Thanks, That Was Fun... Ch. 04byRenegadeBelle©
They walked in silence, each absorbed in their own thoughts. Looking down at the woman beside him, Danny felt his pulse pick up again. Just the fact that she was standing near him was enough to startle him before, but the small details were now suddenly obvious – her long, dark blonde waves brushed against his fingers as he guided her, something that only enhanced the dryness of his mouth as he noticed the way her dark wash jeans molded against her perfectly. She had one of those cotton tanks on underneath a plain blue cardigan; there were small diamond studs in her ears, and she smelled like the jasmine shampoo he knew to be in her shower.
Danny watched her chewing at her bottom lip for a moment and barely suppressed a groan. The desire that caught him unaware when he found her standing in the lobby of his office building seemed to help his mind level out. He wanted her… and the only thought that had entered his mind as they stood in the lobby was getting her away from her troop of friends; they were probably great folks but only served to confuse pretty much any situation. He decided, as they walked, that he didn't really give a damn if he'd made a scene by marching her off to have coffee with him.
They were quickly approaching another stonework building, across from the three story one that held the lobby and offices. Jane's thoughts were a whirlwind as they crossed the green. Tall trees, the tips of which were beginning to show their autumn colors, that so took her breath away when combined with the natural beauty of the buildings and courtyard were now a blur.
Two things stood out amidst the tornado in her mind – the undeniably warm feeling of his hand at the small of her back, guiding, and the fact that her giggling friends were no longer protecting her from the man that suddenly cropped back up in her life. She could feel the weight of his watch through the thin fabric of her cardigan and relished in the small details of his masculinity; the jeans he wore to work, which combined with the brown boots and deliciously un-tucked yet fitted button up shirt he wore made him look casual, as if he belonged amidst the trees and natural beauty of the land around him, while at the same time exuding an almost executive type of power. Jane glanced up and felt her fingers twitch. His dark hair was nearly long enough to fall into his eyes, the thick strands wavy and slightly curling against the collar of his shirt. The sudden impulse to push the hair away from his face was strong. Sucking in a breath, she realized the sound must have carried as his impossibly light green eyes looked down and met hers. He grinned slightly and Jane jumped, realizing they'd stopped walking and he had reached over her head and was holding the door open for her.
He motioned for her to sit and held up two fingers to the young man behind the counter. In a matter of moments, it seemed, large white cups of steaming hot coffee appeared in front of them. Jane, grateful for something to focus on, nervously tore open a packet of Splenda and dumped it in.
Danny watched her over the top of his cup as he drank, "So…"
Jane sighed slightly. She was determined to act normally, as if sitting here having a cup of coffee with this man was nothing outrageous. He didn't let his friendly smile slip, but she could feel his eyes burning in to hers. Was his face arranged differently, she would think he was angry. She tilted her head a little as if it would help her get a better read on him.
No, it's not anger, she thought, awareness followed closely by yet another deep blush. It's desire.
He wants me.
Jane felt her fingers twitch again as she resisted the urge to rub her temples. Taking a deep breath, she took a sip of coffee and then sat the cup down carefully on the table, her fingers absently following the wooden circles under the table's lacquered surface.
Get a grip, sweetheart, she told herself firmly, and straightened, looking Danny fully in the eye. She smiled.
The realization that she could tell, just by looking at him, that he wanted her, was a spark in the hay to the knowledge that she wanted him, too.
Jane briefly thought of Luke, and the two or three boyfriends that preceded him. They were, by all appearances, sensible guys. And in the small town where she'd grown up, they were alright, even if they didn't set her afire. They had been safe, polite. Boring. When they weren't total jerks, of course.
An ancient memory of Jake, her boyfriend in high school, dumping her to go out with a girl generally considered to be the biggest slut in her Virginia town so he'd score on prom night was followed closely by the unwanted image of Luke and Rachel Jarrett. Jane let out a self-deprecating snort of laughter. Yeah, she thought, Luke was the Rat King in a long line of real fucking princes…
She looked up from her cup and studied the man across the table from her. He sat looking at her, one dark eyebrow raised in question, undoubtedly at her snort.
Jane felt her pulse quicken. Chewing on her bottom lip, she allowed another deep breath before questioning herself again. She knew that he made her uncomfortable, but it wasn't necessarily in a bad way. Just new. It wasn't, either, in the way that Carrie had watched them either, in a wedding induced fog of love.
No, this wasn't some compelling whisper of fate, like the windblown romance book covers suggest. It was compelling, but in a tangible way. She recognized it as very human, very basic, very much a force of nature…
"Listen," Danny said, clearing his throat. He'd watched her battle with herself for a minute or two, and though he realized it wasn't an uncomfortable silence, he didn't like the warring factions she was evidently experiencing. "I thought we could have a cup of joe and chat, but if I'm making you uncom-"
"Would you have dinner with me?" she interrupted evenly.
Danny blinked, looking at her. He thought he'd read her face pretty well, before, when she'd seemed anxious, as if there were a million places she'd rather be…
Now, she watched him expectantly, cradling the cup of coffee in her hands.
"Yes," he replied, just as calmly, though bewildered at her rapid-fire change.
"Great," she said, relaxing into the low, cushy backing of the booth they were sitting in. "That's great," she repeated, as if to herself.
Now, though he smiled slightly, it was Danny's turn to feel a bit awkward. He preferred doing the asking. Looking down into his cup, he threw the last of the coffee down and waved at Hank behind the counter for more.
When he looked back at Jane, she was staring out the window and onto the Wright & Lewis property. Where they sat faced away from the admin and factory buildings, and afforded a view of the wooded grounds that sloped out from the back of the café and down into a valley. Though the trees were too dense to make out the winding path, Jane could see the beginnings of a wide nature walk stretching away from the small cluster of buildings.
"What is it that y'all do?" she asked casually, looking back to Danny before smiling at the freckled kid refilling her coffee cup.
Danny stopped scrutinizing the woman in front of him and glanced out onto the grounds stretching away from the windows of the café.
"Wright & Lewis?"
"We manufacture hunting rifles," he replied, returning to look at her as he picked his coffee cup back up. "On the side, we have three nationally recognized historical sites, hunting and fishing camps during the summer, private events…" he trailed off, jerked his head to the bakery display cases with a smile, "We also make a mean scone."
Jane grinned. "Is that a fact?"
"Gospel truth," he returned, holding up two fingers. "Scout's honor."
She took another sip of coffee, then tilted her head at him again. "...and what is it you do?"
He watched as she toyed with the diamond stud in her ear.
"My older brother Jamie and I oversee the manufacturing – he focuses on the new stuff, while I pay attention to the production of locks, barrel gauges and screws for our used guns and antique collectors."
Jane didn't really get that, but she thought it was cute his heart was so into it he just assumed she knew what the hell he was talking about.
She felt another question coming on when the blackberry he'd dropped on the table as they sat down suddenly lit up and buzzed. He flipped the wheel on the side quickly, rolled his eyes and then glanced at her apologetically.
"Sorry," he said, standing up, "Duty calls. I guess my break is over," he grinned.
Danny looked at his watch, then at her. "Enjoy the rest of your coffee…" he glanced at the phone in his hand as it whirred to life again. Jane almost wanted to laugh at the look on his face as he haphazardly mashed buttons, trying to get the phone to quit buzzing.
"I can't figure this damn thing out…" he grumbled, before shoving it into his back pocket. Jane started to stand up, too, but he waved to her.
"Don't let me rush you," he said, smiling down at her. "Like I said, enjoy that, and I'll see you later, right? Dinner?"
Jane ignored the ridiculous urge to melt. She cleared her throat and nodded, then returned the smile.
"Definitely. Thanks for, uhh…" she couldn't help but laugh at the way she must have looked in the lobby, trying so obviously to dodge him, "…encouraging me to join you for coffee…"
His smiled widened and he looked as if he was going to respond when the blackberry in his back pocket went off again, causing him to jump, if only slightly.
"You better go," Jane said, unable to hide the fact that she was laughing at him.
He gave a frustrated look she was sure was only half meant for the blackberry and nodded, flashing a grin as he walked to the door.
"See you later, then…"
Jane watched him head off and back towards the stone and wooden building they'd come from only 15 minutes before. She exhaled, relaxing for a minute, before walking up to the counter to pay for her coffee. After being politely rebuffed by the teenager behind the counter – he clearly didn't know what a total menace she could become to the fool that offered her free caffeine – she mused her way back towards the main building.
She'd never asked a guy out before. Even if she'd thought about it, a man like Danny Wright, who could wiggle his eyebrows and make her swoon – the imaginary mental image of that made her snort in laughter again – would be too much for her to even consider doing before. Somehow, however, she'd just… It was almost as if her mind was so exhausted by the run-around, bouncing off of thoughts of Luke, her boss, her job, her one night stand, etc., that she'd just had an honest to God 'what the hell' moment. The sheer act of doing something seemed to ease her frustration and weariness.
And so, it was with a definite bounce in her step that she met her friends as they were coming out of the building, and ignoring their glances, fell in as Ella walked them around, discussing possible sites on the grounds for the ceremony. It seemed that whatever the pitch was to have the wedding at the Wright & Lewis plantation worked; Carrie was enraptured at the idea of having it in front of the old cabin, or down by the river that sprawled through the territory, or underneath a canopied grove of tall trees. If there was any indication that Carrie wasn't sold on the place, it was gone at the squeal that followed Ella's remark that the leaves should be at their peak of color when the wedding rolled around.
Another half an hour later, they were piling into Matt's car, the bride-to-be loaded down with information from Ella on the event planning services and nearly bouncing up and down in the front seat.
So thrilled was Carrie that she babbled at them all the way back into the city; Jane was nothing less than relieved, though she could feel Lucy looking at her. Jane was just as obvious about ignoring her.
When they pulled up in front of her building to drop her off – she didn't have to go to work – she hopped out, thanking her lucky stars at the near-interrogation, until Carrie gasped.
"I forgot!" she said, whirling around in her seat.
Jane sighed, one foot out the door.
"You had coffee with Mr. Wright!" Carrie said, half accusingly.
Jane slid the rest of the way out of the car and closed the door as Carrie frantically mashed the button for the window down. She then poked her head out, Matt nearly in her lap and Lucy hanging out the back window. All three of them looked at her expectantly.
Jane waited, smiling pleasantly.
"Oh, c'mooon!" Carrie wailed.
"What?!" Jane said innocently, pulling her keys out of her purse.
"Jane. Really. Come. On." Lucy dead-panned.
"I asked him out," she said, skipping up the first few steps of her large, stone apartment building. "And he said yes."
"No way," Matt said, as Lucy grinned and Carrie squealed.
"You," Carrie said, somehow managing to sound out of breath. "…have… a date… with… Mr… Wright…"
Lucy rolled her eyes at the girl in the front seat, a look mirrored by Jane's own expression.
That towel-monogramming look was back in Carrie's eyes.
Jane waved at them, walking up the rest of the wide steps and pushing her key in the door.
"Bye, y'all" she said over her shoulder, giving them a grin before closing the lobby door to the apartment building behind her.
Feeling very satisfied, she checked the mail, pulling out a stack that looked uncomfortably like it contained quite a few bills, tucked the pile under her arm and jogged up the stairs before letting herself into her apartment. Jane dropped her keys on the table in the entryway and walked into her living room, kicking off her shoes as she scanned one of the magazines in the stack. Throwing her purse on the couch, she was just about to collapse onto it – what was it that unemployed people did at this time of day? Oprah? – when she froze, the magazine falling from her hand.
She had a date with Mr. Wright.
But, when?!? she thought. They'd never said which day they were going to have dinner.
Frantically, Jane grabbed her cell phone from the front pocket of her purse, then stopped. Nearly hopping from one foot to the other, she stared at her phone. She didn't have his number!
Feeling the totally irrational panic heighten, she remembered the business card she'd dropped on the table in the entryway days before. Running back through the living room, she hopped/tripped over an ottoman, attempting to come to a stop in front of the table next to her front door. Instead, her socked feet touched down on the hallway rug and she fell, sliding into the table, causing the small tray of business cards to cascade down around her. Letting out a curse as her butt hit the hardwood floor, Jane flipped through the cards around her. Caterer. Publishers. Editors. Bankers. Writers. Florist. Taxi. Rob, her mechanic. Several hair stylists. Plumber. Daniel W—
"Ha!" she said, pressing the number into her cell.
By the second ring, she froze. What if he hadn't mentioned a day on purpose?
The chaotic thought was cut short as the phone picked up and Daniel Wright said hello.
Jane's mind went blank.
"Hello?" he said again.
There was a beat, and then, "Jane?"
She inhaled, pushing hair behind one of her ears, then forced herself to speak.
"Yes! Hey, Danny."
"I'm calling because…" she halted. Why'd she call?
"Is everything okay?"
Jane could sense the amusement in his voice and ground her jaw.
"Yes. Fine. Listen, we never set a date for dinner."
He started to say something, but Jane spoke over him.
"So, I'm thinking, dinner at my place on Friday? If you remember where…" She trailed off, cheeks inflamed.
There was a low laugh, then a pause. "I remember."
"Okay. Friday. 8PM?"
"Great. See you then."
"Bye," he said, obviously still amused with her.
Jane ended the phone call and sighed, running her fingers through her hair. Glancing sideways, she took in the purse she'd dropped, the contents of which she'd scattered around the couch when digging for her cell phone. Then the large, overturned ottoman she'd tripped over. And then the scrunched rug she'd twisted as she slid and fell to the floor, where she now sat, encircled with fallen business cards, the platter they normally sat on halfway hanging off the table at eye-level with her.
I've gone completely around the bend, she thought.
Jane had to laugh. And once she began, she couldn't stop. Falling backwards, she lay in the halo of business cards with the mussed rug and laughed until her sides ached and tears came to her eyes.
Several minutes later, Jane got up and wiped her eyes with the hem of her cardigan, then flung it off and walked over to the couch, where she collapsed, suddenly tired.
Tuesday passed quickly. Jane woke up at 11AM and spent several minutes programming a day's worth of television with the satellite box, making sure that one show was on the heels of another. By 11PM, she turned off Law & Order, noted dimly she'd eaten an entire loaf of bread instead of actual meals, and promptly fell asleep on the couch again.
Wednesday found her on the couch, and the day went much the same way as the one before. A blur of screeching voices on The View to sobbing voices on Dr. Phil to consecutive crime shows. Two jars of apple sauce she hadn't known were even in the apartment were gone by the time that Thursday came around, a day that went like the others before it.
Her thoughts, week long, hours that dragged by while the world outside made itself busy with people and traffic, bosses and grocery store lines, consisted of untangling herself from blankets or flipping the couch cushions over in search of the remote. In the odd lucid moment, she thought of her career and/or her love life; the introspective moment lasted briefly, before she returned to being numbed by the TV.
There were moments when she almost got up from the couch and went into her home office to sort through the manuscripts she'd taken. Guilt washed over her at the thought of her writers, waiting on news that Jane Cooper, Junior Editor, had gotten their work through and was coming down the line with good news for them. How long would it take for the 20 or so authors under her care to hear that she'd imploded in front of the shiny downtown publishing office, shrieking at her half-naked boyfriend, before quitting and disappearing with copies of their work? And on that note, how long would it take the legal arm of Wickline Publishing to decide to come and get her and the pilfered manuscripts?
The truth was, Jane Cooper always came through for them. Once she got her hands on a piece she believed in, she fought for it. And she was good at it. It was a fact that at any point during the five years she'd worked for Wickline that Jane could be found after hours and weekends, rifling through the discarded manuscripts that her co-workers and higher-ups tossed out. If she read something that stuck with her, she'd adopt the piece and it's writer and steer it through the muddy waters of editing and publishing. A nuisance to those that tried to side step her and best friend to those who helped her get the job done, it was not a secret – nor something that she particularly regretted – that Jane had become a workaholic, completely and totally dedicated to her job and the writers in her care.
Which was why it went against her grain to lay around for a few hours, doing nothing. Let alone a few days.