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Page 16 of A Beautiful Mess (Beautiful Mess 1)

Olivia had distanced herself so much from the social scene that she didn’t realize she was in the company of a local celebrity. Alexander had recently been named one of the country’s most eligible bachelors by Esquire magazine, but that wasn’t something he really bragged about.

They made their way to an empty high top table toward the rear of the large bar and sat down. A server came to take their order of two watermelon ales. As she waited for her drink, Olivia’s mind drifted back to the song she was singing before Alexander arrived. She loved the feeling of sharing a beautiful song with someone. And she felt that she shared that song with Alexander, although she wasn’t aware he was even standing there. She wondered if he was able to figure out the meaning behind the song, about how she lost the few parental figures she had in her life. First when she was six, and then again on the day of her college graduation.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Alexander said, watching Olivia stare out into space, deep in thought, as a server dropped off two watermelon ales complete with watermelon slice.

“Sorry,” she said, returning her eyes to Alexander. “I was just thinking about my college graduation.”

“Oh yeah? What about it?” He took a sip from his beer and Olivia did the same. It was so refreshing.

“Nothing really. Just how it seems so long ago. Thanks for inviting me.” Olivia anxiously wanted to try to steer the conversation toward him and his life.

“You’re welcome.” He smiled at Olivia, staring at her perfect plump lips. He wondered how they tasted. He desperately wanted to find out. But, for once, he wasn’t going to rush this. He could tell that Olivia was someone with a past. If he scared her off, he would regret it. For the first time he could remember, he wanted more than just a one-night stand with someone. And he wondered whether she felt the same way.

Olivia shifted nervously in her seat, taking a sip of beer with her trembling hand, fearful that he would ask too many questions. Questions she didn’t want to answer.

“So, Alexander,” she said, looking into his eyes, breaking the growing tension. “Are you a big Red Sox fan?” She figured that was a safe topic. Boys love their sports, right?

“I am,” he said, his smile widening. “I spent my summers on the Cape growing up and remember going to games with my Dad when I was little.” Olivia was relieved when he started to share some personal information about himself. She was eager to learn more about the man sitting in front of her, even though she was hesitant to share anything about herself.

“I’ve never actually been to a game inside Fenway,” Olivia said quietly.

“What?” he exclaimed, dumbfounded. “How long have you been living here?”

That was a relatively safe question, so she decided to answer him truthfully. “I went to Boston College for undergrad. I started there about ten years ago. After graduation, I left but I ended up coming back about a year ago.” She smiled, but he could tell there was more to the story. After an awkward silence, Olivia continued talking. “I missed it here and this was the only place that really felt like home.” She tapped her fingernails nervously against the metal table.

“Where did you grow up? I know you’re not from around here, not with that accent.” Alexander had been trying to place her accent all weekend. It had a soft twang to it, particularly when she pronounced certain words.

“Charleston, South Carolina,” Olivia laughed. She looked at Alexander, who seemed to have a perplexed look on his face. “I’m a southern beach bum at heart,” she said, trying to bring the smile back to his face that was there seconds before.

Alexander couldn’t believe she said she grew up in Charleston. He remained silent and stared at her as if he was trying to put a puzzle together.

But there was really no puzzle to put together. Olivia was just a girl from South Carolina who lost her family and wanted to start over.

Before she could ask him another question and keep the attention off her, he asked, “How about your parents? Are they still in Charleston?” He needed to know. He needed the back-story. Too many pieces were falling into place. There had been too many coincidences. The age. The name. Where she grew up. The music. Most of all, the music.

She froze after Alexander’s question. That was the part about forming relationships Olivia hated. She despised the look she received when she told people that her parents were killed in a car crash when she was only six and too young to remember. Alexander looked at her with intense eyes. She started breathing quick and fast. It felt like the room was closing in on her.

She needed to get out of there. “I’ll be right back,” she said, stumbling out of her chair and trying to act as normal as possible. “Nature calls.”

Alexander watched as Olivia practically ran away from the table, not knowing how to react to what just happened. She clearly had a panic attack. All he did was ask about her parents. That was another piece of the puzzle falling too easily into place. What happened to her parents? He needed to know.

Safe in the ladies room, Olivia took a minute to calm her breathing, splashing some water on her face and willing her heart to stop beating so quickly. She had never figured out why she panicked when people asked about her parents. Her therapist seemed to think that Olivia was repressing some memories about them; memories that were painful, causing her to react that way. The doctor was obviously full of it, according to Olivia, because she had very few memories of her parents.

As she stared at her face in the mirror, Olivia was unaware how much time had passed since she abruptly left Alexander at the table. Slowly opening the door to the bathroom, she saw piercing green eyes staring back at her. Alexander grabbed her arm, leading her down the hallway, his face awash with concern. “Are you okay?”

“Oh no,” Olivia spat out, crossing her arms. “You don’t get to go all Navy SEAL interrogation specialist on me.” He gave Olivia a questioning look. “That’s right. I Googled you.”

Alexander softened the intense look he was giving Olivia. “I bet you did,” he smirked, raising an eyebrow. She couldn’t help but to laugh in response. And not just a small polite laugh, but a gut-splitting, all-consuming laugh. This feels good, Olivia thought to herself.

That sound was like music to Alexander’s ears. He decided right then and there that he would do everything in his power to make sure he could hear that sweet melody as often as possible. He pulled Olivia into his arms, stroking her hair, whispering, “Top ten favorite sounds.”

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