone but Nate. He never looked up as he strummed his guitar.
Three days later, I was shuffling through a stack of briefs when an inter-office instant message popped up. It was from Lindsay, our receptionist, who had introduced the system to the firm. It was a lot less obtrusive than a constantly ringing phone, but it turned out to be perfect for gossiping about clients waiting in the reception area, a feature Lindsay enjoyed. She relished the chance to be nosy without being over-heard.
I clicked 'open' on the message.
The most gorgeous man I've ever seen is here to see you.
Nate? My heart leapt in my chest. What the hell was he doing here?
Another message popped up.
He doesn't have an appointment -- but really, do we care?
I laughed out loud. Not really, I typed back. My afternoon is clear.
I've sent him up. Are his eyes really that shade of green?
Green? I sat back with a frown. Nate's eyes were brown.
"Nice digs," drawled a voice from the doorway. I jumped up, surprised to see Adam standing there, clad in a leather jacket, black knit toque, and jeans. He grinned as he took in the small office where I spent most of my days.
"Thanks." I didn't even know he knew where I worked. Lilly must have mentioned it at some point. "Come in, sit down." I left my desk to close the door. Adam sat in the nearest chair.
"This is quite a surprise. What brings you here, business or pleasure?" I asked as I took my seat across from him.
He pulled off his toque and brushed at his short, dark hair before gifting me with his extraordinary smile. "A little bit of both." He chuckled. "After all, seeing you is always a pleasure."
I couldn't help but laugh at his easy charm. He really didn't seem to be able to help himself. Harmless flirtation was as natural to Adam Brooks as breathing. It was remarkable that Lilly was as trusting of him as she was. If he was my boyfriend I'd be afraid to leave him unattended. He could probably entice a nun to misbehave if he put his mind to it.
"It's nice to see you too," I capitulated as I drew my mind away from the thought of Adam easily seducing nuns. I folded my hands on my desk and tried not to get nervous about just what 'business' Adam had in mind. I hoped it wasn't in regards to Nate. I wasn't comfortable talking about it.
"What can I do for you Adam?" I asked, instantly hating how official and lawyer-ish the question sounded.
Adam leaned back in his chair and stretched out his long legs, totally relaxed. "Well you know my parole was over a few months ago."
I nodded. We'd all had a rather rowdy party to celebrate the occasion.
"So now that I'm done with that part of my life, I'd like to look into getting a pardon. It would be nice if I could have a little legal help."
I considered him for a moment. "I've never done anything like that before," I admitted. "I'm more of a real estate, wills, and divorces sort of lawyer. Anyway, as far as I know you don't need a lawyer to apply for a pardon."
Adam smiled. "I know, but you're still bound to know more than I do. You understand all those big, scary legal terms. Besides, I can't think of anyone I'd rather have to help me navigate all that bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo than you."
I laughed, totally charmed.
"The thing is," Adam leaned forward, his handsome face composed into a very earnest expression. "My criminal record means that without a pardon I may be restricted from leaving the country. And if I can't leave the country, I can't take Lilly to Paris for our honeymoon."
I sat stunned. "Honeymoon?" I squeaked. "Is there something I don't know?"
Adam smiled a smile I'd never seen before—a slow, secret one. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a bright blue box. He opened it, turned it, then set it on the desk between us.
My breath caught in my throat. Nestled in the box lay a square-cut sapphire surrounded by a glittering row of tiny diamonds that traveled down the band. The gems shimmered through my sudden tears.
"Oh, Adam, it's beautiful."
"I wanted blue to match her eyes. I know it's not exactly traditional. Do you think she'll like it?" The uncertainty in his voice made me smile. It wasn't like Adam Brooks to be unsure about anything.
"Of course she will. She'd be crazy not to. Have you asked her yet?"
He shook his dark head. "I want to get my pardon first. I don't want anything to stand in the way of Lilly having the perfect wedding. A pardon means a clean slate for me. I can't think of a better wedding present for her than that."
That's when I started edging towards a full-blown cry. I was happy—I was—but first Rhiannon, now Lilly... "Lilly's very lucky," I managed to get out.
"I'm the lucky one," Adam said. "She's better than I deserve."
I shook my head. "No, you two are perfect for each other. You're a good man Adam, despite whatever it was that you did in the past. We'll get you your pardon so you can whisk Lil off to Paris and have the best honeymoon ever," I promised.
"You know Adele, Nate was right about you." Adam closed the ring box and stashed it back inside his coat pocket. "You might seem a little reserved on the surface, but you're really a sweetheart underneath."
I gasped before I could stop myself. "Nate said that? He talks about me?"
Adam froze and I sensed he was choosing his next words carefully.
"We don't make a habit of it," he said after a few moments of silence. "And we certainly don't discuss you in the way you might think. We were talking about my getting a pardon and I asked him if he thought you'd be a good person to enlist for help."
"And what did Nate say?" The need to know exactly what the Reverend thought of me overshadowed everything else.
Adam smiled. "Well I was worried that you might not approve of my relationship with Lilly, so I wasn't sure that you'd want to help me. Nate said that despite the fact you might appear to be a little reticent on the surface, he knew you really had a soft heart underneath. Also, that despite your own bad experience with marriage, he was sure you would want to see your friends happy."
I just sat there and let Adam's words sink in. Nate was right of course, although why Adam would think I didn't approve of his relationship with Lilly was beyond me. Adam had been great for my best friend—in the nine months since they'd met she'd blossomed and become the confident woman I'd always wanted her to be. Was I so cold that Adam would find a reason to doubt my feelings about him and Lilly?
"Of course I want to see you all happy," I said with a smile. "I'm sorry if I've given you the impression that I didn't."
"It must be difficult," Adam acknowledged. "Lilly told me a little about your ex-husband. He sounds like a perfect asshole to me. I'm sorry that he hurt you. Take it from me, it's really hard to let yourself believe in the good things in life when you're caught up in the bad. I know." He cocked his head to the side as if lost in a memory.
"When you're in the dark, you forget there's another side. But then one day you wake up and a little bit of light has crept in, and before you know it there's more light than dark. I promise you one day all that darkness will be gone and you'll look back and be thankful that it taught you how good the good can be."
I sat back to process what Adam had said. "I didn't know you were a philosopher." It was easier to be a little trite than to be honest.
Adam grinned. "It's not actually my theory, its Nate's. He taught it to me many years ago. He helped me believe in the good things at a time when I thought I'd be lost forever. If it wasn't for him I don't think I would have been able to get on with my life, even after prison."
"He's a good friend," I said softly.
Adam leaned forward and rested his hand over mine. I looked down at the shadowy swirl of tattoos that crept up over his wrist, through the dusting of dark hair. His touch felt much more comforting than I expected.
"He likes you Adele. He really does. I see how you two are with each other. You both fight it. Why don't you give him a chance?"
I pulled my hand from beneath Adam's and stood. "It's not that easy," I snapped. I pushed my chair back and paced the length of my office. "Why do you all think it's that easy? I can't be what Nate needs me to be. I can't be the dutiful wife again. I did that once and it almost destroyed me. I won't put myself through that again!"
I almost forgot Adam as I moved about the room. The words poured from me without thought, almost as if they needed to be freed.
"Nate should have a wife and children," I told him in a calmer tone this time. "I can't be that for him. I could never give that to him. Pretending otherwise just isn't fair. Can't you see that? I think he understands that a little but none of the rest of you does. I know what you all think when you see Nate and me together. You and Lilly, Rhiannon and Joe—you're just all so happy with each other, wouldn't it be so neat and tidy if Nate and I could be too."
"Have you told the girls this?" Concern edged Adam's voice.
"How can I?" I asked, tortured. "They're so damn happy! You swept Lilly off her feet -- she's so joyful and bubbly now, like a new woman really. And Rhi's been given everything she didn't know she wanted and...do you see how she glows? How can I disappoint them like that?"
"They want you to be happy too. Nate could make you happy."
"For how long, Adam?" I stopped pacing and looked down at him. He sat calmly as if dealing with slightly hysterical women was an every day experience for him. "How long until he wants someone else? Someone younger? Someone prettier? Someone who can give him children? Then what happens to me?"
Adam rose to his feet and for a moment I thought he might hug me. He wavered a little, but the anger in me must have kept him at bay.
"I am so sorry, Adele," he murmured. "I shouldn't have pried. I forget sometimes that things aren't always that black-and-white. It's just—" He ran his large hand through his hair. "I see you both and I know you'd be good for each other, but you're right. You've been hurt and Nate's not just a regular guy."
The tension in my shoulders eased a little. I was nearly as tall as Adam and his green eyes locked onto mine. He gave me another of his breathtaking smiles, this one reassuring and kind. "I promise you I won't bring it up again, but you should know that Nate would never hurt you. He's a good man."