“You’re positive he’s okay?”
I was engaged in conversation with registered nurse, Lina Lancaster, at Sun Health Hospital. Dad had only collapsed two days ago, and the doctors kept him sedated until they knew he was okay. Lina assured me that my father would be released later today, and to come back in a couple hours.
“You’ve triple checked…” I said, and then hurriedly added, “Quadruple-checked?”
“Yes,” Lina smiled. “Howard is actually very healthy for a man who had a mini seizure. We’ve got him on some anti-seizure medication which he’ll need to take from now on…”
“But I thought you said he could take the herbs and stuff instead? That pills would clog the arteries,” I interrupted.
“Sometimes the human body does need the modern marvels of medicine,” Lina conceded. “So he can continue on his vitamins and herbs regiment, but he’ll need to take the anti-seizure pills if he wants to avoid another episode.”
“Okay…” I chewed my lower lip. “If you say so.”
“Now, go home and relax,” Lina suggested. “Howard won’t be ready for release until five o’clock.”
“I think I’ll wait here if you don’t mind,” I replied. “I’ve got a book in the truck.”
“Suit yourself,” Lina said, patting me on the arm.
I settled into the hospital cafe, fully engrossed in my Lady Ravendancer Goth biography. I didn’t even immediately notice when a certain lip-locking lad approached and set a cup of steaming hot StarNut coffee on my table.
“What’s this?” I asked, staring at the delicious hot beverage, afraid to meet his eyes in case he was a figment of my imagination.
“I figured you’d be here,” he said. “I thought you could use some coffee.”
“Thanks,” I smiled sheepishly, and closed my book. “Billy, right?”
“Yes,” he sat down across from me, setting down a cup of his own. “I took a guess. Cream? Two sugars?”
I made a face. “Milk and one sugar,” I corrected, but I was still impressed. “Hey it’s the most common addition to coffee. Thank you. You didn’t have to bring me anything.”
“I wanted to,” Billy remarked, staring deeply into my eyes.
Heat rushed to my cheeks. Warmth pooled into my veins, filling me with a tingly sensation. How could a complete stranger elicit such a reaction from me? In the daylight, he was even more of a sight to behold – hulking arms, chest hair peeping from beneath his shift, dark brown hair with dirty blonde streaks, penetrating green eyes, and a chiseled jaw with a seductive five o’clock shadow. Mmm… I could stare at him all day.
“So whatcha reading?” he inquired.
“Uh…” I snapped out of my fangirling fog. “A biography.”
“Lady Ravendancer,” he remarked, looking at the cover. “You have wicked concentration.”
“Oh… uh… thank… you…” I stammered.
“Yeah, I was standing over there watching you for like… twenty minutes… trying to think up how to approach you.”
I frowned. Not the word I wanted to hear.
“No,” he continued. “That you want to know why is cute… you, on the other hand…” he eyed me up and down. “I… just couldn’t think of the perfect words to say to get you to notice me.”
“Oh wow,” I said, breaking into an awkward grin, and then quickly covered my lips. “Uh… did I say that out loud?”
“Yes,” he grinned, leaning across the table. “Drink your coffee, Red.”
I made a face, sipping the coffee. It wasn’t half bad.
“You know I have a name.”
“Right, Kass… or Kassiopeia… which do you prefer?”
“Kass,” I swallowed hard.
The sound of my own name was making me go weak in the knees.
“Actually I knew that when I was at the wishing well with you the other night,” he confessed.
“Oh?” I narrowed my eyes.
“Okay,” Billy lifted up a hand and laughed with ease. “I just want you to know that I swear I’m not a stalker or anything. I have a confession to make. I knew who you were. Well, at least I had a pretty good idea of who you were at the wishing well the other night. We have a mutual friend. Gage Briody.”
“Gage?” the name fell from my lips in surprise.
“Yeah, I live in Riverview, but I travel a lot for work and stuff. I’m an artist,” Billy said, tugging down on his vest, and as he did, more chest hair peeped out the top of his shirt.
“How…” I tried not to gape, my hands shaking with emotion. “How do you know Gage?”
“He works for me. Actually he’s minding the museum when I’m gone. Told me to look up a friend of his, a beautiful redhead by the name of Kassiopeia Fullbright,” Billy explained with a seductive smile. “He just didn’t let on how beautiful.”
Billy leaned across the table, reaching for my hand. I found his charm irresistible and lifted my hand, allowing his callused fingers to slide over mine.
“I knew from the moment I saw you that this gorgeous redhead was going to be fascinating,” Billy said, and I found his word choice, odd but charming.
“Thank you, I think,” I scrunched my shoulder and dropped my head to meet it.
“I knew I had to kiss you, and normally, I’m not that impulsive…” Billy chuckled awkwardly.
I’m not either, I admitted internally.
“…who am I kidding?” he ran a hand lazily through his hair. “Yes I am, but…” he let out another deep, masculine laugh. “…I knew I just had to feel your lips on my own because you’re the most gorgeous woman I have ever seen.”
The words caught in my throat. He was laying on the charm thick, and I was welcoming it, as if I was the bread to his butter.
“And I promise if you don’t want to see me again, I’ll take off. I just wanted to come and explain myself and confess my hidden knowledge of you,” Billy said. “So you’d know what I thought, and so I could possibly stand a chance with you. And I can just buzz off, seriously, if I’m weirding you out or anything…”
“You’re not,” I said, my voice sounding faraway and strange. “You’re… actually…” kinda hot? kinda sexy? kinda awesomely perfect? kinda making my heart pound? “…I’m interested.”
“Really?” he said, as if surprised by my response.
“Yes, really,” I grinned, trying to keep my excitement at bay.
“Oh… uh… how’s your dad?” he quickly changed the subject, as if obligated to bring the topic up.
I smiled gratefully. “He’s getting released later today.”
“Okay, well, I won’t keep you,” Billy stood up. “But I’d like to go out with you sometime… when you’re free.”
I’d be free all the time just so I could stare into those gorgeous green eyes.
“How about tonight?” I offered hurriedly and impulsively.
I realized I probably should’ve checked with my father first, not because I wasn’t a grown woman who could make her own decisions, but because he would be getting released later, and I should probably spend the evening with him.
“Really?” he shot a brow upward. “It’s okay with your dad and all?”
“Yeah, sure,” I shrugged, and then realized I didn’t want to sound heartless or uncaring. “Actually, it’ll probably be kinda late… maybe after I get him home, and know he’s okay, and get him to sleep.”
“Late?” his devilish grin sent shivers down my spine.
“I could meet you,” I said, realizing I should keep my emotions in check. “…at Central Park… say around ten or eleven?”
“Perfect,” Billy said. “I’ll give you my digits. Can I get yours?”
“Yeah,” I pulled out my phone, and his fingers brushed mine as he grabbed the device from my hands.
My heart pounded as he entered the ten numbers into my phone and handed it back to me.
“I’ll be looking forward to it,” he smiled as he pulled me into a hug, and traced his fingers along the back of my neck again.
I could’ve melted into a puddle of happiness. He smelled of bergamot and vanilla.
“Are you wearing a swimsuit?” he inquired, his breath tantalizing my cheek as he pulled back.
“Oh?” I laughed, and rubbed my neck, feeling embarrassed that I didn’t have a clean bra to wear. “Laundry day.”
I wasn’t sure whether to be creeped out or turned on by his smoldering gaze.
“Ah,” he smiled, caressing my hand. “Well ’till later.”
“Later…” I reluctantly released his hand, and turned to go to the desk to sign my father out.