Wouldn’t you know it? Just when things opened up for him, Randie was busy. When Lucas got off work on Monday night, he called his brother, Dylan. December had started out mild, not even the hint of a snowflake. But it never lasted. The weatherman was predicting two inches of the white stuff later this week, which reminded Lucas that Christmas was right around the corner.
“Don’t know about you,” Lucas said, “but I haven’t bought the kids’ Christmas presents yet. Want to come with me to shop for them, and then we can grab something to eat?”
“I just got home.” Dylan sounded rushed. He must have just walked through the door. “Give me a minute to change before you pick me up.”
“See you soon.” Lucas spent a few minutes playing with Hercules, tossing and tugging on his braided rope, before feeding him and heading to Dylan’s apartment. The chihuahua hated it when he came home and then left a short time later, but Lucas wouldn’t make this a late night. He and the dog would be on the sofa, watching TV in the early evening.
It was only a fifteen-minute drive to Dylan’s. His brother lived in an apartment complex close to Toby. The real reason for him living there, though, was the nearby city park. Dylan loved being outdoors and in Nature. Lucas had tried to talk him into buying a piece of property outside of the city, but Dylan had decided it would be too lonely. In the city, he could walk nature trails and still be around people. Not that he’d ever interact with them. He might like to see other people, but he tended to avoid them.
Dylan’s apartment felt claustrophobic to Lucas, but his brother rarely spent time there. He was usually out and about, alone. Lucas often wished that Dylan would find his Miss Right, someone who was as warm and caring as he was, but who enjoyed solitude. He had no idea how that could happen, though, when he mostly kept to himself.
When Lucas pulled in front of Dylan’s apartment, his brother walked out the door, pulling on his wool coat.
“Getting colder,” he said. “Supposed to get snow later this week.”
“Got anything in mind to buy the kids?” Lucas asked.
“Dulcey told me she’d bought them a few big things, and she was hoping we’d buy a lot of stocking stuffers and small things for them to open.”
With a nod, Lucas headed to the outdoor mall on the southwest side of town. There were a few stores that would have toys. The bookstore was there, too, and he thought he’d buy them a few books and some puzzles and games. On the way, it occurred to him that he’d like to buy Randie a present, too. Not jewelry. That was too serious. And no candy or flowers. Too mushy. And then he thought of it. She talked about cookbooks with reverence. There was a new one she wanted but hadn’t bought yet. He’d buy her that, along with a few cooking magazines.
Dylan startled him out of his thoughts. “I met a really nice woman today.”
Dylan? A woman? “Where?”
“I’m plumbing this new house—a huge place—and the owners hired Amelia to paint three murals on the walls. She came to see the spaces and take measurements.”
“How old is she?” He shouldn’t get his hopes up. Amelia was an older name. Maybe she had gray hair and eight grandchildren.
“Early thirties? She has this short, sandy-colored hair that bounces around her face like little springs. It looked like if you pulled on one, it would curl right back again.”
When had Dylan ever described a woman’s hair before? “Is she nice?”
“She almost felt other-worldly, like she didn’t see things the way the rest of us do.”
“Is that a good thing?”
Dylan smiled. “I liked it.”
“Would you ever ask her out on a date?” He was treading on thin ice, but he could at least throw the idea out there.
“A date?” Dylan looked startled. “No, but we’re going to meet by the big sycamore tree at the park. Amelia’s never been there and she wants to see it. She paints and sells a lot of nature scenes.”
“So, she probably tromps around as much as you do?”
“She goes out every weekend to take pictures of different things that strike her fancy. Then if they tug at her, she paints them.”
“Every weekend, huh? She must be single.”
“I guess so.”
Lucas ticked things off in his mind. Curls. An artist. Single. “You’ve gone to a lot of odd places to hike. I bet you have some ideas she could use.”
“We talked about that.”
Lucas decided to leave it alone. If he pressed too much, he might scare Dylan off. They moved on to work topics before he pulled into the entrance to the mall. They spent the next hour and a half shopping. When they finished, Jordy and Beth would have lots of things to unwrap under the tree and some fun gifts in their stockings. Lucas was especially happy with yoyos that lit up when you used them. And he’d have a present for Randie he thought she’d like. He’d ended up buying her four cookbooks and as many food magazines. She’d told him she loved to flip through recipes.
They stopped at Five Guys to buy a quick burger before Lucas drove Dylan home. When he finally got back to his own place, he was feeling pretty satisfied with the world. Nothing might come of Dylan meeting Amelia, but then again, it might.
He and Hercules settled on the sofa, content to watch mindless TV and chill together. He wouldn’t see Randie again until Sunday, but after that, they both had some free time. Soon, school would be out and she wouldn’t have to get up to go to work in the mornings. He usually had down time the week before Christmas, too. People didn’t schedule repairs when their kids were home for the holidays, and any new building projects could wait. If he played his cards right, maybe he could talk her into spending the night.