David pulled up to Maddie's house at four fifty-five. He rewound the cassette in the tape deck, batted at the fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror, and cracked his knuckles twice.
The vintage 1958 300 SL Merc handled like a dream, and he'd been unable to resist the urge to speed on the route to Maddie's. But gunning the car at every corner had thrown off his careful time calculations and now he was five minutes early.
No way was he ringing that doorbell one second before five p.m.
He scanned Maddie's front yard and flashed back to the night he'd come banging on her door, garden flowers clenched in his fist, his heart slamming against his rib cage—full of longing and bursting with all of the things he wanted to tell her, of the anticipation of finally holding her, of kissing her in a way that had suddenly felt as essential and necessary as breathing.
And then there was Sam.
He shook his head. He wasn't going to go down this road tonight. All that mattered was that he had wanted and needed this woman for a long time, and he'd known what it felt like to lose her.
He didn't ever want to feel that way again.
Four fifty-seven. Close enough. He grabbed the single rose sitting on the passenger seat and hurried up the walkway.
The doorbell rang just before five. She hadn't expected him to be so prompt. "Just a second," she called, and her voice sounded shaky to her own ears. Her heart sped up and she felt a rush of adrenaline shoot up her spine and out through her arms and legs.
She smoothed the front of her dress and checked her lipstick. Her hair was loose, parted on the side with a gentle wave framing her face. It suited the dress David had picked for her perfectly: old Hollywood glamor revamped with a modern edge. She knew that she looked good. So why was she so nervous?
She was halfway down the stairs when she realized that she was running and forced herself to slow down. But she was still breathless when she opened the door.
They stood in silence, and she felt as if she hadn't laid eyes on him in ages. He wore a black tuxedo and bow tie and when he smiled that crooked smile and let his eyes sweep slowly down her body then back up to her face she felt that sensation of heat, a slow burn that only David had ever made her feel. Fire and ice, she thought, knowing that she was melting under his gaze.
"Wow," he breathed.
"Hey, stranger," she said and pressed her hand against his cheek, unable to resist touching him a second longer.
He closed his eyes, then circled his fingers around her wrist, lifted her hand and kissed the middle of her palm. "Hey."
When he opened his eyes she saw more than just lust and appreciation. There was tenderness. And something else, something she'd noticed before but hadn't wanted to acknowledge. Something that made her feel...cherished.
He dropped her hand and handed her a single rose from behind his back and she remembered their first attempt at a "date". It had been a bet, technically, but she was kidding herself if she didn't admit that it had really been a clumsy attempt to get closer to one another. They had made so many missteps. Would they really be able to finally get this right?
"Thanks," she said, looking down at the rose, suddenly feeling shy.
He whistled. "That dress is even more dangerous than I imagined."
"It's beautiful," she smiled. "How did you manage to pick out something that fit me so perfectly?"
There was that smirk again. "You should know better than anyone that I've spent plenty of time studying your dimensions. I could draw you with my eyes closed."
She rolled her eyes. "I didn't know leering was such an exact science. And I thought you didn't want to rent a tux," she said, taking the opportunity to look him up and down. There was no denying it, the man was born to wear a tuxedo.
"Didn't want to?"
"Didn't rent one..."
She frowned. "And yet here you are...wearing a tuxedo."
He smiled. "The monkey suit's mine."
"You bought a tuxedo."
"I bought a tuxedo."
"Okay, I'll bite...why did you buy a tuxedo?"
"I'm glad you asked. See, I'm really into this woman—she's very classy, sophisticated—very uptown."
"She likes the finer things in life—opera, ballet, fancy restaurants—things a guy might need a tuxedo for. So, maybe it's a little...premature, maybe it's a tiny bit optimistic, but I'm serious about this girl, so I figured I better keep one of these things in the closet. Just in case."
"Hmm. I don't know if I'd say it's premature..."
"You don't think that she'll think I'm jumping the gun?"
"I think that she'll think..." She stopped. She was overwhelmed by everything he had done for her so far tonight and they hadn't even left the house.
"Yes?" he prompted, squinting as if trying to read her.
She took a step closer to him and adjusted his bow tie. He smelled so good and she just wanted to pull his mouth down to hers, to drown in his kiss, drag him upstairs and rip off his perfectly tailored suit.
Why hadn't he kissed her yet?
"I think she'll be touched that you went out and bought a tuxedo just for her." She looked up at him so that their lips were almost touching. "And i I think she'll think you look incredibly handsome."
He brushed her hair off her face, then wrapped his fingers around the back of her neck. "God I've missed your face," he said, but he wasn't smiling; there was no hint of teasing.
She closed her eyes and murmured, "I've missed you too."
She could feel the heat of his lips, millimeters away from hers and he whispered huskily. "I want to kiss you so badly."
She found it hard to swallow, but choked out, "Well then, why don't you?"
The warmth disappeared and she opened her eyes to see that he had taken a step back.
"I can't," he said, and put his hands in his pockets. "This is a first date. Can't kiss the girl on the doorstep before a first date. We're rewinding this, remember...doing everything in the right order..." He grinned.
"Great," she muttrered. "I'm being punished by my own words."
"I'm not punishing you, Maddie, I'm just trying to play by your rules." His grin turned devilish. "But it's good to know that you consider not kissing me to be a punishment."
Could it be...was it possible that David Addison was playing hard to get? Well, two could play at that game and he was an amateur where she was the master.
"Fine," she said and squared her shoulders.
"Fine," he answered. His eyes twinkled at her irritation, but the fact that they were that intense shade of green belied that this was any easier for him than it was for her.
"I'll just get my wrap," she said, icily, and picked it up from the back of the couch.
He took the shawl from her. As she walked past him, his fingers brushed her arm and he grabbed her fingers and squeezed them. "Hey Blondie..."
She turned around.
"You look drop-dead gorgeous tonight. Did I say that already?"
"Not in so many words..."
"Well you do. It's so obvious, sometimes I forget to tell you."
"Thanks," she said, feeling herself soften a little. She couldn't believe she was admitting this, even to herself, but he was right—it would have been so easy, too easy, to skip the whole date part of this date and just immerse herself in the heat and passion between them. But she had questions, legitimate questions that needed to be answered.
"So. Your chariot awaits Miss Hayes. And we're on a tight schedule."
"You, on a schedule? This I've got to see..."
David put his hand on her waist, guiding her out the front door. The trouble was that every time he touched her all of those questions and misgivings seemed to fly right out of her head.