"Oooo... Gage...?" Rachel asked, catching Haley's slip at once. "So dish, girl! Is he hot? Mean in uniforms always get to me!"
"Rachel!" Haley protested, embarrassed that her love life, or lack thereof, had become the topic of conversation.
"Rachel, I'm not doing this!" Haley squirmed for a moment, blushing furiously.
"Good morning, Kraig," she said, praying to God that Rachel was done talking about her sex life.
Haley blushed in embarrassment. "Rachel!" she squeaked.
"I'm still here!" Alan snapped. "Or should I go?"
"Yeah? A 10?" he asked, gloating a teeny bit.
Haley cleared her throat and looked away. She always felt so silly when Rachel started making out in front of her!
Rachel giggled and stood up.
Haley shook her head, "No, you guys go have a great romantic get-away. I'll be fine!"
"You'll call me if you need me, right?" Rachel pressed, leery about leaving her bestie alone after the weird noises. She could totally have a stalker! "Oh! Or call Officer Gage!" Rachel wiggled her eyebrows.
Haley sighed. "Nothing's going to happen!"
"Come on, Rach, we have to go!" Alan urged, ready to get on the road. It was a long drive out to the cove where he'd made Love Day reservations.
Haley smiled. She couldn't ask for a better friend! Rachel might be a little overly dramatic, overly emotional, and way over-sexed, but she had a heart of gold and was unfailingly loyal. "I'm going to be fine! Go! Enjoy your Love Day!"
"Hi Haley!" her friend, Maritza, said in greeting.
Haley tucked the phone between her ear and shoulder. "Hey! What are you up to today?" she asked, thinking that perhaps they could get together for a Non-Love-Day celebration since Maritza wasn't seeing anyone either.
"You won't believe it! I'm out at Crystal Springs! Your dad said he thought he'd spotted some horned lizards the last time he went through there."
"Oh, that sounds fun," Haley lied, feeling a little disappointed. "We'll have to get together when you get back to town!"
"Will do!" Maritza said cheerfully. "Talk to you soon!"
She stayed still, trying to listen for any small sound.
"No! I was just out with a few guys from work!" he told her. "I was glad to get your call." Pausing, he indicated the door. "Can I come in?"
Haley covered her face with her hands. "I am so embarrassed! I let my friend Rachel get me all worried about a stalker! I don't think I'm going to sleep a wink tonight!" she said fretfully.
Gage hesitated. "Do you think your friend... Rachel, is that her name?... can come stay with you tonight?"
Haley sighed. "No, she and her boyfriend are out of town for Love Day."
"Maybe your boyfriend?" he queried.
Gage smiled. Green light, he thought to himself with satisfaction. "Sucks to be alone on Love Day, doesn't it?" he said conspiratorially, leaning close.
Haley laughed, "Yeah, it really sucks!" She glanced at Gage again, trying to check him out without him noticing.
"Do you want me to stay awhile?" he suggested. "Maybe it'll make you feel safer?"
Haley exhaled, relieved that she wouldn't be alone and a little thrilled to be alone with such a handsome guy.
Haley learned that he was seven years older than her, "That must seem pretty old to you!" he'd laughed at himself as he slung his arm across the back of the couch. "No! I can't wait until I'm older!" she'd said, trying to appear more worldly and mature than her humble eighteen years.
She learned that he loved art, "There's such a raw beauty in the human body, don't you think?" Haley had asked passionately, stirring to life like she did whenever she started to discuss art. Gage had agreed, asking her if she'd ever painted anyone nude. She'd laughed that she'd probably be too embarrassed to try that type of art work!
Gage even told her that he loved kids, "One day I hope I meet the right girl and can start a family." Haley had averted her eyes and asked if he was looking for someone.
Haley blushed. "I feel the same way," she admitted quietly. Hesitating a moment, she bit her lip as she considered what she was about to say. "Do you want to stay the night," she suggested, quickly tacking on, "On the couch?"
"You wouldn't mind?" Gage asked. "I don't want to inconvenience you."
"No! It wouldn't inconvenience me! I'd feel a lot safer, also," she rambled, looking for excuses for him to stay.
"Then yeah, I can crash on your couch," Gage stepped a little closer, adding, "Although I'd love to cuddle with you in your bed."
Gage put his finger to her lips. "It's okay. You're not ready, yet. I can wait," he told her. "The couch will be fine."
Oh Lord, where did that thought come from, she thought, grimacing and throwing her pillow over her head.
Then she heard what might've been the house settling, a floorboard creaking, a scratch at the window... There were so many little noises in a house this size!
Agitated, she threw off the blankets. Maybe she'd feel safer if she was downstairs, too...
Definitely a 9, Haley silently amended as she gazed at him sleeping there.
He was out cold and didn't respond.
Tentatively she bent over him, "Gage?" she whispered again a little more nervously. Oh Lord, maybe I should just go back upstairs before I make a fool of myself!
When she touched his bare chest, Gage's eyes fluttered open and he groaned, reaching up to pull her down and then rolled over on top of her.
Gage had gone rigid, waiting for her response, and the feel of her trailing her fingertips across his back was testing his control. "Yes or no," he told her, his tone rough with emotion.