Cordel walked into Arlyn’s apartment and handed her a tea. They had been working together for over a month and Arlyn was finishing up with her fact gathering portion of her ghost writing. It would take her a month to six weeks to write the book, another month for edits and usually that was it. The life of a ghostwriter was faster than that of a traditional author. Less room for creative differences and more of a “you’re the boss” type of mentality.
“We should go outside,” said Cordel. “It’s beautiful out there.”
“There’s a nice little gazebo in the courtyard,” said Arlyn. “We could go there.”
“And leave your cave?” Cordel joked.
Arlyn laughed. The more that they had worked together and gotten to know each other the more he had teased her. “Even we hermits need vitamin D on occasion. Also it’s our last interview day, so let’s make it special.”
“I don’t want it to end,” said Cordel.
“Of course you don’t,” teased Arlyn. “You love talking about yourself. Though I have to admit you’re a pretty interesting guy. Come on let’s go outside.”
She gathered her tea, phone, and notebook and walked towards her patio. She could hear Cordel following her. She was fairly certain when he said he hadn’t wanted it to end, that he meant them seeing each other every day. If she were being honest she would admit that she would miss him, and more than just a little.
Shaking the thought away, she went out onto her patio and then through the patio gate that led to the courtyard.
Cordel let out a low whistle. “You mean to tell me that you’ve been hiding this gem from me when the whole time we could’ve been working out here. This is beautiful.”
Arlyn looked around the courtyard and couldn’t help but agree with Cordel. Bright colored flowers and dark green shrubs outlined the courtyard, that also boasted several large trees creating an abundance of shade over the luscious green grass. A crystal clear pool sat at the far corner of the courtyard, which Arlyn used just about every day, but in the center sat a large white gazebo surrounded by orange and yellow trumpet vines growing up the sides.
“The moment I saw this courtyard I knew this was the place for me,” said Arlyn, as she walked across the grass towards the gazebo. “The pool is always maintained, which allows me to continue my exercise schedule and I’m pretty sure the owner was a horticulturalist in a past life. She just seems to know what will grow where and how to keep it thriving. I, on the other hand, have a black thumb up to my elbow.”
“Not true,” said Cordel. “You kept the honeysuckle I gave you alive.”
Arlyn knew she was blushing as she remembered going to sleep with the small bud behind her ear, hoping to dream of Cordel as her true love … and she had. She not only dreamt of him, but of the perfect life they had together. In the dream, he had shown her a whole new world and she had shown him that it was okay to be still. They were very much opposites, but found their rhythm.
She felt her cheeks grow hotter as Cordel snapped her out of her day dream. “Sorry, I was just lost in thought for a minute.”
“About the honeysuckle?” asked Cordel.
She nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. I have been able to keep it alive. It’s a small miracle and I guess I hadn’t given it a lot of thought until now.”
Sitting at the patio table under the gazebo she was thankful for the cool breeze. Hopefully, it would help to ease the redness from her face and the thoughts of living happily ever after with Cordel. She had had a silly dream and that was all. The real world didn’t work that way, dreams seemed to lose all complications and reality wouldn’t let die.
“Shall we begin?” she asked as Cordel sat down.
He nodded and they began the final interview. Roughly three hours later, Arlyn closed her notebook and turned off her phone’s audio recorder. “That is it.”
“Interview portion of the Mr. Adventure pageant is over huh? Did I win the crown?” teased Cordel.
“If by crown you mean best seller, I’d hate to jinx it, but you’ve got a solid shot,” said Arlyn. “I’ve written a lot of books and this one has me more intrigued than most. You’ve lived an interesting life chasing big foot, Cordel Foster.”
“How long until you send the book to Molly?” asked Cordel.
“I’ve been writing this whole time, so I think I can get the rest of the rough draft to her in a couple of weeks,” answered Arlyn. “It’ll take her and the copy editor about a month to go through it. If they have anything that needs clarification they’ll let me know and I’ll let you know, but for the most part, our work is done… well until it comes out and then you’ll have to work the system to market it.”
“Okay,” said Cordel, with a smile. “So dinner at my place in two weeks.”
It wasn’t a question, Arlyn noted. “What?”
“We agreed to keep it professional until the book was out of our hands,” explained Cordel. “In two weeks, you’ll be finished with the rough draft and unless they need some context clarified the editors will handle the rest, correct?”
“That is usually how ghost writing works,” said Arlyn. “I don’t have a lot of pull in the final project, but I’ve never had to fight for a change or lack of one either. Molly is a great editor.”
“So, dinner in two weeks, my place.”
“I don’t think so,” said Arlyn. The truth was she really wanted to say yes. It had been beyond hard for her to not think of their kisses every time he came over and even harder not to beg for more. Those kisses had released something in Arlyn that made her crave more, but like her craving for carbs she had stifled it with work opposed to carrots.
“Why not?” asked Cordel. “We’ve spent just about every day for the past six weeks getting to know each other. Though it was my interview, we had conversations, some of the best conversations I’ve had in a long time, Arlyn. I want to get to know you better. I want to show you things and share future stories.”
“So call me,” said Arlyn with a shrug. “We can still be friends.”
Cordel stood. “I don’t want to be just friends and as nonchalant as you’re pretending to be, I don’t think you do either. That kiss meant something to me. Your lips on mine is what I’ve been holding on to in order to keep it professional.”
Arlyn stood. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
“Does this?” Cordel reached over, grabbed Arlyn around the waste and pulled her into a passionate kiss.
Arlyn felt herself sinking into Cordel’s arms as she embraced the kiss. Her lips caressed his as he pulled her tighter. The wind seemed to dance around them as they both surrendered into each other, as if the wait was finally over and now they could be free.
Arlyn shook her head as she backed away from the kiss and turned around. She wasn’t free. She couldn’t be with Cordel, she was shackled to her routine and if she broke those shackles then only embarrassment and heart ache would follow. The shackles kept her safe.
“Arlyn?” Cordel said softly.
She turned and started to gather her stuff. “You need to go.”
“Arlyn,” he said again, “just stop and look at me.”
“I’ll have Molly let you know when the book is ready for you to read and approve.” She started towards her apartment. “You can go through that breezeway and gate over there, it’ll be faster getting back to your car.”
She hurried towards her apartment and could hear Cordel walking behind her. She turned and stared him down.
He held up his hands in a peaceful gesture. “I left my phone on your table. I just need to get it.”
“Okay,” said Arlyn, relenting.
She walked through her patio and into her apartment. As she sat her stuff on the table she realized there was no cell phone sitting there.
“Don’t be mad,” said Cordel as he closed the patio door. “I just wanted to talk to you and I didn’t think this conversation needed to be had in the courtyard surrounded by your neighbors. I know how much you need your privacy.”
“There’s really nothing to talk about,” said Arlyn.
“I think there is,” said Cordel. “We have a connection. We have kept it platonic all this time, during the interview, but it was still there. We respected the business relationship, and yet that desire is still there. I felt it, Arlyn. Just now when we kissed. It wasn’t my imagination that you kissed me back … that you desire me too. Why can’t we see where this goes?”
“Molly has already lined up my next book,” said Arlyn quickly. She didn’t know that to be fact, usually Molly told her nothing until she was done with her current project so the voices of the people didn’t get mixed up in her head. Most often than not, Molly kept Arlyn busy with one project after another.
“People work and have relationships all the time,” said Cordel. “That’s a crap excuse and you know it. So why not give us a chance?”
“Because I’m not most people,” she snapped back. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
“Are you okay?” asked Cordel, concern dripping on every word. “Do you need to sit down?”
“I need you to leave,” said Arlyn, gripping the back of the couch.
“I just want the real reason you aren’t giving us a shot and then I’ll go,” said Cordel. He gave her a small smile and held up three fingers, “Boy Scout promise.”
“You really want the real reason?” asked Arlyn with a sigh, feeling her body growing tired. She needed him to leave. She needed to lay down. So she would have to tell him the truth. It was the only way.
“Yes,” said Cordel.
“We can’t be in a relationship because we are from two different worlds,” she started. “As I said, I’m a normal person. I depend on schedules and routine, where you … well you’re off traveling the world. You’re constantly on an adventure, whether you’re searching the rain forest or whether you’re at a fancy gala. There is never a dull moment in your life, where I thrive on them.”
“Our lives are different,” said Cordel. “That’s not an excuse to refuse to see where our lives together might work.”
“You will grow bored with me,” said Arlyn. “I can’t travel with you. I can’t go to parties with you. I can’t be with you the way you need someone to be with you. I’ll have to say no and you’ll start to resent it, then it will get ugly. So let’s just avoid all of that, shall we?”
Cordel rubbed his hand over his face. “Is that what you really think?”
“That is what I know,” said Arlyn.
Cordel shook his head. “After all this time, do you really think that little of me? That I would be unsympathetic to your needs and just throw you away because you aren’t tending to mine?”
Arlyn’s heart sank. She wanted to run into his arms and tell him no, that she knew him better than that. That he would never just throw her away, but she knew if she went there then he wouldn’t leave.
“Yes,” she said, her head high. “That’s what you do right? You forget I had to do a lot of research on you. I watched you show up with woman after woman, never staying with one very long. You used them, then once you were done, they were no longer in the picture. Well, you might be able to use those other women, but not me. I’m not going there.” She smirked. “But hey, I’m sure with the way you play the field, you’ll have someone else in your sights within the hour.”
She walked to the door and opened it. Cordel stared at her, mouth open, and she knew she had said the right thing to get him to leave.
She was right, without another word, he walked right out of the door.
Arlyn felt her whole body heave with despair. Her heart screamed at her to go into the hallway and beg for his forgiveness, to give him a chance, but her mind made her stay put. It hurt now, but she had done the right thing.Arlyn took deep breaths trying to steady her nerves. She wasn’t going to let him get to her, this had been her choice. She raised her head and took two steps toward the table. Her body seized, refusing to move. The last thing she remembered was falling towards the table and the grotesque sound of skull hitting connecting with a solid surface, before everything went black.
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