Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 3

Rusty pulled out Peyton’s chair, waiting for her to be seated before rounding the table and sitting. Upon Rusty's request, they had been seated in a semi-private corner, away from the crowded main dining area. The Italian restaurant was small, but cozy. The lights were turned down low and a candle flickered in the center of the table.

He watched Peyton quietly browse her menu. When she looked up, he quickly averted his gaze to his own menu. He pretended to read the selection of foods as she stared at him.

Finally, her eyes moved back down. Rusty continued his watching. She looked incredible tonight. Even more so than last. The pale yellow of her dress brought out her sun bronzed skin. Her blonde hair was half up, showing off the graceful curve of her neck. Rusty was overwhelmed with the desire to touch it, to trace the curve with his lips.

“What would you like to drink?” Rusty tore his eyes away to see a tall, dark headed waiter standing by their table. Though the question was meant for both of them, his eyes stayed focused on Peyton. Jealousy washed over him.

“I just want water, thank you,” Peyton said, returning her eyes to her menu. She didn’t even give the waiter a second glance.

“And for you?” The waiter, whose name tag read Landon, turned to Rusty. His disappointment changed to discomfort as he tried not to stare at Rusty's bruised up face.

“Water is fine.” After the waiter left to get their waters, his eyes found Peyton watching him. “You don’t drink?”

“Not very often,” she replied, looking out the window. It took up most of the wall, giving them a view of the downtown area of Fort Lewis. “I saw you drinking last night. Why'd you order water?”

“So the truth comes out.” He smirked across the table at her. She raised her eyebrows, not understanding him. “You just confessed to watching me last night.”

“I didn’t say that.” Her cheeks flushed prettily. Rusty leaned back in his chair, loving the fact that he had flustered her.

“You knew I was drinking. The only time I had a drink was when I was by the bar. That means you saw me before I saw you.” He laughed triumphantly before grinning mischievousally."Obviously my good looks blinded you, though, because it was only water last night, too."

Warmth spread throughout his insides. She had noticed him. Him! Out of all the guys in the bar. Rusty knew he wasn’t anything special. Sure, women had hit on him, but he wasn’t the best looking guy out there. And compared to Ty’s more outgoing personality, he didn’t stand a chance.

“Okay, so maybe I just happened to glance your way once or twice.” She nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

A grin spread across Rusty's face. She set her hand back down on the table and he reached across to cover it with his. Her eyes were twinkling when she looked up and bit her bottom lip. She flipped her hand so that their fingers could entwine. The waiter came back then, interrupting their moment. Peyton started to pull her hand back, but he tightened his grip on it. Their eyes locked, both seemingly mesmerized by the other.

“What can I get you to eat?” Landon asked after clearing his throat uncomfortably.

“I’ll take a salad and the seafood alfredo,” Peyton replied, only breaking Rusty's gaze to hand the waiter her menu. He winked at her before looking at Landon. This time Landon was the one that was jealous.

“Just get me spaghetti.” The man collected Rusty's menu and gave Peyton one last look of longing before walking away.

That's right, eat your heart out.

There was a teasing glint to her eye when Rusty turned back to her. “Spaghetti? We come to a fancy restaurant with at least 50 things to choose from and you choose spaghetti? We could’ve stayed at my house and had that.”

“Well, there’s a thought. I’ll remember that next time.” The blush was back, making him chuckle. “I’m not real fancy and to be honest, I prefer Mexican over Italian.”

“Then why aren’t we eating Mexican?” she asked before taking a sip of water.

“Mexican is more of a second date thing," he told her, shrugging. "It's more casual.”

“Already planning a second date, huh?” she teased.

He gently stroked her hand with his thumb. “Of course. You didn’t think this was a one time thing, did you?”

The question seemed to catch her off guard and she diverted her gaze for a second. She gently pulled her hand free and tucked a loose strand behind her ear. “I wasn’t sure," she finally answered.

Rusty watched as she unconsciously fiddled with her necklace and gazed around the restaurant. The actions made her seem nervous and he wasn't sure how to take that. Was it just first date jitters or something more? He mentally mulled it over as she changed the subject, talking about her day with her horses. Rusty let the conversation steer away, but made a note to ask her about it later on.

They talked quietly until their food came, then a comfortable silence fell over the table. Rusty realized too late that spaghetti probably wasn’t the best choice. Before the night was over, he was pretty sure his new clothes would be covered in sauce and a noodle would flip up and hit him in his good eye. Considering he could barely see out of the other one, that would leave him at the mercy of Peyton. On second thought, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

The sun had went down by the time they finished eating, making the air turn chilly. Rusty smiled when Peyton slipped her hand in the crook of his arm. The gesture felt natural, as if they had been doing this for years. They leisurely made their way to Rusty’s blue Silverado. The closeness of her made his heart beat a little faster. She looked around, oblivious to the way she made him feel.

"Have I told you yet how beautiful you look tonight?" he broke the silence.

"Only about every five minutes," she joked, lightly squeezing his arm.

"That's all?" he feigned horror. He teasingly straightened his tie, causing her to giggle. "Damn, I need to step up my game then."

“I want some ice cream,” she said suddenly, turning to look up at him.

“Ice cream?” It had to be at least 40 degrees out there. Ice cream was the last thing on his mind. The first being, getting in truck where there was heat.

“Yes, ice cream. Doesn’t that sound good?” He continued to stare at her, not quite sure how to take her. When he didn’t answer, she turned back to him. “Why are you looking at me like I just sprouted another head?”

“It’s freezing out here.”

“So," she answered with a perplexed look. "Ice cream is good anytime. Whether it’s a hundred degrees out or 20 below.” Her comment made him smile. He actually wasn’t crazy about ice cream, but for her he would go to the moon and back if that was what she wanted.

“I think I saw a place a couple blocks away. Do you care to walk?” The look in her eyes almost made him stop in his tracks. It was something along the lines of fear. What did he say to scare her? “Are you okay?”

“Yea, I’m fine," she responded, slowing her pace to a stop. She visibly shook her head a little and began walking again, this time more hurried than their lazy pace before.

Great, he had upset her and didn’t even know what he had done.

“I’m sorry," he offered, hoping she would fill in the blank.

“For what?” She looked so vulnerable with her arms wrapped around her waist. He wanted to take her hand, but he was scared she would pull away.

“I’m not sure," he answered, honestly. "I obviously upset you, though.”

“It’s nothing you did.” She bit her lip, as if debating on whether to tell him more or not. He waited, hoping she would open up to him. When she stayed quiet, he faced forward and left her to her thoughts. They walked a ways before she broke the silence. “I’m not ready to tell you, but I will someday.”

“Alright, I can respect that.” The way she said someday made his heart flutter. That meant she planned on them having a future together.

He gave her a sideways glance and saw her shiver. Without hesitating, he removed his suit jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders. She smiled a thank you at him before slipping her arms inside it. He was surprised when she entwined her fingers through his. They walked the rest of the way in silence, Rusty enjoying the feel of her hand in his.


The ride back to her house was filled with teasing and laughter. He tried to catch his breath as he shifted the truck into park. Just when he almost had himself under control, she giggled and got him started all over again. After taking a few calming breaths, they got settled down. Silence enveloped the cab.

Remembering her odd behavior at dinner earlier, he turned the heat down a notch. "Hey, about earlier-"

She jumped in quickly, cutting him off midsentence. "I told you it was nothing," she barked. Realizing how harsh she had sounded, she gentled her voice. "You did nothing wrong, I promise."

"Yea, thanks, but that wasn't what I was meaning," he replied, resting an arm on the steering wheel as he turned to face her. He took her confused look as a request to continue. "At dinner, you seemed almost nervous when I mentioned this being more than a one time thing."

For the first time that night, the space between them was filled with an awkward silence. Peyton stared towards her house, biting her lip. He was almost positive she was nervous this time.

"Peyton?" He reached out and gently took her hand.

She looked down at their clasped hands before meeting his eyes. His heart raced at her quiet stare. Did she not have a good time? Had she just been pretending to be into him?

"I wasn't nervous. I was just," she finally spoke, hesitating to find the right word, "unsure, I guess. About us."

"Unsure about us?" That didn't sound promising.

"Yea, you know. I mean, we met in a bar," she pointed out. Rusty could vaguely see where she was going with this now. "I just didn't know if this would turn into a one night stand, or what."

"Well, it's not. A one night stand, that is. I actually wasn't thinking about sex." Okay, that might've been a white lie. Of course he was thinking about sex. A woman that looked that good couldn't be sitting in front of you without thinking about it at least once. Or twice.

Peyton's face turned horrified. "Oh god, no! I didn't mean- I'm not-" she fumbled for words. "I mean, I don't do one night stands! I don't sleep around!"

"It's okay. I understood what you meant," he laughed, holding both hands up in a calming gesture.

She dropped her head against the passenger window with a groan, causing him to laugh again. "I'm getting out now," she mumbled.

Once on her front porch, she fiddled with her house keys, looking up at him from beneath her lashes. Rusty got an urge to kiss her, but then the memory of the fear in her eyes came back. He didn’t want to push her. He bent down and gave her a peck on the cheek. Disappointment shown from her pretty blue eyes, but he felt as if he had made the right choice.

“Good night. I’ll call you tomorrow,” he said, turning to leave.

“Wait.” Her voice stopped him. He looked back to see her holding his jacket. Smiling, he took it from her. “In fear of sounding like a hypocrite, would you like to come in? For like, some coffee, or something?”

“Maybe some other time.” As bad as he wanted to, he knew he shouldn’t.

“Oh, well, okay." Her voice sounded deflated and confused, but he forced himself to back down the porch steps. He reminded himself that it was for the best. "I guess I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Good night, Rusty.”

“Night, Peyton.”

She was standing in the front window when he got in his truck. He smiled and waved at her. She gave him a small wave before disappearing from sight. The fact that he had disappointed her bothered him, but he didn’t want to do anything to mess things up. The thought of losing her was already too much to bare.