“Clio, we will find him,” Lio said, stepping into my personal space and tilting my head up. I stared into Lio’s eyes which held a soft look, and I nodded, but my mood didn’t change. Waves of danger filtered through the kitchen, I turned my head and saw Chance watching with narrowed eyes. Belatedly, I realised what this could be construed as and took a step back and launched myself into Chance’s arms. There was a moment’s hesitation, and then arms encircled me.
“What’s up?” Chance rumbled, and yeah, there were vibes in his voice that Lio couldn’t possibly mistake. To my surprise, Lio grinned quickly and repeated his words, Chance held me, but he was pissed.
“Understood,” Chance growled at the end, and Lio gave us both a chin lift and left the kitchen.
“I ever find you in another man’s arms Clio, I’ll rip his fuckin’ arms off and beat him with them,” Chance warned, and I stepped back surprised.
“I wasn’t in Lio’s arms Chance, Lio was trying to comfort and reassure me, he’d catch Sam,” I bit out.
“Clio, Lio had hands on you, no man puts hands on you, you’re mine,” Chance’s voice dipped low, and I stared.
“Lio wasn’t putting hands on me, he was comforting me, and you need a wake-up call. I don’t want another man, I want you, but blow me if I’m going to stand here and let you accuse me of something!”
“Ain’t accusing, tellin’, no man puts hands on you, if you want to play those games, I don’t play Clio,” Chance growled again. My temper ignited, and my hands shot to my hips.
“You can lay the law down all you want Chance, but I’m telling you, don’t dictate to me, I’ll discuss and talk but won’t be dictated too. I don’t cheat, don’t play games and I am fucking loyal! I love you, and if that isn’t enough to make you secure and safe, that’s your issue, not mine,” I snapped. Chance’s lips pursed, and I waited for him to blast me, but he stormed past me and out of the kitchen. Leslie stood in the doorway, her eyes huge and mouth open.
“Wow,” Leslie said, and I gave her an abrupt nod and returned to whisking my batter. I was furious with how Chance had reacted to Lio, and then his reaction to me. There’d been no need for Chance’s response, I hadn’t been in Lio’s arms, and the detective had only been trying to reassure me.
Several hours later, my emotions hadn’t changed much, and I was still angry at Chance, infuriating man. There was a commotion at the door, and I stared wide-eyed as an enormous bunch of beautifully coloured balloons entered. In pastel shades, they floated happily around the head of the delivery man. I exchanged glances with Leslie, and a smirk crossed her lips.
“Think Chance is apologising,” Leslie muttered, and I shook my head, no this wasn’t Chance. It would never occur to him to apologise this way.
“Mrs Leslie Staffey?” the man said, and Leslie’s mouth dropped open, and I laughed. Staffey had more balls than a bull, had he seriously addressed the balloons to Leslie as if she was married to him?
“That’s Leslie,” I said, pointing at the dumbfounded older woman. The driver grinned and passed her the balloons before handing her a small bag and a card, he tipped his cap and sauntered out. Leslie seemed stuck as she stared after him and then stared at her hands.
“Did he just call me Mrs Leslie Staffey?” she whispered as Carla, Zoey, Tania, Kris and Anita crowded around Leslie. Douglas shot us a curious stare alongside customers, many of whom were ahh’ing over the balloons.
“Open the card,” Kris prompted.
“No open the bag, I bet its jewellery,” Zoey refuted Kris’s comment. Leslie stood still seemingly in shock.
“Oh missus, open the bag,” said an old lady who’d been in every day for afternoon tea. Other customers crowded around the arch and offered encouragement, Leslie finally handed Kris the balloons and placed the bag on the counter and opened the card. She blushed as she read it and seconds later fanned herself with it.
“Well, what does it say?” Carla demanded giving voice to my thoughts. I wanted to know what Staffey had written to make Leslie blush. Leslie held the card out, and I read it through before reading aloud, I, after all, didn’t want to embarrass my future Stepmom.
“Darling Leslie, there hasn’t been a day go past, you weren’t in my thoughts. Wherever I travelled, you came too, in spirit and in my heart. You’re as beautiful as a sunrise and as magical as a clear night of stars, my life without you, was dull and drab. But now you’re my sun and moon, my every breath I take.” I blinked, it was sweet, maybe a tad too much corny but Staffey’s emotions were stated plainly.
“Oh wow,” Zoey whispered, making doe eyes at Leslie, Carla seemed to think the same as me. Way too much corny, but everyone else was smitten by the words.
“What’s in the bag?” Carla asked shoving the bag at Leslie. She opened it and pulled out a box, opening the box Leslie gasped, and I crowded around to see inside it. Ah, Staffey had gone big indeed! Nestled in blue velvet was a white gold chain with separate moon, star, and sun pendants hanging from it. In addition, there were three sets of earrings mirroring the charms and a bangle with three matching charms. Set into the star was a diamond, and the moon held sapphires, while the sun held topaz, I guessed.
“They’re stunning,” I said to Leslie who stared speechlessly.
“Did you know Samuel planned this?” Leslie whispered.
“No, but wow Leslie,” I smiled at the stunned woman.
“They’re white gold,” Anita said peering at the box. “Handcrafted too, look at the label, this isn’t cheap tat Leslie.” Leslie clasped the box in her hand and gazed at me, then the box and the balloons and then the card. Her shoulders straightened, and my stomach dropped, maybe Staffey’s gift wasn’t going to go down well. The door opened, and the man himself entered looking unsure as he caught the expression on Leslie’s face.
Leslie passed me the box as she took a step towards Staffey and paused. I cheered inwardly as Leslie looked unsure of herself and then took another step. Staffey leaned back against the door, waiting for her reaction.
“I’m an old lady now,” Leslie whispered. Staffey turned his lip up into a sneer.
“Bullshit, you’re as beautiful as ever and still my girl.” Aw’s accompanied Staffey’s words, and Leslie blinked.
“Okay, I’m older than what I was then, and I’ve two adult children and grandchildren!” Leslie snapped, and I saw the glint in Staffey’s eye. Staffey moved forward so fast if anyone blinked, they’d have missed it and wrapped his arms around Leslie before claiming her mouth in a kiss. Smiling, I looked away at that point, a little uncomfortable at seeing my dad kissing Leslie. Judging by the positive comments, Staffey did a decent job.