Home > Shopping for Love(6)

Shopping for Love(6)
Author: Renee Carlino

“Blakey was a latch-key kid,” Caroline interjects.

“Oh,” I say, surprised. So was I. “So how did you two meet, then?”

“Well, I wasn’t exactly a latch-key kid. I had a single mom who had to work full-time to support us. And Caroline and I met because her family used to vacation in the Hamptons. I worked there during the summers.”

“Oh, I see.” I wonder if Caroline realizes how similar mine and Blake’s childhoods were?

“But you two don’t go to the Hamptons anymore during the summer?” I suddenly feel like I need to know everything about this couple. Why is Blake into Caroline? They seem very different from each other. Was this his way out of a working-class life?

“No, we don’t go out there anymore,” he says abruptly, and pulls his arms away from Caroline. “I’m gonna grab a beer. You ladies need anything?” I wonder if I offended him.

“I’m good,” I say, but Caroline asks for another glass of wine.

“Hayden, if you want to have another drink, we can all get a car home together. One of us can bring you back down tomorrow,” Blake says.

Caroline looks up at him, shocked. “You didn’t drive the Beamer down here?”

“No,” he says, shooting her a guilty smile.

“I am not riding on your death trap. For the love of God, Blake, I have a skirt on.”

“I’m guessing you rode a motorcycle here?” I say.

“A Triumph,” is how he answers. Of course it’s a Triumph. This guy is getting better by the second. I want to volunteer as tribute, like straight out of The Hunger Games, but I keep my mouth shut. Anyway, I’m still a bit baffled by Blake and Caroline’s relationship.

“Sure, I’ll have a drink. We can all split an Uber, if you guys want,” I say, trying to make everyone happy.

“I’m just gonna have one beer,” Blake says. “I can drive us all home in your car, Hayden? If that’s okay with you?” Before I can answer, he looks to Caroline and says, “I’ll just leave my bike at Charlie’s and run back down here.”

Caroline nods. I keep my car pretty clean in case I have to drive around clients, but I momentarily panic for a moment and go through a mental checklist: Are there fast food containers littering the floorboards? Does it smell like my gym clothes? Oh, God, those ballet flats in my trunk stink to high heaven.

“That sounds good,” I finally say, because regardless of what smells might exist there, the idea of Blake driving my car excites me, for some reason.

“Sweet. I’ll get you ladies some wine then run my bike up,” he says before strutting off to the bar.

As soon as he’s gone, Caroline starts complaining. “He knows I hate that motorcycle.”

“Why do you hate it?”

She opens her eyes wide as if it should be obvious. “Because he loves it.”

Uh, that is not the answer I was expecting. “Who is Charlie?” I ask.

“He’s a friend of Blake’s from art school. I think he was with him tonight. I’m not sure.”

I find it odd that she doesn’t know where Blake was earlier. Maybe they’re the kind of couple that doesn’t keep constant tabs on each other, which actually sounds pretty healthy to me. “Why did Blake clam up about the Hampton summers?”

“I think it makes him sad. His mom died in our vacation house there,” she says.

“Oh, no. Of what?”

“She had ovarian cancer and it spread fast. She raised Blake on her own—he was really close to her. He doesn’t have any siblings so we’re kind of it for him.”

I think she means her family. It must be a complicated relationship. “When did she pass away?”

“Two years ago. Shh, here he comes. We don’t like to talk about it. I hate when he’s sad.”

Caroline and Blake seem to care for each other, but they’re so different. Like I said, I know not to judge a book by its cover, but this isn’t about looks. It’s something else. They act almost like brother and sister—there’s been no sense of romantic affection between them so far.

Blake hands us our glasses of wine, then leaves to take his bike to his friend’s place and is somehow back in less than five minutes. There’s a glowing sheen from sweat on his skin. I imagine licking his jawline. Geez, I’m really losing it. I shake the thought away.

“So you two started dating in high school and now you work together?” I say, once Blake is sitting in the booth again. As Caroline sits there, sipping her wine, Blake and I continue chatting. This time he doesn’t have his arm around Caroline. He’s leaning over the table. His body language is telling me he’s interested in talking to me.

“Yeah, since about junior year,” he says. “Do you have a boyfriend, Hayden?”

I notice a faint scowl appear on Caroline’s face. Bit of a weird question.

“No,” I reply.

“I have a lot of friends who live in Decatur.” He grins, genuine and sweet, a tiny dimple playing on one cheek. He wants to set me up, which means he thinks…oh, my hormones…is he actually flirting with me? No, of course not, he’s trying to set the poor, sad single girl up. He’s just being nice. Settle down, Hayden.

“He does have a lot of friends by you,” Caroline adds. “He’s always hanging out over there.”

There’s something in her tone that makes me feel like she thinks Decatur is a dump.

“I’m gonna go use the ladies’ room,” Caroline says as she stands. Blake stands up with her and leads her out of the booth by taking her hand. They’re called manners, and the guys I’ve dated in the past didn’t have them.

As soon as she’s out of earshot, Blake leans in and says, “I thought she was gonna lose it over the whole motorcycle thing.” He laughs.

I let out a nervous giggle. But underneath I can’t help being concerned that Blake, with such a vastly different upbringing than Caroline, has only stuck around for two reasons: her money and a job at Daddy’s company. I have no reason to think the worst of him, but I know how hard I’ve worked to get ahead and earn my own money. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to take the easy way out. But regardless, the worst part is that I’m flirting with him. “It does beg the question, why’d you bring the motorcycle if you knew she didn’t like it?”

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