Destiny, Roses & Romance
Part II: Chapter 37

She glanced at her watch again, unable to help it even though she knew no more than ten seconds could have possibly passed. He wasn’t here yet, he hadn’t shown up last night like she kept hoping that he would, so far there had been nothing. Not a word. No call to say, “Hey, Alison. I’m back and I will see you later. I love you.”

There was nothing.

Once more she found herself aching to reach for the phone and try to call Lucy to check and see if she’d seen him, but something told her that was just an all around bad idea. Lucy would freak if she hadn’t seen him, and the idea of trying to explain where he was just made her head pound even harder. Besides, Lucy would probably just try to play matchmaker some more, and neither of them really needed that.

Heavy footsteps announced the presence of someone walking in, and despite her many disappointments already today she found herself having to order the small flash of hope away. But still she turned, forced smile firmly in place, and watched as the man that had walked in grabbed his car keys off the table. With a slight wave in her direction when he saw her watching, he was gone again.

Alison let out the breath she’d been holding, and sat on the barstool next to her with a groan. She sent up another silent prayer of thanks for a slow day, knowing that there was no way she could have handled a crowd on twenty minutes of sleep in between pacing sessions. Shaking her head, she considered getting herself a cup of coffee in hopes of staying awake but decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

And it wasn’t like sleeping was an actual option anyway. Even if she was still in bed with the blankets over her head and her eyes closed she’d be wide awake. Just like she was all night long. Wondering and waiting, waiting and wondering. It seemed to be a never ending cycle. Work just happened to get in the way today.

Left alone in the front, she’d managed to hold it all together with the customers. No screwed up orders today. She’d decided to focus on getting everything perfect so that she could not focus on her favorite angel for two seconds. Not that it had helped any more than her cleaning spree had, Rafe was still on her mind, but it was worth a shot.

It didn’t seem that ignoring her feelings about him was actually something that could happen. Go figure. Alison sighed again and with her weight on her elbows, leaned on the bar. Burying her face in her hands, she let out a muffled bitter chuckle and hoped against hope that they wouldn’t hear her in the back.

For some reason, despite not hearing a sound, she wasn’t surprised when his hands landed firmly on her shoulders. Rafe couldn’t help but smile at the very site of her. “You look tired,” he said after a moment, his voice a little more than a whisper.

“I am,” she admitted softly. There wasn’t but a breath of space separating their bodies, but, she decided, it was too much, so she leaned back against him. Her hands fell into her lap and her head lay on his shoulder with her eyes never opening. “Nice of you to show up,” she sighed contently, the small traces of a genuine smile lighting up her face for the first time in what seemed like days. “I missed you, you know.”

“I’m sorry,” Rafe chuckled lightly, unable to keep himself from placing a kiss on her temple. “I missed you too, Alison.”

Her smile grew brighter, but she refused to open her eyes for fear that it would turn out she was dreaming. “It feels like it’s been weeks since we’ve been together.”

“I’m sorry. I would have come to see you last night, but Lucy wasn’t letting me out of her site after I told her what happened. She kind of wanted to get a good game plan first.”

“A game plan?” Alison asked, joining in with his laughter.

“Yeah, she was going to give me step by step instructions on how to make up for running out on you like I did.” Wrapping one arm around her waist, he smiled into her hair. “Lucy can be very… insistent when she sets her mind to something, you know.”

“You were under house arrest?”

With a groan, he dropped another kiss onto her temple. “More or less.”

Alison raised a hand to tangle her fingers in the back of his hair. “Maybe I’ll just have to have a talk with her, then. Tell her that I miss you when you’re not around. Think that’ll help?” Turning her face, eyes still tightly shut, she pressed her lips against the side of his neck briefly. “Can I have you all to myself then?”

Chuckling, Rafe tugged at her ponytail lightly. “Why are you so tired?” he asked instead of answering her, though he was fairly certain that he knew the answer.

“I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.” With a sigh, she opened her eyes and pulled away, only to swivel on the barstool in order to face her angel. “The thing is, I told a man that I’m very much in love with that I’d like to have his children. I even kind of proposed, and he walked out for… a meeting.” Crossing her arms in front of her, she pouted playfully. “Then I don’t see him until like twenty-four hours later.”

“Hmmm… I guess he really is going to have to work to make that up to you, isn’t he?”

Grinning, she leaned forward just a little bit. “Well, I don’t know, I guess that would depend what he, or rather his very wonderful, though slightly insistent, cousin spent so much time plotting. I mean, it did keep him away from me for a very long time…”

“It was barely over twenty-four hours,” Rafe muttered in his own defense.

Her pout grew as she batted her eyelashes and fought against the urge to smile. “Well then I guess it just seemed like a very long time not to have him right next to me. See,” Alison continued, giving in and smiling slyly at him. “The thing is this very wonderful man has became very important to me. I was kind of lost when he left yesterday. It’s like I said, I’m very, very much in love with him. And after having him so close to me yesterday, I don’t think I ever want to let him out of my reach again.”

As her words registered fully with them both the playful mood disappeared as, once again, reality came crashing in. Alison decided that next time she was just going to shut up. Her eyes fell to his mouth and his tongue darted out to sweep across his bottom lip. There were much more interesting things she could do than talking anyway. “I’m sorry-”

“Don’t,” Rafe interrupted before resting his forehead against hers. “Don’t apologize to me, Alison, ever. There’s nothing that you could ever do that needs to be apologized for.” Linking his hands with hers, he brought them up to places feather light kisses across her knuckles. “I know that it doesn’t make you feel any better, but you know that…” Smiling, Rafe pulled his eyes from her hands to meet her curious gaze. “He would much rather stay right next to you, holding you, for the rest of eternity.”

“I know that,” she whispered, holding their entwined hands over her heart. “I really, really do know that, Rafe. It’s just… It’s not fair that you can’t. It’s not fair that I have to let you go. And don’t you tell me that life’s not fair, because that’s pretty obvious.”

“I hate this, Alison. I hate hurting you this way. If I had the power to change things…”

“I know, Rafe. I know that you would,” Alison murmured reassuringly wearing the smile on her lips just a little sadly. “But it’s not up to us. I get it, Rafe. I don’t like it, but I get it. The only thing that either of us can control, is what we do with what time we do have together.”

Sighing, he released her hands only to end up holding onto her waist again. “Lucy and Livvie are still plotting, just so you know. I think that sometime this week we’re going to end up going to dinner with Jack and Livvie and Lucy and Kevin.”

“Well,” Alison replied with a shrug. “At least it will force Kevin and Lucy to sit down at the same table for a while.” With a light sheen of tears in her eyes, she put her hand against his cheek. “It looks like your mission is almost a success, Mr. Kovich.”

“It will be a success,” he stated with a smile. “There’s a nasty little trait that runs in the Kovich family that refuses to accept failure. It will be a success, thanks to you. But it’s not yet. There is still plenty of time for things to go wrong, and I’ve learned that if it can go wrong, in this town it probably will.”

“Do you think that maybe…” Alison cut off her words with a sigh, and dropped her eyes to the necklace that he was wearing. Nervously, she chewed on her thumbnail on the hand not touching him. She had to be touching him.

“Maybe what,” Rafe prodded after a moment of silence.

“It’s just…” Giggling nervously, she met his gaze once more. “Do you think maybe there’s also still plenty of times for things to go right? I mean… Just for a little while… With us. I’m not asking if maybe you could stay or anything, because I know that you want to and I know that you can’t. But… Maybe for what time we do have, we don’t have to pretend to not feel the way that we feel?”

“Oh, honey,” he said, his voice near a growl when she dipped her chin shyly. “Look at me,” he commanded gently. When her eyes finally met his a moment later, he sighed and placed his hand under her chin to bring her face to his himself. He kissed her quickly, well aware of the fact that anyone could walk in at anytime. “I had no intention of trying to pretend that I don’t love you more than I ever thought it was possible to love someone. I’ve already done that, and it didn’t work. Everyone knows how I feel about you, Alison, I’m not going to ever deny the fact that I love you.”

“I love you too,” she whispered. “And I don’t want to deny it. I don’t want to have to pretend that we’re just friends. I want to be with you, Rafe. And I’m completely willing to just settle for what time I can have with you.”

“Hurting you isn’t an option, Alison.”

“Rafe, please, just… Think about it, I mean, I should get some say in the matter. Whatever happens, we’re together in it. And… you know, it’s like I told you, you’re stuck with me.”

“And I continue to thank the lord for that, Alison.” Smiling, he couldn’t help but kiss her again. “But since I’m stuck with you, it looks like you’re going to have to help me keep an eye on things. Especially Lucy, who knows what she’s going to try and pull between now and Christmas Eve. So, maybe you’re the one that’s stuck with me for a little while. Think you can handle that… Partner?”

Laughing, Alison leaned forward and brushed her lips against his. When she pulled back with a grin, she wrapped her arms around his neck to hug him tightly. Resisting the urge to chuckle, even when he held onto her tightly, she whispered against his neck, “Oh, I know that I can… Partner.”

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