CONFLICTING HEARTS by J. D. Burrows
Rachel Hayward hoped to have a quiet thirtieth birthday alone. Instead, fate had different plans.
Caught in traffic and late for work, Rachel takes her eyes off the road to gawk at an accident and rear-ends the car in front of her. Sick over having ruined her day, she lowers her head and waits for the driver to begin a tirade over her stupidity. Instead, a kind man taps on her window showing genuine concern. The brief colliding encounter suddenly starts a relationship between two strangers that takes off under odd circumstances.
When intimacy begins, their relationship turns into a conflicting set of needs. Ian is tenderhearted and respectful, but Rachel wants more. The clash of desires threatens to tear them apart. As a result, she is faced with the decision to leave the man she loves or finally confront her demons and obtain healing from her dark childhood.
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My stomach flutters like a butterfly. I dial his number and notice I’ve pushed one of the numbers wrong. Damn, I’m so freaking nervous, my brain won’t work. I repeatedly blink a few times to get my vision squared away so I can see straight. Afterward, I try again and meticulously tap the numbers on my shiny cell phone screen. I bring the phone to my ear, hear it ring, and he immediately answers.
“Ian Richards,” he says, upbeat and cheerful.
The lump in my throat won’t let me say anything. A few seconds pass, and I hear him again.
“Hello? Anybody there?”
“It’s me,” I squeak out, sounding like a mouse.
“Me who?” I hear a chuckle in his voice as if he already knows ‘me who.’
“Rachel.” The pitch in my voice is still high.
“Well, hello there,” he drawls in a relaxed tone. His voice reminds me of black velvet, and I see his handsome face in my mind and turn to putty.
I draw in a breath and control myself. “Thank you for the flowers, Mr. Richards.”
“You’re very welcome, Rachel. Are the roses to your liking?” He sounds so sweet and sincere.
“Yes, but you shouldn’t have.”
“Because, I don’t really know you, and I killed your fancy car this morning.”
“Well, you know the rear end of my car, the interior of my car, the contents of my trunk, my driver’s license number, address, height, weight, color of my eyes, and location of my employment. I would say that you do know some things about me.”
I try and stifle a girlish giggle, but it’s no use. Why am I having this conversation with this man? I ask myself.
“So, what about dinner, Miss Hayward? Can I pick you up at five?”
“I don’t do dinner out,” I reply in a sheepish voice.
“Because.” My eyes close. I’m such a ninny.
“I’m not sure I understand. Can you explain the ‘because’ statement?”
The reason is childish and silly, but I might as well tell him the truth. Maybe he’ll go away. “I get nervous when I’m with strangers, and I can’t eat. And if I do eat when I’m nervous, I get sick to my stomach. So I made a pact with myself never to eat out with strangers. Saves the hassle.”
He pauses for a few moments as if he’s digesting my stupid explanation. “Then how about drinks?”
“You’re not giving up are you, Mr. Richards.” I state it as a fact and not a question.
“Well, I don’t want to pressure you into anything.”
Oh, yes, you do, I think warily to myself.
“Do you need to pick up a rental car after work?” He continues his questions.
“No, I couldn’t get one until tomorrow morning.”
“Well, then how will you get home?”
“Have one drink with me, and then I’ll drive you home.”
Boy, this guy is pushy. I hesitate and then continue. “How do I know you’re not an attorney during the day and a serial killer at night and on weekends?” My tone is dead-serious. “You did have duct tape in your trunk.”
I’m not joking, and his breathing gets heavier at the other end. Maybe he is a serial killer, and he’s thinking how to do me in even now because I’ve annoyed the hell out of him.
“You’ll have to trust me that I’m not.” His voice is calm and unnervingly even.
Trust. Oh, sure. A concept that for me doesn’t exist, my brain reminds me. “It’s hard for me to trust,” I admit, clearing my throat.
“Look, Miss Hayward,” he says, slightly annoyed. “I have no intention of harming you whatsoever. I felt sorry that you were spending your birthday alone. Since we met during unpleasant circumstances, I just thought I’d offer you a chance to celebrate. Nothing more.”
I’ve offended him. Guilt washes over me and anxiety gnaws at stomach. I hate it when I’ve annoyed people, especially when they are trying to be nice. It’s not my intention to make him dislike me. Rejection hurts, even from strangers. Perhaps I’m reading way too much into this, like I usually do, so I relent.
“Five o’clock? I’ll meet you in the lobby of your building?” He sounds as if he’s about to spring out into a chorus of Hallelujah.
“Okay.” I’m feeling the usual deer in the headlight syndrome. I can’t think of anything to say, because my brain is frozen. He gets what he wants, and I can’t say no.
“Okay, five o’clock in the lobby,” I repeat.
“See you then,” he replies and hangs up.
Immediately, I feel like I’m on the verge of a panic attack. I hate doing things I don’t want to do. Now I’m mad at myself for giving in to his offer and want to throw up.
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