Bella sat down on the couch next to her friend, plate in hand. Azura smiled up at the other woman. “Hey! Just the person I wanted to see! I can’t thank you enough for all of this, Bella!”
Bella smiled. Her worries that she’d shared with Mortimer had been put to rest and seeing the way her friend was almost glowing only cemented the fact that she had made the right decision. That and watching her kids interact with ‘Aunt ‘Zura’ made her especially glad.
She shook her head. “I will admit; the last few weeks, I’ve had my- reservations and some doubts. But quite honestly, Azura, darling, things are wonderful. I’ve never seen the kids happier nor have I seen my husband so relaxed in far too long. Work was really dragging him down. This is good, this is great even.” She reached over and took Azura’s hands in hers. “How are you doing? How’s your research?”
Azura looked away from Bella, but not before she saw the blush that flamed over her cheeks. “Azura? Is everything ok?” she asked, concerned.
“Oh, you’re too sweet.” Azura looked at her, though she was still blushing profusely. “I’m fine, truly fine. My research is going well, but uh- I have to be honest. I-I’ve gotten a bit… distracted,” she said lamely.
One of Bella’s eyebrows winged up and she grinned. “Oh ho! Distracted hm? You wouldn’t have gotten distracted by- oh, I don’t know- a member of the opposite sex, have you?”
Azura nodded quickly, throwing her hands up. “I have! I-I don’t even know how it happened!” She leaned back, tipping her head all the way back until it rested on the back of the couch as her gaze seemed to go far away for a bit. “It was a week or so ago. I’d gotten a bit blocked with this new book. I needed a change of scenery, something to kick-start my muse. So I went to the park. I just say on one of the benches for a bit, then went to go to the pond’s edge. I saw a little frog jump and on impulse, I tried to catch it.”
Bella snorted out a laugh. “Azura Chroma! Don’t you dare tell me that you kissed that frog and he turned into your handsome Prince!”
Azura blinked, then threw her head back in laughter. It took a moment for the guffaws to subside. “No, I can safely say I didn’t kiss the frog. In fact, I didn’t even catch the little bugger. I was still feeling a bit restless, so I decided a bit of a walk was in order. I-I was going down the path and-and that’s when I saw him.”
She paused and had to take a deep breath. “I swear, it’s like what you and I would talk about when we were kids. That instant our eyes met… I swear it was like a sucker punch straight to the solar plexus.”
Bella’s expression went a bit gooey. She knew just how that felt. She’d had the same experience with her Morty. “What happened?” she asked gently, though her expression was eager to know what happened.
Azura sighed softly, the sound full of longing. “We both just stopped right on the path, just like that. He smiled at me, said ‘Hello, beautiful lady.’ I replied with ‘Hello, handsome man.’ Then we both laughed. Oh Bella, we must have stood there talking for hours! Just talking and laughing. It was so- easy! So easy to talk to him. I-I’ve never had that, not with anyone.” She grinned sheepishly. “Well, except with you, of course. But I just- I can’t even explain it!”
Bella leaned over and gave her a quick, hard squeeze. “You don’t need to. I understand perfectly.” She looked at Azura, grinning. “So? What’s your Prince’s name?”
Azura grinned. “Rogelio. Isn’t that fantastic? Sounds so exotic! ‘Rogelio’.”
Bella laughed. “Even just saying his name has you glowing! Will he be coming over anytime soon?”
“Actually… he’s coming over tomorrow night.”
“Don’t you worry,” Bella said firmly, a twinkle in her eye. “I’ll make sure you two aren’t disturbed. I think it’s time Morty and I took the kids to the park or for a visit to Oasis Springs for the day.”
“Oh, no! You don’t have to do that!” Azura protested, panicking a little. It was one thing to stand there and chat with Rogelio for hours- the only reason either had had to go was because Azura had promised Alex she’d come home and read to him. But it was entirely another to know she’d be here all alone with him! What if she made a fool of herself?
“Nonsense! You and Rogelio don’t need us underfoot!” Bella was very firm. She could see the nerves that were beginning to surface in her friend. “What did he say to you when you parted?”
That stopped the protest that had been on the tip of Azura’s tongue. Her cheeks heated again, though it was with the pleasure of the memory. “Well, he pulled me into this warm, gentle hug and told me that he was lucky to have run into me. It must have been fate. And that he couldn’t wait to see me again.”
Bella nodded with some satisfaction. “Good. I think the kids would like to visit Nancy and Geoffrey for a bit anyway.” She smiled at Azura who seemed off in her own little world, thinking about her Prince Charming.
When the doorbell rang the next day, Azura had to wipe her hands off on her thighs. Why was she so nervous? It didn’t make any sense! She didn’t normally have such a problem talking with people. In fact, she was quite outgoing. Even as she berated herself in her head, she opened the door and froze. A goofy grin split her face. “Hello again, beautiful lady,” Rogelio greeted her.
“And hello again to you, handsome man,” she murmured. Butterflies danced in her stomach.
“I have something for you,” he said quietly, drawing a single red rose from behind his back.
She looked at the flower, then up at him. Something inside her seemed to bloom; this warm feeling just spread through her chest. She had no idea what made her do it. Before a single thought could register in her head, she’d taken the rose and thrusting her head forward with no hesitation, she pressed her lips to his.
It was only after Rogelio’s little gasp that her sense seemed to return to her. She pulled back, appalled at herself. What had she just done?! What had she been thinking?! Then again, she couldn’t bring herself to really regret her actions either. Maybe she was a bit fearful of his reaction, but she had definitely enjoyed it.
There was no need to be fearful, it seemed. Rogelio simply smiled at her, his dark eyes twinkling. He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. Without a word, Azura took his hand and led him into the kitchen. “I’ll make us some coffee and some lunch,” she said. “How does that sound?”
“That sounds lovely,” he murmured. “But before you do…” He took a step closer and slid his arms around her waist, just looking into her eyes for a long moment.
Azura let out a soft breath, looking into his beautiful brown eyes. “We’re moving too fast, I know it,” she murmured. “But I don’t care. Do you?”
He shook his head. “Not at all.” He leaned forward, pressing his lips to hers, his grip around her tightening as she melted into the kiss.
“What’s wrong, sis?” Alex asked, his tongue sticking out as he concentrated on the math problem he was working on.
“Oh nothing. Just thinking,” Cassie murmured. “Haven’t seen much of ‘Zura lately.”
Alex nodded. “That’s true. Work’s been busy for her.”
“Yeah, that and when she’s not at work, she’s with Rogelio.” She stood up, intending to take her plate to the sink.
‘Speak of the devil and she will come’. Even as Alex got up, his homework finished, Azura padded out to the kitchen, looking sleepy. Alex greeted her warmly, even gave her a hug before running off to get ready for school. Cassie stayed though. After taking care of her plate, she sat back down. “You look tired, ‘Zura,” she observed.
Azura laughed. “Yeah, been a long couple weeks. Deadlines coming up for my new book.”
Cassie gave her a sly grin. “Deadline hm? Sure it doesn’t have anything to do with a certain tall, dark, and handsome man that’s been spending nights here?”
Azura hadn’t known she could blush so hard. “Uh… well then.” She rubbed at the back of her neck. “You uh-“
Cassie began to laugh. “It’s ok. I’m a big girl. I think it’s incredibly sweet. You guys are good together.”
Azura blushed again. “Thanks. I-I’ve never felt like this. I got so caught up i-in my research, it just didn’t enter into things. A-and I guess I was afraid. Losing mom and dad like I did, I guess I was afraid of getting close.” She smiled at Cassie. “But you guys made it hard not to get close to you. And I like it, a lot. I feel… alive for the first time in a long time.”
The young girl reached across the table and put her hand over Azura’s. “We’re all family, right?”
“Yes, yes we are.”
Cassie’s head jerked up as her brother’s voice reached her. She looked at the clock. “Oh no! Gotta go! See ya later, ‘Zura!” She ran upstairs to get changed and then ran out to catch up with her brother.
Azura smiled after her. She looked down at her own watch and huffed out a sigh. She was going to be late for work herself if she didn’t get herself up and around. Today was going to be a long day, especially since Rogelio had suggested they get out of the house, go on a date. They hadn’t really had much time to do that. She was certainly looking forward to it.
Azura dragged herself home from work. It had been a miserable day. Her editor had ripped her latest manuscript apart. She had a lot of work to do to fix things. She sat at the kitchen table, her drink forgotten by her hand. She wondered if pushing their date off to tomorrow night would be a good idea.
She was still contemplating that when she felt a pair of strong hands on her shoulders. She let out a small moan. “I’ll give you ten years to stop that,” she murmured.
Rogelio’s laugh was deep and rumbling. “You’re tense, love. Long day?”
“Oh yes, yes it was. I pretty much have to rewrite the second half of my latest manuscript.”
“Poor thing. Well, why don’t you turn it off for a bit? I think you’d like the park, hm?”
With his hands still kneading the muscles in her neck and shoulders, and just his presence, all thoughts of postponing their date fled. “That sounds wonderful,” she murmured. “Let me get another cup of coffee, then we can go.”
The sun was already setting by the time they walked to the park. They sat themselves on one of the benches nearest the fountain. Rogelio smiled at her. “Feel good to be out of the house?”
“Oh Watcher yes,” she breathed out. “If I have to stare at my computer anymore today or even this week, I’ll go crazy.” She grinned. “Then again, I might already be there.”
He laughed, then reached over to put his hand over hers.
Much like most of the time they were together, they lost themselves in one another, in talking about anything and everything under the sun. By the time they realized they’d been there a while, it was full dark. They stood up, intending to go back to Azura’s place. On impulse, she took his hand in her own.
“Rog? I know we haven’t talked about-about our future much. We’ve carefully kept things in the present. But I don’t want to do that anymore. It may be crazy and- and maybe you aren’t ready for this, but… would you like to move in?”
The smile that she loved so much spread across his face just before he grabbed her and pulled her in for a kiss.
After they separated, both needing a bit of air, she leaned close and whispered, “Let’s go home.”