Chapter Twenty-Six (part 1)

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He’s feeding my forearm fetish and he doesn’t even know!

As for his age...well I didn’t really have a good frame of reference.

What was a thirty-eight-year-old man supposed to look like?

There were a couple of men that age at my office, but they were dads. And they looked like dads.

This guy was channeling Brad Pitt, in a Daniel Craig kind of way.

Hallelujah!

By the time he returned with the drinks, I took a deep breath and promised myself to keep my hormones in check. I mean to think it was only ten minutes in, and I’d practically fainted already?

What am I an animal?

He set down the cups, and as he did I stole a look at his hands. Powerful-looking hands, but not so big and clunky that you’d think you were being groped by a bear. Phew.

He settled in his seat across from me and smiled. “I hope you’ll like your tea.”

I smiled and looked straight into his eyes. Any excuse to stare into those perfect blue eyes. “I’m sure I will, and thank you.”

“No problem.”

After that, well...after that we were a couple of people who had only just met, with a couple of drinks that were too hot to sip for the moment.

So I stared.

And he stared back.

Then smiled.

What should I say? How should I play this cool?

“So how was L.A.?” I asked.

I listened attentively as he detailed his trip and elaborated on the script, nodding where I thought I was supposed to nod and trying not to spill my tea, the cup now perched in my hands. The conversation petered out.

Sip.

Stare.

Sip.

Smile.

Sip.

In our phone conversations we were able to talk non-stop.

So why was it impossible now?

Suddenly the light bulb went off, right around the time when he asked me how my flight had been.

“No,” I replied. “No, no, no.”

“I’m sorry, ‘no’ to what?” He looked confused, yet another new expression I was seeing on his face. I made mental notes to remember them all.

I sighed. “It’s just that, we’ve done all this already.”

“I’m afraid you’ve lost me.”

“I’m referring to the ‘filtered’ conversation, that most people go through when they’re getting to know one another. You and I already passed the early filters.”

“True...”

I leaned in closer, my enthusiasm starting to build. “The way I see it, we’ve only got a single day, right?”

He nodded.

“Well that’s a small amount of time, so we shouldn’t repeat all the steps in our conversation history. Which means I’m going to make a decision right now.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Is that so?”

I nodded. “From now on, we’re going to say exactly what comes to mind.” I smiled. “So you can decide where we’re going today, but I make all the rules on the conversation. And the number one rule? There are no rules.” I nodded and for once felt in charge of him.

“If that’s the case...I find it hard to imagine what you’ll possibly say next.” He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.

Ooh, nice vein distribution in those forearms.

“Alright.” All my nervousness had disappeared, as I was now in my comfortable “psycho zone.” I checked the old wooden clock on the wall. “We’ve been here for what...twenty minutes? And I will honestly confess that I’ve been checking you out the whole time.” His eyes opened wider as I said it. “I’m not even sure how I carried on a conversation. I’ve been too busy staring. But that’s normal right?” I laughed but when he didn’t say anything back, I wondered if I’d made a stupid move.

Like you don’t have to keep reminding him you’re crazy!

I had a feeling that he sensed my inner battle, because he sat there silent with a curious expression, waiting for me to continue.

So I tried to clear it up. “I mean it has to be normal in this circumstance, right? Because the body has five senses, and uh, uhh…we were only using one for so many months!” Sure, keep going, that makes sense. “Which leaves sight, smell…” I was counting them off with my fingers now, “touch, and taste! So I’ve been staring because...my other four senses are catching up!”

I smiled and crossed my arms. Nice recovery.

“Are you always this mad?” he asked calmly.

“Always!” I said firmly, and immediately blushed even worse than the first time my mother found a black lace push-up bra in my drawer. That bra had been way too slutty to be considered a simple undergarment (“But Mom, it was on sale”).

I took a sip of tea and tried my best to avoid his stare.

“You are not all that different from the person on the phone.” He paused. “And I’m glad.”

The cloud of shame suddenly lifted off my shoulders. “Well thanks, and you pass the test too. I mean I figure I at least owe you that, considering how long I’ve been staring.”

We both started laughing and it felt great. I loved hearing his laugh, and though he hadn’t admitted that he found me attractive too, today I didn’t care about his words. Just show me. As for my blunder it seemed to break the ice, because from there our conversation flowed like Niagara Falls.

All along though, in its secretly evil fashion, the wooden clock on the wall kept ticking...

***

“Have we really been here for an hour?” I asked, fiddling with my cup which had now been empty for a while.

James looked at his watch. “Actually we need to get going. It’s time for our next destination.”

Next destination? As in your hotel room?

He helped me with my coat again, and made sure to hold the door open for me.

I could get used to this.

When we stepped outside a black Lincoln Town Car sat waiting.

What the hell?

“Who are you, James Bond or Richard Branson?”

He simply smiled as the driver opened the door for us.

Okay James, whatever you say. Or don’t say.

James held his hand out to help me into the car, and as I grabbed it I felt electric, like a current racing through me end-to-end.

Screw the Internet. Touchy-feely is where it’s at.

The leather seats were slippery (especially in my tights) so I slid all the way to the left of the seat. James wouldn’t have that problem in his sturdy jeans, but still he found his way to my side, stopping when our thighs lightly touched.

Damn.

I wasn’t sure how long the drive was going to be, so I felt it too risky to get all snuggly on his arm. Maybe I’ll save that for after sunset...

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