Authors: Bonnie Dee
“I know we hardly know each other even though we’ve known each other most of our lives, but I’ve kinda had a crush on you since we were kids. That one summer day.
That kiss. Do you remember?”
How could she ever forget? “Yes, of course. It was my first one, you know.”
“I thought so. It was mine too. I wanted you to think I was cooler than that, more experienced, but I didn’t know what I was doing.”
“You did it well as I recall. Good enough to make my legs shaky.” She looked at him. “But why me? Just because I was convenient that day?”
“No. Because when I saw you on the beach, you looked as unhappy as I felt. Like you wanted to be anywhere else but there. I followed you to see where you were going. I pretended it was an accident we met, that I was going to see the swans anyway, but I was stalking you. A little creepy, huh?”
“No. Actually kind of sweet. I
unhappy that day. All my friends were changing. They were starting to flirt and obsess over boys and I wasn’t ready for that yet.
Plus, Tara Banacek was just plain mean. I kind of hated her.”
“Know what she’s doing now?”
“I have no idea. I didn’t go back for any of the class reunions.”
“I went to my aunt’s funeral and while I was in town I stopped at the grocery store. Tara was working the checkout. Want to know how much weight she’s put on?”
“No. I’m not catty. Plus I wouldn’t judge a person by her weight
her job.” Even so Jen couldn’t help a flash of smugness at the thought of the former queen of the school social scene stuck in a dead-end job. “Maybe she’s perfectly happy there. Maybe she’s completely satisfied with her life just as it is.”
“And maybe she’s changed and she’s not such a bitch. Anything’s possible.” He opened the coffee shop door and held it while Jen entered. “Anyway, I don’t want to talk about Tara Banacek. The point is, I’ve always liked you and now that we’re different people maybe we can finally find common ground. That’s all I’m hoping for today—a cup of coffee and a conversation with a woman I can’t believe I ran into again. Feels like fate or something.”
Jen thought so too. It did seem like something kept drawing her and Drake back into the same orbit. But to admit it right up front took balls. He was clearly not the slouching, brooding guy she’d once known. He was Drake 2.0.
“So what kind of coffee do you drink?” She asked as they joined the line. “Let me guess. Straight black. No sugar or cream and nothing frothy or foamy.” He grinned. “Wrong. I have a sweet tooth. Caramel latte.”
“Me too.” She smiled back at him and for a moment they stayed that way, smiling goofily, looking into each other’s eyes. It was a moment charged with simmering attraction. Jen gazed at his eyelashes spiky-wet from rain, his sleek dark hair and the single droplet rolling down from his temple. Her attention turned to his mouth. He had a deep bow in his upper lip that was utterly intriguing.
Her gaze flicked up to his eyes and he was studying her mouth, too. An invisible kiss sizzled on the air between them. But then the line moved forward and they were carried along with it, leaving the electric moment behind.
They got their coffee and found a free table in the corner. The only two-top left, it hadn’t been wiped down after the last customers. A sprinkling of sugar and a spilled circle of coffee marked the surface. The café was too packed and busy to expect clean.
They were lucky to get a seat at all.
Jen sat on a chair that wobbled. Every time someone passed by on their way to the restroom, they bumped her. She rested her elbows on the table and leaned in, inhaling the aromatic steam from the coffee. “Ah, there’s nothing better than a fresh brewed cup of coffee with loads of sugar.”
Drake sipped then set down the cup. “A perfect afternoon—jellyfish and coffee.” She adored that he appreciated the little details of life just like she did, and she
adored the trace of foam that decorated his lip. She’d like to lick it off.
“Tell me more about your life. What insurance company do you work for?” He named one she hadn’t heard of then said, “But I promised you no pitches and I’d rather not talk about work. I’m taking classes, working toward a degree in occupational therapy. I’d like to help people.”
Jen had never thought of Drake as much of a people person, but on the other hand, he
a good listener, a calm and steady presence when someone was hurting. She’d experienced that first hand. “I could see you as a caregiver.” She hoped his record wouldn’t hinder him in the job market someday, but she wasn’t about to bring that up.
“You’re happy in the prosecutor’s office?”
She nodded. “There are days when I’m at the end of my rope, but that’s true of any job. I think overall it’s a good fit for me.”
Rain pattered against the window pane beside them harder now, rolling down in wet streaks that made the lights of cars and neon signs outside smear in pretty colors. It had darkened so much that the streetlights came on.
“We’re going to get wet, walking back to our cars,” Jen said.
“Unless we stay here a while. There’s no place I have to get to.”
“Me either,” she admitted, “except to let my dog out.”
“What kind of dog?”
“A mutt from the pound. I couldn’t tell you what all’s in his mix. He’s brown and white and looks vaguely beagle-ish. His name’s Max.”
“Like the Grinch’s dog. Used to love that cartoon when I was little.” Jen pictured Drake as a kid, thin and wiry, sitting in front of a TV in a crappy apartment or pay-by-the-week motel room, listening to grown-ups fight while he tried to feel some Christmas spirit. Maybe her vision of what his life had been like was inaccurate, but from the hints he’d dropped, she was pretty sure she was on target.
Her gaze moved to his hand wrapped around the colorful mug on the table in front of him. Long fingers. Large hand. She could feel what his hands would be like pressed against her back or touching her face. Immediately, she pulled her mind away from the thought. They’d only just met again. It was way too soon to be letting her mind drift in those directions. Or to his mouth and the way his lips curved around the rim of the cup when he drank.
“I was a fan of the Charlie Brown Christmas,” she said to fill the silence. “Linus’s reminder of what Christmas is all about and that pitiful tree going from three branches to fully decked out in seconds flat.” She sighed. “Christmas. It’s coming fast. I need to start shopping.”
His brows shot up. “It’s almost three months away. Isn’t this a little early?”
“Not for me. I don’t like to rush around or fight crowds at the last minute. I’ve got my family, several nieces and nephews, and friends and co-workers to buy for. I like to start looking for deals early.”
He smiled. “You always were a planner. I admired that about you.”
“You made fun of me for it and told me I should learn to be more spontaneous.”
“I wasn’t going to tell you that even though you were uptight and annoying I thought you were pretty cool. Sexy
smart. Lethal combination.” Jen dipped her face to hide her own smile. Her interactions with Drake over the years had often left her feeling very uncool. To hear him admit his attraction to her…
Well, even though she knew self-worth could only be found inside, her ego lapped up his compliments.
“Sexy. That’s a new one,” she said flippantly. “I hear ‘sweet’ and ‘cute’ but I rarely get a ‘sexy’.”
“Then the guys you’ve dated are blind.” He leaned forward, his voice lowering.
“Cause you’re the sexiest woman I know.”
Jen felt another rush of blood to her face. He had a knack for bringing on blushes.
She fished for an offhand comment, but settled on a simple, “Thank you.” Now, should she offer something in return? Tell him he’d featured in many of her post adolescent fantasies? He must know she was attracted to him too, always had been, but perhaps he’d appreciate an ego boost as much as she had.
“You… I think I had a crush on you too for a very long time, and I think you’re…
s-sexy.” She stumbled over the word. How awkward to actually
you found a person hot, that he turned your insides liquid and made your panties wet.
She looked into his eyes and they were studying her with a predatory air. His tongue flicked over his lips as his gaze focused on her mouth. Could he possibly be thinking of kissing her right there in the restaurant?
Jen glanced around the crowded coffee shop. Everyone was intent on their conversations or computers, each single or duo or group encased in its own bubble. No one was watching. Why did she care if they were anyway? Because this moment felt intimate and very private. She wished they were truly alone together, not in the artificial solitude of a table in a coffee shop.
Drake looked away.
They talked a while longer, about life in the city compared to the small town they’d come from, and, despite their intent not to, about people they’d known back then.
Jen’s stomach grumbled and Drake suggested they order sandwiches. And they talked some more.
The false dark of the overcast day had turned to the true dark of early evening by the time Jen finally said, “My dog will have bladder issues if I make her hold it much longer. I really need to go.”
He nodded and stood. She’d forgotten how much taller than her he was. Walking beside him from the café, she felt petite and very feminine, fluttery and young and wondering if this surprise date would end in a kiss.
The rain had eased up but there was still a fine mist in the air, turning the streetlights to hazy gold. They picked their way around puddles on the sidewalk, heading back toward their cars.
A breeze swept down the street, kicking up trash and fallen leaves. Jen shivered and hunkered deeper into her jacket. She glanced at Drake, wearing only his suit coat.
“You must be chilly.”
“No. Not really.”
She thought of Drake’s soft cotton shirt against her skin, the sleeves hanging over her hands until she’d finally rolled them up. That small, chivalrous act had meant so much to her that evening after having her illusions shattered by her smarmy prom date.
Cars whizzed past, splashing water in careless showers. Drake moved to the other side of Jen, between her and the street to protect her from the spray, and her heart melted at the gesture.
Much faster than she wanted to, they reached her car. Jen pressed the button on her key ring, waking the sleeping vehicle.
“Well…” She was in no hurry to get inside.
She stood with her back to the car and Drake stood in front of her, looming over her, dark and handsome. If this were a vampire romance novel, now would be the time he showed her his true face and leaned in to bite her neck.
And then he
leaning in, but not to bite her. His mouth came over hers and as her eyes closed, she felt warmth against her rain-chilled lips. Her nervous system went wild, messages running like clamoring children up and down the stairways of her body. It was only one kiss and then Drake pulled back, but desire as strong as a flooding river poured through her.
Jen caught her breath then caught hold of Drake. She slid a hand around the back of his neck and dragged him to her for another kiss.
Their mouths clashed together, lips smashing, tongues dueling, a lifelong struggle coming to a head at last. His hands pressed against her back, hauling her up against him and they clung together for several long moments, frantically kissing.
When he released her at last, Jen could hardly see straight. She was supposed to drive home in this state?
“I… You could come over to my house and meet my dog,” she said inanely.
“I would love to meet your dog.” His voice was warmer, sweeter and richer than the coffee she’d just drunk. “But…tonight?”
“Yes.” Her voice sounded deeper than normal to her ears. “Yes, right now. If you want to.”
Drake stared into his eyes, his own gleaming in the hazy light. “I want to.”
“You can follow me. We’ll take my car and I’ll drop you off at yours.” How odd to have to worry about mechanics of travel when all she wanted to do was throw down here and now like some sort of wild animal, thrusting, plunging, passionate and desperate, not a care in the world apart from coming together at last.
A slow smile curved Drake’s lips. “I didn’t have this in mind, you know. I didn’t see you and think, hah, maybe at last I can… meet Jen Court’s dog.”
“I know. But you
hoping we’d kiss again, weren’t you? I was. I’d like to kiss you a lot more.”
“As many kisses as you want.” He leaned in and gave her one, two, three…four little nibbling kisses. “I’m all yours.”
* the end *
About the author: Bonnie Dee began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, she was the designated ghost tale teller, guaranteed to frighten and thrill with macabre stories. She still has a story printed in second grade on yellow legal paper about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat. Writing childish stories later led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, she dreamed of writing a novel, but didn’t have the necessary focus and follow through at that time in her life. It was only in 2000