Page 26

 Kim Karr

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My fingers slide down my stomach on their own. My body trembles at just the thought of his kisses and the way his tongue flicked against mine with urgency. I circle my warm flesh and think about the desire that flows between us, the way he looks at me with those languid blue eyes, and his charming demeanor. And I know I have to satisfy this longing before I see him. A sigh escapes my throat as I apply pressure where I need it because there’s no way I’m sleeping with him at the restaurant. And there’s no way I’m bringing him back here or going to his house. All of those places are too intimate. No, we’ll eat dinner together tonight and I’ll plant the seed for one more rendezvous before I say good-bye.
I cruise into Brentwood on my bike with plenty of time to spare. The town isn’t that big and I locate the restaurant right away. The sign in front reading Valet Parking throws me for a loop. The name Pebbles had me envisioning a BBQ pit with picnic tables, but what I’m looking at is anything but. A large curved window gives me a peek into the intimate setting inside. It looks pretty nice, which I’m relieved about because I would have hated to take a girl to a dump on a first date.
I skip the valet since I don’t like anyone touching my bike. I find a small parking garage around the corner and pull into it. I’ve been to this town a few times, but the only thing I really remember about it is the white dogwood trees that line the streets. With my bike secure, I walk slowly down the street looking around at the small shops, all very different but inviting to passersby. The old-fashioned streetlights display banners that read MERRY CHRISTMAS. It’s a little early for that—isn’t it?
The town looks to be a little larger than Laguna, and a bit quainter, but nowhere near as trendy or diverse. I pass a florist, some retail shops, a few galleries, and many restaurants and bars. People are walking as though they don’t have a care in the world, just browsing, talking, and laughing. One store in particular catches my eye. It’s a bookstore named Fiction Vixen. My love for old books draws me toward the two stacks in the large windows located on both sides of its front door. The books are displayed in a Christmas-tree-like fashion with strands of lights wrapped around them.
Arriving at Pebbles, I pull open the heavy glass door only to find that the place is crowded. I weave my way through the people waiting in the entry and stop at the hostess station.
“Can I help you?” the cute girl says.
“I’d like a table for two.”
“Do you have a reservation?”
“No, do I need one?”
She glances down at the book of names in front of her. “I’m sorry but you do. We’re full tonight.”
I lean down. “Are you sure you can’t find a small table for two tucked away somewhere? It’s just that this is my first date with a girl and I was really hoping to impress her. I don’t want to look like the jackass I am for forgetting to make a reservation.” I quirk a smile and stand a little closer.
She glances up at me and her eyelashes flutter. “That’s really sweet. Let me see what I can do.”
She scans the seating chart before her.
“How about right there?” I point.
“One of the window tables? Those are always the first ones requested.”
I shoot her a wink. “So my date would be really impressed if I got us one of those?”
She smiles at me as she erases the name printed above the table. “Your name, sir?”
With my biggest shit-eating grin I say, “Ben. Ben Covington.”
As she leads me to the table, we pass a granite-topped bar where a few couples perched on the stools are lost in deep conversations—hands on knees, faces a little too close, hooded eyes. I remember thinking just recently the only girl I ever came close to flirting with besides my long-term girlfriend was S’belle. But maybe that wasn’t entirely true. Then again, it depends how you define flirting. To me it means you have game in mind. With the hostess I was just pouring on the charm, not trying to bed her. So I stand by the idea that I’ve never really put myself out there in flirting mode. But something tells me I’m about to before the night ends.
“Let me know if I can help you with anything else,” the hostess says before leaving me at a table near the window with two menus.
I check the time on my phone; it’s seven twenty-seven. I sit here wondering if maybe S’belle isn’t going to show and find my nervousness disconcerting. Not a minute ticks by before I spot her. Her back’s to me and she’s talking to the hostess. The lights from the street cast shadows on her long red hair. But it’s as vibrant as ever against her bare back. She pulls it to one side as she laughs at something the hostess says. Oh, f**k, is that girl blowing it for me? She twists in my direction as the hostess points over to me. Fuck, I think I’m busted.
I stand up and she smiles at me. My body hums at the sight of her approaching me—she’s wearing a halter top that reveals a hint of cle**age and tight jeans that hug her shape perfectly with the highest f**king heels I’ve ever seen. She sashays toward me and the thin gold chains hanging over her shapely chest swing back and forth. She isn’t a girl anyone could pass by without drooling over. I consciously close my jaw that I know is hanging open. At our table her eyes look me over—head to toe. I see it plain as day and I have to pull back the knowing grin from my lips.
“Hi there,” I say with a grin, and lean in to kiss her.