Page 16

 Kim Karr

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“All you? You don’t work for that ass**le anymore?”
She giggles. “I do, but since Tate only does weddings now, he’s fine with me venturing out on my own. I just recently started my own event-planning company.”
“Tate’s cool with that?” I have to say I’m surprised. From what I saw of him over the summer, he seemed like a complete dick-wad.
“His only stipulation was that I not include weddings as one of my offerings, so I’ve been concentrating mainly on business events. I usually have everything delivered, but the peppered beef skewers from Pebbles are my favorite and they don’t deliver.”
“Ah . . . I definitely ate my fair share of those.”
“Right! They are so good you can’t have just one.”
I laugh.
She smiles.
The sight triggers something odd inside me, something that I haven’t felt in a very long time. Maybe it’s just that I don’t want to say good-bye to her. I’m not ready for the night to end and I don’t think she is either. I consider my options as they run through my mind. But in the end I decide to do the gentlemanly thing rather than what I really want to do—again. I have this strange feeling that she’s struggling with her emotions and I know what that’s like, as I seem to be doing the same.
“What do you say to a cup of coffee?”
She scans the parking lot. “How did you get here?”
“My bike. Why?”
“I’ll agree to go for coffee, but only if you let me drive.”
“Are you scared?”
“Then what is it?”
“I don’t want to get pulled over for not wearing a helmet.”
“That didn’t bother you the time I drove you home when you’d locked your keys in your car.”
“I was in a hurry then. It was different.”
I refrain from scoffing under my breath. “Different how?”
“I don’t know. If I had to explain to a policeman I’m sure I could think of something.”
She’s serious. I have to hide my laughter at how f**king cute she is. “Ah . . . those half-truths are easier to tell than lies.”
“Yes. That’s it.” She’s got a glow about her that’s not from the parking lot lights above us. “And, Ben”—her tone drops to a whisper—“I never got to say thank you for changing my tire.” Then she lifts her wrist. “And for the watch.”
“It was no big deal. Glad the watch has come in handy.” I decide to make light of it. I’d helped her out over the summer by changing a flat and giving her my watch when hers was broken. But I’m glad she seems to have appreciated it. I want to kiss her. I want her to come home with me. But I settle on trying to turn the quickie in the prep kitchen into something more and ask, “You hungry?”
“A little.” She smiles with that look of innocence she has about her, and the heat between us is almost unbearable.
I avert my gaze and bob my chin toward the sidewalk. “Come on, I know a great little coffee shop right around the corner with the best homemade pies. We can walk.”
Four & Twenty Blackbirds seems straight from a 1950s sitcom, all decorated in red gingham. And in keeping with the nostalgic theme, the homemade pies taste as if they’ve just come out of Grandma’s oven. The mom-and-pop place is dimly lit, but the carousel of pies is lit up in a way I’ve never noticed.
S’belle rushes over to it and splays her hands across the glass. She points to a slice. “What’s that one?”
I step close enough to whisper in her ear, “Oh, that would be their signature triple-crusted berry pie. I know it well.”
“Triple crust?” Her eyes are wide as she turns to glance back at me and licks her lips. Fuck, that’s hot.
“It’s really good.” I pat my stomach.
From this angle over her shoulder, my eyes go directly to her ample br**sts spilling out the top of what I know is a black lacy strapless bra. My c**k throbs at the sight—again. She turns her head in time to catch my stare. Her breathing picks up as if she’s reliving things too. I can see it. The light of the case highlights her freckles. I think about the way her eyes drift downward when she talks and how she lets her hair cover her face when she answers me—she’s got a quirky, sassy personality, but there’s also an innocence there.
“What’s that one?” she asks, twisting back toward the case.
“I think that’s the sweet potato pie.”
She wrinkles her nose. “Vegetables should not be put in desserts.”
I raise an eyebrow. “You have an issue with vegetables?”
“I just might,” she says sassily.
A smile tugs at my lips. “Me too.”
She’s flirting with me. I haven’t flirted with a girl in . . . Fuck, I’m not really sure I’ve ever actually flirted, except with her back in college. My pulse is racing and I think it’s time to leave the pie display before I push her up against it. I glance around. Only a few people are sitting at the communal table, so we have our choice of seats.
“Come on. The booth in the front has the best view of the street.”
We sit by the window and I notice her shiver when our thighs touch. I remove my jacket and stand to drape it around her.
“Thank you.” She pulls it closed around her body.
I catch sight of her sniffing it and although I want to bust out laughing, at the same time I find it really endearing and don’t want to ruin the moment, so I keep my mouth shut and glance down at my menu instead.