Amazingly, I slept really well that night. I almost took the necklace off as I dressed but remembered my promise and kept it on. I still had the dream but it actually felt like a dream rather than waking me up with my heart racing every night.
Still, I felt the desire to learn more about that mysterious painting. In my head, I had already decided that the disappearing painting connected in some way to the disappearing door. If I could find information about the painting I could find out about the door. At least that is what I thought.
Every evening after I closed the library before dinner, I would take time to keep searching for the painting. After I missed dinner a couple more times, Caden showed up again at the back door of the library.
“Cassie, it’s dinner time,” he stated walking towards me. “What are you doing?”
“Hm,” I answered still staring at my screen, “I’m looking for the painting.”
“Still?” he asked, looking over my shoulder. I had a site up that told me how to identify the time period of a painting. I had started taking notes, thinking that if I could identify the period, then I could look for the painting easier.
Nodding, I jotting down a note about brushstroke. As I reached for the mouse to read the next section, Caden grabbed my hand stopping me. “Cassie, it’s time to eat.”
My stomach growled and I looked at him, blinking to clear the screen from my vision. “Well, I am hungry. Thank you for reminding me.” Turning back to the screen, I saved the site and started turning off the computer. Caden did not step back until he saw me turn off my monitor.
Standing, I smiled at him, “Shall we?” I asked him to proceed me.
He stopped when he noticed I wasn’t following him. Turning he said, “It’s closer if we go out the front door.”
I smiled, “I know, I’ll be there in a second, I’m just checking that you locked the door you entered in.”
“I did,” he assured me, but I still checked it. “You don’t trust me?” he asked.
“Trust but verify,” I quipped, then explained, “I just like to confirm things for myself.”
He shrugged and held the front door open for me. After we walked out I turned and locked the door, putting the key in my jeans, and headed for the dining room. My body sent a shiver up my back when Caden placed his hand on the small of my back leading me. I hoped he just thought I felt a draft or something. Even when we entered the dining room, he still led me with the hand on my back. He even pulled out my chair for me.
When he sat next to me, I couldn’t resist trying to tease him a little, “Goodness, with that gentlemanly act, I would almost believe we were on a date. Though the students’ chatter kind of kills the romantic mood.”
I knew I was in trouble when he just smiled slowly at me, winked, and whispered, “Does this mean I get a kiss if I walk you home?”
Chuckling, I blushed, but before I could speak, dinner was served and Caden turned to speak to Maggie on his other side. He had placed me on the outside edge so I had no one to talk to without interrupting them. Instead, I watched the students and pondered again what could lay behind the disappearing door.
That night after dinner, Caden walked with me to my room. Smiling he leaned against the door jamb as I opened the door. Walking into the room, I smiled and asked, “Do you want to come in?”
Grinning he entered behind me as I left the door open. Sitting cross-legged on my bed I invited him to find a place to sit, blushing a little when he joined me on the bed. Though he leaned against the wall, extended his legs next to me, crossing his ankles, the picture of relaxation.
I turned to face him as he asked, “So what brings on this invitation?”
Teasing I replied, “Preemptive strike since you have this habit of walking in.” Then grinning and motioning to the door, “Plus I wanted to see if you could walk in here and keep the door open.”
He laughed, making a motion of moving off the bed, “You’re right , I did forget something.”
Slamming my hand on his ankles, I commanded, “Don’t you dare.”
He stared at me still poised to move, before suddenly laughing, “You win, My Lady, the door stays open.”
I smiled at him, “Good.” I looked into his blue eyes, looking more bright as they twinkled with laughter, completely forgetting anything else to say.
The laughter faded from his eyes as we stared at each other. Suddenly a girl’s laugh penetrated the staring contest and I jerked my head towards the door, but no one was there.
Awkwardly, I looked back at Caden, biting my lip as I tried to think of what to say, but Caden asked, “Cassie why did you invite me in?”
“I wanted to get to know you better,” I confessed.
He smiled, opening his hands, “What do you want to know? I’m an open book.” I narrowed my eyes at that statement. “Okay, more like I won’t lie to you but I may not tell you everything.”
“That sounds more likely,” I agreed.
I opened my mouth to speak but he started, “Actually, I want to get to know you better as well, so how about a game?”
“A game?” I questioned.
He nodded, “Yes, for every question you ask me, I can ask you one.”
“Okay, that sounds fair,” I agreed. “I’ll go first. What is your full name?”
“Caden Laroy,” he stated.
“No middle name?”
“Nope,” he agreed, then asked, “What is your full name?”
I sighed, “Cassandra Oralee Delfian.”
His eyebrows rose, “Oralee?” At my nod, he asked, “Why?”
“My mom told me that I was born from a line of oracles and she wanted me to remember that.” I shrugged, having made my peace with my name years ago.
He smiled, opening his mouth, but I quickly said, “My turn. How did you come to work here?”
He paused, then said, “I wanted to help others and thought this would be a good fit.”
Though his answer was vague I didn’t pursue it asking instead, “Why teach history?”
This time he smiled, “History is exciting. Now my turn, “Why be a librarian and why work here?”
Thinking I could be just as vague I answered, “I like books and I needed a job.”
I could see him mentally planning to ask for more of an explanation, but I asked, “What is your favorite color?”
“Green. Your favorite color?” he returned.
“Blue,” I said blushing slightly as I realized that his eyes were my favorite shade of blue.
His smile grew into a smirk as he noticed my blush. Leaning forward, he whispered, “Why the blush?”
Before I could answer my alarm went off. I jumped and said quickly, “Oh nights out. Time for you to go.” I pushed his legs off my bed so I could scramble down, saying “Goodnight, Caden.”
I expected him to leave, but instead, he followed me and stopped in the doorway leaning on the door jamb as I went to say goodnight to each room. I stopped in front of him as he blocked my way into my room and said, “Caden, it’s lights out, I need to get to bed.”
He smiled leaning close to me and whispered, “I could join you.”
Blushing I shook my head, looking up at his laugh, “Well if you’re sure,” he trailed off looking at me, but seeing me shake my head he stepped away from the door, “Well then, how about a kiss?” he teased.
Still blushing, I shook my head struggling to find a retort to tease him back. My brain had shut down when he asked as I realized I really wanted a kiss from him. Yet I refused to be that woman who takes teasing seriously. I kept my eyes down so he wouldn’t read the desire in my eyes as I moved him past him into my room.
“Cassie,” he said more quietly, “lock the door and go to bed.”
Nodding, I again whispered, “Goodnight Caden” and closed the door, locking it.
Then giving into a big sigh, I leaned my head against the door to hear Caden whisper, “Sleep well, my lady,” before his footsteps walked away.
This became a habit. Each evening Caden swung by the library just before dinner and would escort me to my seat with a casual hand on my back. He would always hold my chair for me. With this, I usually ended up at the end of the table. Maggie started leaning around Caden to talk to me. Still talking during dinner was awkward as we all faced the students.
In this position I began people watching the students, trying to guess relationships. After dinner, Caden would walk me back to my room and we spent a few minutes discussing my observations and getting to know each other.
Every night, just before he left me at my room just after lights out, he would ask, “Do I get a kiss tonight?” and every night I pondered saying yes. I just could not be sure that a kiss would ruin our friendship if he was only teasing and not actually wanting a kiss. Instead, I would smile and whisper goodnight as I shake my head. He would then wait for me to close and lock my door. After I locked my door I would hear him say, “Sleep well, my lady,” and walk away.
Then every night as I fell asleep I wondered what we are. We were friends, but when I looked into his eyes, I wanted more. Sometimes, I would catch him looking at me like maybe he wanted more too. Maybe one night I would say yes to the kiss just to see what happened. I would find out then what we are.