Safeword:Quinacridone(12)

By: Candace Blevins


“How’d you manage that?” Cara said, as she watched the woman walk away.

He raised a shoulder and let it drop, looking at the various rides around them as if deciding on a plan of action. “Called ahead and paid for it. I’ve rented the entire park a few times, so I know the right people to call. Do you want to start riding first or get something to eat?”

She had more questions about his renting the entire park but allowed him to change the subject by answering his question. “Food before roller coasters isn’t a good idea, so we should hold off on eating. Unless you’re hungry, then I can get something to drink while you grab a bite.”

He pulled her towards one of the biggest rides as he said, “Nope, I’m good, just making sure you weren’t hungry.”

Still stuck on his earlier comment, Cara remembered he’d been a millionaire many times over as a teenager, so of course he’d used his money to rent an entire amusement park. What teenage boy wouldn’t, if they could? Was that how the prostitutes started, too? It made sense — if you’re too shy to ask a girl out and have unlimited resources, just pay for someone. A sure thing.

She mused how most boys were forced to learn basic social skills in order to get laid but Travis had conceivably skipped that step, negotiating million dollar business deals while his peers figured out how to treat a girl if they wanted to get lucky. Was it any wonder he did better when he took control but floundered at normal date-night conversation?

They stepped into the line and she said, “After the parking lot I figured you’d pay someone so you don’t have to wait.”

His brow furrowed. “I arranged it once but didn’t like the way it made me feel. Even with a park attendant walking you up and putting you in, all the negative energy from people waiting...” He shook his head, his expression solemn. “It’s not worth it. I don’t mind paying for special parking or to get in the side gate like we did, but I can’t be so in-your-face about it to break line all day on every ride. I try to come when they aren’t terribly busy so the wait isn’t long. Like today, Tuesday morning first thing.”

Damn, back to the whole nice guy thing. He was such a contradiction.

They rode, and laughed, and cut up for hours before he dragged her off to one of the restaurants. They took in a show after lunch to give their food time to digest and then started with the rides again. He didn’t complain when she stopped to shoot photos, and they had conversations about why she’d taken each picture, looking at the image on the camera’s screen together, head to head.

One image reflected the happiness on people’s faces as they ate ice cream and talked, another showed the light filtering through the trees above, and yet another displayed the innocent joy of a child and the adoration of a doting father. Travis was a perfect gentleman all day, holding her hand, touching her shoulder, casually wrapping his arm around her and resting his hand on her hip, or gently pushing the hair from her face when it came loose from her ponytail.

She’d tried to dampen her hair in the restroom, to smooth it back, but it was an uncontrollable mess. Most of the women around her had carefree windblown hair when they exited the rollercoasters, but she had wild and crazy hair, even pulled into a ponytail. Since it was hopeless she mostly ignored it, only pulling it loose and refastening when so much came free it blew into her eyes.

They were winding down when he pushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear, smiling as one would at an adorably mischievous toddler. “We’re close to the car if you’re about ready to go. I have a condo downtown, would you like to run by there and get showers so we can eat in Atlanta before we drive back? There’s a restaurant near my place I’d love to take you.”

“I’m not dressed for a nice restaurant, though I have to admit a shower sounds tempting.” She scrunched her nose. “But I can’t wash my hair without the right kind of conditioner or it’ll really look like I stuck my finger in a light socket, and I have no makeup with me.”

He asked her what hair products she used and with a bit of coaxing she told him. When they reached the car he put her into the passenger seat, fastened her seatbelt again, and made a quick phone call as he walked to the driver’s side, opening the door as he thanked someone and dropped himself into the driver’s seat with a happy smile.

Twenty minutes later they pulled up to a skyscraper in downtown Atlanta. Someone opened Cara’s door and she looked at Travis, not sure what to do. He nodded for her to get out and he exited on his side, leaving the car running. A uniformed attendant drove it off as they stepped through an impressive arched entrance.