Between octobers bk 1, savor the days series (page 4)

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“So, your name is . . .”

“My friends call me Evan. The other—Rhys—Iuse for work. Keeps my life separate so I can breathe.”

“You’re so jaded. ‘Wait until we’ve finishedeating to tell people.’” My mock was laughable.

“I had to.” He leaned across the table andspoke low. “She might have ratted me out, otherwise. You have boys.You’ve no idea how some girls can get.”

I theatrically bit my fingernails andwaited.

He sighed. “What do you want to know?”

“You’re an actor?”

“That is what they tell me.”

“You could have told me, you know. But Iprobably wouldn’t have believed you. You don’t look famous.”

His eyebrows rose. “Really? What does a‘famous’ person ‘look’ like?”

I shrugged. “My ideas are probablystereotypical. What kind of movies do you make?”

“Hopefully, the good kind.”

“Do you like them?”

“Eh, they pay well enough.”

He didn’t want to talk about it, but Ipersisted. “How many have you been in?”

“A few.” I waited. “Mostly what they call‘teen horror.’ They call me The King. King of what, I’d like toknow.” His tone implied contempt for the label. I must have lookedconfused because he explained. “They’re more psychologicalthrillers, targeted at a teen audience. Propaganda, really. Nothingtoo deep or engrossing. PG-13 stuff. It’s a series of films which,thankfully, ended last year. More recently, I’m working againstbeing typecast.”

I nodded, deciding to drop the shop talkbecause he seemed irritated. But I had to know one minor detail.“Is everyone so weird around you?”

He laughed. “It’s women, girls mostly. It’sridiculous. Have you ever tried to talk with someone who doesnothing but mindlessly scream at you?”

“One-sided conversation?”

He laughed, opening his mouth wide andshowing off a set of flawless, perfectly white teeth. “Exactly.It’s bizarre.” His strong brow furrowed, looking genuinelyperplexed. “When they actually speak, it’s loud, almost alwaysinvasive. It’s this creepy . . . veneration, a falsehood deemeddivine. They don’t know me, yet try to kiss me or propose marriage,and almost always grab at me. And from time to time theirboyfriends want to kick my ass.” He paused when I gasped. “It’salways awkward when met outside of the realm of an organized event.I expect it, then.”

His gaze shifted to the left. “You see thosegirls over there?” He gingerly raised one finger set in the generaldirection. “Don’t look.”

“How am I supposed to see?”

He indicated with a slight tilting of hishead. “Be casual about it.” I turned again and he scoffed, “Oh,that really needs work.”

Decidedly ignoring the superior criticism, Icaught a glimpse of the intended group—there was at least five. Allaround thirteen, maybe fifteen—and turned back. “I’m no good atstealth?”

His corresponding smile was short-lived. “Ifany of them recognize me, we have to leave. Experience with thatage group tells me one or two may be fine for about five minutes.Any more than that and things get quite hairy, very quickly, and Idon’t have security with me. Even if they’re civil, they text likemad and before you know it, the place is crawling with maniacalpubescents.”

“Maniacal?”

“Frothing at the mouth.”

“The distance from abashed to boastful isvery short, indeed.”

He raised one eyebrow.

The server interrupted with our food andasked Evan to sign a paper menu. He complied, thanking her again ina way that politely closed the possibility of further interruption.She scurried off to her work station but did not look away.

I bowed my head and closed my eyes for asplit-second and Evan was almost finished with his burger. As soonas the first bite of salad was in my mouth, he asked aquestion.

“Where’s your husband?” I noticed his gazewas fixed on my naked finger.

I felt the oppressive weight of the pastyear come over me and struggled to chew. “He died.”

“How?” The question bouncedout.

“Car accident—one year ago, today.”

“I assumed you were divorced. I should haveguessed. It’s obvious.”

I acknowledged with a nod before I reallyheard. “Wait, what’s obvious?”

“The dearth,” he smiled gently. “It’s inyour eyes and on your shoulders.” He gestured to my slumpingposture. “I know how heavy it can be. My mother died when I wassixteen—cancer.” He looked down at his plate.

What followed was silent understanding. Wewere reluctant members of a survivors club. Eventually, theunderstanding built into another conversation. I talked about mylove of nursing, and my boys when he asked. Evan wondered why Idrove a car older than he was.

“The eighty-six is a classic,” I teased, andthen gave the truth. “It was Sol’s first car and I can’t bringmyself to get rid of it. Maybe Noah will get it one day.”

Evan kept track of everyone—the nervousbehavior became progressively evident as we ate. When I took a swigof water, his head snapped from one side to the other beforeturning to me.

“Are you finished?”

I set my fork down. “Do you want toleave?”

He smiled in a soft, strange way. “We’retoast, dear.”

He tapped the table with a pointed finger—mysilent instruction to search. I turned my eyes towards the samegroup he referred to earlier. Instead of them talking casuallyamongst themselves like before, their faces were all keyed up. Somewere whispering, while others held their phones in our direction.Two of the young girls were very clearly making plans and dialing.Calling their friends, just like he’d said they would. A thirdlooked to be texting. A few started to approach, then others filedin behind. The group had tripled in size, with more coming intoview from around a corner—all frantically looking around untiltheir eyes landed on him. My stomach plunged, seeing the voraciousairs of hunger. He was toast.

As I snatched my purse from the table, Evantossed some wadded bills onto the plates. We dashed away in theopposite direction.

“Come on,” I pulled him up alongside me. Themuseum had a strictly enforced safety policy of no running in thecorridors. But right then, with no security in sight, I started tojog.

“Put this on.” I yanked off my blackbaseball cap and handed it to him. He smirked, adjusted the Velcrobacking, and set it on his head. As we rounded another corner, hetook off his sweatshirt. I glanced back in time to see two girlshad made their way around the last corner. We had a good lead onthem, but my hair color stood out.

“This way,” I flung the heavy blue door opento inspect the area. It appeared to be empty, so I took a few moresteps to look under the stalls to be sure. My calls echoed in theempty space. No feet and no answer. I turned around to speak withEvan, to explain the next part of my plan, and discovered I wasalone. Flying back to the restroom door, I pulled it open to findhim standing in the hall, looking dejected.

“Get in here!” I grabbed his hoodedsweatshirt and hauled him into the ladies’ bathroom.

He turned his worried eyes on me andrelaxed. Then, noticed where I was leading.

“You realize they’re all girls, right?”

“No one’s in here, I checked. Get into thestall over there and put your legs up, those are obvious guy feet.”Huge, black sneakers. I pointed to the first stall. Statistically,it was supposed to be the one used the least often. He wasn’tmoving fast enough so I shoved him in, smushing myself inbehind.

“Up, up,” I instructed.

He set his feet on the toilet seat andgrunted a little, adjusting to the small space. There was no tankto sit on so he had to squat, setting his hands on the walls forbalance. I closed and locked the door behind us.

“I thought you didn’t believe me.”

Even facing the door, I knew there was agloating grin on his face. When I turned, it was obvious he wasn’texpecting it. His eyes floated up to meet mine a second too late. Ipulled the back of my sweatshirt down.

“I didn’t, but when I saw theirfaces—they’ll eat you alive and bury me in the desert.”

“Why the ladies’ lavatory?”

The question was simple enough to answer,but the context of delivery made me want to burst with laughter. Itwas tough, but I suppressed it. We were expecting visitors anysecond. “The men’s room will be the first place they check.”

“Why not make a mad dash to the parkinglot?”

“If they’re not already out there, they willbe.”

“What makes you the expert?”

“I used to stalk the New Kids on the Block.”I smiled sheepishly, totally dating myself.

“Did they ever hide in the men’s room?”

“I would have found them if they did.”

He relaxed a little, though still clearly onedge—in more ways than one. I almost choked on my chuckle.

“You mind if I smoke?”

“What is it with you and smoking in confinedspaces?” I teased, turning back towards the door.

“I’ll share . . .” he offered, as if totempt me.

A dull thump caught my attention.

“Shh . . .” I pressed my ear against thedoor.

Evan was frozen, perched on the ring of thetoilet seat with his arms stretched between the partitions of thestall. If it weren’t for the breathing, he could have passed for awax figure. Then I noticed the beads of sweat forming around histemples.

“Don’t worry,” I whispered.

He was so self-conscious with the waitress.Every word of praise rolled right off. I don’t think he waslistening to most of what she said. He was looking at hissurroundings, trying to prevent further disruption. He had to haveknown this was a possibility—well, probably not this specificsituation—when he decided to bring me the phone, but he brought itto me anyway.

My stomach twisted in knots at the approachdrumming of feet. It sounded like thunder, getting louder as thedistance between us and the pursuing storm decreased. The main doorcreaked and the muffled racket became clear and loud. A group ofyoung girls stopped in front of the mirror. Judging by the topicsof discussion, it was the same troupe that spotted us in the foodcourt.

I stepped back, supposing my feet should benearest the spot they’d usually set when a person was doing theirbusiness.

Evan was as white as a sheet. I mouthed areassurance, but he just looked past me at the crack in the door,then moved to hide his head behind mine.

Multiple conversations were going on; allcentered on Evan, or Rhys, rather. One girl gushed over two othersthat were brave enough to search the men’s room. I looked back toEvan. He covered his mouth, hiding a smile. Another exchange was afocused strategy session.

The other girls arrived, fresh from theirsearch of the men’s room with nothing to report. One remarked thatshe was texting her friends in the parking lot. A second teencommented that the girl from the café must have been wrong. Anotherchimed in, insisting she was sure she saw Rhys Matthews with herown eyes. He was her favorite actor, she had seen all his moviesand every interview he had ever done, and she would know himanywhere because she was his biggest fan.

They decided to coordinate efforts usingtheir phones and divided into smaller groups to search differentexits and areas of the parking lot, but time was of the essence.They all agreed to text if one of them spotted the black SUV he wasknown to travel in, and search for his driver as well.

As they were about to take flight, one girlentered the stall next to us. The partition shook when she slammedthe door, complaining she forgot to bring tampons. Others laughedas she begged someone to search their pockets for change to get onefrom the wall dispenser.

My eyes shrank in a hidden glare. I reachedinto my bag and took out two, holding them under the separatingwall between us and the menstruating minor.

“Here you go,” I whispered, waving my handto grab her attention.

“Oh, thanks!” A pleased voice responded.

“You’re welcome.”

The sounds around us dissolved into aconcentrated silence. I could tell from the look of reproach onEvan’s face, my presence was not as soothing as it should havebeen. We were supposed to be hiding; instead, I was going to givehim away with my feminine hygiene products.

Sweat ran down his temples as I imagined theworst. If one of the tiny sleuths were to slide her head under thepartition and spot him, he would be caught inside the ladies’ room,sharing a stall with a woman, surrounded by a bunch of underagegirls. How could I have thought the bathroom was a good hidingplace?

“I still say it wasn’t him.” A voice brokethe dreadful hush.

Several girls rebuffed the remark,simultaneously arguing that they would know him anywhere because of. . . and then they started naming specific body parts. The firstfew, I completely agreed with. He had a gorgeous face, killer hairand smile, and a sexy walk. But the list went on, becomingridiculously long and pornographic. They described, with cringingdetail, certain acts—illegal acts because of their age—they wereeager to engage in, should they get the opportunity. Some of theexpressions they used, I’d never even heard of. I didn’t have thecourage to look back and gauge his reaction. I was pretty sure he’drather I didn’t. So, I stayed still and prayed they’d justleave.

Others urged the girl in the stall to hurrywith the threat of being left behind. Some left, undeterred.Finally, there was a flush and the vague shadow of two feetsprinted from the adjoining stall. Water turned on. A second later,the pattering of feet carried into the distance, along with thesound of their voices.

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