HOLIDAY INTERNET ROMANCE NOVEL
As soon as Oliver recovered his composure and scrambled to his feet, he hurried to the back of the store to retrieve the chairs, still reeling from the touch of Sara’s hand and the mesmerizing effect of just being in her presence. She was even more beautiful and attractive to him than he ever imagined – everything he ever dreamed of and beyond.
But when he switched on the light in the back room, his thoughts shifted abruptly to what he was looking at and he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing.
“Geez, Ben,” he sighed in total exasperation at his life-long friend.
“What’s wrong?” Sara answered, turning her attention from her careful reconstruction of the Harry Potter display.
Her breath caught as she watched Oliver standing in the doorway. There was something so attractive about the unassuming young man. Turning to look at her, he smiled a crooked, dimpled smile, and her heart did flip-flops.
It wasn’t just his curly dark hair and beard, or even those deep green eyes. Nor was it his broad shoulders, incredible body or the fact that he was almost a foot taller than she was.
It was more the kindness and gentleness she sensed from everything he did and said.
To her absolute surprise and dismay, Sara was feeling more physically attracted to this complete stranger than she ever felt to anyone in her entire life. And then there was the fact that she felt totally comfortable with him, as if she’d known him forever.
But, at the same time, she was thoroughly and completely ashamed for feeling all this emotion and attraction for someone she only just met.
After all, Ollie from Writing.Com was the love of her life. She knew it in her heart and tried her best to push away these confusing and, at the same time, overwhelming thoughts about Kelly.
“It’s fine,” he said finally, in answer to her question. “It’s fine,” he repeated, as if saying it again would reassure himself as much as Sara.
But it wasn’t fine.
Clearly, Ben was living in the store quite a bit more than he ever admitted to Ollie.
He acknowledged staying there when the weather was bad, as it often was in the mountains of Central Virginia, but the room looked more like an apartment than the large backroom of a video store. All that was missing was Ben’s laptop computer and Ollie knew he kept that with him at all times.
What was once primarily a storage room, was now equipped with a fold-out leather couch, TV, VCR, refrigerator and an expensive looking bookcase and storage unit and several easy chairs. The straight-backed chairs that Oliver intended to retrieve were pushed up against the wall, out of the way.
Oliver authorized expenditures for improvements to the store, but he didn't realize Ben’s improvements included furnishing the place as a cozy and expensive bachelor apartment.
Reaching over to turn up the thermostat, Oliver also took note of the neatly folded pile of blankets on the couch. Against his will, his thoughts turned to spending the evening with Sara in this secluded enclave of Ben’s. He knew that to act on those feelings was out of the question, in light of the fact that she didn’t know his real identity.
So immersed was he in conflicted thoughts about the woman of his dreams, that he didn’t hear her approach from behind.
“Oh, this looks like an apartment!” She exclaimed echoing his surprise. “Is this where you live, Kelly?”
Oliver couldn’t help but wince when she called him by his last name. Already regretting the lie, he sighed and started to attempt to explain the situation and get control of his wayward thoughts while he did so.
“No, I think my friend Ben did this. I’ve been away for a couple of months and it looks like he moved in here. I guess he stays here in bad weather or something,” Oliver finished with a shrug, then added, “I’ll get the chairs.”
Putting her hand on his arm to still him, Sara almost gasped at the strength she felt in the gentle young man’s arm. For some reason, she felt completely safe with him, even though they only just met.
“Wait, why don’t we watch the movie back here?” She suggested impulsively, then she looked down, feeling immediate guilt and longing for Ollie. Hoping Kelly wouldn’t get the wrong idea and think her too forward, she amended, “I was just thinking that it looks a lot more comfortable than sitting in the store, and it’s starting to snow outside – I think it’s warmer back here too, but we can sit out front if you want to.”
A surprised Oliver turned to look out the window. What had been a pouring rain was now a heavy snowstorm – not uncommon in this area.
Finally he answered by nodding and smiling. He knew he should be furious with Ben, but he wasn’t. On the contrary, he was delighted that his friend’s redecorating somehow led to this perfect evening alone with Sara. Oliver couldn’t ever remember feeling this happy just being with a woman or anyone else, and the feeling when she touched his arm was indescribably exciting.
“So, Ben is that guy who’s usually here?” She asked curiously, remembering the large friendly bear of a man who practically talked her ear off on her last visit to the store.
“Yeah, Ben’s my best friend, and apparently he’s an interior decorator on the side,” Oliver smirked, adding, “He runs the place really, when I’m gone.”
Sara chuckled, then frowned at the last part.
“Are you gone much?” She asked, her voice laced with disappointment at the idea that he might leave the area, and her. She knew she didn't have the right to feel that way, but she did.
Oliver’s spirits soared at the regret and abrupt change of mood even he could read in her voice.
‘She likes me,’ he thought happily, as he tried to think of a way to answer her question without lying or totally giving away his identity. The last thing he wanted to do was worry or upset Sara.
“I’ve had to travel a lot, but from now on, it’s really pretty much up to me,” he explained, adding for emphasis, “I don’t have to leave from now on if I don’t want to.”
Sara couldn’t conceal her delight as she smiled back at him.
There were so many questions swirling through Oliver’s head, things he couldn't bring himself to ask her in emails – personal questions, that he felt sure she would answer and he could finally get to know her better than he already did, from their Internet correspondence.
Motioning for her to sit down, he looked at the refrigerator.
“Ben probably has something to eat here and drink. Would you like something?”
“I’d love something to drink,” she said, smiling, then added, "like water or soda – I’m pretty thirsty.”
Opening the refrigerator, Oliver sighed again.
“He’s got beer and wine,” he said quietly. “Oh and ice cubes – so you could have ice water if you want. I’m sorry there isn’t more here.”
“Don’t worry,” Sara reassured him. “Wine’s fine. It’ll warm me up.”
‘I’d like to be the one to warm you up,’ Oliver thought, keeping his romantic thoughts to himself, as he took the wine out of the refrigerator and started searching for the glasses.
“So, you said you stayed longer at work than you thought. Do you work near here?” He asked, glancing back at her, wondering if she might work at UVA.
Sara frowned, remembering her ghastly day at work and the way Professor Miller humiliated her in front of the other Professors. She sadly recalled how she checked her email over and over again, hoping to find something from Ollie all day, only to be disappointed.
Somehow, all that hurt and disappointment seemed far away from where she was at the moment.
Gratefully taking the glass of white wine that he poured for her, she answered, “I work in the Registrar’s Office at the University of Virginia. Today was just a rotten all-around day. Everything that could go wrong, did and I couldn’t even email with my” She hesitated in describing Ollie, then settled on, “….best friend. It was horrible.”
“I’m sorry,” Oliver said sincerely, feeling guilty about being part of the cause of her disappointment, and at the same time happy that she referred to him as her best friend.
As he poured his own glass of wine, he turned to her and offered, “Is there any thing I can do to help?”
Sara took a tiny sip of her wine and smiled as he sat down next to her.
“You already have, just by being here,” she replied truthfully.
Continued in "Sara's Port, Ch. 13"