I AM DEVOTEE by AnRo

She could remember the first time she had seen him.  His blue eyes struck her immediately, clear and sparkly.  It wasn’t only his eyes, though; his slightly crooked smile with a dimple creasing just the right side, the wheels and then the deep chuckle that accompanied it drew her in.

“Lainey where are you going?” the deep voice boomed from across the room.

Pausing only briefly, she turned back, letting her eyes meet his, before dashing through the screen door.  The place was crowded.  It was easy for her to disappear, her small frame being swallowed by the bodies between him and the door.  She didn’t make it far though before she was tripping over something, or rather someone who made an “oomph” as she landed in his lap.  Finding her wits she looked up to find the clearest blue eyes staring back at her.

A deep chuckle made its way from his chest before the crooked smile formed on his lips creating a dimple that she would have a hard time forgetting. “Hi,” he chuckled again.

“Hi…” she managed to mumble.

“In a hurry?” he questioned letting his eyes wander over her body.

“Uh… yeah, I mean yes,” she said struggling as she tried to move from his lap but not sure as to where to put her hands.

“Let me help you.” he said softly as he gently righted her, instantly missing the feel of her next to him.

“Thanks,” she said wondering when Hank had put chairs out on the deck.

“My pleasure,” he said with another crooked grin.

Looking in his direction as she adjusted her skirt her eyes caught on the wheels first, then as she continued up to his face she saw his grin falter, saw the guarded look take over his face. “Sorry, I didn’t… I have to go,” she said as she began to walk away.

A backward glance told her that her face betrayed her surprise at realizing he was in a wheelchair. His face no longer held the crooked grin and in its place was a scowl.  If he only knew, she thought. Wishing it had been any other night, any other time really, she continued down the driveway simultaneously hoping that no one had blocked her in.

“Damnit!” She growled surveying the cars blocking her orange Subaru.  There was no way she was getting out of here.  With her hands balled into fists, she stomped her foot like a petulant child, instantly regretting the decision to ever come here for the week. How was she going to get home now? Allie was still inside with Joe and she couldn’t go back in there, not after what Luke had done, and right in front of her.  She didn’t think that Allie would even notice if she sent a text or tried to call with all the noise, so here she stood in the middle of the dirt road leading to her oldest friend Hanks cabin, an hour away from home with no hope to go anywhere.  As if the weight of seeing her fiancé making out with another woman wasn’t enough she was stuck, surprised that he hadn’t found her yet. Huh, who was she kidding she knew something wasn’t right for the last two months but she thought maybe this week at Hanks would help them find their groove again.  Every year the third week of May Hank invited all their friends out for a week of rafting, camping, and a little relaxation. Only this year it had gotten a lot bigger than in past years, there were easily sixty people here and tents scattered throughout the six acres that Hank had inherited from his grandfather.  She could remember coming here when they were kids and despite all those good memories, in this moment she didn’t think that she would ever look at it the same now.  Mentally berating herself for not recognizing what was happening with her now ex-fiancé she smacked her forehead with the palm of her hand “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” she exclaimed.

“Lainey, come on. Where are you?” Luke boomed stumbling down the driveway as she hurried to hide behind the cars. “It didn’t’ mean anything, I just knew with the wedding coming, I mean I had to get it out of my system,” he slurred, as he got closer.

“Get it out of your system? This isn’t going out to buy a sports car; this is cheating on your fiancé! Two months before your wedding.  What the hell is wrong with you Luke?” she screamed rising from her crouched position not able to keep herself hidden.

“Jesus Lain, you’re acting like I killed someone.  Julie was just a blip…” he said reaching for her.

She shuffled out of his reach and he collided with her car, leaving a trail of expletives where she once stood. “Please, Luke tell me this hasn’t been going on for a while now, that this was just a one-time thing.” She pleaded, knowing that whatever came out of his mouth was going to be lies.

When he didn’t say anything she knew that this “blip” had been more of a steady stream of aircraft on the radar. Next thing she knew Luke was grabbing her by the wrist painfully as her hand stung with the contact it had made with his face.

“Fuck Lainey, that hurt,” he said squeezing her even tighter as she squirmed to get away from him.

“Need a lift?” she heard from behind where she stood, just noticing the sound of a running car.

Yanking her arm she finally broke free of Luke’s grasp and hurried into the small SUV, not even caring that she didn’t know who it was that was coming to her rescue.  “Go, please just go,” she pleaded keeping her head down.

“You Bitch!” she heard through the open driver’s side window as they pulled away.

“Thank you…” she said softly.

“Glad I could be of service. Again,” he chuckled.

That chuckle, she thought as she whipped her head up to find those blue eyes searching her face. “How, I mean where…” she stammered, wondering how he happened to be in the right place at the right time.

“Hand controls,” he stated bluntly, thinking that she was surprised he was able to drive. “I figured when I saw you down here arguing with yourself and then he asked me if I’d seen a girl rush past, that he was looking for you, and then I heard him yelling…I figured you might need a getaway car.”

She just sat there staring at him for another few moments not trusting her own mouth to not betray her. “He cheated on me, and little did I know she is here for the week too, I should have trusted my instincts.”

“Did he hurt you?” blue eyes said through gritted teeth, quietly cocking his head in the direction of her arm.

“I’ll be fine,” she said finally looking away from him. “I think slapping him hurt worse.”

“Good. I didn’t feel like kicking his ass tonight,” he said as the crooked grin reappeared, “So where to miss daisy?”

“Just drive, please?” she half stated, half questioned feeling her adrenaline waning.

He remained quiet for some time just staring through the night but he wasn’t oblivious to her quick glances every now and then.  Finally as he pulled off at a boat launch across the lake from Hanks he spoke, “I’m assuming you’ll have to go back eventually right? I mean all of your stuff is there, your car…” he trailed off at the sound of her muffled sobs. “Hey, look at me…” he asked softly, turning more to face her.

“Why?” she simply stated with a catch in her voice.

“Why look at me or why do you have to go back?” he wondered out loud.

“Why anything at this point…” she muttered, finally letting her eyes meet his.  “Why come to my rescue? Why do guys cheat? Why should I go back and give him the satisfaction of seeing me like this?” she answered knowing full well that mascara had run down her face and the puffiness that came with crying had already started.

“Firstly, by the looks of him and the brief encounter I witnessed you needed rescuing.  Secondly, men cheat because they usually aren’t happy with themselves.  And finally you should go back there, you should show him, that despite him, you will have an awesome week, this is only day two right?  There are a lot of chances for you to show him that you could care less, even if you do care, why give him the satisfaction.  Throw that rock back at him tonight, call it all off and give him the best show,” he said pointing to her hand while silently wondering why anyone would ever cheat on her.  She was gorgeous, flat out, period, the end.

“What if I can’t do it?” she asked sheepishly after breaking eye contact with him.

“Then you leave. By my guess, he’s already passed out somewhere and will be gone before tomorrow is over. Despite what you may think he isn’t going to like it when you toss this up in his face.  He’s going to feel like the biggest ass and crawl out of here with his tail and the trash between his legs,” he chuckled at the mental image of Mr. preppy man and some trashy bimbo doing the walk of shame.

She sat there for a while before realizing she didn’t even know Blue Eyes’ name, “I’m Elaina, by the way.”

“Nickolas, but everyone calls me Cole.  Nice to meet you, Elaina,” he said softly as he felt a small tremor through his torso. Not now he thought looking down and sure enough, his left leg was protesting.

She didn’t comment but her eyes followed his gaze in the dim car.  Watching him as he used his hand to push down by his knee her breath hitched.  “It happens sometimes, spasms. Sorry,” he spoke with a hint of bitterness in his voice.

“Oh.” She managed to squeak out, the familiar tingle making its appearance.

Deciding on a quick change of subject he asked looking up at her again, “How do you know Hank?”

“I’ve known him my whole life.  We grew up next door to each other. You?” she asked trying to look anywhere but at his leg.

“We were roommates at soccer camp since we were about 12 I think.” He said realizing that this was the Lainey that his buddy had always talked about. “I moved after high school but just recently moved back.”

“You’re Nicky?” she asked not even faking the surprise of meeting the infamous Nicky that Hank had talked about for years.

“Yes, but he’s the only one who has ever referred to me by that name. I’ll never understand it.” he laughed.

“I remember all the stories he would come home with after those three weeks, like the time you guys put the junior A teams beds on the roof!” she said laughing too.

“Those were some fun times, that’s for sure.” He said with a wistful look.

“Hank always looked forward to those three weeks every summer and I just dreaded them.  My world got a lot more boring while he was gone.” She smiled wondering what it would be like to feel his still legs tangled with hers. She inwardly chastised herself at the thought but felt drawn to him.

“Don’t worry he missed you just as much.  I often wondered why you two didn’t end up together,” he said feeling the tremor finally subside.

“Trust me we tried once and it didn’t end well.  It was the longest three months of my life!” she said blushing.

“Oh really?” he asked smirking.

“Yep.  In the end, he was too much like a brother to me.  We didn’t speak for three months; try living next door to that, riding the same bus every day, having the same classes together.  It was rough, but eventually, he came around.” she said honestly. “How come I’ve never seen you at one of these before?”

“I’d moved away like I said and just couldn’t ever get the time off…” he said his voice getting quiet.

“Well, I’m glad you are here this year.” she said not even realizing her hand had made it’s way to his forearm.

He lifted his head when he felt her hand there and met those big green eyes that were full of a mix of sadness and desire at the same time. “Me too.”

Before he could even think straight again, her hand was gone “He’s probably passed out by now…” she said flatly.

Deflated at the prospect of taking her back to her ex, or maybe still fiancé he simply replied, “I can take you back now if you want.”

“I just figured your girlfriend or whatever would probably be wondering where you are.” she said noticing his face fall.

“Unattached.” He said shifting into reverse.

“Well, then I’ve officially designated you to be my fun buddy for the rest of the week, assuming that you’re up for the challenge.” she said hoping he would accept.

“Is that so?” he smirked as he turned out onto the road.

“You’re the one who said I should stay, besides I’m sure you wouldn’t want to leave a girl hanging now would you?” she let her arm find his again all the while wondering who this forward person was, or rather how he had this effect on her.

“Alright cupcake, but I don’t think you realize just how good a time you are going to have,” he said winking at her. Man, was he in trouble he thought to himself.

She sat taking in his muscular arms and his broad chest that had felt so good when she landed on him, and briefly she wondered what happened to him and how she got so lucky to land in his lap. All her desires were sitting right next to her. Guilt took over then and she forced herself to look away.

“You can ask you know.” he said softly not really ready to go into details but also wanting to get it out of the way.

“What happened?” she nearly whispered.

As he drove along with her, only the glow of the interior lights and the moon he took stock of her from the corner of his eye.  Even with the black streaks trailing down from eyes to chin she was something.  He’d guess she was only about 5’2” with olive skin, big wide green eyes, curves in all the right places and delicate features made her exotic.  She was like no one he had ever seen before, and he really in that moment couldn’t care less if he looked at another woman again because none would ever come close to comparing with her.

“I fell…” he whispered in the dark.

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