Janelle woke up and immediately checked her phone for messages. For a year she and Austin had been exchanging messages of some type every day. Their favorite was text messages, although emails crept in when either of them had a lot to say. With Austin’s crazy work schedule there was little time for phone calls. Janelle wasn’t a fan of them but she welcomed the twice-monthly, yet totally random, calls from Austin just because he wanted to hear her voice. Those calls didn’t include the once a month video call on whatever Sunday evening Austin had off from work.
They hadn’t always talked that much. After she returned home from her impromptu visit seven years earlier, they only traded messages once or twice a week. Janelle was avoiding getting close to him. Austin pressed a little bit at first but then backed off and respected Janelle’s boundaries. They would chat about random things via instant message and emails. He invited her to come back out and visit, at his expense, a year after her last visit. Of course, Janelle declined. There were years between that invitation and the following one, three to be exact. Austin had ended a relationship and really longed for the comfort he felt with Janelle. He was crushed when she refused again. His hurt ran deep and he didn’t communicate with her for a few weeks afterward. When he did finally send her an email it was an apology.
Janelle had her own series of bad relationships and didn’t want Austin to end up with the role of permanent rebound guy. She wasn’t able to move to Las Vegas and she enjoyed their friendship. Janelle valued every conversation they had and didn’t want that to change. She was so glad when things went back to normal. For the next two years, they chatted as good friends. Austin gave her amazing advice. He even pushed her towards going to a yoga class when she kept complaining about all the weight she had put back on. He sent her the card of someone who he met in Vegas but they lived in Maryland. The guy, Dontae, was a yoga instructor and a nutritionist. His class changed Janelle’s life. There were other plus-sized women in the class. Dontae was adamant that everyone loves themselves. He promoted a positive body image. Had he not been gay, half the class would have tried to marry him.
Yoga was what prompted them to talk more often. It started with her sending him messages after each class. She was going three days a week. Janelle felt like yoga was a tougher workout that many of the others she had done years before. Quite a few of her messages were simply to curse Austin out for even recommending it. Most started with telling him she survived and then they would exchange a few more messages about anything new going on. That quickly slipped into messages being sent back and forth every day.
Austin could not get Janelle off his mind, no matter how many women he dated. No one was her. Then one day he got the sign he had been looking for.
“Austin, how do you feel about accompanying me to Maryland? We need to go and get this new casino set up and the new security team trained.”
“Sounds great.” Austin tried not to grin as his boss, Ben nodded and went back to his paperwork.
Austin knew that they would be looking for someone from the Vegas team to go out and assist whomever they chose to lead the Maryland team. He was hoping to be on that team. He started to mention it to Janelle but he wasn’t sure how. She had been so adamant about them just being friends that he almost considered changing his mind. But he wanted her so bad that he was determined to give it a shot. He would be in Maryland for at least 6 months. It was hard but Austin didn’t mention he was coming to town. The night he flew in he couldn’t even text her for fear he would let it slip. He wanted her honest reaction to seeing him. Somehow he knew that her reaction would tell him everything he needed to know.
Janelle was anxious when she checked her phone that morning. It had been a long time since she had gone almost a whole day without a text from Austin. Her mind began to think the worst and she began to worry. Even still, she refused to text him until he said something to her. She didn’t want to appear to be as anxious as she actually was. It was a Saturday, so she got herself up and ready to head to yoga. Her focus was off the entire class and she almost fell twice. After class, she went in the back and got her things.
“Hey Janelle, there is a nordic god out front talking to Dontae.”
“Huh?” Janelle laughed.
“He is gorgeous.” Another one of her classmates sighed. “He is looking for you.”
Janelle grabbed her mat and bag and headed back upfront. When she saw Austin talking to Dontae she gasped and then squealed.
Austin smiled as Janelle ran over and jumped into his arms. She kissed him and then pulled away with a puzzled look on her face. He smiled. “Surprise.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I knew where to find you.”
Janelle blushed when she realized she was still wrapped around him. “I’m sorry I am all sweaty.”
“That means you had a good workout.” Austin smiled. He was so glad that Janelle was excited to see him.
Janelle wanted to kiss him again but instead, she let him put her down and picked up her bags. “This is why you have been so quiet. I thought something was wrong.”
“Sorry about that.”
Janelle turned to Dontae. “Did he tell you he is the one who told me to come here.”
“No, he didn’t.” Dontae smiled. “Thank you. Janelle is one of my best students. She inspires so many of the new students.”
“I’ll see you on Tuesday.” Janelle turned to Austin and they walked out of the studio. “Okay, so what’s going on? Tell me you didn’t come all this way just to see me.”
“Would it be a bad thing if I did?”
Janelle shook her head. “What do you have planned for today?”
“Hoping you aren’t busy so that we can at least have lunch or dinner.”
“I have nothing on my agenda for today. I just need to go home and shower.”
Austin pointed to his rented SUV. He knew that Janelle got rid of her car several years earlier. “Well let’s get you home then.”
Janelle gave Austin her address so that he could type it in the GPS. She knew she wasn’t in the right mental state to give directions. Her mind was going all over the place. She was so excited that Austin was in town but she was nervous to get her hopes up that it was anything more than a trip for a few days. Finally, she got up the nerve to ask when he pulled in front of the house she rented the top floor of.
“Got your thoughts straight?”
She swatted at his arm. “If you know that I was thinking then you likely know what I was thinking and what I am about to ask.”
“Casino is opening up in National Harbor.”
“Yeah. I heard.”
“I volunteered to help.”
Janelle smiled. “Really?”
“Yup. Far more exciting than the usual stuff in Vegas. Plus a bonus.”
“I get to be near you.”
“For how long?”
“At least six months.” Austin was nervous to look at Janelle’s reaction but when he did all his fear floated away. She had the biggest grin on her face. He smiled. “I hope it won’t be a problem if I want to spend a lot of my free time with you.”
“You better want to spend it with me.” Janelle laughed. She climbed out of the truck. “You and these big ass vehicles.”
Austin shook his head. He got out and followed her up the path. Watching her hips and ass in yoga pants let him know that he was going to do everything in his power to stay close to her for a lot longer than six months.
Janelle finally was able to really squeal again while she was in the shower. If someone had asked her how she felt about Austin the day before she would have told them that they were just friends. The fact that he was sitting in her living room while she got ready changed everything for her. She had passed on several guys because they didn’t make her feel the way Austin did. Lana thought she was crazy. Janelle didn’t want to settle, even if she wasn’t sure if Austin even could continue to make her feel the way he had made her feel the two times they were together. Now she was going to have a chance to see. She was determined not to waste the opportunity.
Austin had been on his phone reading emails but lost focus when Janelle walked back into the living room. She was stunning. The way the dress fit her, showing off her breasts and her ample hips, took his breath away. What he loved the most was the look of confidence in her eyes.
“See what yoga can do.” She smiled.
“Way better than before. I mean I don’t know if I will get as small as I was the last time I saw you.”
“And that is perfectly fine by me.” Austin shook his head. “You look like absolute perfection just the way you are.”
“Stop exaggerating.” Janelle blushed.
“I am not exaggerating.” Austin looked down at his phone as it vibrated in his hand. He sighed. “Would you mind stopping past a construction site before we go get food?”
“That’s cool. There are some really nice places to eat over there already.”
“Oh. Well, you are going to have to show me around. I just got in last night.”
Janelle smiled. “Okay. Well, let’s go.”
Austin followed his boss as he talked and walked around the construction site. Ben had said that the meeting would only last fifteen minutes but he had been talking for thirty. Tracy, Ben’s assistant had come to work with them. Austin had hoped she wouldn’t. She spent the entire thirty minutes staring at him and it was mildly uncomfortable. He was more annoyed than anything else. That girl could not take a hint.
Ben led them out to the driveway. “Okay. I have kept you long enough for a Saturday.”
Austin laughed. “As long as you are done…”
“I was thinking about getting dinner with a few people on the team if you don’t have plans.”
Austin avoided the hope in Tracy’s eyes when Ben spoke. “Actually, I have plans.”
“Plans? You’ve been here for less than 24 hours and you have plans?” Ben laughed.
Austin pointed to his truck. Janelle was on her phone as she sat in the front passenger seat. “Spending the evening with a friend.”
Ben nodded. “Good stuff. Enjoy yourself. See you bright and early Monday morning.”
Austin shook Ben’s hand, nodded quickly to Tracy, and then headed over to his truck. Janelle smiled and ended her call when he got in the car. “I thought he was going to keep me there forever.”
Janelle laughed. “You weren’t gone that long. Lana barely got into telling me the latest about her son.”
“I can go and talk to him some more if you want.”
“Nope. I am hungry and there is a great Chinese food place in the other part of the harbor.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Janelle and Austin spent the entire dinner catching up on the little random things that they usually talked about in their messages. Austin filled her in on some of the insane requests his office got from the wealthy people who stayed at the casino. Her favorites were the requests from the people who thought they were the wealthiest person there only to find out they weren’t even close. Janelle talked about how she was already sick of politics and how boring her job was. She also talked about her yoga class. The ease of their conversation settled Austin’s nerves and kept him calm up until they were walking back to his truck. Suddenly he remembered that this was only their third date.
Janelle hadn’t gotten nervous yet. She turned as she got to the passenger side of the truck and tilted her head back. Austin didn’t move closer until she reached her hand out and pulled him by his shirt. Their lips touched softly. Her lips parted in acceptance of his tongue and he rested his hands on her hips. Austin could feel himself harden. He went to step back but Janelle grabbed him by his belt and pulled him closer.
“I need to know that I still turn you on.”
Austin smiled. “That has never changed.”
Janelle giggled in pleasure. “I’m glad.”
“I want to take you back to my apartment.”
“And I want to go with you back to your apartment.” Janelle kissed him again. “So we should do that.”
Austin woke up from his nap to the sound of his apartment phone. His head was on Janelle’s thigh and he was not trying to move. Janelle answered the phone.
“Ok. Thanks. He will be right down.”
Austin groaned after she hung up the phone. “What am I going downstairs for?”
“The food I ordered cause I am hungry.” Janelle ran her fingers through his hair.
“You didn’t order a salad, did you? I’m not going downstairs to get salads ever again in life.”
Janelle laughed. “No. It isn’t a salad. It is Chinese food.”
“Oh. Okay.” Austin sat up.
“You want this money for it.”
“Do I ever?”
“No, but I still offer.”
He winked at her, grabbed his wallet off the coffee table and headed downstairs. The company had him and the rest of the team staying in an extended stay hotel that served more like an apartment building with front desk services. It was a one-bedroom and allowed him to get comfortable. Janelle had been spending most of her time there with him since he had arrived. He didn’t mind it one bit. Austin hated when he had to drop Janelle home and leave. His place was walking distance to a metro station so she would be there when he was able to escape work at night. That particular night he came home and she was on the couch watching television. He sat next to her, put his head on her shoulder, and immediately fell asleep.
“Hey, were we supposed to do something tonight?” Austin asked as he walked back into the apartment with the food.
“Grocery shopping.” Janelle smiled.
“Babe, you were tired. There is stuff in there for breakfast so we can do it tomorrow.”
“You sure?” Austin felt bad. He had been there for two months and spent the majority of it working. Janelle never complained. She never seemed bored. He wasn’t used to that. Every girlfriend he ever had hated the hours he put into work.
“Yes.” She got up and moved a few magazines from off the dining room table. “I had a craving for this anyway.”
“How was your day?”
“Boring as hell. How was yours?”
Janelle reached out and held his hand as he said grace. She was getting used to saying grace again, something she hadn’t done outside of her parent’s home in years. Austin said grace at every meal and, though he didn’t ask her to say it with him, she respected it. When he was done, she passed him the fried rice. “Still doing interviews?”
“All morning long. We have one more day of this. It’s crazy because there is still a ton of stuff to be done that can’t wait.”
“Hopefully you survive one more day.”
Austin smiled and passed her one of the boxes. “I hope so. But Ben gave us all the weekend off. He is flying back to Vegas and decided we needed a break too.”
“Oh. Ok.” Janelle looked down at her plate.
“Why the face?”
“The ‘you don’t want to tell me something because you don’t know how I will respond’ face.”
Janelle couldn’t help but laugh. Austin knew her so well and it made no sense to her. “I talked to my mom today. There is a family cookout on Saturday and she wants me to bring you. I told her you had to work.”
“Do you want to go?”
“I want you to meet my parents.” Janelle paused.
“But…” Austin trailed off, waiting for the rest of Janelle’s statement.
“I wish the rest of the family wasn’t going to be there.” Janelle looked up at him. “It isn’t that I care what they think. They just get on my nerves.”
“I recall you saying that a time or two.” Austin chuckled. “Well, how about we go because I don’t know when I will get time off enough to go down there again. You said it’s like 3 hours away?”
“Okay, so we can go and if your family bugs you too much we can always escape saying it’s a long drive.”
Janelle smiled. “You aren’t nervous about meeting my parents?”
“Your dad, yes. Your mom, no.” Austin shook his head. He had talked to Janelle’s mom three times over the phone since he had arrived in Maryland. Janelle talked to her several times a week and if Austin was around, her mom would find some reason to talk to him.
“Well, I wouldn’t worry about my dad. He is probably just going to say hi and then not talk to you for the rest of the cookout.”
“It’ll be that easy?”
“Listen, I don’t care if you are white. Are you going to marry my daughter or are you just wasting her time.”
Janelle was shocked. Her father had never said more than hi to any guy she brought home. “Daddy.”
“I have a right to ask that question.” Her father pointed with the grill tongs. “Your mother says you have known this guy for a long time.”
Austin couldn’t help but laugh. “Janelle and I haven’t talked about marriage yet, sir.”
“Well, why not?”
“I don’t want to rush her.” Austin was nervous as Janelle’s father looked at him.
“So you have thought about marrying my daughter.”
“Cause my baby girl is…”
“Perfect. Yes, I’ve noticed.”
Janelle’s father smiled for a moment and then the scowl returned to his face. “As long as you understand that my baby is perfect.”
“Yes, sir I do.”
Janelle’s father pointed to the house. “Nell, go inside and get those burgers from your mother so we can eat sometime today. I want to keep talking with Austin.”
Janelle didn’t want to leave Austin but knew better than to make her father have to ask her twice to do something. She went inside and looked at her mother. “Daddy is actually talking to Austin.”
Her mother raised an eyebrow. “Oh really? What did he send you in here for?”
“Well, they’re already out there in the cooler. However, I think you should give your father a moment to talk with Austin. He is actually trying to like this young man.”
Janelle sighed. “He hasn’t liked any other young man before.”
“No, but those weren’t right for you.”
“He thinks Austin is right for me?”
“No.” Janelle’s mother smiled. “I do. Your father trusts my judgment but wants to make up his own mind.”
Janelle looked out the window and saw Austin and her father laughing. “They are laughing now.”
“Well, see, you have nothing to worry about.”
“You think Austin is the one?” Janelle looked back at her mother.
“The better question is do you think that Austin is the one?” Her mother smiled.
Janelle didn’t respond. She looked at her dad and Austin talking and smiled.