Love, Unwanted (Discovering Love #3)By: Ra Chael Ohara
“Is the sexy lead singer too good for a sandwich from a food truck?” I tease with a raised eyebrow.
The smile I was wearing vanishes when Phoenix’s eyes do that molten lava thing and he takes a step into my personal space. He leans in like he’s going to kiss me. My breathing seizes.
Disappointment and relief sweep through me when his lips go to my ear. “You think I’m sexy?”
Did I call him sexy? Oh crap, I called him sexy! “No!” I burst out. I want to throw up when I realize what I just said. First I call him sexy, then I insult him. This innocent dinner is not going well.
I finally exhale when Phoenix throws his head back and laughs. He throws his arm over my shoulder and tucks me into his side. “Let’s get some sandwiches, sweetness.”
We get our dinner and start walking around the big pond in the middle of the park.
“Tell me about yourself,” Phoenix orders.
“What do you want to know?”
“Well, all I know now is that your name is Caroline Taylor and you own the library.”
“How do you know that, by the way? I don’t remember telling you all that in the closet the other night.”
“One guess.” He smiles.
“Violet.” Not a question. It’s a statement. After all, she’s the one on this campaign to make me more adventurous.
“Bingo. So, tell me about Caroline Taylor.”
“What do you want to know?” I repeat.
“For starters, tell me where you’re from. I know that sexy accent you have isn’t Irish.”
“You’re correct. I’m from England. I moved here when I was eighteen. You don’t have an Irish accent either. Where are you from?”
“I’m from the States. My turn. Why’d you move to Lishoy?”
My steps falter at his questions. I’ve only been asked that question once before and I lied through my teeth, but something about this situation, something about Phoenix, makes me want to tell the truth.
“That’s a loaded question with a long answer,” I warn.
“I have the time.”
“Okay, well, I grew up with a preacher as a father. Religion wasn’t just our belief. It was a way of life. I had to dress a certain way, act a certain way. I hated it. I couldn’t wait to get out of that house and away from my dad. I read a book about Ireland and knew this is where I wanted to go. Lishoy was as far as I got before I ran out of money. I guess I just wanted an adventure, to try the things I never got to do but always wanted to.”
There’s a moment of silence. I lower my head out of embarrassment. Finally, he asks, “Did you ever get your adventure?”
“It’s my turn to ask a question,” I respond. I don’t want to answer that question. What would I say? No, I never got my adventure because the first guy I decided to be spontaneous with ended up crushing me? Not a chance.
Phoenix holds up his hands in mock surrender. “Ask away.”
“Why are you in Lishoy?”
Phoenix looks out over the pond and sighs. “I need a break. I love singing with my band, but I’m tired. It’s the same thing day in and day out. Same faces, same routine. I will always love singing. It’s who I am, but I felt like I was losing my mind. So, against my manager Mick’s wishes, I came here for a vacation.”
“If you’re on vacation, why were you singing at the pub the other night?”
Phoenix laughs, a humorless one. “Mick likes money. My turn. Did you ever get your adventure?” And we’re back to the question I both don’t want to answer and do want to answer.
I think for a minute before answering honestly, “No. No, I never got my adventure.”
“Do you still want it?” He stops walking and turns to me with a playful grin. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Phoenix has some kind of power. Every time I look into his gray pools, I feel him take hold of me and I have a hard time uttering anything but absolute truths.
“Yeah,” I whisper.
“What would you do on this journey?”
A small laugh escapes me. “I have a list. Well, a mental one, at least, of all the things I want to try.”
“Tell me them,” he orders softly. I blush.
“No.” I laugh. “I’m sure to a big rock star like you, it would sound ridiculous.”
“Are they big adventures?”
“Some big. Some small. Some impossible.”
“Tell me them,” he repeats.
“Okay…I want to smoke a cigarette.”
Phoenix’s eyes widen in shock. “You’ve never smoked a cigarette? I don’t believe that.”
“I haven’t!” I insist.
“Okay, what else?” He laughs.
“I want to get drunk.” I giggle when his eyes bulge again, but I continue speaking. “I want to get a tattoo. Take a road trip to nowhere. I want to go skinny-dipping and sing in front of a crowd. I want to climb the highest mountain I can find just so I can scream at the top of my lungs. I want to take a hot air balloon ride and ride a roller coaster. I want…”
I trail off when I realize that I’ve let my thoughts get away from me. I tilt my head curiously when I see Phoenix looking at me with an expression I can’t decipher.