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Authors: Amber Lynn Natusch

Tags: #Fantasy

Caged (6 page)

BOOK: Caged
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“Ronnie, this is Sean. Sean, Ronnie.”

They exchanged pleasantries before Ronnie focused her attention back on me.

“Just beefing up the wardrobe my ass” she said with the piercing eyes that only a mother possesses. I said nothing in response.

“I’ll take this one,” Sean said, breaking the brief silence which I had no intention of filling.

Ronnie turned to him and took the shirt before heading over to the counter to ring up the purchase.

I scoffed to myself and muttered something under my breath.

“What was that?” Sean asked.

I sighed heavily in an attempt to convey my displeasure with repeating myself.

“I said ‘so much for that theory’.”

“And what theory would that be?” he asked casually.

I sighed again.

“My theory that it can’t ever be a bad day when Dave Matthews sings ‘Crash’ on the radio.”

He smiled boyishly.

“You like that song?” he asked.

“It’s one of my faves. Why?”

“You do know what it’s about, don’t you?” he asked, choking on a laugh.

“Apparently you do, so why don’t you enlighten me?” I asked, getting frazzled by his persistence.

“It’s about masturbation. He’s a Peeping Tom, Ruby,” he said, just before he roared with laughter.

“You’re disgusting. It is not…it’s about love.”

The more I tried to defend my tune, the harder he laughed. Ronnie finally cleared her voice from behind the counter.

“It’s forty-five dollars, please,” she said to Sean.

He wiped the tears that were welling in his eyes from the strain of laughing.

“Sorry,” he said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out the necessary cash. “Here you go”.

He took the bag that Ronnie extended to him before turning back to me.

“I guess your theory was wrong. You really do look like you’re having a bad day.”

“You’re an ass” was all I could muster in response.

“Never claimed to be anything else,” he said as he strode past me flashing his impossibly green eyes down to mine. “You should buy it. Especially the boots. I have the perfect place for you to wear them,” he said plainly. “I’ll see you soon, Ruby.”

I stared blankly at the door from which he’d just exited, completely speechless. I heard Ronnie come up beside me.

“I’d do more than beef up my wardrobe for that one,” she said, her comment laced with innuendo.

“It’s not like that, Ronnie,” I defended.

“It should be. It really, really should be,” she said, staring me down. “Now go take that off so I can ring you up. You heard the man, he’s got plans.”

I begrudgingly dragged myself back to the dressing room. I emerged wearing my comfy clothes, bringing the others up to the counter.

“I don’t really know him that well, Ronnie. I’m getting to know him, but sometimes we have the strangest interactions, and he pops up so randomly. The whole thing is just a bit weird.”

“Nothing in this world is random, Ruby. Remember that,” she said, grabbing my hand as she handed me my bag. “Nothing.”

I had never seen her so serious, and was completely baffled as to what I missed that caused such a change in her demeanor. I smiled, trying to soften the mood.

“Thanks for the help. Guess I’ll see you soon.”

“I guess you will,” she replied with the same curling of her mouth’s corner.

“Tell Peyta I’m sorry about the boots. I’ll give them a good home,” I said as I pushed the door open.

“I’d rather tell her about what you did in them.”

I pretended not to hear that one.


“So I was thinking,” Sean said with a mouth half-full of some greasy concoction he purchased at Dunkin Donuts, or “the Dunk” as he liked to refer to it. “You said that you’ve never been into the city. I think we should go down this weekend and I can show you around…do whatever you want to do.”

“I believe what I said was that I’ve never seen the city before. My parents took me once to Boston. So what exactly do you have in mind?” I asked with a tone of caution and incredulity. “I should warn you that my idea of a good time doesn’t involve a trip to the Green Monster or Hooters.”

I was quite certain that if a person could pierce your body with a stare and subsequently cause internal organs to combust, my pancreas would have been ablaze given the glowing eyes pinned on me.

“Ruby, are you implying that beer, boobs and baseball are what I consider to be a good time?”

If the shoe fits…

“Is there a polite way to answer ‘yes’ to such a question?” I asked as I giggled nervously. I thought I was hilarious, but Sean didn’t seem to subscribe to that brand of humor; a lesson I’d learned over the previous few months.

Something else to work on.

He scowled at me, but chose not to continue the conversation in its current direction.

“I was thinking more along the lines of trolling around the city, going to the park, museums, galleries, dinner, dancing, whatever you want to do.”

“So let me get this straight. You are going to drive me into the city, do whatever I want to do, go wherever I want to go, eat whatever I want to eat, and dance? I thought you didn’t dance? And who, exactly, is going to pay for this excursion?” I asked in my attempt to clarify both itinerary and intent.

“I will drive you into the city to do whatever, go wherever, and eat whatever you want. I don’t dance and this weekend will be no exception to the rule. And I thought it was customary for a man to pay for a lady?” he said as though this should have all been very obvious.

“So it’s a date?” I asked. I didn’t do dates. I had never had luck dating in the past and did not want to revive that part of my life just because I gained visual input. Being able to see made the whole situation even more confusing than it was before. There were fewer options to weigh then.

He started to chuckle. That chuckle slowly became laughter, which then escalated quickly into a deep rumbling hysteria. Apparently, I once again didn’t see the comedic value in what he’d said. In fact, I became more incensed as his shenanigans continued, as if my observation about it being a date was so off-base. He couldn’t have been trying to take me out?


“If you’re quite done assaulting my self-esteem now, it would be awesome if you’d just give me a definite verbal answer. Apparently, in your pristine upbringing you weren’t taught that laughing at someone could be construed as extremely rude, and quite frankly, a dickhead move,” I shot at him. I felt tears threatening to well up in my eyes. I was used to having the occasional insult thrown my way while growing up, but this was different. It was never by someone I liked.

He seemed to pick up on my distress, as if that took a massive IQ.

“No, Ruby. It is most certainly not a date,” he said.

Good to know.

“I think you could have made that point clear without the theatrics. Next time it would be
super if you could refrain from undoing years of therapy in the process,” I choked out, turning quickly away from him for fear that my eyes would betray me.

When I was certain I had myself composed, I turned back to see that his face went from amused, to serious, then to grim. His forehead actually furrowed and his eyebrows were in danger of swallowing up his eyes.

“I did not intend to hurt your feelings. It just struck me as funny. It’s sort of an inside joke with my friends. You wouldn’t get it. It’s not really you that makes it funny,” he said.

“Well, since I don’t see your friends here, there isn’t really an inside joke to be had,” I stated. “Don’t ever do that again.”

With that, I turned and stormed out of the shop to the back room and slammed the door. I banged some things around like a five-year-old having a moderate tantrum until I felt better. I grabbed a necklace I’d been working on and started tinkering on it without real purpose. In my mindless futzing I realized that I never actually agreed to go, so I pondered for a few moments whether or not I still wanted to.
That really was a dickhead thing to do to me
. However, after some thought, I decided to give him a second chance. We were making progress on the normalcy front, and I did need to learn not to let my sensitivity about my past get in the way of a potentially fun weekend in my immediate future.

I went back into the shop to tell him, but when I peeked through around the door, I saw that he had already gone. I walked over to the register and saw that he’d left me a note pinned to the desk with one of my various pointy tools.

I’m very sorry that I caused you pain. Sometimes I forget that you haven’t had an easy past, and that some of the things I say could be more hurtful to you than they would someone else. It was never my intention.
I’m enjoying our friendship(?) very much and I do really want to share the day in Boston with you. If you do not wish to go, I’ll understand completely. If you never wish to speak to me again…well, I won’t really understand that, but I’ll just have to go with it until you see the error of your judgment (and yes, I’m being a smartass. I know).
If you do decide you want to go, I’ll be at your place at eight a.m. on Saturday morning. Be waiting for me outside.
If you’re not there, then I’ll know where things stand (for now).

Well shit. Now I have to go.

I almost smiled while I stood there holding the letter. He may have been capable of being an unmitigated ass at times, but his apology was both sincere and entertaining. I knew at that moment I’d be down there bright and early awaiting my pickup, though I’d make a point not to look too happy about it when he rolled up. I once heard Ronnie say that it was good to make men squirm a bit, that it gave you the upper hand. When Sean was involved, that wasn’t an easy thing to manage. I’d take all the help I could get.


He rolled up precisely on time, wearing the expression I knew he would; that Cheshire cat routine was getting old. I turned my pouty and wounded face up to a ten, and watched all that smug happiness drain from his face.
That’s much better.
He pulled up right in front of me and jumped out of the driver’s side as I was opening the passenger door. He made a disapproving face and I hopped in smiling at my apparently annoying feminism.

His BMW 6 series coupe was fully loaded and totally decked out with custom improvements. I was no stranger to the pros of luxury cars having had a father who would rant incessantly about the wonders of German vehicles and bought nothing less than an Audi on principle alone, but Sean’s ride was the shit. The leather was softer than a baby’s bum and the interior was posh. The jet black seats and dash contrasted beautifully with the exotic wood grain and occasional chrome detailing. It was nothing less than a work of art. The console was crazy, having only a flat screen and a knob; apparently buttons and gauges were for poor people. The magical knob controlled everything in the car, from the temperature and volume to the navigational system.

“This is an impressive ride…your Mercedes is too. Tell me, do you just appreciate fine German engineering, or are you trying to make up for personal shortcomings?” I kidded. As was becoming commonplace, my witty comment was met with silence and a glare that could combust internal organs. “I’ll take your silence to mean it’s the former.”

It may have been a bit of a low jab, but I did secretly enjoy that I could get him going so easily. The results I could get were amazing when I knew which buttons to push.

“So, did you figure out where you wanted to go today?” he asked, as though no longer fazed by my earlier comment.

“I did. I think I’d like to go to the zoo. I’ve never seen wild animals anywhere other than TV and photos, and I think I’d enjoy them very much,” I said, feeling a bit like an overexcited kindergartener on a field trip.

His lips pressed to a thin line

“The zoo it is.”

Guess he’s not an animal lover…

We took the trip at a reasonable pace, only exceeding the speed limit by five miles per hour. He never once put the radio or iPod on. The windows and panoramic sunroof stayed closed. He seemed withdrawn and especially contemplative. It made for a very exciting start to the trip.

“Can I ask a question?” I queried.

“Aside from the one you just asked, yes.”

“So you have this sweet ride that’s got a crazy sound system, wicked sunroof, and an engine that goes balls to the wall in like two seconds, and you choose to drive it like a ninety-year-old woman on her way to church on Sunday?”

BOOK: Caged
13.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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