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Garland and Elias kept talking, quietly. So low in fact, that it became obvious to everyone that they wanted to speak in private.
When Sheila and the other interns stood, Freedy joined them. Sheila walked over to him and they drifted toward the books. He tried to keep his eyes on the bookshelves rather than on her. He'd never been so attracted to anyone in his life, and he was afraid it was showing. Not crudely showing, but in his face and his posture.
She took him by the arm, and her hand slid casually down to his hand, while she gave him a tour of the library.
"Elias has an amazing First Editions science-fiction section," she said. Freedy made an appreciative sound -- he mostly read mysteries these days, but when he was younger it had been almost exclusively S.F. or fantasy.
The wine was wearing off a little, and Freedy was starting to become tongue tied. Sheila didn't seem to notice and kept carrying the bulk of the conversation. Still, he couldn't keep from yawning.
"Oh! You're probably really tired after all the traveling. Come on, I'll lead you to your room."
They were quiet now, but it wasn't uncomfortable. She stood right next to him on the elevator, and he fought not to take her in his arms. He still couldn't believe she was interested in him. He was out-of-shape, chubby even. He never thought of himself as boring and stuffy, but compared to her he realized he was. Not to mention, she was getting a doctorate in Mathematics! He was the idle pretend-rich.
He followed her, without paying much attention to the route, and before he knew it, they were standing at his door.
"Well, goodnight," she said. She didn't move, though. Just stood there alluringly, looking at him out of the corner of her eyes.
He made a small movement toward her, which was mirrored, and then another, which was also mirrored, until there was no denying it and they were kissing.
It seemed totally natural, and he couldn't help but moan, which kind of echoed in both their heads. She laughed, taking her mouth away but staying within his arms.
"Sorry!" he exclaimed.
"Don't be," she said. "I loved it. So...I'll see you tomorrow, O.K.?"
Freedy felt downcast -- not because she was breaking off contact -- he understood that, wasn't sure he could handle the excitement himself. No, he felt desolate because he was going to be leaving in the morning. He doubt he'd be extended another invitation to the Cozy Cottage. He might never see her again.
As if reading his mind, she put a soft hand on his cheek. "Don't worry. It'll all work out."
He thought he wouldn't be able to sleep, but he fell to dreaming immediately, with her smiling face in his thoughts.
He woke to banging at his door. He stumbled naked to the door, then thought better of it and drew on his pants and a t-shirt.
It was Steve, looking annoyed. "Get up, man! We're heading out!" He was back in his miner clothes, jeans and flannel shirt with red suspenders. He was staring down at a piece of scrap paper. "I swear, it took me an hour to find you even with this crude map!"
He muttered and wandered off.
Freedy was dressed and packed before he realized he had no idea which direction to head. Downward, he thought. There were small flights of stairs everywhere and eventually he found himself in the kitchen, with the morning help staring at him as if he was an intruder. He apologized and went out into the dining hall.
There was a buffet set on a sideboard, and Jim and Jay were still eating. He watched them for a moment. Both of them had heaping plates of sausages and bacon -- both were eating ravenously. Strange, Freedy thought, that Jim keeps the pounds on, whereas Jay's calories seemed to disappear.
He kept hoping that Sheila would show up, but after Jim and Jay left and he heard banging doors near the front of the house, he realized he couldn't delay any further.
The yellow van was parked at the base of the steps, with the Miata behind it. Garland was standing impatiently by the door to the car, while the miners were loading the last bit of supplies into the trailer.
Freedy stomped down the steps gloomily. He wanted to stay, and yet he also knew that if Sheila was interested in him, and that still seemed impossible this morning, it was because he was involved in an interesting enterprise. Good old staid, boring Freedy wouldn't hold any interest for her. Damned if he did and damned if he didn't.
He started toward the passenger seat of the Miata.
"Where you going?"
He whirled with a huge smile and she was standing there in front of him, wearing tight leather pants and a levi jacket. Looking unbelievably sexy with the morning light shining in her blond hair.
"I ride with Garland," he said, not thinking.
"Not today you aren't!" She turned and whistled at Steve and Sam, who were mounting their Harleys. They sauntered over, curious.
"One of you boys let me drive your Harley," she said.
Both Steve and Sam looked indignant, and then Steve was looking at the two of them with a kind of askance bemusement, and he handed over the keys. He walked toward the Miata, whistling.
She motioned for Freedy to follow and went over to the motorcycle. It seemed taller than she was, but she swung on board as if she knew what she was doing and patted the seat behind her.
"Hop on board, Freedy. I'm coming with..."
6 days ago