And Then I Met You – 6

Characters: Actor Chris Evans, OFC Kayla Brooks

Warnings: Language, Fluff

Chapter 6

“Kayla Hope Brooks. You’re seriously named after a character on a soap opera? I have to meet your mother.” Chris threw his head back and let out a belly laugh. Kayla hadn’t felt this relaxed in a long time. The sound of his laughter was like the beautiful melody of a familiar song; once it was in your head you couldn’t get it out. They were at a coffee shop near the hospital; Kayla sat with a chai tea while Chris opted for hot cocoa. It was busy enough that he went unnoticed and they sat at a booth in the back of the building.

“Oh my mother is a hoot. She loved Days of Our Lives. And it was not just one character; two, and it would have been three if my father hadn’t objected to me having three first names. Kayla Hope Kimberly. What kind of ridiculous name is that?” Kayla frowned. “If that’s not bad enough my maiden name is Brady which was all three character’s last names.” She laughed and shook her head at the absurdity. “High school was a very rough time for me.”

Chris stopped laughing, his face suddenly very serious. “Did you say maiden name?” He pulled his hands back and off the table, clenching them into fists at his side. He sat straight up in the booth and looked at her as if she had struck him in the face. “Are you married? If you had mentioned that it probably would have saved all that time I spent stalking you. Seriously, is this some kind of game to you?” He acted as if he had been betrayed.

Then he noticed the silver necklace that hung around her neck, with something dipping down underneath her scrubs. He reached to pull on the necklace and saw silver rings, one with a diamond which was obviously an engagement ring, suspended from the chain. He couldn’t recall if she had been wearing the necklace when he had seen her all those times before today or if she had ever worn the rings on her finger.

His eyes accused her and he spat out. “Do you take these off when you work? Keep them on a necklace close to your heart? What, are you separated? Taking a time out? Why are you wearing your wedding rings around your neck? Are you fucking with me? Are you married?” He peppered her with questions.

Tears formed in Kayla’s eyes but she refused to let him see them fall. She idly ran her fingers over the rings trying to still her heart and form words. Her voice came out quietly. “I was married. The key word being WAS. He WAS a wonderful man. He WAS funny and smart and handsome and he made me smile; kinda like you.” She looked directly into Chris’ eyes and with a flat, distant voice finished, “And then he died.”

Kayla grabbed her purse and jumped from the booth pushing her way through the crowded room.

Chris cursed under his breath and ran after her. “Kayla wait. Kayla.” He finally reached her in the parking lot where she fumbled with her keys in the door lock.

Kayla hit the car door with her open palm. “Jesus fuck, just my luck. The fucking keys are stuck again.” She turned to Chris, eyes soft and weary, and let out a long breath, her entire body melting before him in defeat. He caught her in his arms and held her tight just as the tears started.

“Kayla, I’m so sorry.” He let her cry in his arms, stroking her hair, until the tears wouldn’t come anymore. He heard her words echo in his head. “And then he died.” He spent weeks chasing her, thinking of her, dreaming of her. When he finally had a break he turned on her without giving her a chance to say anything at all. You’re a complete fucking asshole.

Chris eased his grip so he could look at her. He gently brushed the tears from her face. “I shouldn’t have assumed anything. Especially not the worst. I was so wrong. I’m so very sorry.” It broke his heart to look into her red-rimmed eyes knowing he was the cause of her pain.

“I’m such an asshole. Will you forgive me? Please?” Kayla’s gaze turned toward the ground and Chris’ heart fell. He knew he lost her before he even had her. “Look, I’m not asking for a second chance. To be honest I don’t deserve it.” He sighed deeply. “But please believe me when I say I am truly sorry. I would never intentionally hurt you. I jumped to a conclusion. The wrong conclusion.”

“Chris, you pursued me.” Her voice quivered and she still couldn’t look at him.

“You’re right. I just.” He ran his hand through his hair. “I can’t even explain it right. Can we please at least sit down? We’re standing in a parking lot.” He looked at people coming and going, cars passing by.

She put her hands to her face and eyes, red and swollen from crying, “I must look horrible.” She finally looked up at him but he could barely stand to see the sadness lying deep in her eyes. “If we go back inside people will assume you’ve been abusing me. They’ll probably call the cops and have Captain America arrested.” Chris felt some relief. She wasn’t smiling but she was making jokes. Bad ones, but that was a good sign.

“I’d say we could sit in my car and talk but the fucking keys are stuck in the goddamn lock again.” She was cussing up a storm and that was a very good sign. She was feisty and that meant she cared. Hopefully.

Chris went to the car door and jiggled the keys. After a minute they finally gave way and he opened the door for her then walked around to the passenger side. “Kayla, we really have to get your fucking car locks fixed.”

They sat in a heavy air of silence for a few minutes, each gathering their thoughts. Chris knew whatever he said could force her to make her decision, one that he might not like. Kayla knew that whatever she said could open wounds that might best be left alone.

Chris spoke first. “I panicked. I was the egotistical celebrity who was paranoid about being played or used or, or whatever. It’s like I always have my guard up now. I hate it. Sometimes I hate this life. I’m just waiting for someone to take advantage of me. And I couldn’t imagine you divorced. You look too . . . too young to be divorced already I guess. I would never have dreamed you were a . . .” He couldn’t say the word ‘widow’. It didn’t fit.

He stared straight ahead, not daring to look at her, afraid his emotions would take over. He couldn’t let himself get emotional now – afraid it would scare her away. “I don’t know, I didn’t think it through. I said the first thing that came to my mind and I was wrong. You’re not that type of person. I should have known better.” His eyes dropped to look at his hands sitting still in his lap. He didn’t want to say anything else. He didn’t want to screw it up any further.

Kayla countered with a shaky voice. “I dropped a bombshell on you. I don’t ever let myself get into situations where I need to explain that I was married and that . . .” Her voice dropped off and she paused. “This was new to me. And I shouldn’t have told you my husband died in such a matter-of-fact passing statement. It was disrespectful to him and to you.” She took a deep breath. “The fact is I haven’t dated anyone since . . .” She broke off awkwardly and couldn’t look at Chris, instead looking at her hands fidgeting in her lap. Chris noticed and turned to her, cupping them in his own.

“Kayla, you don’t have to say anything else. Not now. Not until you’re ready.” She looked up with a grateful look. “Thank you for understanding.” Chris leaned forward and let his forehead rest against hers.

This time the silence was welcomed as they continued to hold hands and just be together. Finally Chris cleared his throat. “I’m going out on a limb now and for the fourth and final time I’m asking you to go out on a date with me.” His heart pounded out of his chest because he really didn’t know how she would answer.

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