A paranormal romance involving connection to a first crush.
|Books piled precariously, Zayda made her way to the little corner spot she had chosen by the windows in the library on the third floor. She moved slowly, careful not to drop any of the books. There really needed to be an easier way to do research, but for now, Zayda was prepared to submerse herself in the topic in order to ace the assignment. This library had an amazing collection.
As she rounded the corner, she bumped up against a very solid someone coming in the opposite direction. The books wavered as she pulled in a startled breath trying to regain balance, but it was no use. As she scrambled to right herself the books tumbled in a colossal jumble to the floor.
"Shit" she hissed as she bent to retrieve her treasures.
Whatever she'd hit grunted and sank to the floor with her. In her flustered embarrassment she refused to look at whoever she had blundered into. Reaching out to grab the books, her hand made contact with the person and before she could jerk it back, a warmth flooded through her. Red gold shimmered at the edges of images that began to cascade through her mind and she glanced over at the person. A man. Her mouth dropped open as a history of memories assailed her.
"Well, I see you have learned a few new words..." His deep voice reverberated over her as she felt the hairs on her sensitive skin rise. A tremor rippled over her. He was grinning. Gorgeously grinning. How could he be even more handsome.... and she, disheveled wearing a ratty sweat shirt and ripped jeans. Even her reading glasses had dropped back onto her face and balanced precariously on her nose in the kerfuffle. She broke contact and righted them, placing them back on top of her unruly hair. She usually tried tying it back every morning, but some of the strands refused to stay corralled. She blew out a breath, ruffling the wayward locks that threatened to tickle her nose.
“Fancy running into you here,” he said as he continued to help collect the books. His voice was laced with a surprised, mischievous delight.
Zayda busied herself with collecting the books as she drew in deep breaths in the hope of calming her now racing heart. She was careful not to touch him, but she could feel a warm vibration and it made her jittery and kept her off balance.
Of all the places and times to run into the one guy who had always left her breathless. The one guy her heart had craved for as long as she could remember. There had been no forgetting him and from the moment of contact she suspected he had not forgotten her either. Why did she have to look like something her cat had dragged in?
“I’m always here,” she said inanely and winced at the stupidity of her words.
“Really, I come here quite often, but this is the first time I’ve seen you... in fact, I haven’t seen you since....”
She held her breath wondering what memory he would dredge up.
“the day on the dunes... no, I did see you... the morning we left Roseville. You were skulking by the big elm close by our house as we packed up to leave.”
“I wasn’t skulking,” she told him with a stab of defiance. It only made his grin deepen as he chuckled. Zayda could swear she felt both all the way to her toes.
“Watching then,” he amended with a wink.
“I wanted to see you off. Make sure you were okay.” Zayda bit her lip as she realized she had let slip another secret. Trace had a way of opening her up. There was no way she could keep secrets from him. It was one of the many reasons she had rarely ever spoken to him.
“You always did have the biggest of hearts... despite the way most people treated you.” A sadness flickered, like a dark cloud shifting over the sun. But his smile resurfaced. “It really is good to see you again.”
“Really?” she blurted then bit her tongue as he chuckled at her outburst.
“Yeah, really. You were one of the good things I remember about that town. One of my happier memories, despite the situation we were going through.” His smile faded.
Zayda wanted that smile back. Drawing in a quick breath, she asked, “how is your mother and sister?”
He grinned again, a lop-sided boyish grin. Her heart soared. “Mom’s good. She is working on designing her own line of fashion...It’s something she’s always wanted to do. And Sofia,” he paused to shake his head and grin widely, “she’s still a pain in my ass. Sixteen going on forty. Bossy as hell.”
“But you love her,” He nodded, “Yeah, forever and always. She’s my baby sister. Right now, she has this plan that she wants to study art and be a great painter.”
“I can see that,” Zayda remembered Sofia could always be found drawing.
He nodded again, “she is pretty good.”
“You admit that grudgingly,” Zayda could not help teasing him.
“No, she is really very good.”
When all the books were stacked, Trace carried half the pile back to her corner spot. “So, you’re the one that nabbed my favourite spot.” he told her with a lop-sided grin.
“Hey, its a free country. You snooze you lose.”
“I had a feeling I should have gotten here sooner.” He paused to give her a once over that had another tremor rumbling through her body. “Are you even old enough to be in college?”
“Well,” she began, jutting her chin out as she said, “For your information, I start at NYU in the fall.”
“Very good. Though, I shouldn’t be surpised. You were a brainiac...But what about now? Classes don’t start until September. It’s only April.”
“I came to stay with my cousins. You remember Damian and Adwina?....” her voice took on a more haunted sound and she bit her lip as she noticed him looking at her with concern.
“Are the Aunts, okay?”
“Oh, yes. They are both doing well. Meddling in others love lives as usual...”
He nodded as if that was a normal thing, then he smiled as if a memory had nudged him, “I remember Damian. Haven’t seen him in a while. We used to run into each other on occasion, but.... I’ve been rather busy since I started at NYU myself... Is he doing well?” Zayda nodded.
Trace looked about and noticed some others glaring in their direction. They were being too loud, but he wanted to know more. He felt compelled not to let her go. “So... can I take you out for a coffee? I know a place that have some great pastries. They rival the Aunts..."
"How would you know..." Zayda began then smiled as she remembered Damian sneaking extra baked items when he would stay with them in the summer. "Damian," she said just as Trace confirmed her suspicions. They laughed.
"He always was a sneaky little bugger.... the Aunts words, not mine. Though, I will admit they were always smiling when they called him that."
"He did have a way of charming his way out of trouble,"
"He still does."
Trace paused, then asked, "Shall we?"
Smiling, Zayda nodded. She could use a boost of sugar. "But, didn't you just get here? Don't you have work to do?"
Trace shrugged as he said, "I came to write, not study. This library... is a great place to get my creative on."
"Much to my Grandfather's displeasure, I like to write. He doesn't understand my interest and I think it makes him a little uneasy... I have yet to figure out why exactly...."
"Come for coffee and I will tell you more."
"Now that sounds like a good plan, but... " she said moving in the direction of her things to get her leather jacket. "I'll need my jacket," she told him.
"It's quite warm out," he began as he waited for her to grab it.
"Yes, yes. I know, but.... It helps me," she finished a little diminished expecting him to think her nuts. He smiled kindly and nodded as if he understood. Her heart swelled and did a little dance.
"I remember you saying you didn't do well in crowds." he told her as he took the jacket from her and held it out for her to put her arms in. Her mouth nearly fell open at the fact that he remembered. It was something so inane about her and he did not seem weirded out by it. She let the surprise melt into a smile as she turned to slip her arms through.
She kept her head turned to study him. Even through the coat, she could feel his genuineness. There was no hidden agenda, no judgment. She felt lighter somehow. Understood. No one, outside her family, had gotten that about her and she had a flash of memory that she had had that same thought in the past about him.
Things were definitely looking up.
They talked of old times and new, mingling the two - building a future on common threads and future hopes.
At the coffee shop, Trace went in to grab the coffees and a few pastries for them to enjoy while she stood on the sidewalk out of the flow of pedestrians. The coffee shop was packed. Elbow to elbow. Not a place she was inclined to venture into at this hour. The smell of coffee tickled her nostrils and the heavenly scent of baked goods had her mouth watering. She realized she was famished.
When was the last time she had eaten?
When he rejoined her and passed her a coffee doctored the way she had requested, she wrapped her hands around it.
"Cold?" he asked noticing her movements.
Zayda shook her head, "no, just feeling the energy. I'm still getting used to being in the city. Lots of people and noise. A bit overwhelming at times."
"I understand. When we first got here, I felt much the same way. It took time to acclimatize to the busy and bustle. It probably helped that my Grandfather lives so close to Central Park and I spent a great deal of time walking the trails. My sister and I would disappear for hours on end... much to his displeasure."
"How is Sofia?" Zayda asked remembering the pixie sweetness of the girl and wanting to know more.
"Amazing and annoying all rolled into one."
Zayda laughed at his comment.
"Sixteen is a scary age.... that combined with being a girl." he mimed a shudder that had Zayda giggling at the horrified look on his face.
They dissolved into laughter.
"It really is so good running into you again. I wondered if I ever would..."
"Did you?" surprised he would even send a passing thought her way. Perhaps he was only being conversational.
"Yes, you were the one bright light in all of Roseville. Who can forget the girl who mended my sister's broken arm at a mere touch. I was smitten." As the last words left his mouth, she saw the blush creep up into his cheeks. He took a sip of coffee to hide his slipped confidence.
Zayda smiled, warmed by his admission. “I remember your horrified face...”
“Yes, well... that was not aimed at you,” he told her.
Zayda’s solemn face nodded remembering the break had been the result of their father’s violent outbursts. Sofia was rarely the target, but she knew Trace had felt guilty for not protecting her that day.
Still, it was nice to remember details and know that she was not disliked by everyone. To help him feel less self conscious about his admission, she asked, "So what is she doing now?"
"Grandfather insisted she go to a hoity, toity girls prep school to learn to become a debutante.... and she absolutely hates it. As soon as she gets home she strips out of the uniform she is required to wear and pulls on her sweats so that she can get down and dirty with a paint brush. She only agreed to go if Grandfather created a studio space for her to paint in... he grudgingly agreed, but I am sure he would love to burn the place down to the ground. He never goes near it. The smell of turpentine sickens him, so he says, but I think he hopes she will come to her senses and do what he wants."
"She sounds like a force," Zayda said with a grin. She had always like Sofia Wilder. She had spunk, despite the abuse that went on around her. She was a little go getter. "I am so glad she is doing well. I'd love to see her again sometime.... if she would be interested..."
Trace's raised his brows in surprise, "If?" he began then laughed, "she would be over the moon to know I ran into you again. You are her inspiration."
"Yes, you. You stood your ground in the face of great idiocy... those are her words. Sofia has never been one to stand for prejudice. It sickens her. After seeing what all the kids at school used to do and say to you... she was angry at them for being so awful to you, but she was also far too young to do anything about it. Small towns are nasty places when you aren't one of the strong, elite."
They walked across the street letting that thought hang between them as they entered the park. Zayda was finding this park truly had a personality all its own. Each day, each time of the day and night had a different feel. Here on a weekend in the afternoon it was lively; full of a variety of people. Buzzing with positive energy. Families converged. Buskers performed to small and large gatherings. Teens moved on roller skates swerving in and out of the crowd. Couples strolled the pathways hand in hand, while others parked themselves on benches to chat. This park was a haven of sorts and she could understand that.
She and Trace wandered under the tree lined paths looking for a spot to sit. They found one set apart from the crowd.
"I quite like this park. It is refreshing to come here when the studies become too much." He mused as he watched the kids on roller skates.
"What is it that you are studying?"
"Business. My Grandfather insisted...." his voice trailed away as he looked out over the green towards the fountain and the Washington arch.
"And what is it you really want to study?"
He turned his solemn eyes to her and gave a half smile, "You can sense that, can't you?'
Zayda nodded. She remained quiet, waiting for him to go on. With a sigh he did, "I want to study creative writing and journalism... I've signed up for a class next term - in the fall. I haven't told anyone.... certainly not my Grandfather."
"Ah, you rebel," she teased as she laid her hand on his arm and felt the contact as a wave of heated energy, coloured red gold. It was stronger now. Interest growing. It had her smiling.
He glanced at her and when he saw her smile, he smiled to. "I have always dreamed of being a writer. Telling a good story. Even telling other's stories. Righting wrongs, in a way."
"And business bores you to tears."
"It's a long story..."
"I'm not going anywhere. I'd love to hear..."
After a pause that had Zayda wondering if he would share, he began, "My Granadfather...is not an easy man. After my father died…. he told my mother that she could come home on the condition that I join the business and study at his Alma Matta. Not complying, meant she would be left to her own devices and you know where we were back then. Dad was gone. Left us penniless. Drank all his money away or gambled it away. Mother felt she had no choice. What could it hurt, only business she said... but he is every bit as awful as my father... except he does not beat her. He uses his words. Inflicts his pain with his yelling and his words."
"I'm sorry, Trace."
"It's okay. I like business fine at times and I want to see my mother and sister happy and well taken are of. He has the money and the means to make their lives so much better and the house is so large we can avoid him much of the time." He paused to rub his thumbs slowly over the sides of his coffee cup. He was in a thoughtful trance. Then he said, “I don’t know why I am telling you this… I have never told anyone, but with you….” His voice trailed off as he looked over at her. “I can’t seem to keep secrets.”
Zayda smiled as she whispered, “I feel the same. Your secrets are safe with me.”
“I know,” he said as if he realized the truth of her statement. “Hey, can I see you again? Take you to Central Park.”
“You mean like a date?” Zayda tried to keep her tone light as her heart pickup up speed.
“Yes, just like a date. I can arrange for one of my Grandfather’s cars to come get you. You would not have to deal with public transit.”
Zayda smiled at his thoughtfulness.
Things were definitely looking up.
She nodded and the two of them beamed at each other.
Word Count = 2974.