All three sisters prepare to go on dates. Ursa stops by Erik Daughtry's house... to pick up her book, of course.
Ursa was dying to get home, but Cassandra was still sewing and kept telling her, "Just a minute!"
When Cassandra finally came out, Ursa was sitting with her head resting on the counter.
"Ursa," Cassandra called softly.
Ursa shot up, ready to go, but noticed her mother's happy, mischievous expression.
Cassandra was holding a lovely, cream-colored dress. It wasn't too fancy; just right for her date. It was sleeveless and looked like it would fit quite snugly.
"I thought you might like to look nice tonight. I just wanted to let you know how much I love you and how proud I am of you," Cassandra said. Tears were in her eyes.
Ursa ran to her mother and hugged her tightly. "It's beautiful, mom! I can't believe you did this!"
Cassandra chuckled. "I just want you to be happy, Ursa. You know that?"
Ursa nodded and smiled.
In the highest spirits, the two women headed home.
Vix answered the phone on the first ring and made plans with Galen while Layla watched suspiciously.
"What do you like about that kid?" Layla asked after Vix hung up the phone.
Vix shrugged. "He's nice. And he's really good looking. And funny."
"Well, what makes you think mom's going to let you go? She wasn't too keen on you going to that party last night."
Vix frowned. "You think she'll say I can't go?"
"Dunno. Maybe I should come with you again."
"Would you?" Vix asked happily.
Layla smirked. "Sure. As long as I can bring my boyfriend."
"He's your boyfriend now?" Vix smirked back. "What about the spell?"
"If it's a spell, mom did me a favor. Chris is... He's the shit."
The girls laughed together. Then Vix became serious. "Something strange happened today, Layla."
Layla was amused at Vix's abrupt change of mood. "What happened?"
"A friend of mine... kissed me."
Layla laughed. "I told you to stop wearing those flannel shirts. Nothing screams, 'I'm a lezbo!' like flannel."
Vix glared. "It was a guy!"
Layla managed to stop laughing long enough to gasp, "Oh! Sorry!"
"Sure you are."
Layla giggled. "So, some guy kissed you. So what?"
After a long pause where Vix studied her fists resting on the table, she said. "I liked it."
"So, what are you saying? You liked it more than kissing Galen? I mean, I had to pry you two apart last night."
Vix shook her head. "All I know is: when Kyle kissed me, I forgot all about Galen for a minute."
"Yeah. I guess I am."
"Well. Who do you like more?"
"Okay then. Why worry? You didn't do anything wrong. If it's bothering you, tell Galen about it. He seems pretty easy-going."
"Hmm. No. I don't want him to be weird about me hanging around Kyle."
"Well, I'm no expert, but don't you think it would be better to be honest from the beginning? Not telling him is easier, but you'll probably regret it."
Vix grimaced. "You're acting weird lately. Kinda being too nice."
Layla shook her head. "What about you? You're acting like a girl."
"Why does everyone keep saying that? Is it such a bad thing?"
"Hell no! I'm proud of you. And you should be proud to be a girl."
Vix smiled softly for a while. It was so rare for Layla to be this nice to her.
"Vix, whenever we can talk to mom without Ursa around, I think we should get some shit straight. Like about what exactly happened with Ursa and about our dads. And especially about our newfound interest in boys."
Vix nodded. "Alright. As long as we do it together."
Ursa was in such a good mood when she and her mother got home that she was humming. She was excited about her date, but, in a creepy way, she was also excited about stopping off at Daughtry's house. It would be great to talk more about her story with him.
She greeted her sisters and then took a shower. Since her new haircut, she no longer needed to use a blow-dryer, so she towel-dried her hair and styled it to look messy. She put on the dress her mother had made and squealed about how well it fit. Its beauty and simplicity were perfect for her. Cassandra knew her so well. She didn't bother with make-up but threw on a black jean jacket. Over-eager was not a look that any of the Rehmert women liked to wear.
Her mother and sisters praised her appearance, and, feeling better than she'd felt in years, she headed out.
She cranked up the radio and grinned as she rode with her window down. She couldn't remember the last time she felt that her life was happening. What the hell had she been doing for the past few years?
She pulled Daughtry's address out of her purse and studied the house numbers as she passed. When she arrived, her eyes went wide. It wasn't a huge house, but it was a nice one, with a well-tended lawn and dark-wood picket fence. She parked on the curb and walked up to the gate. The house was painted blue. She was so impressed that she didn't notice the dog running forward until it started yapping. Ursa hastily shut the gate in front of her as the dog jumped up menacingly.
She stared at the growling dog, stunned for a moment. Then she said, "A poodle?" Daughtry had a poodle? It was tan and didn't have any weird shaved hairdo, but still. She looked at the house number again. Surely, she had the wrong place.
She looked up to see Daughtry standing in his doorway. The dog ran back up to the house, happily wagging its tail.
"Hey," Daughtry called to Ursa. "It's okay, she won't bite you."
Ursa was staggered at how this was turning out, but she managed to go through the gate, closing it behind her. As she walked up to the door, she noticed that Daughtry was wearing a black t-shirt and jeans. She hadn't seen him out of a work-shirt since she was a little kid.
He looked really good and Ursa didn't like it. She had to keep pulling her eyes away from his cut chest and stomach, and after their eyes met once, she tried not to look there either.
"Wow," he said, stepping back so she could come inside. "Nice dress."
Sparky came up to Ursa, wagging her tail now, and Ursa bent down to pet her.
"Good girl," she crooned, and Sparky rolled over and regally presented her furry belly for scratching. "I can't believe you have a poodle."
Daughtry laughed. "I know, weird choice, right? My neighbor's poodle had puppies and Sparky was just too cute not to take home." He bent down to pet her as well. "She's turned into a pretty good guard dog, too. Didn't ya, Spark? Didn't ya?"
Ursa smiled at his baby talk. "I wish I could have a dog, but I'll have to wait 'til I graduate and move out. My mom can't stand dogs. She likes cats, but Vix is allergic so we don't have any pets."
"Yeah? Sparky's my first dog. I always wanted one, but this is the first place I've lived with a fenced-in yard."
"I'm really impressed. I had no idea that you lived in such a nice place."
He shrugged humbly. "Right after I opened the shop, I was so busy, I didn't really have time for yard work or any maintenance. Or cleaning." He smiled sheepishly. "But after I got the hang of being the boss, I finally got things together around here."
Sparky, being petted by two people, was in absolute bliss and Ursa was won over by her. "Your master did a good job, ay Sparky?" Then, she realized how strange that was to say, and she looked up at Daughtry to apologize.
He was smirking at her.
That was when the illusion dropped. This wasn't an innocent book pick-up. He was interested in her. And she, though terrified of the fact, was interested in him. Very interested.
"Do you need to rush off?" he asked, looking her in the eye. It was an innocuous way of saying that he wanted her to stay.
Ursa almost told him that, no, she had nowhere to be, but then she snapped out of it. She caught a glance at the clock on his wall and rose to her feet. "I don't have to rush, but I do have plans."
He stood and watched her for a second more. He smiled, almost hiding his disappointment. "I guess I'll have to give you a tour some other time. Hold on; I'll get your book."
When he walked out of the room, she looked down at Sparky, who was sitting pretty and holding up one dainty paw.
"A paw for me?" she asked, flattered, and knelt down to take it. "What a good girl!" She scratched behind the dog's ear. Sparky's tail was wagging.
Erik grabbed the binder off his bed and closed his eyes for a moment. What was he thinking, asking her to come here? The truth was that he'd been imagining grabbing Ursa and kissing her since he'd seen her at the gate. He'd almost given in to the temptation when she was talking so sweetly to his dog; it was so damn endearing.
He dragged his hand down his face.
He'd lured her here, and now he felt wrong about it.
He told himself that he couldn't make another move. It had to be up to her. He didn't want to pressure her into something that she didn't want. She looked so good tonight; he had to wonder if she was going on a date. The thought frustrated him horribly.
He laughed at himself sickly. He was being ridiculous. She was way too young for him.
When he walked back into the living room, Sparky was licking Ursa's face. The girl was laughing happily. "Kisses, too?" she cried. "What a sweetie."
Erik had to remember to give Sparky some treats later. "Here you go," he said, passing the binder to Ursa. "I hope you don't mind, but I wrote some things in the margins. Just... stuff that came into my head when I was reading."
"Really?" Ursa stood and started excitedly flipping through pages but Erik put his hand up to stop her.
"You don't have to read them now."
She smirked at him suspiciously. "Okay... Thanks." Then her eyelids dropped and her tone turned teasing. "I'll read them in bed."
Erik laughed. How unexpected and sexy! "Remembered that, did you?"
She grinned. "It was just such a good line. I think I'll remember it forever."
He grinned back. "I didn't realize exactly how it sounded until you said it. It was purely innocent, I swear."
"Hmm," she said, still feigning suspicion.
"It's just my favorite place to read." Then, to tease her, he said. "I didn't intend to make you think of me, in bed, with something of yours."
She turned red, and again Erik had to hold back from grabbing her. She tried to hide her embarrassment with a small, "Hah."
"So, did you?" he asked, taking a tiny step forward.
She stared at him, eyes wide. "Did I what?"
"Did you think about me in bed?"
She looked away. "Um, I've really gotta go." She gripped her binder and turned for the door.
Erik couldn't keep his promise with himself not to make a move. "Ursa," he said, stepping after her. "Hold on." He never expected that what he'd see in her eyes was fear. "Hey, I'm sorry. I was just teasing you. I don't want you to think of me as some perverted old man."
She swallowed, calming visibly. "I don't think of you like that. At all." She opened the door. "Anyway, thanks for the notes. Bye Sparky." She went out, closing the door behind her and Sparky whined.
He peeked out the window and watched her struggle with the gate, get in her car and drive off. He was stunned. "What did she mean?" he asked the dog. "Did she mean that she didn't think of me in bed at all, or that she didn't think of me as an old man at all?"
Sparky didn't answer.
He sighed. "C'mon, girl. Want a treat?"