Home > Shopping for Love(9)

Shopping for Love(9)
Author: Renee Carlino


“Here’s my place, just up there. Park here.” I point.

We get out of the car and Blake instantly orders an Uber on his phone. “You want me to walk you up?” he says.

“No, I’m good. You want me to hang out down here until your car comes?”

“Nah, I’m good, too.”

He smiles and we hold each other’s gaze for a second too long. “Well, good night,” he says.

I reach my arms out to hug him like we’ve known each other for years. He hugs me and then plants a chaste kiss on my cheek. I jerk away. Emotions, hormones, and thoughts of Caroline are all swirling around frantically in my body and mind.

“What?” he says and then instantly realizes. “Oh, the kiss. Sorry, it’s a family habit. My mother was French.”

Of course she was. “No worries,” I say. His kiss was a little too similar to the one he gave Caroline on her stoop. It seems like it’s natural for him, like a handshake, and it surprises me that he didn’t give his own girlfriend a more passionate kiss. Or at least a loving hug with more physical contact. Ugh. I need to stop obsessing over their relationship!

“Well, good night.” I turn awkwardly and head for the door.

“Thanks for everything, Hayden.”

I’m not quite sure what he’s thanking me for, but I don’t turn around to ask. I hold my hand up in a motionless wave and say, “No problem.”

My heart is still racing as I enter my second-story loft. I walk to the window and notice that the Uber is pulling up. He turns and looks up at my window. I’m embarrassed I’m watching him, but I can’t look away. He smiles before getting in the car, and then he’s gone. I drop to my knees. I’m boneless. I’m also screwed if Caroline is going to stay my client. I don’t know if I can control myself around that man.

 

 

Chapter 6

 

The next day, I meet Diana for Sunday brunch. We meet at Canoe, an old Atlanta staple that sits on the bank of the Chattahoochee. I can’t get over the scenery and Diana won’t get off her phone.

I have no idea who she’s talking to, but she’s not saying much—she’s just giving curt responses. I flag down the server and order their largest Bloody Mary. Diana holds her fingers up and mouths, “Make that two,” to the waiter.

The moment she hits End on the phone, her face breaks into a massive smile. She doesn’t say anything so I break the strange silence. “This place is gorgeous. It’s magical.”

“It’s terrible out here during the summer, though. The bugs and humidity.”

“But it’s beautiful and green now. I can’t believe I’ve never been here.”

Our Bloody Marys arrive, and then we order our brunch dishes. Diana takes a long sip before finally saying, “Well, Hayden, my dear. You seem to have hit it out of the park twice this weekend.”

“How do you mean?”

“My date on Friday is practically talking about marriage. He said I was the sexiest woman he’s ever been out with. I owe you for picking out that outfit. The date was exactly what I needed,” she wiggles her eyebrows. “If you know what I mean?”

Yes, I did know exactly what she meant. Unfortunately, I had been face to face with several reminders of my nonexistent love life lately, which included, of course, the very thing I also needed but wasn’t getting.

“That’s wonderful, Diana, I’m very happy for you. And thank you for your generosity with Caroline. Our shopping lessons really did give her a little boost of confidence, not to mention a few very cool threads.”

“That’s the other thing I was going to tell you. I was just on the phone with Caroline and she had nothing but wonderful things to say about you. She said she felt more like herself than she has in a really long time.”

“God, that totally makes my day, Diana. I was really hesitant at first with Caroline because she seemed so meek. I didn’t know if I was going to make her cry with anything I said.”

“Oh, dear, that’s an act. Caroline gets what she wants. She just doesn’t know how to dress.”

“Right,” I say, not quite believing her. “Well, I’m helping her with that.” I pause. “How do you mean she gets what she wants?”

“With her timid little act. She has that poor boy Blake wrapped around her little finger.”

I think back to last night. Blake did seem a bit servile toward her. But the whole time, in the back of my mind, I did wonder if he wasn’t doing it all to cash in one day on the Crompton fortune.

“Hmm, I guess maybe he finds it easier to appease her,” I say.

“Obviously he finds it easier to appease her.”

“But why do you think they’re still together if the relationship is so one-sided? Is it because he’ll lose his job?”

“No, my brother wouldn’t fire him on account of Blake and Caroline’s relationship going sour,” Diana says. She sighs. “I think Blake loves Caroline, but I think it’s the kind of love you get stuck in. And I feel the same way about Caroline. It’s easy because they’ve been together for so long. When I say it’s easy, I mean, it’s easier to stay together when it’s comfortable. And Blake doesn’t have any family left. Maybe he feels he owes her something.”

“I see.”

“I mean, I don’t even think they sleep together anymore. Everyone knows they’re over but them. But I bet they’ll stay together, until one realizes they’re both just going through the motions. Or unless one finds true love somewhere else.” She raises her eyebrows and winks. Even with the short amount of time I spent with Caroline and Blake, I could sense exactly what Diana is talking about.

I try to change the subject. “When are you going out with your date from Friday again?”

She smiles. “Why would I do that? I never see the same movie twice, Hayden. What’s the fun in that?”

I laugh. I love how unapologetically bold Diana is.

“You know, the more I think about Blake and Caroline,” Diana says, “the more I realize how ill-matched they are. They might like the same music, but he’d match better with someone more effervescent, artistic, and free. And Caroline would match well with someone like her dad, a man who’s tethered to the ground. Blake is far from that.”

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