Choosing Henley(8)

By: Anne Jolin

I make a beeline for the bakery, attempting to shake the snow out of my hair when I collide with someone coming around the corner. “Ooof,” I let out, stumbling backwards, teetering in my heels. When I reach out to grab on to something, an arm wraps around my waist, steadying me.

“Easy Beatle.”

My heart is pumping wildly in my chest, my hands gripping the lapels of his dress coat as I try to catch my breath.

He places a finger under my chin and lifts my gaze to meet his. “I thought I told you to be careful with this pretty face.” He smiles, brushing a melted snowflake off my cheek.

Running into him has literally knocked the wind right out of me.

“What brings you to the store this late on Christmas Eve, Beatle?” he asks.

I pull away, detangling my hands from his coat. “I forgot I needed to bring dessert to the Rhodeses’ house tonight.”

“Well, you are in luck because I happen to have very good taste in dessert.” He winks, grabbing me by the hand and leading us towards the bakery section. When we reach it, he leans down to look in the glass case. “Okay, what’ll it be? Apple pie? Pumpkin pie? Nope, never mind. You definitely need to go with the rhubarb pie. Anna and Oliver love rhubarb.” He turns his head towards me and sends me a cocky grin. “It’s not as good as the one I make, but they’ll love it.”

He motions to the person on the other side of the counter to wrap it up before I realize that he just ordered for me.

“What if I didn’t want rhubarb pie?” I say, snottily cocking an eyebrow at him.

“You’ve always wanted the rhubarb pie, Beatle. You just don’t want to want it.” He chuckles, winking at me again.

He really is handsome. He stands a good few inches taller than I do, even when I’m in heels, and tonight, he looks dressed to impress in a white button-down shirt open at the collar, grey slacks, and the large, black dress coat that does nothing to hide his muscular frame.

When he laughs again, I look up to find him staring at me with raised eyebrows.

“Are you sure there isn’t something else you’d like to order?” he asks.

I roll my eyes at him, but before I can answer, I hear a whiny voice behind me. “There you are, Jamison. I’ve been looking all over for you.”

Over my shoulder, I see Malibu Barbie in all her orange glory. She’s pouting like a child and her high-pitched voice instantly gives me a headache.

Her eyes are darting back and forth between us when I realize that Jami is still holding my hand. I pull it out of his like it’s on fire and turn fully around to face Kelsey.

“Oh it’s you,” she pouts, narrowing her eyes at me. “What are you doing here?”

It’s the grocery store, sweetheart. What do you think I’m doing here?

She looks me up and down before scoffing and directing her attention back to Jami. “I can’t find that thing you wanted me to look for,” she says, stomping her foot.

It takes everything I have not to roll my eyes at her ridiculous behaviour.

“The truffle oil?” Jami asks from behind me.

She nods before tossing her bleach-blond hair over her shoulder.

There’s no doubt about it—Barbie hates me. I’ve had just about enough of her stink eye, and I really don’t want to get in a pissing match with her over Jami, especially in the baked goods isle at the IGA.

“Well, I have to go. You guys have a good night. Merry Christmas.” I take off towards the front of the store before they have a chance to answer. I weave through all the last-minute shoppers until finally I’m outside.

Everywhere he touched feels like it’s on fire. My hands are shaking and not because I’m cold. I’m completely rattled. Seeing him with her absolutely derails me.

I’m halfway across the parking lot when I curse. “Motherfucker!” I forgot my stupid, supposedly absolutely delicious rhubarb pie in the goddamn store. I stand in the middle of the parking lot and blow out a breath of air. Momentarily, I consider not going back in, but guilt gets the better of me and I turn on my heel. This pie better be fucking amazing.

I look up from sidestepping around a patch of ice to see Jami walking towards me, sans his Barbie doll. He lifts out a grocery bag to me and smiles.

“I think you forgot something inside.”

“Ah, yes. My ever-elusive pie,” I say, reaching for the bag. “What do I owe you?”

“I got you, Beatle. No worries.” The snow is landing in his dark hair, and it’s impossible not to be distracted when he licks his bottom lip.

“You really didn’t have to,” I reply moving to dig in my purse.

He stretches his hand out to stop my arm. “I got you.”

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