Again showing uncanny perception Victor grabbed her hand and squeezed it gently saying, “Please, don’t worry, Violet. It’ll be just fine. You’ll see.”
His voice was soothing, but she didn’t believe a word of it. “I should call Freddy and ask what he thinks about...” she started but Victor interrupted her.
“All this worry is going to give you an ulcer, Violet. I don’t like visiting people in the hospital. Please, for my sake if not your own, don’t ever get sick,” he said looking unduly serious as if for all the world he was indeed taking her to the hospital.
Violet stared at his profile, aghast. So now she was expected to stay healthy to keep him from worry? She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. Such arrogance!
“That’s not arrogance, Dear. It’s concern for the people he cares for,” Heidi’s voice gently spoke in her ear.
Violet couldn’t argue with that. But Victor had no reason to care what happens to her. He barely knew her, she mused silently.
“With every minute you spend with him that changes. You’re getting to know him and he’s getting to know you. And with knowing comes caring. It’s what friends do.”
Friends? Were they friends now? She glanced at him and watched his profile as he drove. He was almost a complete stranger to her. Could they be friends?
He smiled suddenly and turned to her. “I love buying cars. Feels like victory,” he said brightly.
She couldn’t help bursting out laughing. “You truly are a strange, funny man, Mr. Romanoff,” she mumbled.
“Thank you. I think you’re great, too,” he replied cheerfully.
She gaped at him open mouthed. She hadn’t meant it that way. Exasperated, she decided not to speak to him anymore. It was just safer that way. That only lasted until he parked at a large, sprawling mall about five minutes later.
“What are you doing?” she asked stupidly.
“Now, you don’t really need me to answer that, do you?” he said with a smirk. Then he got out and went around to her side.
She held her hand up as he opened her door. “I can do this myself, you know. I’m not a total incompetent,” she snapped at him. She fiddled with the clasp for a second, undid the seatbelt then reluctantly took his proffered hand and stepped out.
“I don’t mean to be condescending. I’m just used to helping my mother. She refused to buckle up .....well, it was my fault. I kept buying her pretty dresses and she hated to get them wrinkled so.... She got annoyed and told me if I wanted her to wear the seatbelt that I would have to do it for her. So, I did. She was my favorite Mama, you know,” he said a wistful expression in his dark eyes.
That hit a soft spot. Violet had to blink back tears. She knew what it was like to lose a mother. “I’m sorry,” she said sadly, looking anywhere but at him.
Victor frowned slightly as he watched her. After a minute he leaned down and whispered, “It’s not your fault, remember? Come on, I’ll get you an ice cream,” he said taking her hand and pulling her to the mall entrance.
“I can’t have an ice cream,” she said, her exasperation instantly back.
“Lactose intolerant?” he asked.
She stared at him astonished. Was nothing sacred to this man? “Not that it’s any of your concern but no. I just don’t like sweets before dinner.”
“Then we’ll have dinner but I’m not into fast food. How about you?” he asked with distaste as he looked at the various hamburger, hot dog, and pizza stands around them. “What I wouldn’t give for some of Mama’s beef stroganoff.”
Violet giggled at his wistful tone. “You sound like a little kid when you say that. Kenny used to love beef stroganoff. I haven’t made any since he finished high school and moved away. I could make some for you one day, but it couldn’t possibly live up to your Mama’s standards. After all, I’m not Russian.”
“She wasn’t either. She was German. My dad was Russian,” he said as he turned around and headed to the far end of the mall as if he were on a mission from God, dragging her with him.
“Where are we going?” she asked breathlessly as she tried to keep up with his long-legged strides. She had to take three steps for every one of his.
“The supermarket so we can get all the fixings and you can show me how to make it tonight,” he said excitedly.
“And what makes you think I don’t have more important things to do than make you dinner?” she asked sounding thoroughly annoyed again.
“You would have told me,” he stated simply as he grabbed a shopping basket and pulled her into the store. She yanked her hand out of his grip making him stop in his tracks. He stared at her looking baffled. “Something wrong?” he asked innocently.
“Has anyone ever told you you’re a bit of a bully?” she asked glaring at him.
He looked pensive for a moment as if he was seriously pondering the question then he replied ,“No, you’re the first one.” He grabbed her hand again and continued on his quest with her following in complete disbelief. At the meat section he picked a huge piece of sirloin and asked “Is this big enough?”
“Yeah, for an army!” she told him. “Planning on feeding the neighborhood, are you?”
Predictably he laughed. “Well, if you’re going to the trouble of making it, you might as well make lots. It won’t go to waste with me around, I can guarantee you that,” he stated as happy as she’d ever seen him which was saying something. He never looked anything other than thrilled.
She marveled that the slightest things seemed to make him exuberant.“Are you always this happy or just when someone’s willing to feed you?” she asked before she could stop herself.
He laughed again. “That must be it,” he said.
He pulled her with him, this time to the produce section . “How much do we need? Hmm...what kind do we need?” he said making a weird face at the sundry types of mushrooms available.
“I always use the plain white ones and with that much meat we’ll need at least two of those big packs unless you really like mushrooms,” she advised.
He surprised her by getting right in her face and saying seductively, “I love mushrooms, how about you?”
“Uh...I ...uh...” she stammered, discombobulated. “They’re okay, I guess.” He smiled broadly. A flutter like a butterfly trying for escape started in her chest. Dear God, she thought to herself, this man was going to be the end of her.
“Then we’ll take three. What else?” he asked still holding her hand and staring into her wide hazel eyes.
“You are relentless,” she said dazedly as they stopped in front of the milk where she grabbed one large container of sour cream.
“Anything else?” he asked looking over their basket.
“There’s egg noodles unless you’d prefer rice which I already have at home,” she said. She laughed at the grimace on his face. “I take it you are a purist and would never consider rice with Stroganoff. I just thought I’d suggest it. We’ll get the noodles, okay?” she told him in a voice she usually reserved for the little kids at the day care center. He sure reminded her of one of those anxious little kids awaiting Christmas or the Easter Bunny.
“I’ll go look over the paperwork and make sure it’s all good. I’ll be right back,” Victor told her when they got back to the dealership. He had opened his door but she grabbed his arm. “What is it?” he asked surprised.
“Don’t I have to sign something?” she asked frowning slightly.
“Tomorrow when we come back to get the car.”
Her eyes flew open. “You mean I can’t have it today?” she said in a panic. “ How am I getting to work tomorrow?” She knew the answer before she finished the question.
Victor merely smirked and said, “Bacon and eggs.”
“Excuse me?” she said utterly confused.
“That’s what you can make me for breakfast tomorrow before I come to pick you up,” he replied happily. He then closed the door and headed into the office. Violet shook her head exasperated as she watched him laughing with Al. She glanced at her watch. It had finally become twenty-four hours since they met. One whole, solid, entire day and somehow it felt like a month.
She braced herself for whatever would come of this...this what? Friendship? She never had a male friend before and she didn’t quite know what to think of it.
“There’s a first time for everything, Dear,” Heidi whispered from the backseat.
“Yes, there is,” Violet replied.
Heidi smiled triumphantly while Richard scowled and sulked in the corner.