Jensen stopped flipping haphazardly thorough the book in his hand. It started to slip from his fingers and he made a wild grab for it, narrowly missing the floor. “I, um, didn’t know that.”
Delilah smiled but wasn’t looking at him to see the shock register on his face even though the sudden appearance of the scent of sea spray, as if they’d been transported to a sandy beach during high tide, should have tipped her off that something was different. “Didn’t Stephen tell you how we know each other?” she questioned in distraction, her eyes still preoccupied with all of the books laid out before her.
“Nope, uh, I don’t think he ever did mention it.” He dropped the book in his hand, cleared his throat and pulled against his collar, looking like he was suddenly in need of more air.
“It’s not that great of a story to tell you the truth,” Delilah said, looking up to meet his eyes for the first time. He saw a little hesitation in them and it scared him for a moment.
“I’d like to hear it anyway.”
She took a deep breath and grabbed a book idly from the shelf, just so she could have a prop in her hand to distract her. “Well when I was sixteen my mom died. They found her randomly in the middle of a field, no sign of how of why she died, perfectly healthy except for the fact that she was dead. It was like something out of a book, you know?
“I didn’t have any place to go and Amelia was my best friend so the Conrads took me in and let me stay with them until I graduated from high school.” She shot him a teasing smile that was unable to completely masquerade the sadness behind it. “See, all totally harmless.”
“So you weren’t shacking up with him then?” Jensen asked. His face was sympathetic and his heart panged for her but he could tell, by the way she was leaning against the bookcase, by the way she wouldn’t meet his eyes, by the way the lines of her body had stopped moving as if waiting for something to happen, that she did not want to talk about what she’d just revealed. She wasn’t ready for that yet but he’d be there when she was so he obeyed her unsaid wishes and passed it by.
“Ugh, God no,” she said, a look of disgust passing across her face as she shivered at the terrible thought.
Jensen laughed and came around the room towards her. “Good because I was afraid I was going to have a heart attack. I think we just found our angst.”
“Jealous already? You know that’s not a very attractive quality.” She addressed her comments to the slight dimple in his chin, her lips almost brushing it as she spoke. Jensen didn’t see the need to keep much space between them and Delilah was hard pressed to find any disagreement inside of her.
“I think I have a few others to make up for it.”
“Really?” she asked with that laugh in her voice that hadn’t been absent since she’d started talking with him that evening, the levity she was sorely missing in the other parts of her life bursting full blown into the air when she was with him.
“Really,” he asserted confidently, wrapping his arms around her again and pulling her even closer to kiss her again.
“So, what’s next on this list of yours?” he murmured in her ear, his lips softly brushing her hair.
“Well . . .” She opened her mouth to speak but was taken aback by what caught her eye in the mirror on the wall across from them. She had raised her hands to brush at the nape of his neck and spotted something bright underneath the few tendrils of his hair brushing down that far. “What is that?”
“What?” he asked, following her eyes to the mirror.
“That,” she murmured, pushing his hair up off of the back of his neck. She circled him and climbed up onto a chair to get a better look.
“Oh, that,” he laughed with a sheepish and charming grin. “I was hanging out with my niece this afternoon and I foolishly allowed her to give me a tattoo with markers I didn’t realize were permanent.” He shook his head a bit ruefully and tried to catch a glimpse of it in the mirror.
“I can’t actually see what it is. She told me she wanted it to be a surprise. Care to enlighten me?”
“It’s a buzzing bee and a smiling sun.” Delilah could barely breathe. What was the universe trying to tell her? That tonight the future held for her Jensen. Was she ready for that? Was she ready to be manipulated like that? Was it even manipulation? A headache was starting to form right between her eyes and she raised a hand to try and rub it away.
Jensen laughed. “Okay, that is definitely some creative license she took there. I told her I wanted something manly.”
“Would you have preferred a bee riding a motorcycle into the angry sunset.”
“Much more masculine,” he answered. She stopped playing with his hair and leaned against him, letting her arms drape down around his neck and resting her chin on the top of his head. His slightly callused hands felt so good running up and down her arms that she was having trouble coming up with a reason why she had to move.
But she was suddenly inspired. What was it that she had been seeing in her dreams about knitting needles? She grabbed her right hand back and slid it across the breath of his wide shoulders, down his massive back, and down over his backside. She bit her lip in concentration as she slipped her hand into his back pocket.
“I can’t believe it,” she murmured to herself when she came out with a pair of knitting needles.
“You know if you want to feel me up I don’t have a problem with that.” Jensen turned to look at her, the husky timber of his voice causing shivers of awareness to grate along her skin.
“What are you doing with these, cowboy?” she asked in a breathy voice, unsure on if she wanted an answer or not since it probably wouldn’t make one bit of difference. Why he had them wasn’t as important as the fact that he did and it looked like her prophetic visions of the future, no matter how scattered or random, were actually coming true.
He looked a little ashamed and cleared his throat, reaching up to take them from her outstretched hand. “What am I doing with these?” he repeated.
“Yes, what are you doing with knitting needles in your back pocket?”
“Would you believe I use them to play the drums?” he asked hopefully, twirling the needles idly in his hand like he had down it numerous times before.
“Knitting keeps dexterity in the fingers. I got into the habit of knitting when I was doing my medical residency and a few of the girls in my year convinced me it would get me all the ladies. Plus . . .”
“Plus . . .” she prompted, reaching to grab his face and tip it up to look at her, still standing on the chair. She liked utilizing the height to her advantage and slipped her hand back into his hair, running it slowly through her splayed fingers.
“Plus,” he began once more, having to clear his throat to push the words out, “I heard that you liked to knit from Stephen and I thought it might be a quirky gift to get your attention.”
“You were carrying the needles around for me?” she asked in surprise, taking a step back but upsetting her balance in the process. Jensen had to reach out to steady her, his hands sparking her to life again where they settled on her waist. He pulled her down off of the chair and held her close.
“Sure was.” Excitement and elation bubbled over inside of Delilah. Not only had she sparked his interest she had also captured his attention. The party was cluttered with girls shooting covetous glances at him but he couldn’t see any of it, his eyes focused only on her.
She cleared her throat and smiled blindingly, causing Jensen to blink at its brilliance. “The next thing that Amelia told me to find was A Star Is Born. Do you know that movie?”
“I like old movies,” he said, sliding a strand of her hair behind her ear, “My decorator centered that one over my bed.” He punctuated that statement with a kiss.
“Is that so?” she asked breathlessly when they parted.
“It’s a fact ma’am. What you don’t believe me?”
“Nope,” she said, the smile she was trying to hide teasing itself around the corners of her mouth. “It’s just too much of a coincidence.”
“Maybe I’ll just have to show it to you.”
“Maybe you will.”
They stood there for a second together, each trying to figure out if they were serious or not. “I can get Stephen’s kayak tomorrow,” Jensen murmured, running his hands up her bare arms and unhooking them from around his neck. But he didn’t let them go immediately, holding them gently between them like a set of prepubescent lovers unsure of what to do next. “Okay then,” he said at the look on her face, clearing his throat and dropping her hands.
“I’ll meet you out front,” she said, “I just have to get my coat.” They parted at the doorway as he slipped out the front door and Delilah wound her way around the ever growing crowd of people. She spotted Amelia leaving the bathroom and followed her through the pulsing crowd, catching up with her near the living room sofa.
She had to reach out and grab her arm to get her attention, the bass on the stereo making it hard to talk as it punctuated every word. “Hey, there you are.”
“Hi,” Amelia responded, her annoyance at her best friend not yet drained away.
“Look Am, I’m sorry I was being a colossal grouch. I swear, sometimes I don’t know what is wrong with me but I’m really glad that you dragged me here. Really.”
“Really?” she asked, her eyes lighting up with the hope of juicy gossip to follow, “why? What’s going on?”
“I – ” she began but didn’t get very far before Jensen popped up beside her.
‘’Ready?” he asked before noticing that Delilah was in the middle of a conversation. “Oh, I don’t want to interrupt.”
“That’s fine,” Delilah said, grabbing his arm as he backed up and pulling him closer before he could disappear into the crowd. “Jensen this is Amelia. Amelia, Jensen.”
“Stephen’s sister, right?” he asked, extending a hand for her to shake.
“Mmmhmmm,” was all she said, her tone speaking volumes. She shot a look at Delilah out of the corner of her eye and she just barely managed not to laugh.
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow?” Delilah asked as she started to leave, pulling Jensen along beside her.
Jensen took her hand in his, reluctant that she would slip away from him again, her elusivity before tonight making him wonder on more than one occasion if he had only just dreamt the stunning redhead with charm to spare, and led her through the house. As they left the house she was so preoccupied at the way that their hands fit perfectly together that she was barely noticed when they stepped out into the brisk evening. “Where’s your car?” she asked, barely glancing away from his captivating smile to see where she was going, let alone notice it parked in front of them.
“You’re looking at it,” he answered with a laugh and pointing at a gleaming, beautiful piece of machinery. It was parked haphazardly in the driveway, the back half sticking out into the street at a rakish angle.
“This is your car?”
“I am a doctor after all you know,” he replied, taking great delight at the appreciation in her suddenly light gray eyes.
She let out a low whistle as she released his hand to walk around it in admiration. “I’ve never ridden in a Ferrari with the top down before.”
“Well get in.” He didn’t need to ask her twice; he didn’t even have time to open the door for her before she slipped into the leather interior. “Wow” was all she could say.
He laughed. “The color makes it so much better, right?”
“Oh, so much.”
“Shall we?” he asked with a quick look at her in his passenger seat. “I like you sitting next to me,” he murmured, reaching a hand out to push another one of those flyaway strands of hair behind her ear. Every time he did it a rush of emotion started skittering down along her limbs and making her wonder if the spark Madge had talked about was real, was about to jump from her like an electric conduit and catch the house on fire.
He took to the roads like a teenager in his first solo drive, taking the turns quick and revving the engine to speed the car along to dizzying heights, so fast that the wind was the only thing keeping them down, holding them against the seats with its strength. After fifteen minutes as they were coming off of a tight curve on an old, country road, he slowed the car.
“Are you cold?” he asked, twiddling confidently with the knobs and buttons on the dash until heat came blasting out of the vents and warming her from head to toe. The top started rising and she couldn’t hold in the sigh of sadness that escaped her even as the car gratefully warmed ten degrees.
“You liked that then I take it?”
“Definitely,” she smiled. He returned it but it took her breath away and she could only hold his gaze for a moment before she had to look away and at the countryside whizzing by the window much slower now. The car slowed to almost a snails’ pace, so slow after the intense speed up the mountain that she wasn’t even sure if they were still moving. “Why are we stopped? Did we run out of gas or something?”
He shined that half-cocked grin at her again and the air seemed to leave the car. “This is where I live.”
“All the way out here? In the middle of nowhere? Is there a house to go along with it?”
“Yes, there’s a house – right up there, see. And no, not the middle of nowhere. I have neighbors. See there, and there, and oh, there’s one over there to.” He reached a hand out to run through the ever-lengthening strands of her hair. “Why, are you afraid to be alone with me now?”
“I guess that depends on what you plan on doing with me,” she whispered softly. He moved his hand to cup the back of her head and pulled her towards him to capture her lips in a slow, sensual kiss. He rested his forehead against hers when they broke apart as they both tried to catch their breath.
“This is beautiful,” he murmured, moving his hand down to the hollow of her neck.
“Thanks. It was my mother’s,” she replied, her eyes following his finger as he ran his hand over the ever present orange stone.
The minute he touched it, she knew what Madge meant about a spark. That calm that she felt when she touched it suddenly exploded inside of her, into a thousand sharp fragments cutting holes into her, burning white hot and intense. She felt it, all of the possibilities of Jensen and Delilah, against her skin, inside her mind, through her heart. Everything that had been, everything that could be, every single moment of togetherness and apart was sitting there for her to take.
He only touched it for a moment but when his fingertip had skirted across and landed on the other side, touching her skin again, she was gasping for breath, as if she had been drowning and was just able to come up for air.
“Are you okay?” he asked with concern, dropping nicely into competent caregiver and grabbing her wrist to take her pulse.
“I’m fine,” she panted, closing her eyes and pressing a hand to forehead to try and quiet the noise that had exploded there at his touch.
“Your pulse is racing.”
“I’m with you – what would you expect it to do?”
“Delilah,” he said, worry and hesitation evident in just that one word.
“Take me inside Jensen” was her reply. Reluctance was clearly evident in the planes of his face. She leaned over and did her best to remove it with her lips, pressing softly against the hollow of his neck. “Take me inside,” she whispered in his ear, her breathing all but back to normal.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“Then sign me out against medical advice and you don’t have to do anymore thinking.” He met and held her gaze for a moment, running that stray hand down the side of her face again before giving in and exiting the car. She waited for him to come around to her side and open the door with a satisfied smile. Surrender, she thought, could be so nice.