Not My Type: Adele Ch. 02byfirstkiss©
"I think Adam might be cheating on me."
Lilly's tearful message sunk in as I hung up the phone. The bottom of my stomach dropped out.
I thought about everything I knew of Adam. Was he capable of it? Of course -- with his easy charm and flirtatious manner he could have any woman he wanted. He had a deeper, darker side than the one he generally presented to the world. I'd seen it just this afternoon.
I looked down at my dark, wooden desk where only a few hours earlier Adam had laid the tiny blue box containing the engagement ring he'd bought Lilly. We'd chatted about their honeymoon, their wedding, how perfect they were for each other. Adam had been so earnest, so honest, that I believed him.
My thoughts wandered to Harry. I thought I was so lucky to find the one for me at nineteen. He promised to love me forever, to always be by my side—promises he never had any intention of honouring. His cheating began before our wedding and he didn't see any problem with continuing to do so after once we were married.
Adam reminded me of Harry -- both handsome and fully aware of it, charming and flirtatious. But Adam's style was more refined than Harry's so it had to be all the more effective. He had a talent for making a woman feel like the most beautiful woman in the world while leaving her completely unaware that he made every other woman feel the same way—even the one standing next to her. Adam's style was a little more refined than Harry's had been, mind you -- and so undoubtedly was all the more effective.
I took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and dialled Lilly's work number. I wasn't sure what to say to her, but if she needed someone to listen and sympathize, I'd give it a try.
"T-thank goodness," Lilly stuttered. "I was starting to wonder where everyone was."
"Rhi's not reachable either?" I'd been under the impression she was pretty much confined to bed rest the last few days of her pregnancy.
Lilly sighed. "I can't call Rhi." I pictured the wounded look on her pretty face; she always wore her emotions out in the open. "She's got bigger things to worry about and anyway, she wouldn't understand."
"Probably not. So what's up? What happened?"
"Oh, Adele..." Lilly's half-gasp, half-sob broke my heart. "I think Adam's cheating on me."
I sat forward in my chair and leaned my forehead in my palm. I knew how devastated she must feel, how hard it was to say those words out loud and deal with the reality behind them. I prayed Lilly was wrong.
"Do you know for sure?"
"Well there are a few things that I've noticed lately." Lilly took a deep breath then continued. "He's been working late a lot. More than usual. When I ask him about it he's awfully vague and usually changes the subject. And he's been acting a little out of sorts too... I catch him watching me when he doesn't realize it and he's got this kind of devious smile — it's hard to explain."
She didn't need to explain it. I'd seen the same smile on Adam only a few hours ago.
"And t-this afternoon one of the women I work with in the English Department called me. She was downtown and saw Adam cozied up with a gorgeous blonde in a corner booth at Mac's. They had their heads together and were in a heavy conversation. They didn't even touch their food. She even held his hand."
There was a long pause as I processed things. Then I almost laughed.
All the pieces started to fall into place. Those extra hours at the restaurant were probably just that -- a chance for Adam to make more money to pay for the engagement ring and save up for the wedding. His sly smile when he thought Lilly wasn't looking must've looked like the one he'd worn this afternoon when he talked about proposing to her. Adam wasn't cheating on Lilly -- he'd been planning to surprise her.
And I promised to keep everything he had told me a secret.
"Maybe it's not what you think," I suggested. "Maybe it wasn't Adam your co-worker saw today."
A rude snort filled my ear. "Just how many dark haired, handsome, tattooed and pierced men do you think there are on this island Adele?"
The insult in Lilly's voice wounded me, but I knew what she was upset so I tried not to let it bother me.
"There has to be a logical explanation for all of this." I felt so guilty that I couldn't tell Lilly the truth. I had to find a way to talk to Adam without Lilly knowing about it before she did something she'd regret. "Look," I continued when Lilly didn't reply. "Take it from me, Lil. Sometimes we see things the wrong way. Sometimes we're wrong about people. I know for a fact that Adam loves you. There is no way that he is cheating on you. He's not that sort of guy."
"Well I'm not going to sit by and let this happen to me," she said with stubborn determination. "I'm going to find out what he's up to."
Once a journalist, always a journalist.
I hoped everything would work out -- that Lilly would find out the truth before she hurt Adam or worse, pushed him away. I had the power to put an end to her worry and pain, but only if I broke my oath as Adam's lawyer. Everything he told me this afternoon had to remain confidential. Damn.
"I-I have to go," Lilly said. "I have students coming in a few minutes for a meeting."
"Okay. Listen Lil; swear to me that you won't jump to conclusions about this. I'm certain you're mistaken."
She paused and I knew what was going through her mind. I was the last person on the planet who should tell her not to jump to conclusions. If I hadn't seen the warning signs in my relationship with Harry, how could I ask her not to look for them in her own relationship?
"I'll call you later," she said then hung up the phone. Moments passed while I held the receiver and listened to the silence on the other end.
Sunday morning dawned to find me standing in front of my closet agonising over what to wear. I'm not sure at exactly what point during the remainder of that week that I decided to attend morning service at St. Andrew's Presbyterian, but I almost called Rhiannon to ask for some fashion advice until I remembered that she and Joe weren't at the cottage anymore. They'd moved temporarily to her condo in the city where the hospital was just down the street. With her due at any day it was easier than trying to make the forty-five minute drive from the farm when the time came.
Besides, Rhiannon would have absolutely no idea what sort of thing made for appropriate church attire. Her suggestions usually involved showing either as much cleavage or as much leg as possible -- sometimes both -- and since I didn't have much in the way of cleavage, she'd suggest a miniskirt, which wasn't terribly practical in February.
I settled on a pair of wide-legged, dove grey wool trousers and a lavender cashmere cowl neck sweater. I did make one small concession and swapped my big, heavy winter boots for a sexier pair with pointed-toes and two-inch heels.
Nate's church sat on a lonely peninsula at the end of a poorly maintained dirt road. I'd never driven out to St. Andrew's but it was easy to follow the small stream of traffic heading towards the south side of the island.
Heavy, grey clouds covered the sky as I pulled into the gravel parking lot. St. Andrew's turned out to be a small, white clap-board church with simple stained-glass windows and a tidy little spire. The banana coloured front doors made me smile. Only three buildings stood at the end of the peninsula: the church, a stereotypical Island lighthouse from which the light still shone through the gloomy morning, and a small whitewashed house. A picket fence bordered the house on three sides while an old cemetery bordered the fourth. Like so many corners of the island, this one was charmingly trapped in the past.
I tried to blend in with the crowd of parishioners trickling into the church. Most were older, closer to my parents' generation than my own, but there were a few young families scattered about. Somehow the thought of that made me smile -- knowing that there was another generation of people hearing the lessons Nate had to share. I'd spent my own childhood Sundays in Mass and although I'd fallen out of the habit of going to church, I remembered the awe I felt each week as I took part in the traditional ceremony.
I expected a Presbyterian Service to be different than the Catholic masses of my childhood. The church and the congregation were smaller than I was used to, and the service was much more simplified—less pompous. But there were similarities too. When Nate led the congregation in the Nicene Creed, I shocked myself by reciting it too, automatically—as I had in my youth. It was lovely actually. There was no choir, only the congregation, but Nate led them through the music beautifully. His rich baritone soared above them in the acoustic confines of the church and I think I sat open-mouthed when I heard him sing.
Nate spoke simply, his tone laced with confidence and passion. His words followed a melodic cadence that left me entranced. I wasn't the only one who felt it -- every parishioner looked on in silence as he spoke. Even the children stopped fidgeting and listened.
I knew the moment he realized I was there. I'd chosen to sit near the back, at the end of a pew filled with a young couple and their three children. Nate was midway through his sermon about service towards the less fortunate when his eyes connected with mine. I heard the catch in his throat and noticed his small smile. My heart raced. Did anyone else notice our exchange?
It was over before I knew it. There were a few more prayers before one last hymn. I sang the familiar chorus, slightly off-key as usual. When the last note faded, the congregation filed from their seats. I sat down again while they flowed out of the doors to greet each other and chat about their week. They milled around Nate and he acknowledged them each by name. He shook the men's hands, patted the women's shoulders, helped button the children into their coats, and looked every bit like a reverend should, except a good deal more handsome. I waited for the last of them to pour out into the chilly February morning then watched as Nate closed the doors behind him. My throat went dry.
He paused and stared at me as if he couldn't believe I was there.
"I almost didn't think it was you," Nate said finally. His voice echoed in the now-empty church.
"Surprised?" I asked as I rose to my feet. My calm tone belied the rapid pounding inside my chest. We'd never been alone before.
"Very, Pleasantly so."
"I've never been to a Presbyterian service. It was lovely."
Nate held out his arm and I walked towards him. He took my elbow and gave it a friendly squeeze. "Thank you," he said. "I would have planned something with a little more fire and brimstone if I'd known you were coming."
I laughed. I had a hard time picturing the mild-mannered Reverend preaching fire and brimstone. I doubt he ever even raised his voice.
"I'm curious," Nate murmured as we moved towards the front of the church. There was a small door to the right of the pulpit which presumably led towards some sort of vestry. I let him lead me. "I'm wondering what brought you this far out so early on a Sunday."
The hint of teasing in his voice let me know that I'd been forgiven for our misunderstanding at Rhi's last week.
"Apart from the salvation of my soul?" I teased back.
A mischievous glint lit up his chocolate-brown eyes. "Oh yes, apart from that, of course."
Nate stopped mid-stride as we crossed the front of the church and turned me to face him. I felt the strength in his fingers even through the layers of my jacket and sweater.
"He came around to see me earlier in the week. He suggested that you might like to see me here."
Nate's voice hitched as he said, "He wasn't wrong."
Something between us shifted and suddenly the hold Nate had on my arms felt more intimate than friendly. If I took a step closer and wrapped my arms around his waist as I longed to, we would be in a full-fledged embrace. I could feel my heart beat in my throat.
We acknowledged the awkwardness with a shared nervous laugh. Nate inclined his fair head, indicating that I could proceed first.
"I'm sorry I reacted badly last week."
His hands slid down the length of my forearms and took my hands. The air between us thickened. I stopped breathing.
He chuckled. "That's what I was going to say."
"I-it's just that I thought that you were going to kiss me."
Nate's eyes darkened. I was startled to find that we were standing much closer to each other than before. His fingers entwined with my own.
"Nate, we can't!"
"I know," he whispered. His breath brushed against my lips.
One tiny step forward and we would be hip to hip, chest to chest. My pulse raced. I should move, but I couldn't will my body to retreat. The moment hung between us, charged with electricity.
I read it on Nate's face. He wanted to kiss me just as much as I wanted to kiss him. And he knew he shouldn't, just as I knew we couldn't. I wanted so badly to give into the urge, to forget ourselves for a few seconds.
I hadn't kissed a man since Harry and I hadn't had a first kiss in ten years. Now I remembered the potency of that moment, the thrill of anticipation, the sweetness of the wait. Nothing matched a first kiss.
Nate whispered my name. He was going to slip and take what he shouldn't. And I was going to let him. I could taste the expectancy and excitement in the air.
A click followed by a creak made us turn our heads in time to see the bright yellow doors at the other end of the church open. Light and cold air came pouring in.
Nate released my hands and stepped away as we watched as a short, pudgy snow-covered woman barrel up the aisle.
"Oh, Reverend Fontaine dear, here you are! I went to the manse but you didn't answer the door," she said, completely unaware of what she'd interrupted. The little, squinty eyes in the midst of her middle-aged face blinked twice as she caught sight of me.
"Hello dear. You must be a friend of Reverend Fontaine's. How nice." She brushed at the snow on her squat shoulders with a gentle 'tsk'. "It's really coming down out there!"
Completely in shock, I glanced up into Nate's face. He'd pasted on a polite smile, but there were tight lines around his eyes.
"Adele, this is Mrs. Macintyre. She's my Presbyter -- the church's secretary, if you like. Mrs. Macintyre this is Adele Leclerc. I was just showing her St. Andrews."
My hello was hardly more than a gasp as I was submitted to a less than candid appraisal. Mrs. Macintyre nodded at me before returning her attention to Nate.
"I just wanted to tell you Reverend that the fish bake has been moved from Tuesday night to Thursday night. Also, Mr. Johnson was hoping you'd say the blessing before the meal."
Something in the line of Nate's shoulders betrayed that he was less than impressed, both with the interruption and the insignificance of the news. "You didn't need to track me down, Mrs. Macintyre; you could have just called to tell me."
She waved a fat-fingered hand. "Nonsense, it was no trouble. I was only half-way home when I remembered it. I don't want you to miss the fish bake, Reverend. It's so important"
"Of course it is," he agreed vaguely. I bit back a giggle.
Mrs. Macintyre turned to me. "You'll be there, won't you dear? As a friend of Reverend Fontaine's, I'm certain you wouldn't want to miss it."
She stressed the word friend so heavily, I realized that perhaps Nate's secretary did understand what she'd interrupted. And she didn't appear upset by her bad timing.
"Ms. Leclerc is very busy," Nate answered for me before I opened my mouth. "She's a lawyer in town."
There was a soft 'ooh', from Mrs. Macintyre's the heavy bosom. Her already squinted eyes narrowed even more. "Well, that's very nice," she conceded in a tone which told me she didn't think it nice at all. "That's alright Reverend, there will be plenty of other young ladies there on Thursday."
Nate stiffened beside me. I would have missed it if I wasn't so tightly strung that I sensed every breath he took.
"Thank you Mrs. Macintyre. I'm certain I'll see you before then."
The woman looked as if she had something more to say, but Nate's tone made it very obvious that she'd been dismissed. She sent me a brusque smile before she bustled back up the aisle.
Just as she reached the yellow doors Mrs. Macintyre threw one last look over her shoulder at the two of us standing side-by-side at the altar. "You'll be happy to know Jenny is going to be there on Thursday, Reverend Fontaine." She shot me a look that verged on spiteful before she slipped back out into the cold.
The silence stretched on while we both took a deep breath. At a loss for what else to do in the wake of the good battleship Mrs. Macintyre, I just laughed. Nate joined me.
"Who's Jenny?" It had to be asked.
Nate sighed. "Mrs. Macintyre's niece."
My gaze was still trained on the yellow doors. "Is she young?"
Nate chuckled. "Most definitely."
There was a pause.
The humour in Nate's voice made me smile. "How fortunate for you."
"Hmmm." His expression turned thoughtful. "Not so fortunate for Jenny though. She looks just like her aunt."
That did it. I sunk into the first pew with a loud laugh. It was all so damned ridiculous. Nate slid into place beside me as my giggles subsided. He had a big grin on his face and he stretched his arm along the back of the seat.
"It's so nice to hear you laugh." His hand swept across my shoulder. "You don't seem to do it as often as when we first met. You have the most beautiful laugh I've ever heard, it's like music."
I kept my focus on the large stained glass window at the front of the church. It was paned in simple, rainbow-coloured geometrics, but lovely nonetheless. I was afraid to look at Nate and slip back into that danger zone we tortured each other in.
"This is a beautiful church."
Nate tensed beside me. The sudden change in topic must have caught him off guard. "I love it," he agreed after a moment. "I've always felt at home here."
We sat silence for a long time, our gazes locked straight ahead on the stained glass window. I was aware of Nate's arm behind me, his fingers resting against my shoulder casually enough to escape being an embrace. I struggled with the urge to lean into him and nestle against his torso. I knew I would fit there perfectly.
"Why don't you stay and have lunch here?" Nate suggested finally. "Then we can go up to Rhi and Joe's together later this afternoon."
"That would be wonderful. Except that Rhi and Joe aren't at the home this weekend -- they're staying at Rhi's old place in town -- it's closer to the hospital."
Nate nodded. "Sorry it slipped my mind. I do remember Joe saying something about that last weekend. Glad he's thinking ahead. Will you stay for lunch anyway?"
My plans for the remainder of the afternoon included nothing more exciting than sitting down at home with the newest articles published by the province's Law Society. Hardly thrilling.
"I would love to stay for lunch," I replied before I over-thought the scenario and started worrying. Nate grinned.
"Perfect. Let me just get rid of these," he said as he gestured at his vestments. "I'll be right back."
He retreated to the vestry, only to reappear in his typical uniform of black dress pants and a button-down shirt. Today's was a mild cornflower blue. He shrugged into his jacket as he smiled down at me. "Ready?"
I nodded and took Nate's hand. He pulled me to my feet and kept my hand in his.
"St Andrew's was built in 1884," he began as we got to the yellow doors. Nate flicked off the lights and we stepped into a world of grey skies and gently falling snow. I tilted my head upwards to watch the clouds as Nate locked up.