Best-Laid Plans (Chapter Two, page 1 of 2)


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Friday was usually a hectic day, with people being released, so she was unable to leave early. At five o’clock sharp, Adrienne left the hospital. Brandon’s blue Neon was already in the parking lot, and he was lounging with his back against it, arms folded across his chest. His attention was on some children playing in the park across the street, so he didn’t immediately see her.
As Adrienne stepped off the sidewalk, she heard quick steps from behind. She increased her pace, but a hand grabbed her arm.
“Hold up a minute, Adri,” Michael said.
She stopped and glanced up at his flushed face. He grinned.
“You sure walk fast. I’ve been trying to catch you since you left the lounge.” He paused for a moment to catch his breath. “You’ve got something planned this weekend, but what about Wednesday night?”
Adrienne glanced at Brandon, who was now watching them. “What about Wednesday night?”
“There’s a concert at the arts center. I just happen to have two tickets. How would you like to be my date?”
It was the perfect opportunity to test her theory. Hundreds of people, and no opportunity for intimacy. She glanced up at him and smiled. “Sure, why not?”

For a moment he looked confused. “Why not?”
Her smile broadened. “Unless you have someone you’d rather take?”
“Oh no. I . .” he stammered, his face turning red. “I’ll pick you up around sevenish?”
“It’s a date,” she said, driving home the stake.
He nodded absently, giving her a suspicious look. “I’ll see you then. You won’t forget again?”
She smiled. “I promise.”
Adrienne was still smiling when Brandon opened the door for her.
“You look like the cat that swallowed the canary,” he said, giving her a puzzled look.
She laughed softly. “Every once in a while, things turn out the way you hope that they will.”
Once she was settled in the seat, he shut the door and walked around the car to the driver’s side. He paused with his hand on the ignition key and glanced at her.
“What was that all about?”
She chuckled. “Oh, just a date for the concert.”
He frowned. “I didn’t know you liked that sort of thing.”
She shrugged. “Oh, it’s all right.”
He started the car. “Just depends on who you’re with, huh?” His tone was disinterested.
She glanced at his face, but it betrayed no emotion. “Sure, why not?” She glanced out the window, still smiling. This was one way to kill two birds with one stone. Now the pressure would be off Brandon, and Michael would soon loose interest. What a perfect plan . . . almost. The idea that Brandon felt relieved wasn’t all that flattering - or comforting, for that matter.
Brandon flipped through the radio stations, pausing on an "Oldies" channel. After a few minutes, he reached over to change it.
"Oh, leave it there," Adrienne said. "My parents used to listen to those old songs. I love them."
He nodded. "Me too." He was silent for a few moments and she thought he was listening to the radio. Finally he spoke again.
"We have a lot in common, you know?"
She laughed shortly. "Sure, we're both workaholics and we're both square," she said, forming a square in the air with her index fingers.
She leaned forward and peered at his somber features. "I didn't mean to offend you."
"I'm not offended," he responded coolly. "I'm just tired of the labels we slap on people who think independent of the 'in' crowd. Square, nerd. I've heard it all."
She stared at him. "Nerd? You?"
"Yeah," he grunted as he kept his eyes on the road. "Along with bookworm and plow boy. You're the first girl who has ever accepted me for what I am. A farm boy gone city. So what?"
This was a new side to Brandon. Why was he suddenly so melancholy - so bitter? What was going on in his life right now? He hadn't been his usual jocular self for the last three weeks, and now this spontaneous trip to see his parents - and inviting her along? Was he searching for answers? Maybe there would be some clues at his parent's place. He deserved more than the sympathetic ear she had been lending him lately. What he needed was friendship. Was that what he was hinting at when he said she was his best friend - that he needed someone to talk to?
She stared out the window at the colorless winter landscape. Her erotic dreams were proof that he was becoming more than a friend to her, and that thought was troubling - both from the standpoint of her goals, and the fact that she was setting herself up for rejection. The minute he detected something more than a platonic relationship, it was going to be good-by friendship. So why was she in his car? And why was she so eager to meet his parents?
She glanced at his rugged profile: the nose that looked like it had been broken more than once; the high cheekbones and hollow cheeks. And yet, there was something attractive about him - almost irresistible. Something in his innocent boyish smile and the way he moved - so deliberate, even graceful.
She tore her gaze from him. All this was doing neither of them any good. She had plans. A relationship would only get in the way. Maybe later - a few years from now. Nose to the grindstone.

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