Once she dreamed 2, p.4
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       Once She Dreamed - 2, p.4

         Part #2 of Once She Dreamed series by Abbi Glines
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  get us some dinner. Trust me, you won’t regret it.”

  So Ezra wasn’t leaving? If he was right and Hale wasn’t coming back then we did need to eat somewhere. I enjoyed being around him. He wasn’t concerned about Hale, so maybe I shouldn’t be either. He knew him better than me.

  “Okay,” I agreed. “Sounds great.” He’d given me his entire day. If he wanted to eat dinner with me, then I should be accepting, not nervous. He seemed to know where Hale would be.

  Stepping into the penthouse I was shaky. Not sure how to handle Hale. He might send me packing back to Moulton. But Ezra was right. Hale was gone. The place appeared the same as I had left it. “You’re right. He’s not here.” I then sat my purse down on the table and wondered if I should go change it. Once again, I feared his wrath and I didn’t like that feeling. But you were supposed to want to please your boss. That was the normal procedure. Correct?

  “He won’t be back until much, much later,” Ezra replied without concern. How he knew this was true I couldn’t be sure, but he seemed to be secure in the knowing. I forced myself to relax and trust him.

  “Would you like something to drink? He’s got everything you could want.”

  “I’ll get it. What about you? A glass of wine?”

  I hadn’t drunk alcohol since arriving here. I was still under age, though that wasn’t the reason, I didn’t feel comfortable drinking around Hale and I had no explanation for that.

  “I’ll go get a glass of water.”

  I didn’t wait for him to ask me why or insist I drink the wine.

  “Okey dokey,” he casually responded.

  Stepping into the kitchen it gave me time to think about what was happening. I’d enjoyed my time with Ezra. There was a touch of something there. Anxiousness, or maybe excitement, neither one an acceptable feeling. He either worked with Hale or in Hale’s vicinity, though I couldn’t figure that out. He was nothing like Hale, but oddly enough, what I thought Hale would be like, the very first time I met him. Today, for instance, he’d liked making me smile, telling me jokes and when I wanted to do something he didn’t frown or suggest something else. We went to it and did it that second.

  I got my water and walked back into the living room. Ezra was standing by the windows with a glass of whiskey in his hand. “The wine Hale keeps is excellent. You should try a glass and relax. You’re so pent up, nervous and scared. I wouldn’t stay if I thought it would cause you problems. Trust me on that Sammy Jo.”

  He came directly to the point and I liked that.

  “Okay,” I heard myself say.

  Ezra smiled and the grin made my heart do a stutter like it was trying to tell me something. He was really nice to look at. Now that I didn’t dislike him so much, I could admit the man was beautiful.

  “Good!” was his jovial reply. He walked back to the bar and opened a bottle, pouring wine in a massive glass. The liquid was so red it was black.

  “I’m not a big drinker,” I admitted.

  Ezra smirked this time. “I didn’t exactly peg you as a whorish party animal. The glass is big so you can move it around. Look at it. Shit like that. I’ve never really understood it myself. I’m not exactly a connoisseur.”

  He was teasing me and self-deprecating, all at the very same time. That was really hard to do, to make fun of yourself and another without being mean about it. Taking the glass I couldn’t help but smile up into his face and teeth. He made being away from everything that I loved easier, which gave me peace.

  Taking a small sip the liquid was rich and expensive tasting on my tongue. You could actually smell the dollars rising from the glass. The only other wine I had sampled was some homemade swill in Moulton. Ben’s dad had made a batch from blackberries with a tart, sour taste. It didn’t have the smoothness of what I was drinking. This was velvet on your tongue.

  “I don’t know much about wine, but this sure tastes nice goin’ down.”

  “It should,” he replied with a laugh. “It’s four hundred dollars a bottle.” He then nodded his head out to the balcony as I collected myself from the floor. “I’ve already called in our order. They’ll ring me when they arrive downstairs. Let’s go outside and enjoy the evening.”

  Although this wasn’t a date or anything romantic I felt like it was becoming that. We’d done things I once imagined I’d do with Hale, but now I didn’t want to be around him.

  “When do you leave?” I asked him, once we stepped outside. That suddenly made me sad. The idea of Ezra’s going. I hadn’t been alone today. I liked having him around.

  He shrugged. “Never know. When the job calls I move quick and immediate.”

  And what job was that exactly?

  “Are you ever going to tell me what it is you do?”

  He didn’t look directly at me but I could see his shoulders tense.

  “No,” was all he said.

  He had his reasons for being quiet. And just because he’d shown me a good time didn’t mean his secrets were mine. I wanted to know more about Ezra. My curiosity was subject to fancy. My imagination got the best of me.

  “I worked at a bakery with my mom, until Hale came in one day.” I told him because I wanted to share my life. The connection was important to me.

  “Do you miss it?” His stare came back and was riveted.

  “I miss my family and friends, not Moulton. Coming here was a much better choice.”

  “And is this world what you thought it would be?”

  I thought about that question. Was it? Yes and no. “Not completely. But I’ve only just begun.”

  He appeared thoughtful and reserved. “New York City isn’t your final destination?”

  I shook my head. “No it’s not. It’s the beginning of a very long trip.”

  “Don’t let your desire to see it all make you loose sight of what’s best.”

  What exactly did he mean by that?

  “What exactly do you mean by that?”

  He turned his baby blue gaze to the city. “Don’t simply settle for what you think can fulfill the dream you have. Some roads to a dream, or through it, can actually be paths to a nightmare.”

  Again he was warning me. But why and from what? Did he worry about me with Hale?

  “I don’t want more from Hale than a job.” I blurted it like a confession.

  “Yes, but Hale wants you. He’ll want more and more each day.”

  I finished my wine, let the warmth relax my body and then Ezra filled it again. I drank my second glass while I watched him get the order from the takeout guy in the hallway. He then grabbed a couple of plates. He was comfortable here as if he knew the place well. Ezra did more than I realized.

  The mystery around him seemed less important after my second glass. When he filled it again the mystery of wine was the best idea to muse on. I’d have to investigate it further.

  Chapter Ten

  Ezra had been correct. The Chinese food was delicious. The best I’d ever eaten. Being this close to that particular restaurant was a major perk for me. I’d be ordering again for sure.

  He spent the meal telling stories from his past. I laughed for an hour and a half. They weren’t detailed nor did they give me any insight into what he actually did. But they showed me who he was as a person. He wasn’t from wealth like Hale. That much I’d gotten from the tales. I also didn’t think he respected Hale. Or if he did he didn’t show it.

  The buzz from the wine relaxed me and I enjoyed my dinner immensely. Just as much as Ezra’s company. When he laughed his eyes lit up. There was a beauty in the flash that I wanted to admit before I blurted it out. I didn’t think he was starving for complements, or sponging attention from others, but he was, and he was pretty. Although I didn’t want him to think I was flirting. I didn’t know what to do.

  “Another glass?” he asked, standing up from the table.

  I shook my head no. I was tipsy. Strike that, I was drunk. “No thank you. I’ve had my fill.”

  He nodded and glanced at t
he time on his phone. “I need to be going. I’ll clean this up first.”

  I quickly stood to help him. “You can go ahead and go. I’ve got this. Really I do.”

  He paused and his eyes locked mine. “You’re not my fucking house cleaner sweetheart. This was my idea. My job.” His smile was the size of a planet. I began hyperventilating. I wasn’t going to argue with him. “At least let me help a touch. I need to contribute something.”

  “You’ve contributed yourself. I enjoyed the day and the evening more than anything I’ve done in years. This has been peace for me.”

  My cheeks flushed and I wanted to tell Mr. Ezra about his magical smile, how he made me feel, but I feared the wine was talking and my clothes may land on the floor. That didn’t seem like the end of the world. The idea was growing on me. I picked up my plate and an empty box then followed him inside the apartment.

  “Hale will be home within the next thirty minutes. As much as I like your clothes I think you’d better change into that ridiculous shit he bought for you to wear.”

  I’d wondered about that earlier. But hearing Ezra say it like he was protecting me made me more alert and wary. Was he afraid Hale would get angry and send me back to Moulton? Or was there more to his suggestion?

  “Does Hale have a temper?” I asked.

  He paused and held the garbage in his fist. With a sigh he turned back to me. “Hale is an intense man. He likes things to be in his favor. You work for the man so you follow his rules. Even if he has other plans, that eventually, do include you. Just be careful and” he extended his hand “give me your phone so I can put my number in it. That way if you need me for anything, and I mean anything at all, you call and I will answer.”

  I gave him my phone and watched as he saved his number into it. Somehow, I felt safer. And I didn’t think that was wine.

  “Have I made a mistake coming here?”

  He didn’t respond at first. After a moment he shook his head. “No. You’ll be fine.”

  I wanted to ask more questions while the wine was making me brave. But I didn’t, because they’d go unanswered.

  “Thank you for your time,” I said.

  Ezra put his plate in the dishwasher. Reached for mine and did the same. When he was finished he closed on my body. I thought he was going to make another comment but his hand slid into my hair and tilted my head to the side. I was so immersed in the look from his eyes that when his lips touched mine I was startled. The soft warmth of his mouth sent a jolt of electricity through everything that was inside me. I grabbed his arms and held on tight. He deepened the kiss as his tongue touched mine and I shivered from the pleasure of it all. The richness of the whisky on his breath fit his mouth like his shirt fit his body. It was exactly how I thought he would taste. Like something dark, but thoroughly exciting.

  I was leaning into Ezra when he finally pulled back, his blue eyes sinking their depth. “I need to go. Better go now.” His voice was a husky whisper.

  I started to say something but he turned and left, quietly exiting the apartment. Standing there alone I suddenly felt cold. I touched my lips and the warmth from his lingering kiss remained and I could still taste him. My heart was thumping rapidly in the center of my chest and I wanted to run after Ezra. That was silly and caused by the wine. As pointless as my attraction to the man. Then again, he’d shown me what I always desired, but was yet to experience in this life. I hoped Hale would be like him, but he wasn’t and that wouldn’t change.

  And now he was out of my reach. Ezra would soon be gone. I didn’t know where or even why he was leaving and his job seemed to be a secret. All he could do was what we’d done today, which was fleeting and had become a memory.

  The pleasure I’d experienced turned to an ache at the thought of not having it again. I’d been selfish with expectation. When it was gone it was just as quick, as having dreamt about perfection in the first place. For the very first time I understood longing. If that solitary kiss had made me feel alive then what more would happen when he loved me. If he could ever love me at all. Could ever want a girl like me. Sammy Jo Knox from Moulton. And I didn’t even know his last name.

  There was a sound at the door and my head jerked around to see if Ezra was waiting. To say something more, or anything less, or just to stand and permit my staring. Hale then stepped inside and my hopes became pure anxiety. His gaze took in my clothing and the look of displeasure on his face was rude and obvious. “I didn’t buy you decent clothing for you to wear that stuff around. What if I’d had company? Is this how I’d want you to look?”

  I was being scolded like a child.

  “No,” I replied. “No it wouldn’t.”

  “I don’t want to come home to find you dressed like this. Never again Samantha.”

  Again he called me Samantha. A name that wasn’t mine. Just like the clothes I was wearing.

  “Go change if you intend to stay awake and visit with me this evening.”

  I turned and headed to my room. Not because I wanted to visit with Hale, but because I knew if I didn’t change soon his anger would linger until he would leave and then return when he came back. Soon I’d be alone and this phase would be finished, at the least for a couple of weeks. I could tolerate as much as Hale could deliver and I imagined that was a lot but a load I was willing to bear.

  Chapter Eleven

  The last thing Hale had said last night was “I’ll be back in fourteen days. We will then be attending a party and I expect you to behave like a lady. Not an inbred girl from the sticks.” And I said nothing in return. As if I deserved the command. I was to spend my time getting online and researching how to properly act. To work on my speech and pay attention to the way I pronounced my every word. It was a humiliating conversation.

  When the door closed behind him I was relieved he’d only kissed my cheek. I wasn’t in the mood to be touched by the man after being informed a complete overhaul was how I would stay in New York. I knew I didn’t fit into Hale’s glitzy world, but I didn’t take this job and move to the city thinking someone would rubber stamp me and turn me into a talking robot. And what purpose did his control really serve? There was no affection between us. We didn’t have a chance at a future.

  After a day with Ezra I knew what I wanted. Hale would remain my boss. But we’d never be anything more. Surely he could see that too. If he wasn’t concerned with attraction or connection between the people we ultimately were, maybe it was personal appearance? I didn’t know him at all.

  For the moment I was glad he was gone. I had too much on my mind and the cleaning of the penthouse wasn’t enough to encourage me. Calling home wouldn’t be a good idea. Momma would recognize the frustration in my voice. She’d know something was wrong and question me until I admitted it. Going home to Moulton in the future kept me twisted in tangled knots. Staying here would only be possible if Hale kept me as an employee. I no longer wished to attend those parties and classy events I’d longed for. Hale was heartless and the way he treated other people was a thing I would never accept.

  The next two days I spent time in the city doing what I wanted to do. In case my time was cut short and he fired me, for saying “ain’t” or “ya’ll” or “naw.” I visited the Empire State Building, went to Rockefeller Center and the September 11th Memorial. That made me cry and my stomach felt sick. All those senseless deaths. I will never get over that. From there I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and walked through “the park.” Central Park that is. I tried different food vendors and found that I enjoyed the hot dogs best of all.

  Doing all of this alone wasn’t as much fun as it had been with Ezra as my guide. I returned to the penthouse at the end of day two intending to order Chinese. Ezra was standing outside my door as if he were expecting me. And yes, he was still perfect. He couldn’t make himself unattractive.

  “Had a big day?” he asked smiling.

  I nodded. “Yes. It was nice.” I held up my bag from the art museum. I’d bought my sisters some sou

  “Good. I thought I’d see if you wanted to have dinner. There’s a Thai place you cannot miss. I go at least once a week.”

  I wasn’t sure if I liked Thai or not, which meant I wanted to try it. I was lonely and spending the evening with Ezra sounded appealing to me.

  “Sure, I’d like to eat Thai. I thought you’d be gone by now.” I wondered why Ezra was in town if Hale wasn’t in residence. He didn’t appear to be a city kind of guy.

  “I left when he did. And I’ll leave in the morning. I came back for the Thai, my personal addiction, which keeps me away from others.”

  The look on his face said something else. Like maybe he was back for me. The idea made my heart race. I tried not to read into it. We had only one day and the kiss. I wasn’t an expert at kissing, but it seemed like it was special.

  “Okay, do I need to change?” I then walked to the door and pressed the code while waiting on his answer.

  “You look perfect,” he replied. “I prefer your clothes, but this isn’t bad either, you make anything appear appealing.”

  I was wearing one of the casual outfits Hale had purchased for me. My limited wardrobe felt out of place and I didn’t like looking unique. Especially while walking alone. Ezra’s comment felt nice. My skin became tingly and warm. I couldn’t keep from smiling at the man.

  “Thank you. I’ll put this bag in my room and we can go.”

  “Take your time. I’m in no rush.”

  I was hungry from all the walking. The hotdog I’d eaten wasn’t enough. I needed more, but I didn’t tell him that. I didn’t want him to think I was ravenous, needed a trough or something.

  “Where is it we’re going?” I asked when I came back into the room. I hadn’t taken the time to brush my hair or freshen up my face. I figured if I looked in the mirror I’d see a million little things I needed to fix and I was too hungry for that.

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