“Could be. Not your problem.” He kept a hand on her back, propelling her forward. “You never know when the director will come by for unannounced visit.”
“Did you call him?” When did he manage to do this? A surprise visit might save the lab and most of their jobs.
“Didn’t call, but I did hear him on the phone detailing when the visits would go down. Not surprising they’re all scheduled for late at night. This time he plans to catch them in the act with witnesses. “
Her hand covered her heart, imagining the results of such a visit. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Pressing his shoulder into the exit door, Mitch pushed it open for Stella. “I just did.”
Balling her hands on her hips, she stared up at him. “Just now. Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“I couldn’t. I felt like Lauren eavesdrops on every word we say.”
Stella nodded in agreement, allowing her hand to fall to her side. “I noticed that today. One of the reasons I tried to hurry her out. Lately, she’s be giving me a death stare. I’m not sure why. Mitch walked her to her dorm after work every night because he mentioned it wasn’t safe for her to walk in the dark alone. On that, she had to agree, there’d been more than a dozen attacks on lone females, but none of it ever reached the local newspaper.
Forgetting Simon and his antics for a moment, she hooked her arm into crook of Mitch’s bent one. “Let’s do something fun for your birthday.”
“Birthday was yesterday. You missed it.” His palm covered her hand riding on his forearm. “What fun ideas do you have?”
Good question. It was a sizable campus with a variety of activities nearby. “We could go get a pizza, go bowling, even play miniature golf. Mainly, I just like to talk to you outside of work and class. We seldom get the chance, right?”
Despite her face turned up to his, she noticed two girls walking behind them and staring. They whispered furiously. She didn’t recognize them, but one looked a little familiar she might have seen her somewhere earlier that day.
“Okay, sounds great. Let’s turn here. I know a pizza place we can walk to.” A warm breeze carried the aroma of car exhausts, fast food, and the sulfuric smell of a spent match.
“Think fast.” A male voice shouted as a sputtering string of firecrackers landed near her feet.
Before she could even jump out of the way, Mitch swung her up into his arms and kicked the offending firework off the path. “Jerks. I ought to--” He growled the words
Hoping to dampen what could be a fight, she added, “Get pizza,” to the end of his sentence.
“You’re right.” He agreed before placing her feet back on the ground. “I was just worried that you’d get hurt.”
Stella rather missed being in his arms, but she’d never mention it. Falling for Mitch who was nice and protected her would make her a lousy girlfriend. It’s more than Cam usually did. Her troublesome-self whispered, always busy pointing out the flaws in her life. They walked a few moments in silence their hands no longer touching.
She touched his elbow just barely to get his attention. “You never finished telling me about the letter from your mother and why it was strange.”
“Yeah that.” He sighed. “It started out okay with how proud she was that I was going to college. She went on about having a crappy job because she never went to college. Then on to dad dying and not even having an insurance policy and how hard her life has been ever since his death.” He shoved his hands into his pockets causing her hand to flutter back to her side.
“Whoa, that must have cheered you up immensely.” Why parents felt the need to burden their children with their own issues always amazed her. “I know the feelings. I get my own version of that from my mom.” Her eyes rested on his wrists that ended at his pockets. She was willing to bet they’d gone into the pockets, eliminating the possibility of their hands casually touching.
Mitch pointed to the fairy lights draped around the trees outside the pizzeria. Stella knew the place, never actually went in, but was aware that it was a very popular hangout. A shiver of apprehension danced across her shoulders, no doubt the news she’d been on a date with Mitch would ripple across campus. Not a date, only a belated birthday celebration with a friend, that’s all. Only notable if anyone knew she and Cam were an item.