Chapter TwoMature

                “Number seven across, lacking interest or excitement; dull. Seven letters.”

                “Mundane.”

                Jaime Horton brought her head up from the paper, realizing she’d been talking aloud. “Oh, sorry. I’m lost in this riveting crossword.”

Taylor Rigg just shrugged. “At least something’s happening around here. What’s the next one?”

Jaime turned back to the newsprint. “Um … 14 down.  Having or showing unaffected simplicity of nature or absence of artificiality.” She counted off with one finger. “Five letters. Starts with N.”

“Naïve.”

“You are really good at this,” Jaime mumbled as she filled in the spaces.

Taylor shrugged again, snapping gum and twirling perfect blonde hair around  her finger. “I read, whatever.”

Jaime studied the younger girl out the corner of her eye as she absently tapped her foot from behind her cash register, trying not to feel jealous. Eight years younger, hair like a shampoo commercial, skin like a model and a figure that could sell swimsuits. Enrolled in first year arts and science at University, dreaming of becoming a lawyer. Was it fair when pretty people were allowed to be smart, too?

“So Jaime, any big plans for the weekend?”

Jaime put her book down, happy to finally have an affirmative answer for that question. “I’m going to a stagette party tomorrow night. My friend’s getting married in two weeks.”

“Cool. You guys going to the bar?”

“That’s the plan. How about you?”

“Brett is coming home for the weekend so I plan on being … busy.” Her eyes glinted as she said it, and Jaime had to look away. She didn’t need the love life of a twenty-two year old to remind her that she was utterly, sadly, pathetically alone.

“That should be fun,” she said absently, picking up the crossword again.

“Oh, Jaime, don’t look now, but here’s your boyfriend.”

“What?” She shot a questioning gaze at Taylor, but the younger woman was staring at the door, leaning over her check-out counter.

Jaime followed that look to the doors of the liquor store, and found herself sitting up straighter even as she said, “He’s not my boyfriend.” There was nothing she could do to get rid of that wistful quality in her tone, though.

The doors slid open on their own and he stepped in to the store, heading straight for the beer coolers on the back wall. Jaime knew she was staring, but fighting the need to watch his back and shoulders roll with his stride under that T-shirt was futile. And the jeans didn’t help, either.

“Jaime, ask him what he’s doing tonight.”

Jaime flicked a hand at Taylor impatiently. “Shut up. Mind your own business.”

“Want me to ask him?”

“Don’t do anything to embarrass me, please.” She could already feel her face colouring; that damn Irish blood.

As he approached the registers with a couple six-packs in his hands, she made herself look down. He was beyond handsome, that was too pretty of a word for him.

His dirty-blonde hair was always shaggy. He always needed a shave. His fingernails were dirty. But he was tall; over six feet anyway. His eyes were green and piercing. He had a perpetual tan, which made her assume he must work outdoors. His frame may have been long but it wasn’t narrow: his shoulders were wide, his T-shirt filled out perfectly with muscle. He was the first man she’d seen in real life that had a vein showing in his bicep when he was just standing still.

Masculine. Looming. Gorgeous.

He approached Taylor’s register and Jaime felt a pang of disappointment, but in her desperate need to embarrass Jaime the blonde snapped down a “register closed” sign and said absently, “Sorry, I’m going on break.”

He was forgiven for giving Taylor an appreciative glance as she flounced out from behind her counter and made for the swinging doors that led to storage and the staff room. She knew how to work it without even trying.

While he was distracted Jaime ran a hand over her hair, but it wouldn’t matter. He had yet to really see her and he’d been buying beer here for the past two months.

“Hi,” she said too brightly as he set his selection on the counter.

“Hey,” he returned politely enough, reaching for his wallet while she punched in prices.

“That’ll be twenty-five ninety-five.” Was her voice always this squeaky?

He handed over his debit card and she pushed the terminal towards him, not able to stop herself from watching his hands as he punched in his numbers, not to mention the way his forearms and how they were corded with lean muscle that moved as he did.

“Planning on stealing my card?”

Her head flew up. “Sorry?”

He was chuckling. “I think I caught you trying to scam my pin number.”

Now she knew she was red, she could feel it. She tore the approval slip from the machine and cashed off the purchase on the till. “No I wasn’t.”

He smiled at her as she handed him the papers. “I’m just kidding.” He picked up his beer and gave her a little salute. “See you.”

She watched his back as he left, mute. That was the longest conversation she’d ever had with him.

The End

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