Closing Time – Episode 16

XVI

“Give you one what?” I ask, feigning ignorance. I really don’t want to tell him what song I assigned as his theme. My throat is suddenly dry, so I grab my water and start gulping.

Damon cocks his head to the side and folds his hands on the table, looking every bit like a teacher’s pet in school. And he waits.

Dropping my head, I mumble his song out of the corner of my mouth.

“What’s that?” He leans forward.

Sigh. “Cowboy Casanova.”

He surprises me by laughing. Not a smirk, but outright, full-blown laughter. I jerk my head up.

“It explains why your bartender kept calling me Casanova. I thought he was hitting on me.”

I smile, despite myself. “It’s a rare person, male or female, who can resist John’s attentions.”

“Well, he is very charming. You only won by a small margin.”

With a wink and a flash of his impossibly white teeth, he has me all fluttery again. I’m not even a hundred percent sure I understood his last remark, but I’m not about to ask him to clarify.

“So…tell me about you.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Let’s start with the usual. Job, family, whatever you want to say.”

“Okay, I’m—”

The waitress plunks our gyros down and stares at Damon. “Will there be anything else?”

He looks at me, but Rio‘s eyes never waver from his tanned face. I shrug and assess my area of the table.

“More water?” he says, before I even notice my glass is empty.

“Sure thing, hon,” she purrs, and I roll my eyes.

When she returns with the pitcher, her hair has been restyled and I swear she’s padded her chest. There’s definitely more cleavage there now. Or maybe she’s bending lower than before to draw attention to it. I can’t help it—a snicker escapes my lips.

“What?” Damon asks after she leaves again.

“Nothing.” If he didn’t notice, I’m not going to point the neon arrow. “You were about to tell me about yourself.”

“Right.” He swallows his bite. “I’m here going to school for the time being.”

School? I look closer at his face. I’d pegged him for my age or a little older, but he could be younger. Dear God, please don’t tell me I just unknowingly became a cougar.

“Family is in Wyoming, but I don’t think I’ll go back. I kinda like the city life.”

Even better. I’m a cougar and I stepped into a romance novel cliché. Country boy comes to the city, fish out of water—

“Lucia?”

I blink. “Yeah?”

“You looked a little, um, well, frightened there. You okay?”

“Oh.” Nervous laughter. “Yeah, no, I’m fine. So, school, huh? What are you studying?”

He doesn’t look convinced. “I’m working on an art degree.”

Art. Interesting. “Any specialty?”

For a moment, he stares at me and my body starts to tingle.

“Nudes.”

He said that to shock me. I’m convinced of it.

“I meant which medium?”

“I like them all, but I have a special love for clay.”

Is it my imagination, or did his voice drop an octave?

He continues, “There’s something about sculpting a form, molding it and watching it take shape in my hands…”

Those hands were quite expressive. My gaze follows his fingers as he pantomimes and my breaths shorten. Strong, lean hands. I’m so focused on his gestures that I don’t even know what he’s saying anymore. My body reacts as though he’s touching me, until I notice he’s stopped moving. Immediate heat floods my face and I can’t look up.

My food! It’s a perfect distraction. Lifting the gyro, I shovel it into my mouth. Chewing—especially the ridiculous amount of wrap I bit off—gives me some time to collect myself. By the time I swallow, my heart has stopped sprinting.

Damon, on the other hand, appears amused.

“You were picturing that scene from Ghost, weren’t you?” he asks.

I’m glad I didn’t still have food in my mouth, or I would have choked. My “no” still sounds strangled.

“Most of the time, that’s the first thing people associate when they learn I’m into ceramics.”

Fortifying myself with a gulp of water, I say, “Well, I wasn’t thinking that.” But I am now. And the tune of Unchained Melody.

“Then what were you thinking? Your expression…changed.”

I can only imagine what emotion my face conveyed. Hundreds of lies pass through my mind—lies to redirect my mortification. I settle on a half-truth.

“I was just watching your hands. They were distracting.”

“Oh.” He actually looks disappointed.

The clock on the wall chimes and I’m surprised to learn we’ve been at the restaurant for an hour.

“Do you have to get back?”

No. “Yes.”

He stands and pays the check. Rio rests her elbows on the counter, shoving her breasts together and her longing gaze follows Damon. I’m not sure what comes over me, maybe it’s natural cattiness, but I link my arm through his and lead him out of the restaurant. A single, arched eyebrow is his only reaction.

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3 responses to “Closing Time – Episode 16

  1. Excellent! I just jumped in, guess I better back up and read episodes 1-15!
    Although this can stand by itself, I’m hooked for more!
    ;0)

    • Thank you so much, Susan! Glad you enjoyed it. The next installment will be out later today (I’m doing querying for my novel, and that took precedence this weekend).

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