She watched as he walked closer towards her; hardly able to believe her eyes. It had been years, though it felt like centuries, since they had been in the same room together. She took a breath to calm her nerves, but it just sort of hitched in her chest and did nothing to slow her racing pulse.
“Oh God, don’t let him see how nervous I am,” she thought as he flashed his perfect smile and kept his bright blue eyes locked on hers. She returned the smile, trying to act more confident than she felt. Knowing that her uncertainty would give her away, she lowered her eyes and reached up to play with an earring, her hair tumbling down to frame one side of her face.
With a soft, shy, half smile on her face, she met his gaze again; just as he closed the distance between them. Pushing her hair back in a haphazard manner, she laughed – a low, throaty kind of laugh.
The dim light made her hair almost glow as the light danced off the browns and golds, and the urge to rake his fingers through it wrapped itself around him. The sound of her voice was like a shock to his system. Just two simple words and he was again mesmerized by her. But in a different way this time. The years had changed them both and their recent conversations had changed the way he thought of her, how he felt about her. They had always had something, but now it was more. Like she had slowly seeped through his system and with one look, one sentence, had latched on to his heart.
Feeling the seconds tick by, he finally responded, “I’m glad to see you here.”
She lifted her shoulder to shrug, hoping to appear relaxed and aloof while praying that her pounding heart couldn’t be heard above the music and the din of the people surrounding them. “I needed a break. Something to bring the stress levels down.”
She glanced past him to assure herself that he had come alone or that he wasn’t planning on running off to meet someone else. Not seeing any likely candidates, she slid further into her booth, moving along the rounded seat until she was more behind the table. She motioned with a jerk of her chin toward the now unoccupied seat. “Wanna sit?”
The movement of her shoulder broke the spell that held his eyes on her face. He finally was able to take in the rest of her; noticing her bare shoulder, with just a hint of a tan. His gaze roamed down the length of her arm, taking in the smallness of it, but also the definition that had never been there before. With an appreciating nod, he sat and shifted in the booth so that he could face her. He continued his study of her features as if to memorize them. She was dressed simply, but smart. He wondered if she had come straight from the office or if she had stopped at home to change. He tried to picture what she was like at home; what her home was even like. Was it clutter free and as sophisticated as her appearance? Or did she leave a trail of clothes as she changed. He grinned at the thought and almost hoped for the trail. Her hair was long and silky; her ears had simple dangles hanging from the lobe. His eyes traced the length of her neck. Oh God, her neck. He could practically taste her skin there, could almost feel the chain she was wearing scrape against his tongue. He felt a twitch as his lower regions became aware of her body and oxygen suddenly became a rare commodity.
He inwardly cringed when he thought of his own appearance. His jeans were worn and fraying at the bottoms. His t-shirt loudly proclaimed his continual love of ‘90’s music. “Damn good thing I thought to throw on the button-down,” he thought, glancing at the sleeves that were rolled halfway up to his elbow. He almost reached to button the shirt closed, but decided it wouldn’t cover up the fact that he was far less refined than she had become.
She fiddled with the straw in her drink – randomly swirling and stabbing the ice, unsure of what to say next and completely unaware of the thorough regard he was giving her. The years loomed between them, as did the broken heart that she worked so hard to mend. The waitress took that moment to notice his arrival, swooping in with her own flirtatious smile to see what she could get him.
Taking only a moment to peel his eyes away from the skin he was already dying to touch, he glanced at the waitress and asked for his drink. Quickly turning back, he saw a glimpse of surprise in her eyes before she quirked an eyebrow and smirked at him. Drawing his brows in for an instant, he leaned over and whispered, “Did I order the wrong thing?”
Giggling, she glanced up and saw the waitress’ eager expression. Then she whispered back, “No, but I think she wants you to say something more than that.” She looked up again at the waitress, who was still standing in front of their table, now with a less than certain look on her face.
“Oh,” he said, straightening up again and turning toward the waitress. “That’s all I need. Unless you want another.” He pointed at the glass already on the table.
“No, no. I’m good, thanks.” She smiled politely at the waitress just as she walked away.
“So what was that look you gave me all about?”
“I think she expected you to check her out. She is a pretty thing. And she was clearly flirting with you.”
“Nah! You’re crazy!”
“Oh please. You know she was flirting with you! You are too good at this game not to know when a girl is flirting with you. She clearly was waiting for you to check her out. And probably hoping to hook up with you.”
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that ‘game’ comment.” He paused at her snort. “And exactly why would I check her out?” He laughed, watching her sputter with complete enjoyment, pleased they had moved past the awkward, uncomfortable phase. Finally they were talking like they had just the other night. Like old friends; teasing and laughing with each other.
“Because that’s what you do! What you’ve always done! You see a pretty girl and you figure out a way to get with her. If she isn’t already fawning all over you. Which, I might add, is at least a good 50 percent of the time. It’s a God-given talent. You wouldn’t have been blessed with your looks and your charm to not use it to pick up women. It goes against the law of nature or something.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have no reason to look at other women.” He gave her a very pointed look.
About to counter with a sharp retort, she snapped her mouth closed, momentarily stunned. Recovering quickly, she replied softly, “But you always did.”
He sighed and slid himself a couple inches closer to her. Resting his hands on the table near hers, he softly ran his fingertip along her thumb. “I’m sorry. I was a stupid kid who didn’t know what I had while I had it.”
Her breath stuck in her throat at his touch. Closing her eyes briefly, she pulled in a breath of air while pulling her hands down into her lap. “You always did know the right thing to say.”
He opened his mouth to reply, but she held up a hand to stop him from speaking. “It’s okay. I forgive you. I did a long time ago. We were both stupid kids.” Pasting a bright smile on her face, she sat up straighter. “But we’re grown up now. It’s all ‘go as far and as high as the road will take us,’ right?” She twisted her fingers together in her lap, silently begging the waitress to return and put a halt to this conversation. “I’m a big girl now and I think I’m doing pretty okay. There’s no need for apologies.”
Not at all pleased with the direction this was going, he stared at her face, trying to find the right words to say. “I’ve never known just what to say and I’ve never been sure of myself. I…” He stopped as the waitress set his glass in front of him. “Thank you.” He looked up and sure enough, he could see the little glimmer of hope in her eye that matched her broad smile. Nodding at her ‘just let me know if you need anything else’ speech, he took a grateful swallow of his beer.
“Can we stop talking about the waitress now? That is the last thing I want to talk about right now.” He scrubbed his hand over his face, silently asking himself, “Christ, will I ever understand women?”
She could see the exasperation written all over his face, so she shifted back to her usual, reserved self. “You’re right. There’s no reason for me to rake you over the coals for things that happened more than ten years ago. If I didn’t then, I shouldn’t now. Plus, if I’m being totally honest with myself, there really wasn’t anything definitive tying you to me anyway. Other than the occasional sex of course, but I should have known that didn’t mean ‘relationship.’” She curled her fingers in the air to emphasize the word. “But, Jesus, I’m just rambling now. You wanted to talk about something else. What do you want to talk about?”
He scooted even closer, until his thigh was nearly touching hers. He was close enough to feel the warmth of her body; could smell the faint perfume of her shampoo. But he still wanted more. He leaned down and pushed his nose through the curtain of her hair until he barely touched the skin under her ear. He inhaled deeply and spoke low, “Whatever you want to talk about.”
Her stomach flipped and her mind went blank at the sensation of his breath on her neck. She closed her eyes and tipped her head slightly to the side, consumed by the desire flooding her body. Trying to piece together a coherent thought, she stuttered, “Um…well, uh…work! Work is a…” He brushed his lips across her skin, causing her nipples to tighten and goose bumps to run down her legs.
He reached across his lap and ran his hand along her thigh until his fingertips rested on the inside of her thigh. His body seemed to pulse – every nerve ending was firing on all cylinders. How he could have thought any of the other women were enough was a mystery to him. This night – with this woman – was igniting something that had never before been lit. He pulled his face back so that he could see her face. He drank in the sight of her closed eyes and her lips, glossy and soft, before the fervent need to taste her lips, to own her lips, burned his entire being.
She opened her eyes and saw him staring at her. Wondering what he was thinking, she grinned.
The corners of her mouth raised, the sexiest smile he had ever seen, and he was lost. The last thread of restraint snapped and he crushed his lips against hers.
Her head swam as he kissed her; her core ached and sent heat coursing through her veins. She ran her fingers up into the hair at the nape of his neck. His tongue plunged into her mouth and a moan slipped past her lips.
“Dance with me,” he breathed, keeping his mouth on hers. Not wanting to stop kissing her, but wanting to feel her body against his, he wrapped an arm around her waist and started pulling her along so they could both escape the confines of the booth.
Fighting against the haze that was clouding her brain, she struggled to understand the meaning of his words. Without breaking the kiss, she managed to answer, “What? Dance?”
“Dance with me,” he repeated.