She hit cosmetics and personal items first. Then they got dresses, pants, tops, bras, panties, shoes, and a couple of bathing suits. The one-piece was sexy, and it covered the essentials. The other one was a very skimpy pink bikini with a crocheted bra. Just seeing it held up to her breasts as she looked at it made him lightheaded. Two hours later, they walked up to check out with two carts full of clothes amounting to a pretty complete wardrobe.
As they were checking out, the clerk kept looking at them, obviously curious about their status and Paige’s injuries. “My niece,” he explained. “She hurt herself surfing in California, and she is going to stay with me awhile as she heals. She came straight up from LA, and she doesn’t have any clothes here.”
The woman was Latina, about 25 years old, very good-looking with a full figure. Her vibe told him she was game. ‘Uh-huh,” she said sarcastically, looking at the stack of clothes and not fooled by his story. She looked him in the eye, smiled, and asked boldly, “You need another niece? I could use an uncle like you.”
Paige reached over and took his arm in hers. “Sorry, he’s full up on nieces.”
She batted her bruised eyes and smiled directly and possessively at the cashier. Gary’s heart did a little flip-flop. Well, that’s interesting, he thought.
The two women were joking but there was a definite undertone, and the cashier had opened a door Paige slammed back shut. Paige was not letting another woman into her territory.
The cashier chuckled, “Thought so.”
The two girls laughed as they shared the joke. As Gary was using his card, she smiled at Paige, “Have fun with your UNCLE.”
Gary smiled and shook his head; Paige laughed and waved goodbye. Walking away from the cashier, he looked at her. “How old are you again?”
She cast him a sexy, albeit crooked grin, and slipped her arm back through his so it rested against her breast. She put a little extra wiggle in her walk. “I’m old enough, UNCLE Gary.”
As they made their way to the car, pushing a cart piled with bags, she glanced at Gary. They had just spent a couple of hours shopping together, spending more than $1,800, which shocked her. He had coached her the entire way, buying her cosmetics, intimates, jewelry, dresses, and shoes. They were easing into a comfort zone. Friends, flirt-mates, with a hint of sexual tension between them. She sensed he was not predatory, and she remembered the stories of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady.
She wondered as she glanced at him, Am I his Liza Doolittle? Well, if I am, that story ended up ok…
He was obviously enjoying helping her choose clothes and accessories he wanted to see her in. The thought touched her. She was not used to someone taking care of her like this, wanting to see her well, to display her. She honestly appreciated what he was doing to help her forget what she went through, distracting her from it, letting her feel beautiful instead of dirty.
As they pulled out of the lot, she said, again, “Thank you so much. I can’t believe you did that! You better be careful. You might not be able to get rid of me.” Instantly she blushed, knowing what she said.
He just smiled, “Promises, promises.” Their eyes met, and the spark was alive. He won that round, but only because in embarrassing herself, she momentarily lost control. Neither of them knew what this was or where it would go, but they were both having fun, and it was what he wanted right then. He wanted Paige to have fun. With the trunk and the back seat full of bags, they pulled onto Hwy 82 and headed north. Forty-five minutes until they were home, and they were both ready to have this trip over for the day.
“We should be at the farm a little after five-thirty. I need a beer and some fajitas!”
Paige smiled and agreed. “I need a shower and a change of clothes. Then I’ll join you for those fajitas and maybe some wine if that’s ok?”
He turned up the music; Quodes was playing ‘Poison.’ Soon the car was eating up the miles toward home.
“What are you thinking?” he asked. “What do you want to ask me that you have been waiting for?”
She smiled thoughtfully. “Not waiting, really. I’m just curious about your house and what I’m supposed to do there. I left everything behind in McCall with nothing to go back to. I went to Las Vegas with plans. Now they are all gone, and I have no idea what my life is about. Oddly enough, I’m not freaked out about that; I think coming so close to a horrible future has changed the way I look at things. My first thoughts were that I was headed for a life of drugs, prostitution, abuse, disease, and early death. I thought about it a lot when I was locked in that room, tied up, waiting for some pimp to come to buy me from those guys. Then they told me I was going to the Middle East! I was so scared, but then everything changed. Within twenty-four hours I’m riding in a fantastic car full of new clothes with an amazing guy, going to a house with a housekeeper. It’s all a little surreal at this point.”
She thought for a minute, then turned to him and asked a question he could tell, had been on her mind. “How long am I going to stay with you? Can I leave when I want?”
He looked at her in surprise. “Paige, you aren’t a prisoner. You are free to stay or go anytime you want. Just say the word and I’ll buy you a ticket to any place you want. I just hope you give yourself a chance to get healed and make plans. As far as how long you can stay with me, I haven’t even thought about that yet. I have a big house, there is a great college nearby, maybe you want to go back to school or work? Let’s just take it one day at a time and see what happens.”
She not only found that reassuring, but she had never dreamed someone would offer her this kind of an option. It was overwhelming.
“I like that plan. I’ll take it one day at a time then.”
He smiled as he teased her again, “Can we go back to the part where you were telling me I’m an amazing guy?”
She looked over at him, her lips pursed. He thought he had caught her, but she was quicker. “Well, you know, in a purely academic, theoretical way.”
He chuckled, “I’ll take that, for now.”
She was back on top. He was ok with that too. As they came over the crest of the pass, she could see the Ellensburg valley before them. She commented she had never been there. “Who am I kidding? Other than a few trips to Boise with the volleyball and cross-country teams, I’d never been out of McCall until I went to Vegas.”
She was surveying the countryside as they made their way off the exit and drove east on the surface roads to his home.
“Well, we don’t live in town. I like privacy and space,” he paused, “and I like that Jax can hear anybody approaching for a mile; I have sensors all around the farm, but he’s almost as good; not much gets past him.”
This is the end of Chapter 3, as we head into Chapter 4, Paige gets to see her new home!