Hi Ryan,I know you have been busy. You told me your new venture would take a lot of your time. I tried to call your phone, but I only get your voice mail.I miss you, please reach out to me, it will set my mind at ease to know that you are okay.Love Rida
Chapter 2. (9 Mos. ago) White Knight to the Rescue
His name was Ryan Phillips. She’d met him at a gas station on a day that she discovered she’d left her wallet at home. She had been enroute to a job interview only to discover her tank was on empty. She pulled into the first gas station she’d come upon and that’s when she’d realized her error. The day hadn’t been good from the beginning. In fact, when she awoke that morning, she had been overwhelmed with the desire to remain under her covers. Her heart wasn’t into the “sell pitch” needed to interview. She didn’t feel competent, she didn’t feel confident, she didn’t feel any of the qualities that was going to be required for her to convince the hiring manager.
But she was nearing the limit of the unemployment she had been drawing since being displaced from her previous job. She had two months to find the replacement and out of the hundreds of applications she had submitted, this was the first to extend an interview. Glancing at her watch, she was appreciative of the fact that she’d given herself an extra hour to find the business park. She looked over toward the convenience store. Sighing inwardly, she pulled herself out of the car and while biting her lower lip walked toward it, . Once inside she walked toward the man that was behind the counter. So far there seemed to be only one other customer in the store, and she was in front of her. Good, she thought. It would be doubly embarrassing to have to explain this dilemma in front of someone else.
Just as the woman finished her transaction and headed toward the door, she said a silent prayer and started to plead her case, when a man came up behind her. She’d already started her sentence so she had no choice but to continue. She could tell halfway through her story that the man behind the register was not going to extend her the credit. Even the offer of leaving her driver’s license didn’t budge him toward her in the least. So she thanked him and walked out the door wondering what to do next. All her friends were at work; she glanced at her watch again and opened her car door preparing to get back in when she heard someone call out to her.
She turned and watched as a man approached her. It was the one that had entered after she had. He was nicely dressed so she knew he wasn’t going to beg her for anything. Still she kept her guard up, she’d recently heard on the news about a few women being absconded from gas stations. She smiled as he approached with her hand resting against the top of her opened car door.
But he stopped at a distance that respected her. “Hi Miss, I was behind you in the store so I couldn’t help hearing about your dilemma. I paid for you to get thirty dollars’ worth of gas. I could not believe that the man wasn’t more empathetic toward your situation. I just can’t make sense of people these days. Anyway, I hope your interview is successful.”
She was struck dumb with surprise. Finally she gushed, “I simply can’t thank you enough for your help. Could I please arrange to meet you back here tomorrow to return your…?” She could see him shaking his head no before she finished her statement. “I can’t tell you how thankful I am to you,” she said while reaching into her wallet. Pulling out a business card left over from when she did her custom gift basket gig, she gave it to him .
“Here is some contact information; it would make me feel better if I have the opportunity to repay you.” She said as she handed the card to him.
He looked at it. . . “From Your Heart To Mine, by Sherida, that’s a nice name. Well why don’t you climb in your car and let me pump the gas for you?”
As she began to protest, he held up his hand gesturing for her to stop. Between that and the look on his face, she could see he was a very decisive man that brooked no arguments or waste of time, so she instantly paused thanked him and after wishing him a good day, slid into the car. This day might actually be a good one after all, she thought to herself. They waved to one another as he walked to his car. She started her car and pulled off.
That one moment in her day was like an infusion of positive energy that made her perception of the day turn completely around. She was sure that it is what put her at peace. As a result, her interview went through smoothly. She would know by the end of the day if she got the job or not. Smiling to herself while she waited at a light she reflected on the stunning smile of the guy that rescued her. He had eyes the color of Cognac . . .it was only when he came closer that she was aware of flecks of green that added to their intensity. Dressed in a suit, that she had no doubt was tailor-made, told her that at the very least he worked in an office. Authority seemed to exude from him, it was clear to her that he was at some level of management. All of this she assessed in the few minutes of their interchange. She had worked in a corporate environment all of her working career. During that length of time, it had seemed like she had come across every type of personality. She knew quality when she saw it and especially when she was responsible for ordering and putting it in order for many of the executives she had assisted.
Entering her home, she could see the light blinking on her message machine. She got excited when the message indicated that she call the manager she’d interviewed with. After the conversation, her heart leapt with joy. She was to start the following week. That gave her the weekend to get things organized. A dismal feeling settled over her upon entering her bedroom as she looked from one stack of clothes to the other, each stack graciously held by her two wing chairs. Nothing to do but get started she sighed.
Sherida’s cell phone rang. Her eyebrows raised in question. “Hello?”
“Hi have I reached Sherida?”
“This is Sherida?”
“Hi Sherida. This is Ryan. We met at the gas station earlier today. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
Sherida smiled. “Thanks so much for calling. I managed to get home fine. Actually, I just got off of the phone. I got the job!”
“Wow! That’s great Sherida. I’m really happy for you. I hope I’m not keeping you from getting ready for your date.”
Sherida blinked in confusion. “My date?”
“Yeah, I figured your husband is preparing to take you out to celebrate your new job.”
“Uh no,” she laughed. “I’m not married.”
“I see. Did you have any plans for this evening?”
She sat down on the side of her bed and pulled her hair back behind her ear. “No I was just about to do some cleaning.”
“Aw I can’t let you spend your evening like that. Why don’t you let me take you out?”
Sherida hesitated. She didn’t know anything about this man. She only knew that he was kind enough to fill her car up with gas so that she could make her interview. Was that enough indication of his character? One thing she did know, she wanted to go more than anything.
“I can meet you at the Olive Garden on Midlothian Turnpike. How about that?”
She knew he was giving her a reason to feel safe by saying that. She sighed. It was enough.
“Okay, you persuaded me. You can pick me up. You have a pen? I’ll give you my address.”
“It’s six now. How about eight?”
“Eight is fine. See you there Ryan.”
She disconnected and felt a flurry of excitement rush through her. She jumped up and walked toward her closet. What would she wear? She pulled out a black crepe wrap dress. She loved the way the dress accentuated her small waistline. She didn’t have a pronounced shape, her hips were slight. The dress would make her feel attractive but wouldn’t seem too sexy.
She walked in her bathroom and began to fill her tub. She had enough time to take a luxurious bubble bath. She pulled her hair into a ponytail on top of her head and eased into the bath. Her mind skipped back over what she remembered about the kind stranger from this morning. She remembered he stood a good two inches over her, which made him at least six feet. As she used the sea sponge to lather the scented soap on her skin, she reflected on the cinnamon brown complected man. His head was clean-shaven. That seemed to highlight the clear brown eyes fringed by lengthy sable lashes. He wore the shadow of a lined beard and mustache that accented his lips.
He had on a casual shirt and slacks that hinted of the hard body beneath. She sighed. She doubted they would remain in contact after tonight, but she would thoroughly enjoy being accompanied by the gorgeous man in the meanwhile.
An hour later, with her heart all a flutter, Sherida pulled the door open and was simply awestruck. With shirt and slacks he was handsome, in a suit he was jaw dropping. “H-Hi, won’t you come in?” She said as she stepped back.
“These are for you.” He said extending a bouquet of pink roses toward her.
She blinked and her mouth widened in shock before the corners lifted into grin. “This is so nice Ryan. Let me put them in water.” She took them from him and rushed into the kitchen where she laid them on the counter before opening her cabinet to reach for one of her vases she’d collected over the years.
“Let me get that for you.”
She jumped at the sudden proximity of him. “O-Okay.” She tried to step out of the apex of her counter space, but he simply reached past her, as if unaware of her hemmed position.
He handed the vase down to her and let his gaze rest on her face. “I didn’t mention it, but you look very beautiful.” He lifted his hand to touch the tendril of hair that had escaped the up-do arrangement of her curls. “This might be forward,” he said as he moved toward her and reached for her hair comb enclosure. “But I can’t resist doing this…” He said as he unsnapped it and her curls fell in waves down past her shoulders. He gently smoothed the hair from her face now holding it between his large hands. “Breathtaking!”
Their gazes fused. She was speechless. She ‘d never met anyone like him.
“Are you ready?”
“Oh sure. I just need to grab my wrap.” She looked at him waiting for him to allow her to pass. He smiled as she eased past him and they walked toward the coat closet. She placed her purse beneath her arm while he settled the wrap around her shoulders. He pulled the door open and she walked past him into the lit hallway of the apartment building.
They walked toward the elevator and her mind wrestled to find companionable conversation. But when her eyes found his, she would falter.
As she envisioned a long evening of painful silence, she began to have second thoughts.
Just as the elevator chimed, she turned to him.
He smiled, “You know first dates are always challenging. You can’t imagine how hard it was for me to gather the courage to call you.”
The elevator door opened. As if it were the most natural thing in the world, his hand slipped to the small of her back, guiding her inside as he continued to catch her up on what transpired in his day before he called her. Before long, he had her laughing, relaxed as if they were old friends.
They exchanged stories over his steak, baked potato and her…”