Not My Type: Felicity Ch. 02byfirstkiss©
For my editor, R - you've bled so much red ink over this story it's just as much yours as mine. Thank you for making me look good. J.
"Where are we going?" I asked Matt as he tugged me out of my office chair.
"It's Sunday—that means dinner at Rhiannon and Joe's."
I couldn't hide my shock.
"I can't intrude on your family like that." While they were very nice people, the Tanner family overwhelmed me. They were boisterous and spoke in a language all their own—one of teasing banter and jokes—a language foreign to me.
"It's not strictly family—at least not in the biological sense. Lilly's fiancé will be there and so will Reverend Nate and Adele. You'd be more than welcome. In fact, Nate has been bugging me to bring you along since you helped to dig him and Adele out of that snowstorm in February."
"Really?" I'd only met the Reverend for a few minutes, but he seemed like a really nice guy. Adele too had been nice—a little reserved and aloof, while at the same time so sweet and thankful.
"Really. And there's always plenty of food and lots to drink. You'll get out of this place for a few hours." Matt's grin showed off his dimples. "Come on, the weather's too beautiful to spend the day cooped up here. I'm sure your dad won't begrudge you a day out."
My father would only notice my absence if he ran out of rye and unless he'd found a way to mainline it directly into his bloodstream, he shouldn't. I'd bought him a new twenty-sixer the night before.
"Okay," I agreed before I had a chance over-think it and change my mind. My spirits lightened at the prospect of getting away from the shop for a while, of going somewhere other than the liquor store or the house. "But I should go home and change first."
Matt glanced down at the denim shorts and baby-blue t-shirt I'd put on that morning.
"Well, look at what I'm wearing!" I gestured at myself. "This isn't how you show up for dinner. It's clean, but that's about all I can say for it. I didn't even comb my hair this morning and I'm not wearing any makeup."
Matt laughed for the first time that afternoon. The sound was familiar and comforting, my favourite sound in the world. Despite all my worries, his laughter still had the power to lift me up.
"First of all, there's nothing wrong with your outfit. Second, you keep your hair so short that you hardly have any hair to comb. Third, I've never once seen you wear makeup. You look fine."
Fine. Matthew Tanner thought I looked fine. Fine was pretty darn close to nice.
"Come on," he insisted as he opened the door. "I'll drive."
Matt spent the entire drive to the cottage coming up with ideas to drum up more business for the shop. Had I known the car ride was going to be a brainstorming session, I would have brought a pen and a piece of paper. I just let his words wash over me. The constant flow of chatter brought me hope for the first time in months. The more we talked, the more I realized Matt had meant what he said earlier: I didn't have to face my problems alone anymore.
I'd worried for so long about keeping the financial woes of Stewart and Sons from him, that I never imagined it would be such a relief to have everything out in the open. I expected Matt to be upset by the truth; instead he seemed excited about the challenge of turning the business around.
After Dad hurt his back, I'd taken the entire burden of the business onto my shoulders without thinking that maybe Matt might like to be involved in it too. I didn't even dream that he'd show an interest in anything other than keeping his head down and doing repairs, but his keenness for the challenge was evident in his expression. His grin never faltered even while discussing the nitty-gritty of the lack of money around the shop. I felt a twinge of guilt for not involving him in the business sooner.
We shot straight past the driveway to Matt's parents house. I'd never been there before, but I knew who owned the cheerful yellow farmhouse on the bluff. Not far down the road was a narrow dirt lane which curved between two fields and led downwards, towards the sea. The tree line fell way to a small, protected cove and in the shadow of the bluff surrounding it stood a little white cottage with a green roof. Patches of grass interrupted the rusty sand terrain that stretched down to the turquoise ocean.
I couldn't help but smile.
"It's adorable! Like a little fairy tale cottage."
Matt glanced over at me as he threw his car in park. "Hard to believe my ogre of a big brother lives here, huh?"
I laughed. I liked Joe. He sometimes visited the shop in the winter when he didn't have anything else to do. He was a handy guy, although not quite as mechanically inclined as Matt. Still, there was something I liked about that silent, giant of a man and it never bothered me to see his large shadow lingering in the shop's doorway. He never had a whole lot to say, but he had kind eyes.
I followed Matt to the cottage and with every step I took, I felt a little more out of place. From inside the sun porch that spanned the front of the building, I noticed a plethora of redheads.
Matt's younger brother Chuck was leaning against a fat vintage fridge, his arms crossed over his lean chest, a beer in hand. He offered me a smile me as our eyes met through the glass. At twenty-six, Chuck and I were both the same age and had gone to the same high school, just like I had with all the Tanner kids. While I'd only been vaguely aware of the Matt back then, Chuck and I shared a few friends in common and had been friendly acquaintances.
Violet, the youngest Tanner, lounged in a battered floral armchair, her bare arms and legs all akimbo. She was only a few years younger than I was, but somehow always seemed so sure of herself. Violet had an easy way with people; I guess she was like Matt in that regard.
On the daybed beneath the window sat Matt's older sister Lilly and her fiancé Adam. I'd met them a few times before and they always struck me as a little mismatched. Petite, curvy Lilly looked like a librarian complete with the glasses and studious expression while Adam, with his tattooed arms and eyebrow ring, looked like the kind of guy parents warned their daughters about. Their vibe of happy togetherness highlighted what was missing in my own life.
All eyes shot straight to me when Matt held open the door.
"Flick!" Violet cried. She bounced up from her chair and wrapped her arms around me. A wide blond streak ran down the front of her red hair and a thick line of black eyeliner rimmed her blue, blue eyes.
"H-hi," I said quietly as I stood stunned in her embrace. "It's nice to see you."
It was an inane thing to say, but it was all I could manage under the circumstances. I never expected such an exuberant reception.
"You. Look. Adorable," Violet gushed, pausing between each word for emphasis. "You look like you could still be in high school!"
I muttered a word of thanks.
"I love your hair short like that," Violet continued on. She pulled me from Matt's side and into the big, poofy armchair beside hers. "It suits you."
I echoed my thanks again, still feeling a little overwhelmed. I heard a chuckle and looked up to see Chuck towering over us.
"Glad to see you Flick," he said as he held out an unopened beer.
"You too, Chuck."
He offered me the beer again, but I shook my head.
"Thank you, but I don't drink."
Auburn eyebrows around the room shot up. Chuck shrugged in the same way that Matt would have. He popped open the cap on the bottle and handed it to his older brother instead.
"Where is everyone else?" Matt asked before he took a swig of beer.
Lilly smiled. She had dimples too, like Matt did.
"Adele and Nate haven't made an appearance yet, but I'm sure they'll be here soon. Joe is out back manning the barbeque and Rhiannon's upstairs changing Sophie."
"My ears are burning," drawled a slow, sexy voice from inside the main part of the cottage. I glanced over my shoulder to see a tall, voluptuous brunette come gliding into the room with a chestnut haired baby in her arms. I'd never met her before but even without the baby in tow, I knew who she was.
Matt always said she was the most beautiful woman on the Island. He wasn't kidding.
"You must be Flick," she said with a pouty grin.
I came to my feet, feeling a little unsure. I would have shaken her hand, except hers were filled with a baby girl.
Her laugh was like whiskey, all golden and smoky. "Rhiannon Tanner. My husband has told me a lot about you."
My brows rose in surprise. I didn't peg Joe for the chatty type.
"He did promise you were a looker. No wonder Matt's kept you all to himself."
My cheeks flushed while Lilly and Violet laughed.
"It's not like that!" I didn't dare turn around to look at Matt. He must have been horrified at the suggestion that we were more than friends.
Rhiannon waved her hand in a dismissive gesture but her eyes shimmered with mischief. "If you say so." She shifted the baby in her arms. "This is Sophie, by the way."
At the mention of her name, the baby looked up. She had inherited the Tanner blue eyes.
"She's absolutely beautiful. I've seen pictures. Matt brought some in to work."
"Always the proud uncle," he added from the other side of the room. "She does get her good looks from me, after all."
Everyone laughed, but Matt's laughter was louder than the rest and hit just the right warm note.
Sophie waved her chubby little arms around, cooing along with the laughter in the room. I couldn't help but reach forward and touch her tiny fist. Her fingers clamped around my thumb in an instant.
"Want to hold her?" Rhiannon asked. Then before I had a chance to say no, she foisted the baby into my arms. "I've got to check on the potatoes."
I'd never held a baby before. I stood frozen. I had no brothers and sisters, no cousins, no friends with off-spring, absolutely no experience with kids at all.
"You better sit down," Chuck suggested. "Before you drop her."
I sat back down into the armchair with a plop. Sophie began to cry. I gasped in horror.
"Oh, shit!" I muttered, completely aware of just how many near-strangers were witnesses to my idiocy. My cheeks burned as I shifted her weight into a more comfortable position. But Sophie squirmed unco-operatively and cried even louder.
I looked up in panic to find Matt standing over us. He crouched down and gently took Sophie from me.
"It's okay, Button," he whispered to the tiny girl as he curled her against his chest. "Flick's just out of practice."
"As in: cute-as-a..." Matt supplied. He put his free hand on my knee and gave it an encouraging squeeze. I still felt the imprint of his fingers long after they'd left. "Maybe you'll have better luck later."
"I've never held a baby before," I confessed to him in a whisper. There was something about seeing Matthew Tanner with a baby in his arms that did strange things to my insides.
Matt looked surprised. "Really? Well, you'll have lots of practice if you start hanging around here."
"Which you're welcome to do at any point," Violet added in a stage whisper from the next chair over.
I laughed, hoping to cover my uneasiness. I glanced past Matt to find the rest of the Tanners and Adam watching the two of us with undisguised curiosity. My attention had been so centered on Matt that I had lost all awareness of his siblings. I supposed they wondered exactly what was going on between Matt and me. How I wished that there was something going on.
Sophie stopped crying and nestled her dark head into her uncle's neck.
"I'm sorry." I told her in a soft voice.
"Don't sweat it, honey." Matt patted my knee again and I could have sworn his fingers lingered longer than the first time.
Adele and Reverend Nate arrived just then. The two tall blonds smiled at me as they entered the room.
"Felicity!" Adele said as she swept in. She deposited her jacket and handbag inside the door. "It's about time Matt brought you around."
From over her shoulder the handsome Reverend winked at me. "He likes to take his time on things, does our Matt."
"Says you," Adele teased with a renewed trill of light laughter. I didn't get the joke, but evidently the Reverend did because he coloured a little.
Adele moved across the room with a liquid, flowing grace. I had recognized my own loneliness in her the day I met her out at St. Andrew's and liked her immediately. But she'd changed in the six months since I had last seen her. She'd looked sad and worried that morning, now she had an angelic glow about her.
"My turn," she said as she took Sophie from Matt's arms. "Come to tante Adele."
Sophie gurgled happily. Apparently the baby liked everyone but me.
"You're just in time to discuss wedding particulars," Lilly said to Adele and sank down onto the daybed beside her.
"Wedding?" I asked, unable to stop my curiosity.
"Lilly and Adam are getting married!" Violet announced. "In a month! Didn't Matt tell you?"
He'd mentioned the engagement, but I didn't remember him specifying a date.
"September Fourth," Matt said. "It's a Saturday. By the way, I'm probably going to need that day off."
"Probably?" Lilly demanded from across the room. "It's a lot more than 'probably'."
I giggled. "You can have the day off," I acceded. "I'll manage without you for one day."
"You should come."
I didn't immediately recognize the deep, smooth voice. Then I looked over to find Adam smiling at me. It was the first thing he'd said since I arrived and his lopsided grin had me smiling back at him.
"Oh, I can't. I'll have to be at the shop. Besides, I'm sure your guest list has been complete for months."
Lilly nodded. "It has. But Matt hasn't found a date yet. You can come with him." She turned to Matt and gave him a dazzling smile. "Felicity can be your date, can't she?"
An awkward silence fell over the room as everyone waited for Matt's response. He probably had a date already lined up but just hadn't told Lilly yet. It's not like Matthew Tanner ever had a hard time finding a date. Ever.
Matt cleared his throat and crossed his arms over his chest. I'm sure he thought the stance looked nonchalant, but I sensed how defensive he felt.
"Yeah, I can bring Flick."
My heart soared and crashed in one second. I'd daydreamed about my first date with Matt for so long and now the moment had come. Only he'd been forced into it.
"You know how busy Saturdays can be at the shop," I put in, hoping to give him a way out. "And I wouldn't know what to wear. I don't have anything to wear to a wedding."
"Ah, well that's where I come in," drawled Rhiannon from the doorway as she studied me. "I have the perfect dress in my store for you. I don't know anyone else petite enough to pull it off. On you, it'll be hot!"
I'd never been into Rhiannon's store in the city, but I knew of it. It was pricey and there was no way I could afford anything she sold.
"I'll get Matt to swing by and pick it up for you, if you'd like," Rhiannon continued on.
I fumbled with a polite way to turn her down when Matt shook his head. "Actually, I do owe Flick a birthday gift or two. You better pick out a pair of shoes to go with that dress Rhi, and maybe one of those tiny little purses all girls seem to like."
Adam rose to his feet and clapped his soon-to-be brother-in-law on the shoulder. "Well then, that settles it. You have a date. Flick has an outfit. Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to get a bride with a big, poofy dress on the back of my bike and the wedding can happen." Adam gestured out the window to where a red and black motorcycle was parked beneath a tree. In my nervousness I hadn't noticed it earlier.
Violet laughed. "It's not that poofy."
"It's a little poofy," Lilly admitted at the same time.
I vaguely heard them because I only had eyes for the bike.
"Is that a Bonneville T120R?"
Adam groaned. "Oh, she speaks bike." He elbowed Matt. "That's sexy as hell."
The compliment barely registered. "Six-hundred-and-forty-nine cc's?"
"Yup," Adam said with a chuckle.
"Please tell me its pre-unit construction," I gushed.
"I wish." But there was pride in his voice when he added, "It's a sixty-five, so it's not."
"What the hell are they talking about?" Violet whispered to Lilly. Chuck, Adele and Rhiannon laughed in the background.
"It's a motorcycle thing," I explained as I moved to the window where I could see the bike better. "Pre-unit construction is where the engine and gearbox are in separate casings which made the bike go fast, but unfortunately also made it wobble at high speeds. In nineteen sixty-three Triumph switched to unit construction, where the engine and gearbox are in a single casing. It made the bike sturdier and safer, but a little slower."
Adam whistled under his breath. "That's so hot," he mused mostly to himself. "Wanna check it out?"
My eyes lit up. "Can I?" Then I remembered Lilly. Her fiancé had just announced that he found my bike knowledge sexy and I didn't know how she felt about that.
Lilly's eyes twinkled as she gestured towards the door. "Go," she urged us. "Talk bike. Better out there than in here. We're going to talk wedding." She had a heck of a lot more confidence in her fiancé than I would have in similar circumstances.
I practically bolted from the cottage, leaving Adam and Matt to trail behind me. From the sunporch I heard the chorus of women deep in wedding chatter.
I knelt in front of the bike and trailed my finger over gleaming chrome. Adam kept the bike in pristine condition. I was jealous.
I ran my hands over the still-warm engine as I admired every detail. "Six-hundred-and-forty-nine cc air-cooled, overhead valve parallel-twin, four-speed gearbox with chain final drive... this is a brilliant bike."
Adam knelt at my side. Laugh lines surrounded his emerald eyes. "Oh, Flick where have you been all my life?"
His dramatic delivery made me smile. It had been a long, long time since a man had flirted with me. Most men looked right past me, including the one I wanted to notice me most of all.
"In the garage," I joked back. "Dreaming about getting my hands on a bike like this."
"Any time you want to take it for a spin sweetheart, you just give me a call."
I sat back on my heels and brushed away the dirt on my knees. "Actually I've never even ridden one."
Adam slapped his hand over his heart and looked stunned. "Well, just say the word and I'll take you for a ride."
His offer sounded so wicked I found myself laughing much more than I usually did. Adam looked like sex personified and catching just a fleeting second of his attention felt flattering and overwhelming all at once.
I glanced over my shoulder and caught Matt scowling down at us. In one blink, his expression returned to neutral but those blue eyes had already drenched me in ice cold guilt. The rationalizing began: Adam was merely joking. We'd only shared a moment of innocent flirting. It didn't mean anything. The explanations sounded plausible, logical, but under Matt's scrutiny I still felt like I'd done something wrong.
Even Adam's playful demeanor had disappeared when he stood. "I'm glad you like the bike, Flick," he said in a reserved tone.
I nodded, not sure of what to say.
"Well, I better go help Joe with the barbeque," he said to no one in particular. He jammed his hands in the pockets of his jeans and began whistling. Matt and I watched in silence as he meandered towards the cottage where wisps of smoke billowed behind the building.
I averted my attention back to the bike, glad for a reason not to look at Matt. He didn't say anything for what felt like minutes. It was the quietest I'd ever seen him.