Give Me a Reason

Aris & Luke

Luke had the rest of the evening to himself.

After securing his seatbelt, he looked up to see Jessica waving goodbye and blowing him a kiss. Luke waited for her to go back inside, grateful for the Girls’ Night In that Jessica was hosting because he could finally go home and get some real rest.

Earlier that morning, he’d slept in and arrived to work late because it was Friday and his schedule was wide open. Aware of his schedule, Jessica had called and sweet-talked him into spending the afternoon with her. He’d grinned but didn’t respond right away, certain that her request had everything to do with how distant he had been for the past week.

She was in fix-it mode…and she was nothing if not creative.

Luke told her he’d stick around the office for another hour, for optics, and then he’d see her around noon. She was thrilled when he got there a half hour early.

Now, he was relaxed and she was at ease. Jessica would never say it, but Luke knew that sometimes she needed to put her stamp on him. They often worked more than they played, and lately, they barely saw each other. Jessica knew that he loved her and he wasn’t going anywhere, but Luke appreciated that she didn’t take that for granted and carved out the necessary time to put him first. Given the spectacular and driven woman Jessica was, he knew that was no easy feat. She was focused—bold, brave, and beautiful—steadily climbing the ladder and making a name for herself. Yet, it mattered enough to her to put all that aside today for him. He loved her for that.

When it came to Jessica Knox, what’s not  to love?

Driving home, Luke decided to make a quick detour to the electronics store. The bonus he received two weeks ago was burning a hole in his pocket, and today was as good as any to dip into some of it and upgrade his phone.

An hour later, he was sitting in heavy traffic and familiarizing himself with his new device. He was a mile from the intersection and the traffic light was short, so it gave him plenty of time to customize his screens and download a few apps. When that was done, he looked up and eased his car ahead. He was about to make it through the yellow light, but the car ahead of him came to an abrupt stop. Irritated, Luke threw his hands up at the driver and regretted the gesture when he spotted the “Baby on Board” sign hanging in the back window. Settling back against his seat, he pressed a button to let the top down on his convertible. When he looked up again, his gaze settled on a rowdy group of cheerleaders spilling out into the street.

At first, it appeared that they were a high school squad, but the one approaching his car looked too mature to be a teenager. Maybe these were college girls? Slipping his shades off, he looked closer and smiled as Aris stopped and looked down at him. She rolled her eyes dramatically, making him laugh.

“You know,” Aris said. “You’re like the car you never see on the road until you decide you want to test drive it…then, you start seeing it everywhere…”

“’Sup, neighbor?” Luke noted her skimpy outfit, but did his best to keep his eyes on her face. “I didn’t realize grown women were allowed on high school squads.”

The corners of her mouth twitched for a brief second before she shook a small pail in his face. “Whatever. I ain’t here for chit-chat, honey. Just gimme the loot before the light turns green.”

“Give me a reason to.”

He hadn’t meant for that to slip out and come off like a creep, but he couldn’t help himself. He had a thing for uniforms.

Fully expecting her to dismiss him, Luke was surprised when Aris leaned in to rest her elbows on the door frame. Though he appreciated the spectacular view of her cleavage, his eyes shifted to her bare, sun-kissed face.

“Pay up,” she said, shaking the pail again.

He grinned, removing two ten dollar bills from his wallet.

“Thank you for your generosity and support of the Pine View Cheerleading Squad.” Aris snatched the cash from his hand and backed away, doing some type of leg lift that was so awkward and wrong that Luke laughed out loud. “Goooo Raptors!”

The driver behind him blew his horn, and Aris skipped back to the sidewalk. Luke pressed the gas pedal and drove through the intersection, exerting extra effort not to check his rearview mirror.