She slid behind the wheel of her car, trying to calm her shaking hands. It was nearly an hour before she was supposed to pick up Chris. If she had stayed in the apartment, she would have talked herself out of going or she would have been forced to discuss the date with Becky. Two options that she didn’t want to entertain. She usually drove like a bat out of hell, so she was doing everything within her power to make the trip to Sudbury below the speed limit.
Her brain went into overdrive as she got closer to his house. He was currently staying with his mom; in the house, he grew up in. She also knew that his sister and her family lived there, too. Which meant there would be plenty of eyes on her when she picked him up. Suddenly, she wished she could be one of those people who just pulled into the driveway and honked, just waiting for her date to come to the car. Luckily, she had dressed to impress, or at least she had hoped she had dressed to impress. You only get one chance to make a first impression. She had already met Lisa, but since they had a bit of a falling out, she hoped this might be a chance at redemption. The opinions of the rest of the family were important as well, if they didn’t like her, her chances with Chris would be gone.
She had dressed in a white Oxford shirt with a knee-length black pencil skirt with micro polka dots and a gray flannel cardigan with trim matching the skirt. She elected to wear gray flannel pumps and a chunky black necklace to pull the outfit together. She partly feared that she looked like she was going to business dinner versus a date; she hadn’t used the word ‘date’ with Chris so she wasn’t sure they were even on the same page for tonight.
She arrived in Sudbury around 6:30, too early to go to the house. She drove around, wasting time and gas, getting a feel for the town that he called home. Finally, at 6:45 she pulled onto his street. She didn’t want to park in front of the house since she was early, she was down the block. She killed the lights, turned off the car and figured she would pull into his drive right before seven, he would never know the difference. She had only been sitting there a second or two when her text message alert chimed.
“It’s too cold to sit in the car, I’m ready, pull down the block & come in.”
“Fuck!” She’d been seen; so much for trying to be smooth! She didn’t respond to the text, she just started the car and slowly drove down the street and pulled into the drive. She turned off the car, let out a deep breath, opened the car door and stepped out. She had not made it very far when the front door opened, and Chris walked out to greet her. He took her breath away. He was wearing a dark charcoal suit with a light gray shirt, the top buttons were undone, and he was not wearing a tie. He was stunning, it was a good thing she didn’t have to speak, she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to find her voice.
He smiled warmly, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you. My nephew was watching the street for cars, he was so excited to meet my date. He saw you pull up and was confused as to why you stopped down the road,” his eyes danced as he spoke to her. It wasn’t lost on her that he had referred to her as his date.
She kept her head down, but she couldn’t hide her smile, “I was so scared that I would be late, I ended up being really early,” she let out a nervous laugh.
“Oh, you don’t need to apologize. I’ve been ready for a while, I guess you could say I was a little nervous, too,” he reached for her hand, “How about coming in and meeting everyone?” She smiled, starting the walk up the sidewalk and being lost in the feeling of her hand in his, she was surprised at how comfortable she actually seemed to be. As they reached the door, he turned to her, “You look fantastic, don’t be nervous, just be yourself. You already know Ma, so this will be easy.”
She let out a nervous laugh, “Well, you are quite dashing this evening, I must say,” taking a deep breath, she squeezed his hand, “I can’t help but feel nervous, you intimidate me, so does your family.”
Chris squeezed her hand back, giving her a reassuring smile, then opened the front door. The first person to greet them was his nephew, Miles. He smiled, waved, and immediately ran towards the family room laughing. As Chris led her into the room, she noticed his family lined up, waiting for them to enter. The first thought racing through her mind was that she was about to face the firing squad.
Chris took over and did the formal introductions, first Shanna, Scott, and then Carly and her husband Ryan. Each one of them shook her hand, smiled, and offered a polite greeting. The kids, Ethan, Miles, and Stella were very excited to see Chris and meet his date. Following the introductions, Carly spoke out, “It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Chris has told us quite a bit about you.”
Harper began to blush, “Oh, I can’t imagine what he’s told you,” she glanced over at him, and he smiled back at her, “It is my pleasure to meet all of you, though.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve been nice, filled them in on Aiden, too,” he motioned to a chair, prompting her to take a seat.
The air in the room was full of tension, but everyone made polite small talk. They asked about Aiden, how he was doing and questioned his love for a particular superhero. It was not lost on Harper that Lisa was not joining the conversation. Instead, she was sitting back and observing. Harper felt like she was under a microscope and was pretty sure she was failing whatever test she was unwittingly taking.
It didn’t go unnoticed by Chris either. He watched Harper carefully, she was starting to get a little uncomfortable, so he figured he should rescue her. “What time did you make our dinner reservation for?” He asked while checking his watch.
“Um, I made them for 7:30, why, what time is it?”
“It’s 10 after, didn’t you say dinner was in Concord?” Harper nodded her head in acknowledgment, “Then we best get going,” he stood up, offering his hand to her to assist her out of the chair.
As they made their way to the front door, Harper turned back towards everyone and waved, “It was very nice meeting you all this evening. Thank you for your hospitality.”
Chris gave her a broad smile, then looked at his family, “Don’t wait up, guys!” He opened the door and walked her out on the front porch into the cool, crisp air. He noticed she let the breath he wasn’t aware she had been holding, “Hey, are you alright?”
“Who me? Oh, yeah, I’m good. Just nervous, I was afraid I would end up saying the wrong thing to someone. They scared the hell out of me, Chris,” she let out a nervous laugh.
“You did great, they all seemed to like you, so nothing to be worried about. And don’t worry, the firing line will be smaller when you meet my dad and his family,” he smiled and gave her hand a squeeze. They started walking toward the car. Chris looked at her and with a sweet smile asked, “Where are the keys?”
“Why do you want them?” She asked playfully.
“So, I can drive to dinner,” he said in a sing-song voice.
She held out the keys in front of her, “Isn’t it okay that I drive? Or is that too unconventional for you?” There was a devilish smile in her voice and in her eyes.
“Oh it isn’t unconventional, but I would rather be in control,” he took the keys from her hand, bent down to nip at her ear. She visibly shuddered, he couldn’t help but enjoy it. He walked her over to the passenger side of the car, opening the car door for her.
“You are playing dirty, Mr. Evans.”
“I had to break the tension somehow,” he offered as he shut the door, the walked around to the driver’s side, lowering himself into the car, “So, where are we headed for dinner?”
“I made reservations at 80 Thoreau; do you know where that is?”
“I do; I’ve wanted to go there because I’ve heard great things about it. How in the world did you finagle a reservation? Isn’t the waiting list a long one?”
Harper began to blush, “Well, I did sort of use your name in the hopes that they could make room for Captain America.”
He let out a hearty laugh, “Wow, looks like you like to take control as well my dear.”
“Yeah, I can play dirty when I need to.”
They drove the short distance from Sudbury to the to the unassuming train depot in Concord. While Harper knew the address for the restaurant, she didn’t realize where it was located. There was no sign to speak of, she was actually afraid they might be in the wrong place; but as they walked toward the front of the building, she saw the trademark blue door announcing the location. The opened the door, ascending the stairs to the dining area.
They were met at the top of the stairs, led to a small table near the large picture window that overlooked the rails. The decor was impeccable, the open view to the kitchen was something she had never seen before. It was no wonder this place was hard to get a reservation for; the dining space was small, and the bar space was more conducive to mingling with no tables for dining.
“This place is fantastic; I’ve heard wonderful things about the food. Thank you for getting us in,” Harper smiled as they were settling in, reviewing their menu.
“Yeah don’t mention it, I didn’t really do much,” he smiled back, hoping she caught the sarcastic reference to her using his name for the reservation. She did.
“You know, actually, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that. I got a little carried away.”
“No apology necessary, I actually think it’s funny that you expected it to work! Or maybe I should say ‘thank you’ since now I know it works, I can use the trick more often.”
“Well, I wanted us to have a nice dinner, I thought this would be ideal,” she glanced at her menu and the wine selection, “I’m honestly not much of a wine drinker, so if you’d like a bottle, I’ll leave the choice up to you. Not sure I’d really know what to order.”
He smiled and ordered a bottle when the waiter returned; Harper loved his confidence in his selection and could not take her eyes off of him. “So, is there anything on the menu that looks particularly tasty?”
“Several things, but do you think we could talk a little before ordering?” He nodded his head and she went on, “I’d like to talk about the other day, you know about Max and the things you said.”
“And the kiss I gave you?” He raised his eyebrows and smiled at her as he spoke the words.
She blushed, “Yeah, and the kiss you gave me,” she began to fidget with her napkin, trying to work up the nerve to speak, “It’s true, I’ve gone out a few times with Max. I worked for him for years, while I’m angry with him, I felt I had to take some of the blame.”
“You didn’t have to take any of the blame. You didn’t owe him an explanation; saying you had a medical emergency was enough.”
“I know, and I know that he is trying to keep me from suing him. I guess he’s using me, and I was using him. I figured if I went to dinner with him a few times, it’d make things easier. I know it is hard to believe, but I don’t get out that often; I don’t know how to date.”
“I don’t want to ruin the possibility for a beautiful evening, but be honest with me. Do you have feelings for Max?”
She looked down at her lap, “No, I don’t have feelings for him. At least not in the way he’s hoping that I’ll have feelings for him.”
He watched her intently, he knew she was uncomfortable with this line of conversation. But she brought the subject up, so he had every right to ask her about it. “Do you think you could ever have feelings for him?”
“No, I just don’t see him that way. I’m not sure how to tell him that, though, without upsetting him. He helped me get a job, I’m afraid he’ll get me fired if I don’t go out with him.”
“So you’re willing to trade your happiness for a job?”
“You think I’m a horrible person, don’t you?”
“On the contrary, I believe that you are confused, you want to do the right thing, but you don’t really know what that is.”
She looked up, locking eyes with him, “Why did you kiss me?”
Now it was his turn to be uncomfortable, “I like you; I’ve actually liked you from the first time I saw you. I’ve wanted to tell you, but I was at least hoping my actions were showing you I was interested.”
“I thought you were just a really nice guy, figured you were like this to all the people you met that were in my situation,” she smiled and gave a slight chuckle, “You know I’m slow right? I mean after all my boss was evidently in love with me and I never realized it.”
He started to laugh softly, “You aren’t slow, I just think you were sidetracked by something more important.”
“Why do you like me, Chris? I mean, I’m a broken woman with a dying child, I don’t have a whole lot to offer.”
“Oh, that’s where you’re wrong, you’ve got a lot to offer. I like you because you’re real, you’re smart, you’re caring,” he reached across the table for her hand, “You’re beautiful, and when you smile, well you’re even more beautiful.”
She could feel her cheeks blush, “I’ll admit, I had feelings for you that first time I saw you, too. But, honestly, I think I actually fell for you when you came to see Aiden when things got terrible. I was just afraid you wouldn’t want a woman like me.” She took a deep breath and a smile began to form on her lips, “I’ll admit, though, I like how I feel when I’m with you. I feel like I’m a woman, not just someone’s mom, it’s like you’ve given me a chance to get my identity back.”
They finally ordered dinner and continued with small talk. Before they knew it, the restaurant was preparing to close for the evening, and they had to leave. The waiter brought the check, handing it instinctively to Chris; Harper immediately snatched from his hand, slid her credit card into the case and gave it back to the waiter.
“Why are you buying dinner?”
“I asked you out, remember? Are you intimidated by a woman asking you out and buying you dinner?”
He smiled and began to blush slightly, “Well it is unconventional, seems I’ve said that a few times tonight. This wasn’t a cheap date; I feel bad that you are paying.”
“Well, I see we agree this is a date.”
“Yeah it’s a date, we both agreed we have feelings for each other, so I think it’s a given that this was a date.”
Just then the waiter reappeared, providing the receipt and her card. She filled in the tip, signed the receipt and placed her card back in her purse. Chris stood and walked over to help her from her seat. He slid his arm around her, walking her towards the stairs and out of the restaurant.
As they approached the car, he opened the car door and said, “This was a pretty good date, thank you for dinner.”
She flashed him a look of disappointment, “Only a pretty good date? I guess we’ll need to do this again to see if we can improve on that rating.”
He took a step forward and put his hands on her hips, pulling her gently towards him. He leaned forward and captured her lips with his. She had initially been startled when he kissed her, but she was ready when he deepened the kiss, pulling her even closer; instinctively her arms wrapped around him. They were as close as they could be while fully dressed and standing in a parking lot on a busy street.
The chilly autumn night was suddenly hot, Chris pulled back looking into her eyes, “How heavy of a sleeper is Aiden?”
She was confused for a moment, “What? Why?”
“Well we obviously can’t go back to my mom’s house; we would have an audience. And I’m not sure the show is age appropriate for everyone.”
A smile spread across her face, she began to laugh, “Yeah, we didn’t plan very well for tonight, did we? I would have you back to the house, but Becky is there. And how exactly would we explain to Aiden in the morning why you are there without a car?”
He hung his head to show defeat, then kissed her again. He then put his forehead against hers, took a deep breath and told her, “I don’t really want to let you go tonight, and I don’t want to go home alone.”
“I know; I don’t want to go home alone either. I am scared to actually admit that.”
“Will it make you feel better to know that I’ve been scared too?” She gave him a questioning look, “I was scared to make a move, I didn’t think you’d be interested and frankly, with everything going on with Aiden, it isn’t the best timing on my part to fall for a woman.”
“That does make me feel better. I was afraid of how horrible it would be for me, in the middle of my son’s health crisis, to fall for his favorite superhero. So we can be horrible together!” She began to laugh, and he joined her. The situation was bizarre, to say the least.
She slid into the passenger seat, and Chris walked around, sliding in behind the wheel, driving back to his mom’s house. He pulled into the drive, then turned the motor off, they sat in silence for a few moments before she reached for his hand and squeezed gently, “So since this only a pretty good date, do you want to try it again?”
“Well, yeah I’m willing to give it another shot I guess. Maybe see if we can find some chemistry,” he said sarcastically.
“Well, I am glad you are willing to try, I know it’s asking a lot,” she was light-hearted in her response. “Seriously, though, thank you for not giving up on me.”
He raised her hand to his lips, kissing gently, “Thank you for not giving up on yourself. I do want to see you again, it might just kill me to get out of the car.”
“Well, I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that there are people in the house watching us right now.”
“Oh, I guarantee it. What do you say? Let’s get out of the car and give them something to stare at.”
Harper got out of the car, walking forward to meet Chris in the beam of the car’s headlights. Without hesitation he pulled her into a kiss that had no pretense of soft or sweet; it was deep and passionate, she felt her body heat with desire. She had to put her hands on his shoulders to steady herself and keep from collapsing. He wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her in tight to his body, she had no question as to whether he was turned on.
As they broke from the kiss to catch their collective breath, he bent to her ear and softly whispered, “Do you think they enjoyed that?” He then nipped at her ear and began trailing kisses down her neck.
Breathlessly she answered, “I don’t know, but I don’t want you to stop.”
He kissed his way back up her neck and met her lips; this time, the exchange was softer but just as hot. He stepped back and lifted her chin so he could look her in the eyes, “Damn, you’re beautiful. It’s taking everything within me to stop right now, I hope you know that.” She nodded her head slowly. “Are you going to be okay to drive home?” She again nodded her head, she was unable to speak.
He took her hand and led her to the driver side of the car, opening the door for her. As Harper slid into the seat, he closed the door, she put the window down. He leaned across the door, “Please let me know you got home safe, I have to admit I don’t like that you’re driving home so late by yourself.”
“I’ll be okay, but I do think it is sweet that you’re worried. Good luck when you go in the house, I’m going to guess you’ll have to face an inquisition.”
He smiled, stood up and watched as she backed out of the driveway and began to drive home. He stood there for a few minutes, watching as the headlights disappeared into the darkness. She was right, he knew that everyone would be sitting in the living room, ready to pounce and ask a million questions. He let a deep sigh, put his hands in his pockets and walked slowly up the sidewalk and through the front door. As he entered the house, he noticed Scott, Carly, and Lisa in the living room.
He decided to play it cool, glancing into the living room as he began walking up the stairs, “Hey guys, good night, see you in the morning.” He had taken two steps when he heard his mother cry out from the living room.
“Christopher, come back here!”
He could tell she had a playful tone to her voice, Carly and Scott were trying to muffle their laughter. He walked back down the steps, standing in the doorway he tried to act like it was just another night, “Yeah, what’s up?”
“Quit playing innocent, how was dinner?”
“Forget dinner, I want to hear about dessert!” Scott quipped.
Chris could feel his cheeks getting warm. He had kissed her in sight of everyone on purpose; he knew they were watching, he wanted to give them a show. He just didn’t think it through enough, the fact that he would have to actually talk to them about it. He had always been very open with his family, they talked about everything, but for some reason, this was a little different.
“I really like her, we had a lovely time at dinner, we’re on the same page. We’re going to give dating a shot, see if we can make it work.”
Carly stood up and walked over to her brother, reaching out she gathered him into a hug, “I have to tell you when we met her this evening, I liked her. She seems genuine, I think it’s evident that you really have feelings for her. I’m sorry I gave you so much shit about it.”
“Thanks, that means a lot. I want to be careful, I’ve got this fear of hurting her and she hasn’t done the dating thing or relied on someone else for quite some time. I think there will be one hell of a learning curve on this.”
Scott decided to speak up, he had not actually discussed any of this with his brother since that night where it evolved into an argument. “I don’t want to get slapped for asking this, but are you okay with the idea that she has a kid? I mean, if this gets serious,” his voice trailed off.
“I’ve thought about it; I honestly believe that’s one of the reasons I’m crazy about her. Her heart is full of love, she’s spent so much time taking care of other people, it’s time someone takes care of her.”
“Son, please make sure you’re careful with your own heart. I know you think you’re falling for her, just don’t mistake caring for her as love, when it might not be.”
Chris shook his head, he knew what his mom was saying, but he knew in his head and his heart that he had fallen in love. He also knew that Harper was not in the same place, he’d have to be patient to see if she came around.
Harper was having a hard time concentrating on her drive back to the apartment; since leaving Chris her body was tingling, her mind was racing. The kiss in the driveway was hot and intense, for a moment she was so lost, she forgot there was an audience. Then again, maybe she didn’t mind being watched. His family could see that he had feelings for her, that they were reciprocated. Maybe that kiss and the feelings she had were a validation of some sort. However, as much as she enjoyed being in his arms, her mind began to flood with the last time she had these feelings. She had to pull over to the side of the road as her eyes began to tear up, she started thinking of David. She thought of him often; that is what you do when you lose a spouse, you reflect on the good and brush aside the bad.
Not that life with him was bad, it was just different. Her parents, especially her mother, did not approve of him, and that put a strain on them. She clearly chose him, when her parents died, she had a nagging feeling in the back of her mind of what if her parents were right. But she loved him, and you can’t help who you fall in love with, right? Now she was second guessing everything again. Was she falling for Chris? What did that say about her life with David? Can you really love more than one person in your lifetime? She had to quit thinking about this because it wasn’t going to do her any good. Plus, you can’t make decisions on who your real soul mate was when you are pulled over on the side of the road!
Harper wiped the tears from her eyes and finished driving home. She quietly entered the apartment, it was a little after 11 pm, she didn’t want to wake Becky if she had fallen asleep. As she closed the door, she heard the sound of the TV turning off, turning around she saw Becky standing up from the couch.
“Hey! How was the date?”
“It was wonderful! We talked so much we didn’t have time to go and do anything else. But that was good, it gave us a chance to get to know each other better.”
“So, are you going to see him again?”
“Yeah, I think so, I hope so. I believe there is definitely a mutual interest,” she couldn’t help but smile as she said those words.
“Harper, you have been a little preoccupied with Aiden, understandably so; but it’s obvious that Chris is attracted, or as you say, interested. Just be careful.”
“Thanks, Becky, I just hope I don’t disappoint once he gets to know me,” she walked into the living room, flopping down on the couch, “So how was he tonight?” She motioned toward Aiden’s door.
Becky took a seat next to her, “He was great, he loves the idea that his mom went on a date with Chris Evans! I guess it is a good thing he isn’t in school because everyone would know about it in the morning!”
“I know; I don’t think I am ready for that!”
The ladies talked for a while; Harper was enjoying the fact she had someone to talk to about Chris and her evening. As Becky prepared to leave, they made arrangements for the upcoming week since Harper would be returning to the office. When Becky left, she locked the door, walking towards the bedroom, then she remembered she was supposed to let Chris know she got home safe. She grabbed her phone, noticing he had already sent a few messages.
She couldn’t help but smile, the messages were sent within a few minutes of one another. Surely he wouldn’t drive over to her place; just in case, she hurried to send a reply message.
She anticipated that he would respond right away, but he didn’t. She waited for a minute or two and texted him again.
A minute or two passed, she was beginning to seriously think he might be driving over. She would gladly welcome him into the house, but she just didn’t want him driving to the apartment in a panic. She was preparing to call him when he finally responded.
Harper placed her cell phone on the nightstand, rolled onto her side and clutched a pillow to her chest. It didn’t take long for sleep to overtake her.