Stopping Traffic (A Back to School Romance) (Love at The Crossroads) (10 page)

BOOK: Stopping Traffic (A Back to School Romance) (Love at The Crossroads)
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“Who are you talking to Mommy?” Lindsay asked, walking up behind her.

Candace jumped, and seeing her daughter, forced herself back to the present. “Oh, thinking out loud I guess, baby...” She eyed her child’s feet. “Take off your shoes and put on your socks. Hurry up now, so we won’t be late.” Lindsay seemed to be dragging. Her enthusiasm to go to school had waned in favor of more sleep.

By the time Lindsay was dressed to meet Candace’s standards; they were already behind schedule, and rushing out the door.  The traffic and the synchronized lights seemed to be on her side as she headed the short distance to Duncan Elementary School. With five minutes to spare, Candace parked in her regular slot, helped Lindsay out the back seat and grabbed her crossing guard gear.

Thanks to the numerous weekend parties, Lindsay had made many friends and Candace felt comfortable allowing Lindsay to walk across the small campus with her classmates. After successfully leading two troops of children across the intersection, the sun seemed to blink and go into hiding. Loud voices preceded another group of children walking in an unhurried pace toward her.

Candace had just stepped off the curb with her stop sign when she felt a drop. In her mad dash to get to school, she had left her umbrella at home. “Great.”

Once she was out of the intersection, Candace looked up in the sky as clouds rumbled. Yep, she was definitely going to get drenched. There went the hairstyle makeover Solae had given her the other day with the soft bouncy curls. Her coworkers had raved about her new look.

As the second and third drops trickled down her face, Candace braced herself for the downpour. By the time she got to the office, Candace would either look a mess or fashionable like Chaka Khan.

She still had students coming from two directions and she couldn’t abandon her post because of the weather. At least some had umbrellas or were wearing ponchos.
Note to self
, she thought,
when removing the umbrella from the car, remember to return it or buy an extra.

Glancing over shoulder to make sure there were no stragglers, Candace blinked, then squinted.
Royce?
He was still wearing his uniform and heading her way. His swagger was even more welcome than the umbrella he was holding, which was big enough to hold a family of four.

Her heart pounded with excitement. It wasn’t a fire, but it appeared he had come to rescue her. Sucking in her breath, Candace could only watch as he kept walking until he invaded her space, towering over her with the umbrella.

“Sorry, I’m late,” he said.

She frowned. “For what?

“Not getting here before the storm.” It was as if his words cued the windows of heaven to release the downpour, but he protected her.

Leaning into him, under the guise of staying dry, Candace giggled as he pulled her closer. When the last school bell rang, she did another head check for any little ones. None in sight.

Escorting her back to the lot where she was parked, Royce practically lifted her off her feet to help her avoid a puddle. She reveled in his strength as she looked into his eyes, but what she saw there gave her pause.

His handsomeness couldn’t hide his exhaustion. It seemed that instead of going home for what she suspected was much-needed rest, he’d thought about her. It was the second time he had forgone sleep to see her. She felt cherished.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

His lopsided smile was another one of her rewards. “Sorry I didn’t call.”

Embarrassed, she looked away when she admitted, “I never gave you my number.”

He grunted. “Did you think that small technicality would stop me from seeing you again?”

She bowed her head, so he wouldn’t see her blush. She was glad it didn’t.

“Candace, don’t make me come here every morning whether in a fire truck or on foot to see you, because I will.”

The intensity of his stare made a believer out of her. “My days have been shortened. Another parent has been assigned to alternating days with me, so instead of every day, I’ll only have Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

“Duly noted. Now, back to us…I’d rather take you to someplace nice and dry where I’m holding your hand instead of an umbrella. I’ve already told you I have no problem taking Lindsay along on our dates if that will make you more comfortable.

She was too embarrassed to admit that it would.

His nostrils seemed to expand with excitement. “Since silence is golden, I’ll take that as a yes.”

Closing her eyes, Candace took a deep breath. She was going to go for it.

“If you keep your eyes closed a second longer, I’m kissing you.”

Candace’s lids fluttered open. Royce’s smirk clearly read, “Yeah, I said it.”

“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Suddenly, she realized that she liked being chased. It was empowering.

“About the dates with Lindsay—yes, about kissing you—most definitely, but only with your permission. I was reared a gentlemen, and since I surrendered to God’s way, there’s no way I would displease Him or you.”

She was happy to see that there were still gentlemen in that day and time. “Can I pinch you? I want to make sure you’re real.” She squinted as Royce laughed and flexed his muscles for her to do the honors.

Although she was enjoying this moment with him, she had to get to work. Playfully pinching him, they both chuckled. “How about having our first date at Chuck E. Cheese’s?”

Royce lifted a brow. “I like pizza.”

“Then it’s a date.” He opened her door and she reached for a piece of paper and scribbled her number and address. “I won’t tell Lindsay about
her
first date in case you need to reschedule because of work.”

“Only a fire or Jesus coming back for His saints would stop me from being there.”

Starting the ignition in her car and social life, Candace gave him a smile. “Duly noted.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER
FIFTEEN

 

 

Candace’s sweet fragrance lingered as Royce watched her drive away. Wanting every memory of her to last, he inhaled deeply. One thing was for sure, their attraction was mutual and he was wearing her defenses down.

He briefly reflected on the eight verses in Revelation that mention the promises that follow overcoming. Indeed, Royce looked forward to whatever blessing He had in store for him and Candace.

“And to think I almost missed my blessing because of a hang-up about not dating another single mother.” He shook his head in disbelief at his stupidity as he climbed into his own vehicle and stretched his muscles.

Twenty minutes later, Royce called Hershel seconds after walking through the door. Despite his excitement over the latest developments with Candace, Royce didn’t talk or text while driving. He and his crew had rescued too many people who had— some with fatal consequences.

“She said yes,” Royce dived right in as soon as his brother answered, “albeit at Chuck E. Cheese’s, but that’s better than White Castle’s. The consequences of those onions on the burgers probably wouldn’t guarantee me a second date.”

Hershel roared. “Solae suggested Dave & Buster’s for our first date and the boys loved it.”

Kicking off his shoes en route to his bedroom, Royce next angled the phone between his shoulder and ear to remove his shirt. “I never thought you would give another woman a chance.”

“She had so much patience with the children at the party, including mine. It got to a point where the children were coming to her, whether for punch or a problem. Solae is something else, and since it was the spur of the moment, I don’t think she was trying to impress me…”

Royce listened without interrupting. It was interesting to hear his brother so taken with another woman. There was no mistaking Hershel’s happiness.

“With her sweet personality, I’m surprised no one has snatched her up. She’s never been married and doesn’t have children. She definitely is mother material, judging from how the children took to her.” He paused. “So I guess we’re thinking along the same lines, because I never thought you would give another single mother the time of day.”

Eying the pile of dirty clothes in his hamper, Royce made a note to wash after he got eight plus hours of sleep. “It would have been my loss,” Royce admitted as he padded to the kitchen for a bagel and a glass of juice. “She was very understanding; she left some leeway for our date in case I needed to cancel because of work.”

“Then she’s probably a keeper,” had been his brother’s last word a few minutes later as exhaustion hit, and Royce signed off.

After his shower, Royce read a verse, then knelt for his prayers. “Lord, I thank You for everything in my life, but especially for covering me with Your blood while responding to situations only You can control. And most of all, thank You for filling my loneliness with Candace and Lindsay. I trust You to guide our relationship. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Royce burrowed under the covers as if preparing for hibernation. The last vision in his mind was of him and Candace under the umbrella. “Come on Chuck E. Cheese’s.

***

“Do you realize that this is the first time in a long time, we’ve both been in a relationship at the same time and we’ve never dated brothers or cousins?” Solae asked minutes after Candace replayed her conversation with Royce.

“Hold up. I haven’t really crossed over the dating threshold. I’m just testing the waters,” Candace said, then turned around to type in her password to retrieve her accounts.

A peppermint bounced off her shoulder. “Ouch, girl. Stop it. I’m trying to work.” Candace twirled around in her chair.

“No, you stop it,” Solae said, walking into Candace’s cubicle. Leaning on the partition, she crossed her arms. “Let Mr. Fireman woo you. I’m definitely enjoying Hershel’s attention, and his boys are so adorable.”

Candace lowered her voice. “Has he told you what happened between him and his ex-wife?”

Looking both ways over her shoulder, Solae shook her head. “Only that his ex had an extramarital affair and she left him.”

Covering her mouth, Candace gasped. “What? She walked away from that hunk and cute boys? Wow. I think there needs to be an addendum to the scriptures. In addition to ‘He that findeth a wife, findeth a good thing’, I think ‘She that getteth a husband, getteth a good thing’ should be penciled in.”

“I know, right?” Solae frowned. “Finding a man who loves you is a premium, finding a good father is priceless…what I wouldn’t give for that...” she sighed with a wishful downcast look, then recovered. “Anyway, be happy. Both brothers are practicing Christians. That’s a major plus in this day and age.” She returned to her desk without another word.
             

The rest of Candace’s day was uneventful until she was about to leave work for her afternoon crossing guard duties when she received a text.

Be careful crossing the street, pretty lady. I can’t wait to see you again. Royce

She smiled and stared at the message before texting him back
:
I will. I hope you had sweet dream
s
.

I did, and you were in them. I’m off the next two days. I can’t wait to see my old frien
d,
Chuck E.

Candace bit her lip to keep a laugh from escaping.

How about tomorrow around five-thirty?

It’s a date
!
It had been five years in the making, and truth be told, Candace couldn’t wait and she hummed all the way to the car.
Lord, did I tell You thank you today? Thank You!

Hours later, Royce was still on her mind as she prepared dinner while Lindsay did her homework at the kitchen table.
Tomorrow
was exactly twenty-four hours away. Candace couldn’t stand it any longer. She grabbed her smartphone and sent Royce a text.

I hope I’m not disturbing you, but I never thanked you for thinking about me this morning and making sure I arrived at work dry and intact. C
.

Seconds after hitting send, Candace was stirring the pasta when her cell phone rang. She smiled, guessing it was Royce.

“Who’s that Mommy?” Lindsay asked before she could say hello.

“You can never disturb me. I’ve been thinking about you nonstop since this morning. There’s something about you that makes me want to protect you from the storms as the Lord gives me the strength.”

Blushing, Candace turned her back to Lindsay. He always made her heart flutter. She covered the phone and faced her daughter. “Put that up for now, sweetie and go wash your hands so you can eat.”

“But I already washed my hands, Mommy.” She lifted them for her to see.

Smart kid.
“Ok, then put your homework up for now.”

Closing her folder, Lindsay folded her hands like an obedient student, but she didn’t budge from her chair. Her daughter wasn’t going anywhere and Candace wasn’t one to leave her alone in the kitchen with hot pots on the stove.
So much for privacy
.

BOOK: Stopping Traffic (A Back to School Romance) (Love at The Crossroads)
10.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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