“I can’t believe you arranged a date for me with the guy from the local grocery store.” She grabbed her jacket and bag.
“You wouldn’t arrange a date. I was starting to see that you really weren’t going to live your life, and being a martyr really isn’t good, Raine.”
“I’m more worried that Luiz is going to take this as a sign that I’m not fit to take care of my niece.”
“You forget that I’m here, sweetie. I’m here to deal with Luiz, and to help you live your life. You’re not supposed to spend the rest of your life helping her. What happens when she’s eighteen? When she’s twenty-two like you are now.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, it’s time for you to know. I’m not going to be around forever, and you’re going to be alone. I don’t want you to have regrets.”
“So Bradley the grocer is going to help me?”
“He’s a college student who comes home every summer to help out at the shop. I’ve seen the way he looks at you, and I think you should give him a chance.”
Xander saw her out of the house, and she took a deep breath as she found Bradley waiting for her outside near his car.
She glanced back at Xander, and he simply smiled. “Go, have fun, and for once in your life, stop worrying.”
“It’s easy for you to say. Do you know if Luiz is coming over tonight?” she asked.
“If he is, I’ll deal with him. You can’t keep making him tell you what to do. Live your own life.”
“The threat to Christie’s life?”
“I’ll handle it, just like I’ve been handling all kinds of threats since you came into my life. Mostly that of filling my house with feminine products, and making me fat through your cooking.”
She rolled her eyes. “Fine. I’ll have fun, and you better not watch horror movies with Christie. The last time you two did, I had to stay up with her three nights in a row. My body cannot handle that much coffee, and so little sleep.”
“We can amuse ourselves. I was just thinking of playing a few board games. The word being ‘bored’ as in boring.”
Raine chuckled, and turned back to Bradley.
I can do this. It’s easy.
Lifting her hand in a small wave, she tried not to cringe at Bradley’s huge smile. This was all wrong, and yet if she didn’t do this, Xander was never going to get off her back.
Stepping toward Bradley, she forced a smile. “Hey,” she said.
“I’m sorry that Xander forced you into this. I’m sure you had a lot more fun planned for a Friday evening.”
She saw that Bradley’s cheeks actually went bright red.
“Well, this was my idea.”
“I wanted to date you for a long time now. I’ve just never gotten around to it.”
“Wow, erm, now I feel a little sorry. I, wow, I don’t know what to say.” She chuckled. “I guess I put my foot in my mouth.”
“You don’t have to worry about a thing.” He chuckled. “I should have asked you. I got to Xander first because every time I tried to ask you, you were always so busy. I’m sure you don’t even remember me all that much.”
“Of course I remember you. You’re always so sweet to me, and to Christie. You’re the only guy at the store who’ll offer to take my groceries to the car.”
“Christie, is she yours?” Bradley asked.
“No, why? She’s my niece but my sister…” Raine paused. This was not the topic that she wanted to talk about. “She’s no longer with us, and I promised to always look after her. Do you understand?”
“Yeah, I do. Shit, I’m so sorry. This is not how I imagined our first date being.”
“You imagined your first date with me?” she asked, charmed.
“Yes. I had to get the courage to ask you.”
“Xander told me to go out on a date with you. You never got the courage.”
He glanced at the ground, and then at her. “Raine, would you go out with me?”
“I’d love to.”
Bradley opened the door of his car for her, and she slid inside. Her heart was racing. Ever since Luiz had brought her to this place, she’d avoided contact with everyone. She kept to herself, made sure friends were aware she wasn’t available for anything. Her main priority had been keeping Christie safe, and living with Xander had been a lot of fun.
She had enjoyed proving him wrong, and making him a little guilty for some of the nasty words he’d thrown her way. Even before she moved in with Xander, she’d never been the kind to make friends easily. In fact, she had found it damn hard to connect to people all the time.
Her sister, Lora, had been the more outgoing one. She knew what she wanted, and the moment Lora met Luiz, they had been inseparable. Raine wondered if her sister would have ever regretted being with Luiz. It was still hard for Raine to think of Luiz as part of the mafia, as part of The Family. Ever since she learned the truth of who he was, she had researched him.
It was something she had to do to know what she was dealing with, what Christie was going to have to deal with as well. Of course what didn’t help either were her growing feelings for Luiz. It made no sense, and yet at the same time, it did. He was a handsome man, or at least, she thought he was. There was no way she could think any differently seeing as he was the one she thought about all the time.
“You’re back home from college. What are you studying?” she asked. She knew next to nothing about Bradley.
“I’m studying business with the hope of taking over from my dad when he’s ready to retire. I want to expand the business.”
“It sounds like you have a plan already in motion.”
“Oh, I do. I can’t wait, to be honest. I really want to get my hands stuck in. The only way to live is to keep moving forward. The world doesn’t stay still. It’s always moving, and we’ve got to keep up, or we’ll die.”
It was a morbid thought, and one Raine didn’t want to think about. Her world had been moving for the past seven years, and she was tired of it. All she wanted to do was for it to slow down, so that she could have time to enjoy it.
“I’m sorry. I’m rambling.”
“It’s fine. Honestly. I like listening to your plans for the future.” It certainly beat being worried about a certain father being pissed with her.