“I agree,” Jasmine said fiercely. “You don’t need to deal with all that emotional trauma while you are so vulnerable. You shouldn’t have to go if it upsets you, Alicia.”
“I’ll think about it. I feel guilty. I was with her last. I should remember something,” she explained sadly. Every time she thought about Janice and that night, her head hurt. She rubbed her forehead. Just when she thought she had a handle on it, pain would shoot through her head.
“Don’t worry about it,” Tony suggested, looking concerned, rubbing her shoulder softly. “I have to get back to work. I wanted to ask you if you wanted to have dinner with us tonight.”
Alicia smiled. All of a sudden, she felt so warm inside. What was the point of pretending she didn’t want to be around him when she did? She was too weak to resist his invitation. Her head was telling her to play hard to get, but she wanted Tony to feel more than friendship for her. Being his friend was a good start. “That sounds nice. I’d love to.”
“Want to join us, Jazz?” he asked.
Jasmine shook her head. “Kate and I are going out with Eva.” Eva was Drake’s only sister. “Have fun, Alicia. Relax and forget about everything for a few hours. Your memories will come back on their own.”
“I will pick you up at five-thirty.” Tony smiled and said his good-byes.
“I think he likes you,” Kate said when he was gone. “I saw that look in his eyes, even though he was trying to play it cool. I have never seen him look so interested in anyone. Usually he is so cool.”
“Really?” Alicia brightened up at the idea. Then she sighed and pouted. “I’m afraid to get my hopes up. Do you know Dee Andrews? He was involved with her just a few weeks ago.”
“He was running scared, Alicia. I don’t know Dee personally, but Drake says she has turned into a nuisance. She showed up at the station a few weeks ago and he had Helen kick her out. That doesn’t sound like he likes her to me,” Jasmine said with confidence. “Those Smith boys have plenty of muscles, but when it comes to emotional stuff they are big babies. Look how Matt ran from Holly for a year.”
“True,” Alicia agreed, thinking of the heartbreak had Holly experienced at the hand of Matt Smith. He made it up to her by being a wonderful and caring husband now. That gave Alicia hope.
Tony stayed on her mind all day. She went home and looked for a loose-fitting dress she could wear. She wanted to look good, even though she felt horrible, physically and emotionally. Boy, she was in big trouble again. If she took the risk of opening her heart, would he trample on it or be gentle?
* * * *
The long dirt road to his house was pretty, despite the cloudy and gray day. Autumn brought slightly cooler temperatures and she had the window rolled down partially. The breeze smelled good and huge trees lined the road.
“You don’t have any neighbors nearby,” she observed, looking out the window. It looked peaceful, but she was so used to living in town with the noise and the traffic. This was a huge change. How did Holly get used to it?
“Yeah. I doubt they’d like all the land mines surrounding our land,” he said seriously, keeping his eyes on the road ahead of him.
Alicia looked at him with a horrified expression. “You can’t just blow up people who wander on your land. That is illegal.”
ure I can.” He shrugged carefully. He grinned when her mouth hung open and she didn’t know what to say. “Relax, Noah advised me against doing that.”
She exhaled loudly. “I believed you for a minute or two. You are bad for teasing me like that.”
He chuckled lightly. “Made you forget about your problems for a few seconds.”
His house was large and the brown color blended into the surrounding wooded area. The porch was as long as the house. A few rocking chairs were placed along one area. It looked so calming.
“Nice. I love that huge porch,” Alicia exclaimed when he parked. Colorful flowered baskets hung from a few hooks and she had the feeling that was Holly’s touch. Holly loved flowers.
“Thanks. Matt and I remodeled when we bought it. We bought a lot of the land around, too. Our closest neighbor is about a mile up the road,” he explained. “It was pretty rundown. We wanted the physical labor to keep us busy until we knew what we wanted to do. Then Noah hired us.”
Alicia waited for him to help her out of his truck. She had to jump, but he put his hands gently at her waist and let her slide down his body until her feet were on the ground. The feel of his hard body against her made certain parts of her tingle with awareness. She felt his bulge beneath his jeans and smiled up at him. She hoped her cheeks were not pink. It was dusk, so the maybe he wouldn’t notice.
The wonderful aroma of dinner hit her as soon as Tony opened the front wooden door. Holly greeted them and gave Alicia a light hug, careful of all her bruises. “I am so glad you came. Join me in the kitchen?”
Alicia helped Holly set the table while Holly talked about work. She thought she would feel awkward being in Tony’s house. She had wondered so many times what his house looked like, but he’d never invited her over before. It was open and light. She liked it a lot.
Dinner was relaxing. Tony sat right next to her and Holly, and Matt across from them. When she picked at her food, he whispered in her ear. “Please eat, sweetheart. You have a lot of healing to do and need your strength.”
She sighed and started eating. The conversation was casual and she found herself laughing and enjoying the dinner. Before she knew it, her food was gone. Tony winked at her and she blushed.
She drank water instead of wine because of the pain pills she was taking. After dinner, they moved to the living room.