Part one of her plan – survive the rest of shift – actually went without a hitch. The shower helped, and Gallo and Ritter had cobbled together another meal for her and Foster, which also helped to restore energy far more than a cat nap would have. The excessive number of calls had died down as well by the time 61 was put back in service, so everyone was able to relax a bit for the rest of the night and through to the next morning.
Casey caught up with Brett as she was walking out, shortening his stride slightly to match hers. “Did you want to go to Rockford today, or tomorrow?”
She squinted up at him with a wry smile. “Have I gotten so predictable then, that you would just assume that I wanted to go right away?” She teased, nudging him.
“Maybe I just know you,” he replied lightly. “You aren’t going to be able to relax until you go. You know it, and I know it. So what time should I pick you up?”
“Don’t know if I like being that predictable,” she mock grumbled. “11:30 work?”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll find some new way to surprise me,” he flashed her a grin, drawing her gaze involuntarily to his mouth.
She wondered if her leaning up and tasting that laughter, kissing that smile right off of his face, would qualify as surprising him. And that was so not a line of thought that she wanted to pursue when she was going to be alone with him in a vehicle.
“And yes, 11:30 works. See you in a few hours,” he continued, oblivious, splitting off from her to stride over to his truck.
She watched him drive away, fighting the urge to bury her face in her hands. “Oh, I’m in so much trouble…”
He was true to his word, and part two of her plan – survive a car ride with Matt Casey in close quarters – was underway, for better or for worse.
They were in his truck, since he had offered to drive. IT was marginally better than her car, but the subtle scent of smoke, cedar, and sawdust still filled her senses. She lasted a whole three minutes before she indulged herself and breathed deeply, immediately cracking her window afterwards to clear her head – and cool her flushed cheeks.
“You okay?” Casey asked, glancing over to where she was now staring resolutely out the window.
“Yeah, just trying to wake up,” she replied, closing the window. She didn’t offer anything else, and they lapsed into comfortable silence with the radio playing quietly. They were well outside of Chicago city limits when she spoke again.
“You know, finding my birth mom wasn’t even on my radar a month ago,” she mused, still watching the scenery outside. “Now here I am, and my whole life is about to change.”
“It doesn’t have to, “Casey countered, causing her to turn and frown at him. “Things only have to change if you want them to.” He knew she resented the out of control feeling that she had had since the adoption intermediary had first contacted her. “You’re still in control here, Sylvie. I can turn this truck around right now.” He nodded at an upcoming exit. “That exit has a diner that makes the best burgers and milkshakes in Illinois, along with a secret sauce that McDonald’s can only imitate, never replicate.” He saw her reluctant smile out of the corner of his eye. “But I’ve never known you to back down from a challenge.”
Warmth filled her at the sheer confidence and belief in his voice even as she grimaced. Darn him for knowing just what to say as always, she thought ruefully. “As delicious as those milkshakes and burgers sound, maybe we’ll stop on the way back,” she temporized, seeing his brief proud grin flash. “I know that I’m in control. Just…now my perception of her has changed.” Feeling his questioning glance, she reluctantly elaborated, “When I was younger, maybe 5 or 6, I went through a serious Disney Princess phase, and I used to imagine that my parents were…British Royals.”
“Seriously?” Casey snorted with laughter, his eyes bright with mirth as he double checked his GPS and followed the directions off of the freeway.
“Yeah. I had a very active imagination,” she laughed at the memory. “And it was about the time that Princess Diana and Prince Charles got married, and she was beautiful and had blonde hair and blue eyes like me. Both of my parents have sandy hair and hazel eyes, although my younger brother the weirdo has blonde hair and brown eyes.” She sent him a teasing smirk as he rolled his eyes. “Anyway, I could at least control my perception of her. “Now I can’t.”
Casey pulled up to the curb and shut off the engine. “Then let’s replace perception with solid reality once and for all,” he said quietly, nodding at the house behind her.