“Michael asked her to marry him,” Laila announces. “Later, I’ll pull out the champagne!”
Ian’s smile falters and he looks down at the tongs as if he’s forgotten why he has them. A full minute or two ticks by. I’m not sure if everyone goes on talking or if they’re all watching us. I only see him.
“Lucky bastard … congratulations,” he says softly.
I let out an exasperated sigh. “I didn’t say yes.”
He takes a deep breath and blows it out slowly, shoulders sagging for a moment as he stares me down. He steps in closer, standing in what would normally be my personal space. My throat catches as I wait to see what he’s about to do.
“Why, you little … heartbreaker.” He’s serious for a moment and then his eyes crinkle and he’s beaming again. In fact, his whole face looks like the Cheshire cat on Christmas morning. “So you came to your senses about Mike, huh?”
“I don’t know about that. I’m just not ready to marry Michael.”
He waits for me to say more.
When I don’t, he nods his head and steps back. I get the impression that I’ve just disappointed him and I want to fix it, say more, have a re-do … but the moment passes and he’s taking my arm and leading me to the table.
“Here, Ian, hand me the tongs,” Laila scoffs. “If we left it up to you, we’d find dirt in our steak.” She goes to the kitchen and returns with a clean set.
It’s harder to talk to him in the smaller setting. We mostly listen to my parents and Jeff and Laila. I focus on getting bites of steak in my mouth and not on my lap. And taking a drink without having all the ice rush forward. I hate it when that happens. It’s never pretty or conducive to good timing. Ice just knows when you’re trying to impress someone and always picks that moment to go flying up your nose.
A shift occurs in the conversation and my parents want to know all about Ian. They didn’t really get to talk with him the last time. He answers them respectfully and when they ask about his music, he seems honest, but humble in his response, which is impressive to me. I know he could be arrogant about being so talented.
“I’ve been playing as long as I can remember and it’s about the only thing I’m really good at.” His smile is self-deprecating, but when he looks up at me, I see mischief. I’m absolutely certain he’s good at many, many other things. “I’m fortunate to be making a living doing what I love to do. And as long as people keep listening, I’ll keep playing. Actually, even beyond that—I would have to play music even if no one ever listened. It’s just … like breathing.”
He seems shy when he’s done talking. I didn’t notice him ever being shy the other day. His cheeks are even a little flushed. I’m smitten all the more. My parents also seem intrigued by him and continue grilling him about who he’s worked with, the back story on some of their favorite songs of his and his upcoming schedule. I want them to stop the interrogation, but it’s also affording me plenty of time to study him. He completely weaves them into his spell. He’s good; he’s really good.
After lunch, we carry everything inside and Laila shoos us out of the kitchen, saying she’ll get it later. I’m following everyone into the living room when my arm is tugged another direction. Ian pulls me into what looks to be an office.
“Let’s get out of here.” His eyes pierce into mine.
“What about Jeff and Laila?
“Don’t worry about them. You up for it?”
“Sure,” I say, not exactly sure what I’m agreeing to.
“Your dress might be a problem,” he frowns.
He laughs at my tone and runs his hand lightly over my arm, sending a shiver in its wake. “You look electrifying. That dress could wake a dead man.” He takes my hand and turns me around slowly, making me very uncomfortable with his sounds of approval. “Did you bring a change of clothes?”
“No!” I glare at him.
“Okay, not a problem. We’ll work it out. Come on, let’s go while it’s still so nice out.”
Everything happens so quickly. I let Ian do the talking and before I know it, my parents, Jeff and Laila are saying they’ll meet up with us later tonight. We walk out to the garage and Ian stops in front of a Harley. I’m not into motorcycles, but even I can see that it’s a beauty. Ian pats it lovingly. He looks like a character out of a romance novel—and not the cheesy Fabio kind either—or he could be a movie star, only taller. Or a soap opera star, only one who can pull off his lines. Or maybe a model, only straighter than straight.
I pride myself on my writing skills, but when I consider writing about him, I realize he brings out the cheese puff in me. The coal hair, the ever-changing eyes … are they really just hazel? Such an ordinary word for eyes that are sometimes green, sometimes khaki, with flecks of blue and gold, and then his cushiony red lips. This man is combustible. Add the bike and I feel that if I look at him too long, I’ll electrocute myself.
“Ever been on a bike?” His voice is all husky seduction.
Oh, good grief. And then there’s the voice. All of a sudden, I can’t look at him. He’s too much for me.
“No.” I answer, a couple notches too high.
“Well, how about it?” He’s already raising the garage door as he asks the question, never doubting that I will ride with him.
He hands me a helmet and inwardly, I groan. This is why I should never spend so much time getting ready. What a waste. I take a long look at him. Get a grip, Fisher! I am not about to be all googly-eyed over a boy. I never have and I never will.
“Your face is going to stick like that if you don’t relax the grin,” I throw out as I secure the helmet.
He throws his head back and laughs, climbs onto the motorcycle and reaches an arm out to help me on. I hike my dress up past my knees and climb on.
“I was wrong. This is the ideal outfit for the bike,” Ian says as he traces a finger up one of my bare thighs.
I feel the sudden need to think about baseball and granny panties. I’ve heard that helps.
But then he leans back, his face an inch from mine as he says, “Hold on for your life.” And all thoughts of huge knickers are out the window.