Not So Fragile Heart

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"I'll turn around so you can change," he said, averting his eyes as Riley slid the dress off her shoulders and quickly slipped on her T-shirt. She folded the skimpy dress and stuffed it into her purse, along with the Louboutins.

"You can turn around now," she said. "I'm decent."

When he moved back around to face her, he grinned. "You look much more comfortable now," he said, sitting back down on the floor. Riley did the same, bending her knee and resting her foot on her opposite leg so she could rub her toes. They were still sore from being crammed into the two-hundred-dollar shoes—on sale—she'd bought for the occasion. She wondered whether she could return them if she made sure there weren't too many scuff marks at the bottom of the shoes.

They were silent for a few minutes as she continued to rub her feet before he asked, "Do your feet hurt?"

Riley couldn't help but laugh. "Of course, they hurt. That's why I brought these," she said, pointing to her canvas shoes. "I always bring these as a back-up in case I don't last ten minutes in my Louboutins, which I never do anyway."

"Then why didn't you just wear your back-up shoes?"

"Because they didn't go with my dress. And men like seeing women in high heels," she said. "Don't you?"

"Of course, I do," he said. "I'd be lying if I told you I didn't. But I do prefer women to be comfortable first. There's nothing like good sturdy shoes."

"You sound like a grandfather—there's nothing like good sturdy shoes," Riley laughed, mimicking his deep voice. "No offense, but you're too young to be an old fart."

"Why, thank you! I've never been called an old fart before," he laughed, and Riley could see a blush forming on his cheeks. "But we all know an old fart, and in my case, it's my dad. My mum always wore comfortable shoes. She had to, and still does."


"She was a teacher, and she stood all day although these days she helps dad out on the farm even when they have help," he said. "But you've just changed the topic. If those shoes hurt, why do you wear them—even if they do go with your dress?"

"Isn't that the history of fashion?" she said, squeezing the ball of her foot. "We suffer to be beautiful. Makes you wonder if it's all worth it."

"And is it?"

She made a face as she continued to massage her toes. "If my feet could talk, they'd probably say no."

"May I?" he asked, the hand closest to her upturned. Although his offer startled her, Riley surprised herself, even more, when she leaned back, allowing him to take her foot onto his lap. She didn't know why she'd acquiesced so quickly, but someone offering to rub her feet right when she needed it seemed heaven-sent. Then she wondered if it made her look desperate.

"Wait, maybe I shouldn't let you," Riley said, drawing her foot back.

He chuckled. "Given that we might be in here for a while, I'd rather occupy myself with something to do—if you don't mind me rubbing your feet. It could be hours before we get out."

She shuddered. Oh, please don't let that happen, she thought. It would be so embarrassing if it ever made the news that she was stuck in an elevator.

"As long as you promise not to tickle me," she warned, reaching for the can of pepper spray she had left on the railing. "I do have pepper spray, and I'm not afraid to use it."

"I promise," he replied as he gave her foot a gentle squeeze. His hands were warm and, although she was tense when he started, keeping her hand on the black can of pepper spray, Riley relaxed and leaned her head back. Minutes later, she returned the can to the railing.

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