“Alright, if you’re sure. It was just an offer but I can see that there’s something more to this than what you’ve let on. So I’ll just lay around here with the dogs and find something to do.” He was a little hesitant as he spoke and I knew I’d have to explain.
“My grandfather and I don’t get a long so well. He and my grandmother were divorced when I was a little girl. I was about 4 when he moved out here, when I first moved out here I moved in with him. Needless to say within three months, I had moved out on my own. I won’t be gone long, no longer than to offer my condolences, see if there’s anything I can do and then I’ll be back.” I offered taking a sip from the mug that I’d almost forgotten was in my hand.
“You make it sound so simple.” Nick offered placing his mug in the sink before carefully wrapping an arm around me. “You’re sure that you don’t want me to go with you?”
“No, but I think I need to do this on my own and yet there’s a part of me that really kind of wants you to go with me just incase things should completely fall apart like they’re prone to.” I couldn’t help but sigh as I looked up at him.
He reached down carefully brushing the hair from my eyes. “Abusive? “ I knew what he was trying to get at but yet it wasn’t true.
“No, he just like things his way or else, and I tended to be on the yelling end of that, or else, most of the time. Sometimes it was for being a few minutes late coming in or sometimes it was my jobs and other things that got to him. We were better off living apart.” It was very true, we got along much better now that we were living on opposite ends of the city, but that still didn’t say much for our relationship.
“We’ll then that settles it, you go on upstairs, get a shower, I’ll take the dogs for a walk and then we’ll head out.” Something told me that trying to convince him otherwise wasn’t going to be easy. “Maybe we’ll take a ride after; it’s a nice day out.”
“Alright, I give.” I sighed finishing the last few sips of coffee and setting the mug in the sink. “But you have to promise me that you’re going to behave.”
“I wish I could promise you that but if the reason should arise that I need to stand up for you, I will, no ifs, no ands, no buts involved.” Prince charming in an every day wrapper, exactly what I was looking for, hopefully my grandfather wouldn’t scare him off. That had been part of my rationale for not inviting him in the first place after all.
A sigh escaped my lips as I closed my eyes shaking my head. “You’ve got to be stubborn don’t you? Why is it that all the men in my life have a stubborn gene in them?”
“Easy Stephanie.” Nick had started to laugh. “Like I said, unless given a reason to get upset, I have no intentions of getting upset. However, I will not let any man degrade a woman that I love; it’s just the way that it works out.”
“Alright I’m headed to shower I guess, and no you can’t come with me.” I wiggled out of his arms. It wasn’t that I was mad at him, but I was trying my hardest to get ready for dealing with my grandfather.
“Where’s Gage’s leash?” He didn’t seem bothered as I pulled away. In fact he seemed less than phased.
“By the front door on the table, he’s getting better about walking on it but he still pulls and tries to walk you.” Starting for the stairs I stopped for a minute turning to look at him. “When you’re done taking them for a walk you might as well put them out in the backyard.”
“Well if you aren’t going to be very long at you’re grandpa’s then we could take them with us, stop at the park.” It was beginning to become more and more obvious that either he didn’t care about the paparazzi catching wind of us or he was hoping it would scare me away.
“Yea, I’m sure I can get enough make-up on to cover these bruises. Let me get a shower and I’ll be ready to go.” Reaching the stairs I started up them.
“You going to be alright while you’re in the shower if I leave now or you want me to wait and you can come with us?” The words took me a minute to process and then I realized what he was getting at. For a minute I considered defending myself but instead I gave in.
Two days ago I was happy living alone, and now I wasn’t so sure I could manage twenty minutes alone. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, no I was fairly sure I still could but he was making me loose my will to. “You know now that you mention it, if you don’t mind I think I’d like to go.”
“Don’t mind at all, in fact I was almost hoping you would since you’re used to walking the big vicious mutt.” Nick’s smirk made me laugh, was it possible he was feeling the same thing I was?
“Alright, well give me about twenty minutes and I’ll be ready to go.” I practically floated up the stairs. If this was a dream I wasn’t ready to wake up from it.
Twenty minutes late I was just finishing attempting to finish up blending the make up on my face. I hated wearing the stuff but I knew if I showed up looking like I had before, grampa was going to have a fit. The chances of him believing that Nick hadn’t done it were very unlikely, and the chances that it would end well, even more unlikely. That was the last thing that I needed. This was going to go poorly enough as it was when he found out his twenty four year old grand daughter was seeing a forty four year old man.
“You ready?” Hadn’t I locked the bathroom door?
“Uh, yea just a second. I’ve gotta pull this matte of hair up and I’ll be good to do. Sorry I know I don t look real pretty but this is impressive compared to the normal me.” Why was it that anytime he was around, I turned into a babbling idiot?
“I’m not planning on a photo shoot, but if you are would you let me know please? Besides you’re always gorgeous, even if right now those pretty features are hidden behind bruises.” Well that explained why whenever he was around I couldn’t stop babbling, because within a few sentences he could manage to have me mesmerized.
“Nope, no photo shoots in my future cause I’m pretty sure you’re the only one who thinks I’m beautiful.” I watches his eyebrows meet his buzzed hair line in the mirror.
“Obviously you haven’t paid attention to the way the guys at the bar watch you then. Cause I was pretty sure some of them were going to fall off their stools watching you walk. Besides don’t you think you’re beautiful?”
“Pulling the hair up on top of my head so that it was in a ponytail before slipping the elastic in place as I watched him in the mirror. “Do I think I’m beautiful? No, most days I think I’m fat, pale skinned, small chested and I don’t like what I see in the mirror.”
“You’re what a hundred and twenty five pounds?” For once when someone said it, I didn’t feel like he was criticizing me for my weight.
“A hundred and twenty but you’re close enough.” Turning around to face him, I pulled the sun glasses from the top of his head. “Come on, let’s enjoy the day.” I was a little surprised that as I went skipping off down the stairs, he didn’t attempt to complain that I still had his sunglasses. “Gage, come here boy.” Picking the leash up from the table where Nick had dropped it, I clipped it onto his collar. “You’re gunna be a good boy for me now aren’t you?” He just looked up at me wagging the stub where his tail used to be as if trying to say that he would be better than he had been the last time we’d gone for a walk.
The last attempt I’d made at walking him during the day had ended up in a disaster. Midway thru our walk Gage had spotted a chipmunk and attempted to chase it, forgetting that he was still attached to my arm by the leash. He’d attempted to drag me a block before I finally got him back under control. I had ended up with a twisted ankle and a couple of scrapped knees, which had made for a fun walk home. Since then, I hadn’t attempted to take him out again; instead I let him content himself with chasing the chipmunks in the backyard.
“Are you kidnapping my sunglasses for a reason or can I have them back? Granted the sun around here ain’t nothing compared to back home in Texas but it’s still rather bright.” Maverick was sitting at Nick’s feet patiently waiting as she did as if she knew that if she was good long enough she’d get to go for a walk. “And we can head out whenever I’ve gotta grab her leash outta the car but she’ll follow at my side that far.”
“No, you can have them back I suppose. Mine are around here some place but iits not really that bad out.” In all actuality I had stolen them merely to see what brand they were but he didn’t need to know that. I wasn’t in this for the money but he claimed to be a “simple man” and that was what I was going to hold him to. Which meant he was temporarily off the hook seeing as they were merely cheap knock offs and not Gucci.
A yank at the leash in my hand told me that Gage was ready to go and he didn’t care about sunglasses.
“Good, cause I think I’m down to just that pair.” It was hard to tell if Nick was joking or not. “You ready?” he asked before slipping the sunglasses from my hand. His hand brushing against mine, sending electric shocks through me, god was I falling for him and fast.
“Uh, yea” Starting for the door I attempted to recover. I wasn’t ready to admit to him that I couldn’t live without him, or maybe it more I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself. After all it was like my father had tried telling me as a kid, I never really knew who a celebrity was; I only knew who they portrayed to the camera. In this case daddy was right, I didn’t know him.
Pulling the door open, I realized that he was right. The sun was ungodly bright. Even for a late August day it was fairly nice out. If it wasn’t for the bruising that covered most of my body I’d consider heading for the pool today, but the park sounded like fun too.
“So what’s the deal with you and your grandfather? You don’t sound so excited to be going to see him.” Nick pulled the door shut behind himself Maverick following at his side, tail happily wagging.
I was about to speak when the phone in my pocket began to ring. Pulling it from within I pressed it to my ear after answering it. “Hello Maria.” Ah yes the joy of caller id.
“You promised you’d call!” Maria rarely forgot about something, that was probably the best thing about her, but I’d been hoping that maybe she would this time.
“Sorry Maria, honest I was going to call but I’ve been trying to shake this headache and I went to bed early last night.” I hated to lie to her, she was my best friend but at the same time I never shared everything with her. Then again who did?
“So???? What’s the story? Were you really seen with Nicholas Shultz like the rest of the girls are saying that you were?” Of course she had to go back to this, I supposed I should tell her the truth but who knew who she was going to tell.
Glancing in Nick’s direction knowing that he could hear her I watched his reaction. He merely nodded before heading for the car to retrieve Maverick’s leash. Maverick was lying at my rolling on the side walk trying to get my attention. Taking a deep breath I proceeded on with the story. “Yes Maria, it’s true. But listen, I’d like to keep this between you and I.”
“Oh of course! I can see where you might want to keep that quiet, I wont tell a soul promise Stephanie.” There was something about how quickly she responded that worried me though, it just seemed to quick.
“Alright, I appreciate it, listen though Maria, I’m on my way to Grampa’s so I’ll talk to you later ok?” I attempted to push the worry to the back of my mind, this was my best friend, how could I suspect that she might not mean what she had said? I was beginning to go nuts. First I thought my ex was in my home only to find that it was Nick and now this, god I needed a vacation. At least there was always this weekend, time away with Nick and Eric and the mutts, far from other people. At least I wouldn’t need to worry about the ex for a couple of days, that was always a plus.
“Enjoy your time off Stephanie! And if you see him again, I want to hear all about it.” Marie was always the eager one, but at least she wasn’t telling me to steer clear of him because best friend or not that was advice that I didn’t think that I could take.
“You’ll be the first to know I promise Maria.” Ok, so maybe I was lying but I would fill her in as I went, and as I decided it was necessary. After all this wasn’t just any other man, this was Nicholas Shultz, actor and star of a tv series, if anyone found out, the privacy I had come to love would be gone. For him though, I was willing to give that up. “I’ll talk to you later.”
“Later hun.” And with that the phone line went dead. Shaking my head I returned the phone to my pocket scratching Maverick’s belly as I did.
“So you told her huh?” I had been so lost in my mind that I hadn’t even realized that Nick had returned.
“Yea, I didn’t feel like I really had a choice. She said that all the other girls at work were talking about it, which I’m not sure how they heard about it but I guess they have.” Turning my eyes up to look at him I shook my head. “How do you deal with it?”
“Deal with?” He seemed confused with the sudden change in the topic of conversation.
“The complete lack of privacy you have. Everyone talking about what’s going on in your life, who you’re seeing, speculating why you’re seeing them.” I wasn’t sure why I was sharing this with him but it seemed like the best person to ask was him.