Only For You(18)

By: Genna Rulon

“Stop the conspiracy theories, there’s no hidden scheme for you to ferret out. You’re new to Hensley and might enjoy the company of new friends. I am only inviting you to hang out for that purpose—got it?” He nodded his lips quirking up in an involuntary smile at my no-nonsense tone. “Maybe we could go shopping next week? Oh, and you have to come dancing next Saturday at The Stop. I need to check out your moves before I officially approve your application.”

“Shopping?” He looked bemused. He must really need this coffee to revive him. “I’m not sure if I can fit it in this week; maybe another time. I can probably manage to meet you at The Stop next weekend for a bit, although I wasn’t aware I had applied for a position. What position would that be by the way?” He raised his eyebrows questioningly.

“Your acceptance as my back-up dance partner. It’s a very prestigious position, I assure you.”

“I’m sure it is,” he responded with an unidentifiable expression on his face. “I look forward to auditioning,” he smirked enigmatically.

I handed him the coffee, trying to determine if I had just been warned of a coming dance floor catastrophe. He accepted the mug with a dazzling smile before making his way to a table.

I monitored him from the corner of my eye as I assisted other customers. I wanted to join him and engage in further conversation, but was thwarted by pesky patrons. I was refilling the bean jars when Hunter returned with his mug, earning himself bonus points.

“Thanks for the coffee, Everleigh, it was delicious. I’ll see you in Business Strategy on Monday.”

“Yep, see you there. Have a great weekend, Hunter!”

He returned my smile and left.

Phase one of ‘charm new friend’ was a success. I redefined the tone of communication, illustrated my kindness and generosity, and most importantly, scheduled a playdate for the following weekend. I was proud of myself. He was resistant at first—not trusting my transformation—but he warmed significantly after accepting I didn’t intend to kill him.

I checked my phone to confirm I received Sam’s first text—“All’s well.” Perfect.

I was exhausted by the time I finished my shift. My co-worker, Regan, had counted out the till, but her numbers didn’t match the sales receipts, never a good thing. I let her leave, and carefully recounted, finding the correct amount was in the drawer—a twenty had found its way into the tens, which Regan hadn’t noticed. After finishing the nightly reports and dropping the money in the safe, I set the alarm and locked up.

I walked to my car, which I always parked towards the back of the lot leaving the closer spots for customers, when I felt an unsettling tingle along my spine. I paused and looked around. The lot was deserted, but I felt like I was being watched. I increased my pace, hurrying to my car, but the feeling of unease was growing and I fought to contain my rising panic. It was all my imagination, paranoia. No one was watching me. I fumbled through my bag, trying to locate my car keys as expeditiously as possible. Where the hell were they? I was breathing rapidly, my fear reached a level that caused a physical response. Please, please dear God, help me find my keys. My fingertips connected with the keys in the bottom corner of my purse as a hand grabbed my shoulder.

“Ahhhhh!” I shrieked at a decibel I had never before reached.

The hand released me instantly. “Ev, holy shit, calm down. It’s just me, Linc.”

I recognized the familiar voice. He was safe, my friend, wasn’t he? I spun around to face him, slamming my back painfully against my car door.

“Linc, what are you doing here?” accusation permeated my voice as my heart hammered in my chest.

“Ev?” He examined me carefully, confused by my tone. “Wow, you really are terrified. I’m not going to hurt you, how could you even think that?”

He took a step away, granting me space, making me feel safer, less confined. I looked in his eyes and realized I had hurt him with my suspicion. I was immediate flooded with guilt.

“I’m so sorry Lincoln, of course you would never hurt me. I’m on edge with all the attacks, and I felt someone watching me, I just panicked. Forgive me?”