"So now you live and work in Pleasantview?" he asked.
"Yes, I really like working for Lalique and I love the twins."
"Sounds like you like kids in general."
"Oh, yes; children make the world go round! I might like to have my own preschool someday. That is if I don't get mmm...I mean if I don't have..." she stumbled, blushing again.
"If you don't get married and have kids of your own?" he prompted with a surprisingly gentle smile.
"Um, yes," she looked away, obviously hoping to change the subject as the dance ended, "Well, I guess I'll go play pool."
"Mm hmm. Well, then I guess I'll do the same."
"You don't have to do that," Arlene said stiffly, "I don't want to take up your whole evening."
"That ship has sailed, Angel. No use trying to sling me off; I'm stickin' like glue. But aren't you getting tired yet?"
So as they played pool Pres continued to try to convince her to go home and definitely never return. Even with him being right at her side practically he had to shove off different male interlopers more than once. In this place her fresh looks and trim figure drew men like a magnet. It was starting to really irk him. Now why was that? What could he expect of guys in a place like this? Anyway, none were getting rowdy, he just let them know she was off limits. Yet it annoyed him every time. He was usually a guy who preferred convincing people to fighting them, but it was all he could do to keep from punching the last guy's lights out.
When the game finished he put his hand on the small of Arlene's back,
"Ready to go now?"
She had an obstinate look on her face and her posture was suddenly rigid.
"No, but you go ahead, Ray."
"You first, Angel," he had to grin.
He couldn't help himself; as maddening as she was she also captivated him. He might as well admit it to himself.
"Come on, let's dance," he said, putting money in the jukebox and choosing several slow dances. He crooked his finger at her and winked and she was at his side in a second, a look in her eye that suddenly made him uneasy. She snuggled up to him with a sigh. Uh oh. He shouldn't be doing this; he planned on never seeing her again, this time together tonight was just to protect her. Right? There was no room in Ray Nolan's life for a girl like Arlene; maybe someday for Pres Everhart, but not Ray Nolan. And he was stuck being Ray Nolan for the foreseeable future.
"So how am I gonna get you to pack it in tonight?" he spoke into her ear, "You have to go home some time."
He watched a Mona Lisa smile come over her face as she cast her eyes to the side; obviously thinking of a good answer.
"Okay. When you give me your phone number, that's when."
"What? No way on earth, Arlene," he laughed, "I am so not right for you it isn't even funny."
"Fine. Guess I'm here until closing then."
"Let's come to a compromise; I'll give you my number but you have to promise you'll never come to Red's again--and never go anywhere at all at night without at least one friend."
After all, he reasoned to himself, he could get a new number if he wanted.
"No. You give me your number, I promise never to come here again and all that stuff, BUT you have to promise to call me within a week. That shouldn't be too hard--unless you don't ever want to talk to me again?" she pouted prettily.
Pres shook his head,
"That's not the point. Look, I'll give you my number and if you're ever in real trouble I want you to use it. But we're not starting up anything because I'm all wrong for you. Okay?"
"I guess that's the best I can get," she suddenly gave in. Pres got suspicious but kept it to himself.
"What time do they close here?" she asked.
"They close at 2 am but feel free to leave before then," he said drily.
It was strange, though, the thought of her finally going home was not making him as happy as it should.
"I have another 90 minutes," she replied loftily, "I don't expect you to hang around until then."
"Like a mule," he muttered darkly.
They were still dancing 20 minutes later but conversation had dwindled. Pres had never hated Red's like he did tonight; a drunk stumbled by and fell against Arlene. If Pres hadn't been holding her she would have gone down like a falling star. Most of the patrons of the place were well lubricated and soon a dark haired woman Pres vaguely knew came by to hang on him a moment before he could push her gently away. He should just have taken Arlene away from here early on. To some decent place. Angry at himself he said in a low furious voice,
"See what I mean? This place is a sty and you shouldn't be here."
She looked up at him, her lips slightly open, a wounded look in her eyes,
"I'll go, Ray. I'm sorry I've been so much trouble, really I am. But I hope you'll still give me your number. I promise never to come back."
He caressed her face softly with the back of his hand and she leaned into it like a cat. He surprised himself when he dipped her back and then took the opportunity to lay one on her. She kissed like a little girl but felt so sweet in his arms.
When he let her back up she looked disoriented and he had to steady her with a hand to her elbow,
"You okay, Angel?"
"Sure," she gave him a wobbly smile. There was no way he'd admit to himself that he felt almost as shaky as she looked.
When he walked her out and tucked her into her car, he leaned in and checked her seat belt. Then, cradling the back of her head he kissed her forehead. Closing the door he said,
"Goodbye, Angel, you're a nice girl. Since you have my number, I'd appreciate it if you'd text me when you get home so I know you're all right. We're not going to talk or anything."
"Promise me you'll call me, just once. Then if you don't want to talk to me after that I'll understand," she looked up at him, "Please, Ray?"
She started the car and carefully backed out, not wanting to hear him refuse.
"Arlene, wait--" he began again.
"Call me soon--please, Ray!" she yelled through her window as she pulled out into the light traffic in front of Red's Hideaway.
He never should have even given her his number but he would have had to follow her home there was just no way for him not to worry about her. And what did that say about him? Well, she'd asked him to promise to call, but he had not done it. So he was off the hook. He headed for his own car thanking his lucky stars he lived only blocks away. He was suddenly exhausted and a little depressed.
Next blog update: The Brothers Everhart - Pres Ch. 3 Giving In