“So, did you grow up out here?” I finally figured out what to say to him to get the ball rolling! In my training for my role as detective, we got taught advanced conversation skills so that we could put witnesses at ease or lull a suspect into a false sense of security. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner except who thinks about work on a date? Well, I went out with him to help out my case, but still, I needed to hone my dating skills to make this operation successful. I hadn’t gone on a first date in over a decade, and Ben met me when I had a little too much to drink, so I didn’t really worry about what to talk about! The source of my newly found confidence may have been unconventional, but hey, it worked! Plus, I felt glad that I had prompted him to recount his past first. I didn’t feel comfortable explaining my past yet, but I figured after the wine kicked in, I’d feel more compelled to do so! The question did just roll off my tongue naturally, but now I truly felt curious about his answer. It would have been so strange if we were once schoolmates!
“No, I came out here about twenty years ago,” he replied. “Before that, I lived in Kentucky.”
I raised my eyebrows in surprise to hear that. “Kentucky, huh? Where’d your accent go?”
He laughed, “I get that a lot. I purposely lost my accent so I could persuade people that I was intelligent. All of our best and brightest had thick accents, but you couldn’t convince anyone in Maryland that!”
“What made you move out here?” I conversed before I took another sip of wine.
“I grew up in a small town,” he explained. “Nothing wrong with it, it’s a great place to raise a family, but it didn’t have a lot of high paying jobs. So, after I graduated, I looked for jobs in the big cities within driving distance of Tarahill, and I ended up getting some low-level sales job here in Anaknock. I mastered sales pretty quickly, and when I realized I could run things more smoothly than my mentors did, I started my own company. Anaknock has been pretty good to me, so I kept my main headquarters here.”
I queried, “Did I hear you say Tarahill?”
He confirmed, “Yup! That’s where I got the name of my company from! I wanted to pay homage to where I came from to show I still cared about my hometown, but I made sure the gesture had enough meaning to make up for rarely visiting. I love my family, but they’re a bit… overwhelming. Especially my sister and her five kids! I like being an uncle, don’t get me wrong, but…”
“Five kids is a lot to handle!” I remarked.
“Yes!” He looked pleased that I understood his point. “They’re so hyper too! I swear, my sister only feeds them sugar and caffeine!”
I chuckled at his quip as the elderly lady that co-owned this joint brought us menus. “I’ll give you guys a few minutes to look at the choices.”
We both thanked her as she left, and then I studied what they had to offer. It all sounded like delicious, homespun food, but I frowned after seeing the prices! I still wouldn’t get a paycheck until next week, and the cheapest meal they had would still take most of the scant amount that I had left! I considered getting a loan, but that would end up costing me more money in the long run, and I needed to save as much as I could for my upcoming divorce. Even if my split with my soon-to-be ex didn’t cost as much as I feared, I still needed to save up to have my own place again. I was glad I had a place to go during this ordeal, but Brigid’s Garden had too much to worry about- the criminal activities, Travis badgering me, eight cats in the house, and Wade’s constant yelling! Not to mention his foul odor! It’s not like spending twenty bucks on dinner would have prevented me from getting divorced or finding a new home, but the idea of draining my bank account really scared me! I realized that I’d have nothing left for emergencies, and I’d have to completely rely on the food my mom snuck me to survive. On the other hand, I absolutely had to solve this case, and I supposed I had to pay the price for this sort of off-the-books caper!
“Order whatever you like! Dinner’s on me tonight!” he offered.
“Thanks!” I smiled to show my gratitude, but I could tell my cheeks were burning red too. I worried that I didn’t do enough to hide my thoughts, but I supposed that he could have mentioned that coincidentally. I hated to think of myself as a charity project, but I reasoned that I’d get a free meal along with possible clues for my investigation, so I decided to let it go and just enjoy the evening.
Actually, I hadn’t planned on enjoying the evening as much as I did! Aidan and I ended up chatting about everything! Even the subjects that were usually hard for me to discuss with anyone were quite easy to share with him! He divulged some deeply personal issues from his past, even his mother’s early death, and I couldn’t believe the ease that I found telling him my darkest moments! We talked about a lot of fun things also, and I’ve never laughed so much! As our food disappeared, I actually felt disappointed that our date was coming to a close, but then the music changed…
The soothing, ambient tune that played softly in the background shifted to an eighties’ classic, and a few people went out to the dance floor. Aidan invited me, “You wanna jam?”
I giggled at the idea until I realized that he meant that seriously. “Oh, I dunno… It’s been so long…”
Aidan insisted, “Hey, don’t worry about being good! Let’s just have fun!” He got up and did a couple of goofy, outdated moves, which made me laugh. He extended his hand to me, and I decided to join him. Why not? He did make it look enjoyable, and as soon as I hit the floor, I did actually get a huge kick out of it! It felt liberating to dance like an idiot without judgment! I’m quite sure we got strange looks from the other patrons there, but I didn’t pay them any mind! I was having the time of my life!
A romantic ballad came on, and all of the couples came together to slow dance. I drew my body close to Aidan, and after he put his arms around me, I could hear his heart beating. At first, I thought that its rapidness stemmed from the exertion of our dancing, but the tender stare he gave me made me think it came from something more. I really hoped that he wasn’t faking the affection that he appeared to exude, and I needed to know if he had superior acting skills or if he really liked me, so I asked him, “Why on Earth did you go out with me? I mean, I’m glad you did, but I treated you like a criminal!”
Aidan answered me, “You were just doing your job! If you hadn’t, we wouldn’t have met! I liked that you treated me like a normal person. I’m so used to everyone worshiping me like a celebrity, but you were different! You seem like someone that’d force me to behave, and I need that sometimes!” I tittered a bit, and then he went on, “You just seemed like a genuinely nice person, and it’s so rare to find a woman like you! I honestly didn’t think I had a shot, but then I saw how sad you were, and I thought while I may not be as good of a guy as you deserve, but I can make you happy! I can do that for you!” I beamed at how sweet his words were, and I thought we would just savor in the sentiments that this music created, but then he inquired, “What about you? What made you say yes?”
I didn’t know how to answer that! I couldn’t ruin the moment by admitting the truth! But I had to say something, he expected it! “I just…” I almost concocted a fictional narrative for why I wanted to date him, but I couldn’t lie! I took too long to reply, and if I didn’t do something drastic, I would have lost him, so I pulled his face close to mine and kissed him! The softness of his lips were pleasing to the palate, and yet they were strong enough to really lock mine in enough so I could feel its effects deep down! Electricity flowed through my whole body, giving me a tingly feeling all over! I never had a kiss turn me on like that, not even after a decade of knowing Ben! I did it to appease him, but I hadn’t expected to enjoy it so much!
I didn’t want to let go, but after the song ended, the upbeat melody that came on called our attention back to reality. Neither of us seemed to have anymore desire to continue dancing, so he held my hand as we returned to our table. He paid the bill for our meal, and we both said goodbye to the lovely, old couple that owned the lodge. We held hands on the way back to the car, and the warmth it generated had a very comforting effect on me! When I got inside his car and he rounded the corner to get to the driver’s side, I found myself flooded with relaxation. After he entered the vehicle, he wanted to know my address. I gave it to him as I rested my head on his shoulders, and my eyes started to grow very heavy…
The next thing I knew, Aidan was gently shaking me to wake up. “Shannon! Shannon! You’re home!”
“Huh?” For a second, I thought I had dreamt that whole date! I had forgotten how exhausted I had felt from such a long day, but it shocked me that I had gotten tired enough to fall asleep in Aidan’s car! As I opened my eyes, I saw his cellphone right in front of me! Clearly, he had it propped there for navigational purposes, but then I saw a text from Jasmine that read: “You up?” No woman likes to see her man receive a text from an attractive, young lady, but it roused my suspicions that it came from a Fay! With all of the illegal activity surrounding them lately, I couldn’t help but speculate about the possible motives she could have had when she sent that message! He grabbed his phone, took a quick glance at it, and stuffed it in his pocket. My heart sank! After such an amazing evening, I lost sight of my original intentions! I grew to trust him, and now I felt like a fool for doing so!
“I hope our date didn’t bore you too much!” When he saw my confused expression, he clarified, “It was a joke! ‘Cause you fell asleep.”
I forced myself to laugh, and then I told him, “No, no! I had a great time!” It wasn’t untrue. I thoroughly enjoyed myself until right then. Seeing that text just made me berate myself for wasting the evening having fun instead of looking for clues! My stomach twisted just knowing I had the key piece of evidence that I was after right in front of me and I missed it!
He kissed me again, and it sickened me to know how much pleasure I got from it despite everything! “We should do this again soon!”
“Definitely!” I hoped that he meant that. If he took me on another date, I vowed not to waste another opportunity again! Next time, I wanted to decide where we were going so he couldn’t parade me to people who naively liked him and made him appear to be a decent guy! Plus, I’d make sure I’d find a way to get that phone! “Bye!”
“Bye!” He kissed me again, and I tore myself away before he had a chance to seduce me further! I got out of the car, and I could tell he was watching me. I didn’t know if he just wanted to make sure I go to the house okay or if he had something else planned! I wanted to hurry inside to emote over the situation, but to my astonishment, I saw someone standing there watching me!