“You know, no matter how hard you stare at me, I can’t actually read your mind.” Casey said without looking at her as they meandered down the trail.
It was still early enough that they were nearly alone except for the occasional jogger or bicyclist that zoomed by. The day promised to soar into the mid eighties later though, so Sylvie had dressed for the heat in cut off shorts that rose to mid thigh and a short sleeved shirt with Molly’s logo on it that Lily had designed for the bar a while ago.
The sheer heat and intensity that had flared in his eyes when he saw her standing in his doorway still threatened to take her breath away at the mere memory. Part of her was grateful that he had suggested going out, because if they had stayed in the apartment then she would have jumped him, and while Foster would be ecstatic that she had finally taken her advice, they both needed to be rational and clear headed before indulging again.
She had thought that being with Antonio and maybe Cruz had prepared her, but even they had been flat liners in comparison to the man walking quietly next to her, and once again she found herself in the position of being not quite sure how to respond to him.
“Sorry,” she apologized finally, flushing as he glanced at her. “Just, I’m trying to wrap my mind around things, and I can’t seem to.” He snickered and she nudged him, strangely comforted by the teasing sound. “Don’t let this go to your head, but you can be quite overwhelming when you want to be, Matt.”
She was disconcertingly honest when she was flustered, he noted, filing the information away for future. He liked it; liked her like this, sweet and off balance. He was so used to watching her work on the job, practical and efficient, that it gave him a bit of a heady rush, knowing that he was the cause.
“I will take full credit and responsibility for that, anytime.”
Her eyes widened, recognizing the smug male tone. “That was not a challenge, Matt Casey.” His answering slow smirk made her huff.
“More of a personal goal to surpass, every single time,” he mused thoughtfully, laughing as she shoved him again.
“I’m serious,” she complained, though she couldn’t help the reluctant smile. “Casey, in the space of 24 hours we have gone from coworkers and friends, to…whatever this is,” she waved her hand between them in exasperation.
“Don’t forget almost engaged.”
“Oh, let’s not forget the thing that triggered this whole…sequence of events in the first place!” She exclaimed, turning to face him and throwing her hands up in the air, working up to a fine snit. “You said last night that no matter what happens that our friendship and ‘the way I feel about you’ won’t change.” She paused expectantly, waiting for a response, but he just watched her quietly. “You want to clarify some on that, Casey? Because there’s a whole lot to unpack in there that I might be totally reading wrong –“
She was wearing sneakers instead of her favored short boots, so he had to bend down a bit to cover her mouth with his, interrupting whatever else she might have said. They were alone for the moment on the path, but he remained mindful of their surroundings, limiting himself to one taste, although he couldn’t help sliding his hands into her back jean pockets, his fingers curling slightly in reflex before releasing.
She jerked away, though his deliberate grip didn’t let her go far, licking her lips and trying desperately to maintain her mad. “Matt Casey you cannot kiss me every time you want me to stop talking!”
“How else am I supposed to get a word in otherwise?” He replied, all innocence and dancing blue eyes. “As to how I feel about you…Sylvie, you’re one of my best friends, and I believe that we could become something incredible together without sacrificing that friendship. Can’t that be enough for now?”
She couldn’t help the perverse flash of disappointment, though logically she knew sudden confessions of love and forever only happened in the movies. It wouldn’t even be plausible, especially since she had no idea what her response would be if he had actually confessed to stronger feelings.
Wow, he had scrambled her brain more than she thought, with the way her emotions were swinging back and forth. Sighing gustily, she let her forehead thump into his chest. “Ow.” She felt the soft rumble of his laughter. “I don’t know why I’m being so wishy washy about this,” she mumbled without lifting her head. “Is this what it’s like for other normal couples?”
Casey snorted, rubbing her back and shoulders soothingly as she draped her arms around his waist. “My current examples of ‘normal’ couples include Severride and Kidd and Herrmann and Cindy, so my research data is understandably skewed,” he replied wryly. “And while I loved both Hallie and Gabby, in both cases we skipped over a lot – most, actually – of the so called ‘normal’ couple milestones that others take for granted, so we definitely didn’t fit under that label either. Dating and flirting and dinner parties. There was always something bigger than us that interfered, even after Gabby and I got married, and that always became the focus and common goal keeping us together. Anytime that we didn’t have an outside distraction, where it was just us, we fell apart.”
Sylvie was silent as he voiced some hard truths to her that he hadn’t admitted to anyone else, including himself.
“But with you…Sylvie, we’ve gone through some big, life changing things over the past few months, and it didn’t overwhelm or take over our friendship.” He shrugged, slightly self-conscious now as he glanced at her with a hint of vulnerability. “I’d like to think that it actually brought us closer.”
She nodded slowly. “It has. You’ve become my rock,” she admitted honestly. “I have no idea what I would have done – or what I would do – without you to talk to.”
“And that’s not going to change,” he said fiercely. “You’re stuck with me no matter what.” Taking a breath, he deliberately relaxed, softening the pledge with a playful smirk. “There’s just going to be a lot more kissing and…other things now too.”
When he put it that way, all of her misgivings and over thinking seemed a bit, not silly because they were valid emotions, but inconsequential. This was still Matt Casey, who she trusted with her life and had immediately trusted with her body, without hesitation. It was just her heart that was a bit reluctant to join the fray, but that was okay too, she decided. She had rushed with Antonio, plodded along with Kyle. Maybe with Casey she could finally find a balance in her relationship that fit them both.
She was silent for a long moment before her lips curved slowly. “Not everything has to move at the speed of Severride, Matt,” She finally replied wryly, startling a laugh out of him. “I wouldn’t call any of my relationships normal either, if we’re being totally honest. I already gave you an emotional run down last night, which was dirty pool, Casey – were you genuinely interested, or just gathering intel?”
Busted. He grinned unrepentantly. “Are you going to yell at me if I say both? It’s working out for us so far, and I did say that someone should learn and benefit from their mistakes.”
Sylvie shook her head at him, trying to hide her smile. ”Well, without emotionally vomiting on you all over again, I tend to attract guys who either don’t want to or simply can’t commit, and therefore are just going through the motions physically, mentally and emotionally because they’ve already put an expiration date on our relationship.”
She grimaced at the knowing look in his eyes, not needing to speak Antonio’s name out loud. “Or I get the ones who are the extremes, too cautious and treating me like a pampered princess, or immediately going physical because they don’t want me to focus on the emotional and mental.” She let a hint of her rueful smile show. “I suddenly have a lot more empathy for Goldilocks now. So I don’t mind feeling our way along, Casey. Enjoy the journey and learn how to be a normal couple together. Whatever that even means.”
She hesitated for a moment before deliberately stepping forward, sliding her hands up to his shoulders and then to the nape of his neck as she stretched up on her toes to kiss him, feeling him smile against her lips. It was the first time she had consciously made the first move and she relaxed into it, luxuriating in being surrounded by his strength and warmth and feeling ridiculously feminine and sexy and wanted. “Okay,” she managed breathlessly, pulling away long enough to rest her forehead against his. “I’m convinced.”
“Are you sure? Because I have a whole list of – “
“Take yes as an answer, Matt.” She laughed as he picked her up and twirled her in an exuberant circle before kissing her soundly again.
“You’re mine now,” he murmured against her mouth, his eyes sparkling with happiness and warmth. “Now there’s definitely no going back.”
She smiled softly, running her fingers over his jaw as her heart skipped a beat. “For better or for worse, you’re mine just as much as I am yours, Matt Casey.”
For most new couples she supposed that that moment would have been a signal for them to return back home for some privacy, but apparently she and Casey weren’t going to be ‘most couples’, because after one more peck to her forehead they resumed walking in contented silence.
The food trucks lining the walkway heralded the start of the section reserved for the farmer’s market and summer art faire, with Mama Garcia’s cheerfully bright orange taking pride of position up front.
“I’ll go get the food, you go find us a seat?” Casey suggested, eyeing the nearly full seating areas.
“Or, I go with you and buy for once, and then we eat as we walk back to the truck,” Sylvie countered in amusement, having expected his suggestion. “I bet most people started at the market and art faire, and are now heading this way for lunch. I don’t need fresh flowers that badly.”