“He stole flowers for you from the front of your house. It’s much more serious than I thought. He loves you. That’s like a Bonnie and Clyde type love.”
“You’re an ass.” He started filling up a vase with water for the flowers. As I passed them to him, a thorn landed in my finger and I cursed under my breath as blood started to appear. “Crap.”
Tristan took the flowers, tossed them into the vase, and then took my hand in his, examining the small bit of blood. “It’s not too bad,” he said, grabbing a rag and holding it against my finger. My stomach was building with butterflies that didn’t have a place in my life. I tried my best to ignore them, but the truth was, Tristan’s touch was nice, gentle, and wanted. “Stalker Sam was right about one thing, though,” Tristan said with his stare on my finger.
“And what’s that?”
“You do look beautiful.” Our hands stayed together, and he stepped in closer to me. I liked how close he was. I loved how close he was. His breaths were heavy. “Lizzie?”
“Would you be mad if I kissed you? And by kiss you, I mean you, not the memory of Jamie.” His eyes studied my lips. My heart was pounding against my ribcage as he moved in closer and brushed a fallen piece of hair behind my ear. Our hands stayed attached for a second longer before he cleared his throat and pulled away from me. A wave of embarrassment filled his eyes. “Sorry. Ignore me.” I blinked a few times and tried to shake the nervous feeling away. It wouldn’t leave. He knotted his hands together before resting them on the back of his neck. “You better get back to your date.”
“It’s not a—” I started to say, but when I noticed his lips turning down a bit, I dropped the subject. “Have a good night.”
He nodded once. “You too, Lizzie.”
I stared up at the podium where Tanner was speaking about why Needful Things should be closed down. It made me sick to my stomach listening to him tear into Mr. Henson, who was sitting a few rows back at the town meeting. Mr. Henson didn’t seem fazed by Tanner’s words at all, though. He just sat and smiled.
I’d never truly seen that side of Tanner—the business driven side of him. The one who would say and do pretty much anything to get his way, even if that meant throwing a nice old man under the bus.
It left me with such a taste of disgust.
“Tanner has some great reasons why Mr. Henson should give up his store. He says it’s a waste of space since nobody ever goes into the place.”
“I think it’s a great store.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You’ve been in there?”
“And you haven’t grown warts or anything? Mr. Henson practices voodoo and stuff in his back room. Turns out when the Clintons’ cat Molly went missing, someone saw her wander into Mr. Henson’s store, and I kid you not, Molly came out as a pit bull dog. Even answered to the name and all. It’s freaky.”
Chuckling, I said, “You don’t believe that, do you?”
“Heck yeah I do. I’m surprised you didn’t come out with a third eye or something after going into that place.”
“Oh, I did. I’m just really good with makeup.”
He chuckled. “You make me laugh, Elizabeth. I like that about you.” His eyes locked with mine, and he gave me a longing stare. Oh no…
I broke our stare and pointed to someone else. “What about them? What’s their story?”
He didn’t get a chance to tell me, because Sherriff Johnson was walking up to the stage.
The moment Sherriff Johnson stepped up to the microphone to speak about the town fair I knew I owed Tristan ten dollars. Right on cue, Sam leaned over and whispered in my ear, “You know, I was thinking maybe we can go to the fish fry after this. It’s real good and there’s a lot of dancing and stuff that goes on. It’s a great time.”
I smiled. I wasn’t sure how to turn him down. He looked so hopeful. “Well…” His eyes widened with a sparkle of excitement. “I would love that.”
He took his baseball cap off his head and slapped it against his knee. “Woo! Awesome, awesome, awesome!”
Sam couldn’t stop smiling wide and I couldn’t stop feeling as if going with him was a major mistake. Plus, I was out ten bucks, which sucked.
Sam and I sat in two chairs watching everyone else dance around drunkenly and freely as he told me the backstory of each and every person in the room. He turned to face me and said, “I hope you’re having fun.”
“I am.” I smiled.
“Maybe we can go on another date at some point?”
My jaw tightened. “Sam, you’re a wonderful person, but I don’t really think I’m in a place to be dating. You know what I mean? My life is currently a mess.”
He released a nervous chuckle and nodded in understanding. “I get it. I just…” He placed his hands on his knees and our gazes met. “I had to try. Just had to put myself out there.”
“I’m glad you did.”
“So you said you’re not ready to date? Are you sure it has nothing to do with your feelings for Tristan?” he asked.
A smile found his lips. “I read people, remember? I saw the way you looked at him at your house. He makes you happy. I think that’s nice.”
“We’re just friends,” I argued.
He kept smiling, but didn’t say another word about it.
I nudged him in the shoulder and said, “Are you sure you don’t want to get out there and dance?”