In which the past interferes with the present, and not everybody involved can handle it.
Fact was, Adelie liked being with him and she wouldn’t mind using possessives. It had been a while, and she missed the warm feeling of belonging to someone. The bitter taste of Christopher’s betrayal warned her that Nate’s words could be just that: Words without meaning.
“What are you thinking about?” He asked, turning his head to look at her.
“That it’s been a while since someone called me their anything.” With a sigh, she extracted herself from his warm body and got off the bike to walk a few steps to the edge of the road. “And the last time someone did, it was a lie.”
He inhaled sharply. “I have a talent of reminding you of unpleasant things today, haven’t I?”
“It’s not your fault that I have a painful history.” Everything around her was bathed in a golden glow. His steps crunched on the gravel as he got off the bike too.
“How can someone call you their anything and not mean it?”
“Do you mean it when you say I’m your little Spitfire?” She turned her head to look at him. “Or are you just saying it to charm me?”
“I admit that it’s more wishful thinking than actual fact, but yes, I mean it when I call you my little Spitfire.”
His honesty baffled her for a moment. “You are very straightforward.”
He sighed and rubbed his neck, then he pushed his fists deep into his jeans pockets and stared into the distance with an unseeing eye, his mouth a thin line. She contemplated his handsome profile, wishing for her watercolours to paint him in the burning colours of the setting sun. Eventually, he turned back to her and said: “Being straightforward has to do with my history. There was a time when someone was not honest with their intentions from the beginning. I don’t want to inflict this particular pain on anybody. It’s not fair.”
“No, it’s not fair.” She bravely met the sun-faded indigo of his eyes, only to discover that the twinkle that usually danced in them had vanished. A serious Nate. A serious, open and obviously hurt Nate. The sight grabbed her heart and squeezed it painfully. “We seem to be very much alike… we love fast things, we like good food, and we’ve been both betrayed by people we trusted.”
This made him smile. She liked his smiles. The way it crinkled his eyes, how he quickly cast his glance down and how he cocked his head to the side as they made eye contact again.
“Yeah, we’re very much alike.” He stepped closer. “And I’d like to get to know you better. I want to learn more about the woman who’s a menace in a plane, an ex-race car driver and a pretty baroness. I’d never thought I’d meet a woman who’s just one of these things, all of them wrapped into one is like Christmas, Easter and my birthday falling together.”
She laughed. “Don’t be silly, I’m not that special.”
He grabbed her hand and tugged her closer. “Oh yes, you are. You are wonderful, fascinating and yes, special. You’re my little Spitfire, never forget that.”
She couldn’t keep herself from grinning. “Idiot.”
“Would you go on a date with this idiot here?”
“Another motorcycle date?”
He shook his head. “No, I meant something fancy. A dress and a suit, a restaurant with white tablecloths and real silverware, scrumptious food, candles…”
“And it’ll all end in your bed, right?” She poked him, and he twitched out of reach.
He opened his arms wide and shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. That’s up to you. I’m a full-service guy.”
She folded her arms across her chest. “You’re impossible.”
“Admit it; you like it.” There was the smile again.
“I like riding bikes with you. I like picnics next to enchanted ponds. I even like just studying with you, sitting in the same room for a few hours, scribbling away… You don’t need to impress me with expensive dinners. Just be who you are. Just be Nate, who knows secret ponds and rides bikes with me to cheer me up. I need something real. Not something that feels like a plot to get me into your bed!” She spat the last words out and breathlessly turned away from him. Why was she so angry all of a sudden? Where were the tears coming from?
“That guy really hurt you badly, huh?” Nate’s voice was velvety soft and tender, and it unravelled the last stitches that held her countenance together.