No stranger to pain, he gritted his teeth and put his boxers on. Hobbling to the closet, he explored the garment bags, finding a pair of pants, a shirt and jacket which fit remarkably well. He joined Kacy and Dino, who were drinking iced tea in the living room. He limped over to the couch, sitting heavily. Kacy looked up, a frown of concern on her face.
“I’m so sorry about that,” she sounded sincere at least. “I lost my temper.”
“Things happen….” He tried to wave it away.
“It was inexcusable and I do apologize! I’m embarrassed, really.”
“Kacy, forget about it. I’ll keep off it a couple days, it’ll be fine.”
“Shall we go to dinner?” Dino stood, rubbing his hands together expectantly. He offered Kacy his arm, and then remembered Deacon’s impairment. “I think I have something.” He ducked into a closet in the foyer and produced an ebony cane. “Put your weight on that.”
They drove in relative silence to the restaurant. It wasn’t one that Dino owned, but frequented. “Best seafood in Florida!” He exclaimed as he pulled into the lot.
The low, spreading building was surrounded by trees looking very old Florida.
“I reserved the private dining room. I’ll drop you two off at the door and find a place to park. The hostess can show you to a table.” He waved at them and pulled around the side of the building.
Inside, the restaurant had soft lighting and was done in earth tones and natural stone. There was a lot of talk in the private room as they walked in. The entire volunteer group was there, grinning and cheering. Three of the young women came over to help Deacon sit down, laughing and making a big fuss as they settled him. They snubbed Kacy who stood forlorn and lost. Deacon saw her looking lonely and unhappy and took pity on her. When she wasn’t in a temper, she was kind of okay.
“Kacy, come sit by me,” he patted the seat in the booth where he was happily ensconced.
A tall iced tea at his elbow and his foot up on the opposite side, he was relatively comfortable. Smiling a little sadly, she joined him, his long arm draped over the back of the booth barely touched her shoulder. She looked around at him, that same confused, peculiar expression on her face. He started to move his hand as if he had been bitten, but she leaned in against him, resting in the crook of his arm. He put this hand firmly on the back of the seat, careful not to touch her shoulder.
Smiling and waving, Dino came in. The crowd gravitated away from Deacon, surrounding him instead. Deacon was younger, and more attractive, but Dino had more money. The young women were torn between Deacon’s good looks, and Dino’s liquid assets. He rather hoped money would win out, he didn’t need any romantic complications in his life.
“Dino said he told you about Pete,” she spoke so softly he almost didn’t hear her over the chatter.
Deacon shifted his hips to a more comfortable angle before answering. He was very aware of the warmth of her leg close to his. Her cologne was fresh like citrus, light and perky. It filled his nostrils, making him a little dizzy. He concentrated on their conversation with difficulty.
“Yes, he showed me picture. You two looked very happy.”
“He shouldn’t have, you know. I don’t want your pity.”
Deacon couldn’t help wondering what she did want, but said nothing. “I don’t pity you, Kacy and neither does Dino. He was trying to make me understand. That’s all.”
She turned her head, gazing directly into his eyes with that disconcertingly penetrating scrutiny which made him squirm inside. “And do you?”
He said nothing, staring back in her eyes, unblinking. “I don’t begin to understand anyone, least of all myself,” he said with unusual honesty. Generally he didn’t discuss his feelings with women. It was one of Frieda’s biggest complaints.
“You’re a bit of an enigma, Mr. Stewart,” she said, looking directly at the fish tank along the side of the booth, just past him.
“How so, Ms. Du Champs?”
Her eyes flickered over to him to see if he was being facetious. When it was apparent to her that he wasn’t, she continued.
“Just when I think I’ve got your motivations pinned down, you do something surprising.”
He chuckled, shifting his position again, trying to get more comfortable. “Don’t be fooled, I’m motivated by very little right now. Food, drink, sleep, and a job to keep my mind off my troubles.”
“Dino’s been quite candid with my life, he has been less than equally forthcoming with yours.” There was that penetrating stare again.
Deacon shifted uncomfortably. “I’ll gladly share the details of my boring life at another time, Kacy. Right now, let’s enjoy our meal. Looks like the buffet is being served.”
He tried to rise, but she put a restraining hand on his chest. His heart fluttered a little, an experience he had not had in years, not even when he met Frieda.
“I’ll get you a plate. Sit tight.”
She walked slowly away from the table. He watched her with a discerning eye. She was doing that walk again, the one designed for his benefit. It was a hell of a walk, and her dress clung to her in just the right places for maximum effect. He was breathless, elated. Deacon realized the last time he’d had that feeling he was experiencing. It was the night he’d lost his virginity. The girl had been rather forward, deciding what she wanted, making it clear it was him. That tightness in his chest, the difficulty breathing, the racing pulse—dammit! He hadn’t had any intention of becoming romantically involved anytime soon, and now here was this gorgeous, sexy, obstreperous woman making his blood heat up just by walking away from him.
©2021 Dellani Oakes