I looked at Carlos who was wearing his coke, it streaming down his face and staining his flannel.
“Are you ok?” I whispered. Sure he was about to give me an unwanted kiss but I didn’t want him hurt.
“Do I look ok?” he snarled.
“No,” I murmured.
” Then why did you ****** ask that question!” he shouted.
” Carlos, calm down. You drawling more attention.”
” Hell No, I’m not calming down. That ******* just poured a soda on my head! Aren’t you concerned at all?”
” Of course, I’m concerned but you did just almost kiss me when I didn’t want you to,” I replied.
” So you’re defending the ******!” he bellows, clenching his fists.
” No, but he was trying to help me,” I whispered, terrified of his anger.
Carlos leaned close to my face, ” Don’t tell me you didn’t want it, you totally did!”
” Carlos, I didn’t. I wasn’t ready and I hardly know you.” I argued.
” Your lying.” he snarled.
” Why would I do that?” I demanded, gently pushing him away but he doesn’t budge.
” I don’t know but I’m done with this ********! I’m going to the bathroom and leaving you ***** around here!” he snarls.
“Maybe that is best Carlos, maybe you’ll feel better after you wash up or something,” I suggested, holding back my tears.
He scowled and stalked out the room.
Sighing, I grabbed my cloth napkin and began wiping the table, soaking up the excess soda that happened to miss Carlos. People had finally resumed their normal; conversations by the time I moved to the floor, having to use one of the glasses of water placed at the table because the soda was sticky.
“You know, you didn’t have to do that,” a deep voice said and I jumped almost knocking over the water glass.
“Jesus! You scared me!” I exclaimed and the couple across from me glared at me.
“Sorry,” I whispered to the couple and rose to my feet to see no other than Ryan McNight.
“You scare pretty easily,” he chuckled.
I scowled and he laughed even harder.
“Go on, laugh,” I muttered, kneeling down to finish cleaning the floor.
Ryan stopped laughing and felt him kneel beside me.
“Sorry, it’s just funny. I didn’t come back to laugh at you. I just wanted to make sure you were ok,” he said.
“Well, I’m fine. Thanks to you,” I say, offering him a small smile.
“Are you really?” he asked.
“Yes, just… Disappointed,” tears threatening to come back.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Ryan asked, his eyes soft with pity.
“I don’t know, I just, I actually liked Carlos. I have known him a little while and I just thought….” I rambled, tears slipping down my face.
Ryan touched my shoulder and offered me a tissue. I laughed.
“I know it’s silly but I thought he was a genuine guy, who liked me and didn’t just want to get in my pants,”
Ryan gave a bear hug, “That’s not silly Lia. I think that’s what most people think when someone asks them on a date,”
I nodded and gazed into his eyes. There were darker in candlelight, more like a stormy sea than the normal sky color they usually were. They were still beautiful, full of something but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
“Thanks, Ryan,” I finally say and carefully pulled away from his warm chest.
Reluctantly, he released me and studied me carefully.
“What?” I asked and he blinked his eyes and shook his head.
“Nothing, C’mon, let’s get you a new table.”
“A new table, why?” I asked.
“Well, you can’t eat here,” he answered.
“But, don’t you need a reservation? Carlos said this place is always booked!” I inquired, almost everyone here did.
“Not when you’re with the owner’s son,” Ryan smirked.
“Your father owns this place?” I gasped, my eyes popping out of my head.
“Yes, my family has owned this place since the beginning. One of my ancestors, William McNight built it as his home, replicating the White House and his love of Greek culture. My grandfather converted it into a restaurant in the 1940s.” he informed me and I shook my head.
“That’s pretty neat, you must know a lot about your family history then,” I said and he laughed.
“I guess so with all the documents we have going back the middle ages,” he said.
“You can trace your ancestors to the middle ages!” I gasped and an old woman furrowed her brows at me but I was too excited about the history to care.
“Yes, one of them was a knight, in fact,” he smirked.
“Really? You better not be pulling my leg,” I demanded
He held his hands up in defense, “I cross my heart and hope to die before lying to you,” he said in mock-serious.
I giggled and he led me deeper into the mansion. Finally, we stopped at a corner table underneath a huge painting of a renaissance couple kissing. It was quite beautiful, with its dark colors mixing with the lighting shining through the window.
“Is this table ok?” Ryan asked, scratching the back of his neck.
“Yes, but you don’t have to do this. I could just get something to eat at home.” I protested.
“And have you miss out on my family’s famous Italian cooking? Never!” he exclaimed with mock horror on his face.
“Ok, then. Will you join me then for your family’s famous Italian dinner?” I asked
He plopped down on the chair across from me and faked “the thinker pose.”
“Hmmm…yes!” Ryan declared and I laughed.
“Good, because I have no idea what to choose!”
“Really? Have you ever been here before” he asked.
I shook my head, “This is my first time,”
Ryan scowled at that and said, “And you came with that *******,”
I didn’t dignify that with a response and opened the menu in front of me. There were so many choices like gnocchi, stuffed shells, shrimp scampi, crab marinara, and that was just some of the pasta dishes.
“What is your favorite thing to get here?” I asked, looking up at him behind my menu.
“Depends on what section of the menu. For appetizers, I love our garlic knots and stuffed mushrooms,” he responded.
I crinkled my nose, “Stuffed mushrooms?”
Mushrooms along with Broccoli are some of the few foods I will not even touch. I guess it had to with broccoli looking like mini trees and Mushrooms being a type of fungus. I wasn’t much of a fungi after all. (get what I did there, “fun guy”, fun-gi)
“You don’t like mushrooms?” Ryan gasped, blue eyes wide.
“No, they are a fungus and fungus reminds me of dirty feet. I do not what to eat something that reminds of dirty feet!” I yelled, making a brunette busboy with square glasses turn around and look at us.
“You’re seriously missing out, Lia. They are magni-feet!” he proclaimed kissing his fingers with a flare.
“I don’t think I am missing anything from not eating an ugly tree looking thing,” I argued.
“Your loss, and hey Dani, can you put an order of garlic knots in for me,” he called out to a petite girl waitress with a neon green pixie cut and a nose ring.
“Sure, McNight, anything else?” she replied, a smile playing on her lips.
“Just a Sprite and a Coke. And, Dani, do you mind serving me and my friend Lia here?” he replied, returning her smile.
“Not at all, I’ll be right back with the drinks and garlic knots,” she answered and rushed back into a set of swinging black doors.
“Thank you,” we said simultaneously.
I glance at Ryan in surprised and then shout, “Jinx, you owe me a Soda!”
“I’ll give you something better than a soda,” Ryan chuckles, sending me a seductive wink.
“Like food?” I retort, trying to hide my blush at what he just suggested.
“You are so innocent,” he sighs.
“I am not!” I protested, my face turning red.
“Really? Do you even know what I meant?” he demanded, a smirk curving his pink lips.
“You mean what you insinuated? Of course, I know!” I yelled.
“I don’t believe you,” he laughed.
“Then don’t believe me, but I am warning you, I am not stupid,” I muttered, crossing my arms.
“I never said you were stupid,” Ryan argued
“Innocent is kind of a synonym for stupid in this case,” I frowned, looking at the menu.
“No, it isn’t,” he protested
I frown and shake my head “Yes, it is,”
“Lia, look at me,” he blurts and I glance up at him.
His face was a mask of seriousness and if I hadn’t known better I would’ve thought he was a Greek sculpture of a god. Ryan’s hair was tousled perfectly and his eyes reminded me of sapphires in the candlelight. Honestly, it was not fair how could he look like an Angel just sitting there but some people are born with looks. He’s just one of them.
I averted my gaze from the table to his eyes, “What?”
“Innocence means pure. Your pure Lia, not naive or stupid, understand?” he spoke, his voice no more than a low murmur.
Simply, I nod, not sure what to say to that. He called me pure, I told myself, even with all my flaws. It was…extremely ironic.
“Here are your drinks and garlic knots,” Dani said, placing two tall drinks and a bread basket.
“Thank you, Dani,” Ryan says, grabbing a garlic knot.
“Are you guys ready to order dinner?” she asked, pulling out a notepad and pen.
“I am but I am not sure about Lia,” Ryan answered, staring at me.
“You never told me your favorite entrée though,” I protested.
Dani cackled, reminding me of a parrot, “He absolutely adores our gnocchi and our meatball sandwiches but he is really a black hole. He’ll eat anything.”
Ryan’s cheeks turn a little pink at that and I chuckled.
“My brother is like that too. And I was actually thinking about getting the gnocchi earlier. Can I get that with the sauce on the side?”
“Sure,” she chirped and turned to Ryan.
“I’ll get the gnocchi with sauce on top,” Ryan said, giving her a breathtaking smile.
Dani blinked her long eyelashes at him, blue eyes wide. It was as if she had been hypnotized, staring at Ryan for almost two minutes. She blinked again and her cheeks colored and she wrote down the order.
“I’ll put those in,” she stuttered before briskly walking through the swinging doors.
“Are you trying to scare the girl?” I demanded, scowling at Ryan.
“No, what did I do?” he inquired, giving me this innocent puppy dog look.
“Don’t give me that look, you know what you did,” I snapped. No puppy dog look is going to work on me.
“I have no idea what you are talking about Lia,” he repeated, resting his face in his hands, his face still so **** cute looking…**** him! **** hormones and emotions!
“Sure you don’t” I sassed, grabbing a garlic knot and taking a huge bite.
I moaned in happiness. The garlic knot was amazing; warm and buttery and perfectly seasoned.
“Told you so,” he cooed, his smirk wide that his face.
I scowled and threw a piece of a roll at his face.
“Oww… that wasn’t very ladylike,” he whined and I almost choked on the rest of my roll.
“You might want to chew, Lia. I don’t really want to have to perform the Heimlich maneuver tonight,” he mused, stuffing a whole roll into his mouth.
I glared at him but finished chewing the rest of my roll.
“No one ever said I was a lady,” I finally spoke, wiping my hands on my cloth napkin.
“No one ever said I was a gentleman,” he countered, firing his own piece of role at my head.
I quickly ducked and it hit the back of the booth.
“Oh, it’s on,” he growled, a hint of annoyance in his eyes.
“Bring it on then,” I smirked, tearing a piece of roll and firing it again at his face.
He caught the piece in his mouth with a fluid movement and threw a piece at my chest.
I deflected it with my hand, the chunk hitting the ground. Quickly, I then grabbed a huge chunk of bread and got him straight in the forehead.
“I win,” I declared, popping a piece of bread into my mouth.
“What?” he groaned
“Did I stutter?” I inquired quirking an eyebrow.
Ryan deflated and gave me a mock sad face.
I laughed as he pouted like a five-year-old.
“Fine, you win today but there will be a rematch, just you wait,” he threatened.
“Fair enough,” I rasped, still catching my breath.
A shadow suddenly moved in front of me and I heard a familiar voice call;
Slowly turned to see Carlos with tears in his eyes and fists clenched.
“Carlos, are you ok?” I asked, studying his appearance. Other than looking upset and his flannel stained dark frown from the coke, he looked fine.
“As if you care, you obviously dropped me like a sack of potatoes!” he snapped and a wave of guilt washed over.
“I’m sorry, I thought you left after our fight..,” I began but Ryan cut me off, standing in front of me.
“You have nerve you know that?” he growled, crossing his arms across his chest.
“I have nerve? You poured soda on my head! I could file a complaint!” he roared, his chest rising rapidly.
“After you tried to kiss her after she told you to stop! That could be considered attempted assault!” Ryan argued, his eyes dark and cold.
“Oh c’mon, she wanted it. Right angel?” he asked, a wicked grin distorting his face.
I opened my mouth to deny it but Ryan beat me to it, grabbing him by the collar.
“Call her angel again, I dare you,” he threatened
Carlos chuckled dryly and spat, “Lia, my Angel”
Ryan tightened his grip on his collar, lifting him off the ground and threw a sounding punch at his face.
Carlos’s head snaps backward, blood pouring out of his nose.
I jolted to life and screamed, “STOP!”
Ryan looked at me in shock and Carlos smirked.
“Told you she wanted me,” Carlos chuckled and Ryan was just about to swing another punch when I grabbed his hand.
“Don’t. It’s not worth ruining your father’s business. I’ll talk to him outside and meet you back at the table.”
“But this SCUM isn’t worth your time…” he protested but I held up my hand.
“Let him go, Ryan,” I commanded and Ryan growled but dropped him on the floor with a thump.
I grabbed a clean cloth napkin and knelt beside him.
” Tilt your head back and press this against your nose,” I ordered and he complied, taking the napkin.
I looked up at Ryan and asked, “Do you have a first aid kit?”
“I have one in my car,” Carlos groaned.
“Ok, let’s go to your car then,” I replied, offering a hand to help him up.
He grabbed it tightly and I hoisted him to his feet.
“Did you hurt yourself anywhere else?” I inquired.
“I have a scratch on my elbow,” Carlos replied.
“Ok, I’ll come with you to the car and get you fixed up but then you have to leave,” I said.
“I’ll do anything for you angel,” he smirked and Ryan raised his fist to hit and again I placed my hand on his.
“Go get some rags to clean up the blood and then sit down, our dinner will be here soon,” I said
He nodded but didn’t hesitate to give Carlos a death glare.
“If you lay a hand on her, I swear to God…” he growled but I cut him off.
“He won’t touch me, Ryan,”
“He better not, I have my eyes on you,” he threatened Carlos and then abruptly turned and walked into the kitchens.
“What died and crawled up his ass?” Carlos asked.
I glared at him and snapped, “Lead the way, Carlos.”
He tried to walk down the hallway and almost tripped over a height chair.
I steadied him, “Let me help you, I think you have a concussion,”
Carlos groaned but began walking, this time with me as support.
We reached his car and I settled him in the back seat of his car and found the emergency kit and tended to the scrape.
“I’m going to call 911 now,” I said, reaching into my back pocket to get my phone.
“Why?” he slurred.
“I think you have a concussion,” I replied.
Carlos nodded and then threw up mere inches from my feet.
I dialed the number on the phone and waited.
“Hello, 911 Emergency, how can I help you?” a feminine voice asked.
“Hi, my name is Lia. My friend has a concussion,”
“Ok, is he awake ma’am?” the lady inquired.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Keep him awake. Can I have your address so I dispatch an ambulance?”
” Ummm… I’m at the restaurant Il Dolce Far Niente, I am not sure of the address,” I stuttered.
“That’s fine, I know where that is. Assistance will there shortly,” the lady replied.
“Thank you,” I breathed and the call ended.
“They will be here soon,” I told Carlos who held his head in his hands.
“Thank you,” he muttered.
“Of course,” I said
“I’m sorry, Lia,” he blurted, looking up at me, his eyes bloodshot and his nostrils covered in dried blood.
“For what?” I whispered, taking a wipe and removing the dried blood from his face.
“Almost kissing you, yelling at you, and calling you a *****. I was out of line,” he said, a tear rolling down his cheek.
I finish wiping the blood from his face but don’t say anything.
“I just… I have liked you for so long and when I finally got you to go out with me that dude started to flirt with you… and I got jealous. I just wanted to claim you as mine,” he continued, more tears sliding down his face. I handed a packet of tissues from the emergency box and he blew his nose.
“Can you forgive me?” he sobbed, blowing his nose again.
“Of course, just don’t do it to another girl,” I answered, placing the medical supplies back in the medal emergency box.
“There will be no other girl, there’s only you,” he said, clutching my hands tightly.
Gently I removed my hands from him and looked him in the eye; “Carlos, I hardly really know you nor do you really know me, how can there only be me?”
“Because I loved you from the first time you walked into my liquor store. You’re my angel, You’re my saving grace,” he answered.
“Carlos, you hardly know me, how can you love me?” I asked, not sure how to feel.
If what he says is true, he has loved me for almost a year! And it was flattering but… I just wasn’t sure. Especially after what happened tonight.
“Don’t you believe in love at first sight?” he demanded, desperation clear in his voice.
“No, I don’t Carlos. I don’t believe in just loving someone from a simple glance,” I replied. I could hear the sirens in the distance and quickly I stood up.
“Oh, but you could come to love me, couldn’t you Lia?” he pleaded, tears welding his eyes.
My heart shattered into pieces looking at Carlos, who always seemed cheerful. I really hated seeing him this way. But he scared me in there, breaking my trust. In order to love someone, you have to trust them.
“I am sure you will find a wonderful girl to love you Carlos, but that girl is not me,” I finally said, a tear slipping down my face. I was breaking his heart but I couldn’t help it. I never wanted to hurt anybody but you can’t force romantic love, no matter how hard you try.
Carlos said nothing after that and we sat in awkward silence, him hunched over in the back seat and me on the ground beside him. A few minutes later the ambulance pulled into the parking lot and I ran into the middle of the parking lot to flag it down. They laid him gently on a stretcher and placed him in the ambulance. They asked me if I wanted to come as well but I couldn’t, not after all that just happened.
Instead, I called his parents and told them to meet him at the local hospital, only five minutes away. Before they closed the doors Carlos made a promise to me, a promise that shook me deeply to the core. Carlos said that he would never give up on me and that one way or another I would be his. I hoped it was just his concussed brain making him wonky but he did try to kiss me without my permission, so only heaven knows.