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Because of Low (Chapter Twenty-Four)

Marcus

I'd seen glimpses of Will ow at the bar. She never came in for long. Normally it was because she was at work and needed something from the supply room. She always smiled. It was friendly. That was it. Looking for her had become my only past time. I was beginning to wonder if I was becoming a stalker. The only thing that kept me sane was she wasn't with another guy. She was rarely with Cage.

She lived with him but he wasn't there often, I'd heard. He was making up for lost time apparently.

I glanced around the restaurant nervously, looking for Low. I needed to get a seat in her section before she came walking out into the dinning room. Otherwise there was a good chance she'd have the hostess seat me somewhere else. I followed the short brunette back to a booth she assured me was one of Will ow's tonight.

"Low should be with you in just a moment," the girl's high pitched voice startled me.

I nodded, "Thanks," and quickly took a seat placing the small package I had brought in with me in the seat and out of view. I didn't want her to have a chance to refuse it. I intended to leave it on the table when I left. That way if she was determined to reject my gift she'd have to come find me first.

She stepped around the corner looking down at the small pad in her hand. A pencil was stuck behind her ear and her hair was pulled up into a messy bun on the back of her head. I missed her so much. I watched as she lifted her head. Those large expressive green eyes that haunted my dreams locked on me and she stumbled. The urge to jump up and go touch her was unbearable. I forced myself to remain in my seat but my eyes ate her up as she composed herself and continued over to my booth.

"Marcus," she said smiling nervously.

"hello Low," I replied. The sweet honey suckle scent that clung to her filled the small booth.

"Are you, uh, waiting on someone?"

I shook my head and grinned, "Nope. Just me." The relief on her face gave me hope.

"Oh, okay. In that case, what can I get you to drink?"

"I'd like some sweet tea please."

Will ow reached for the pencil tucked behind her ear and quickly jotted it down. I'd never seen her write down drink orders before. Could my presence have her that rattled that she needed to write down sweet tea? God I hoped so.

"Okay, I'll be right back," she flashed me a smile that didn't meet her eyes and quickly spun around and headed directly for the kitchen. She didn't stop at any of her other tables to check on them. Will ow needed a moment. Because of me.

For the first time in weeks I was able to take a deep breath.

Just maybe, I could reach her again. Those damn thick walls she'd erected around her heart terrified me.

Willow

I can do this. I can do this. I CAN do this.

"You okay Low?" Seth asked stopping beside me with a tray of drinks.

"Um, yeah, I'm good. Just needed a breather," I forced yet another smile and reached for the sweet tea I'd fixed for Marcus.

Seth nodded and headed back out the door into the dinning room. I needed to do the same. I ran my hand over my hair and smoothed my apron down then rolled my eyes at my ridiculous behavior. This was Marcus. He'd shattered my heart. I did not care what he thought of me. My appearance was of no consequence.

I headed back out into the dinning room and stopped at my other tables to check on them. I needed to get another bottle of tartar sauce, a glass of water, and some lemons.

And I still had Marcus's drink in my hands. I had to get this over with.

He was leaning back in the booth watching me as I approached. I'd felt his gaze on me while I'd check on the other customers. It was a miracle I hadn't tripped and fell from my nervous reaction to his attention.

"Here ya go," I placed the tea on the table in front of him.

"You ready to order?"

"The blackened grouper sounds good," he replied. I wanted to curl up in his lap. How ridiculous was that? Just hearing him talk had me needing to touch him and feel his arms around me again. Ugh!

"Do you not recommend that?"

I snapped out of my internal obsessing and looked at him,

"Huh?"

Marcus grinned at me and my insides went all crazy.

"You're frowning. I was wondering if I'd ordered the wrong thing?"

My face instantly warmed and I shook my head staring down at my order pad in an attempt to hide my blushing.

"Oh, no. That's really good. The grouper is nice and fresh."

"Do you suggest I try those sweet potato fries?"

"Well, they're different, um, maybe you should stick with the regular fries."

Marcus nodded and handed me the menu, "Regular fries it is then."

I reached to take his menu and fought the urge to look at him. I knew he was watching me. If I lifted my head our eyes would meet. I wasn't that strong yet. Maybe one day I would be. But I needed time. Slipping the menu under my arm, I hurried back to the kitchen. I needed another breather.

After handing Marcus his check I'd once again scurried back to the safety of the kitchen. I slumped against the back wall behind the industrial sized dishwasher and let out a frustrated groan. This had been torture. Marcus had been friendly and talkative. He'd watched my every move as if I were the most fascinating thing he'd ever seen. I was a ball of nerves. Twice girls, I didn't know who obviously knew him, had come up to him and done everything they could to coax him to go out dancing with them. He'd brushed them off. Harshly. I'd loved it. Each time I'd lost the battle and glanced over at his booth, his eyes had been locked on me.

Even when he'd had uninvited guest his gaze never seemed to waiver.

"Low, your friend left a tip and a box with your name written rather impressively for a guy on the table." Unable to mask my curiosity, I rushed back to the booth where Marcus had been seated. He'd left a fifty dollar Bill to pay for his twenty dollar meal. Frowning, I pocketed the money and picked up the package he'd left. I ran my finger over my name. I recognized his neat handwriting.

"Hey, Seth. I'll be right back," I called out as I headed for the back door. I needed privacy. Once I was outside safely hidden out of the way, I opened it.

It was a 2006 Guns & Roses Chinese Democracy t-shirt, signed by all the members of the band. A small note was tucked inside of it and I caught it just before it fell onto the muddy gravel.

Will ow,

There's a story behind this shirt. I actually went to this concert opening night in Miami. It has been one of my prized possessions ever since. It's special because it was the only thing my dad ever took me to. He knew how bad I wanted to go. I'd just turned fifteen and he came to my room one night with two tickets. They weren't just any tickets.

They were backstage passes. He'd used every connection he could to get his hands on those tickets. It's the only fond memory I have of my dad. Maybe that's why it was so special.

Anyway, I want you to have it. I'd like to see it on you instead of stuck back in a drawer in my dresser. It's one of the good parts of me and I'd like to know it's in your hands.

I love you. I always will.

Marcus

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