#18 Dare You To Move

Kate paces, back and forth, back and forth again, her fingers knitted together, the pads digging into her own flesh so that her knuckles whiten. Tries to cling to the last vestiges of her confidence that had propelled her here; desperately needs it to push her forward.

Because she just couldn't stop thinking about it.

She'd finally made up her mind and then it didn't stop niggling and nagging her, tormenting her mind, shoving her out of her self-imposed inertia until she'd found herself here when it's barely 9 o'clock in the morning on her day off.

Sucking in a deep breath, she lets the air seep from her lungs deliberately even though her heart is pounding and her insides are jittery with nerves while she unknots her hands, balls them to fists, squeezing some circulation back into her knuckles, delaying, delaying and why is she so pathetically nervous? There's no reason, right? It's not that hard, she can do this, do it, Kate, just do it do it do it!

She does it, leaps forward that last step. And knocks.

It's quiet, so quiet for too long, the rush of blood in her ears the only sound she can hear while her mind wars within her. Still time to leave, she could escape unseen but no, no, she's come so far, can't leave now when she's so close.

In for a penny, she encourages herself with an aloofness she doesn't feel, raps her knuckles against the thick wood once more, louder, insistent, come on please come on come on and then the door swings open.


All the air rushes from her lungs, her mouth suddenly desiccated while her arm sinks from its raised position in an almost comical slow-motion. He looks... delectable. Standing before her just in sweats and a black V-neck t-shirt, his hair adorably mussed and his face still bearing the signs of sleepiness, scruff blooming at his jawline.

There's surprise in his voice but it's the good kind, she thinks, a little bit of the excited-kid sparkle flaring in his eyes, like she's his play-date coming over for a visit and oh god no, she can't think of it that way. Heat rushes into her skin, flushes her cheeks and she swallows, tries to push away the reel of images that her so-not-helpful mind conjures up at the thought of what a playdate might entail between the two of them.

"Can we talk?" She starts, then bites her lips in frustration because already she's getting this all wrong. He sobers instantly, concern creeping into the stark blue of his eyes and no, that's not-

"Sure, yeah, come on in. Would you like some coffee? Breakfast?" He babbles, moving back for her to step inside and she can practically see the worry knotting behind his forehead. Panic surges through her; this isn't what she meant, not how this was supposed to go at all. She reaches for him, at once needing to reel him back in, fingers clawed into his shirt, dragging him forward. Her momentum makes him stumble into her, his eyes widening as they slide to hers and they're so blue, so deep and beautiful like the ocean at dusk. It grounds her and she breathes, a ragged-sounding exhale as she takes a moment, just a second to find her focus, her center because she needs to get this right.

And then she says it, deliberately and with purpose, the thing that didn't let her go, that makes her heart race and her insides flip, that brought her here at 9 a.m. on a random Saturday morning.

"Would you go out to dinner with me?"

He stares. "Out... like a date?"

She nods, smooths her fingers over his chest where she's wrinkled his shirt, feels his heart pounding beneath her fingertips, his ribcage rise and fall with every breath. He looks slack-jawed with surprise, like he can't quite believe this is real and oddly it is that which fills her with a surge of confidence.

"Yes. I'd like to take you out on a date."

And then his cheeks spread wide from his breathtaking smile that breaks through him, the sparkle unmistakable in his eyes, his voice humming with it. "Yes. I'd love to."

It's a bit like she's unfurling from the inside out, her answering smile just as wide with the rush of happiness, the frissons of excitement that reach and curl into every part of her. "Tonight okay?"

"Tonight," he nods. And he keeps looking at her with so much warmth in his eyes, his gaze never wavering from her face, joy practically radiating from him and she's the reason for that, she realizes, she gave him that. It's almost overwhelming and a shiver runs down her spine, her blood racing through her veins. Her fingertips tingle where they rest over his chest and she reflexively curls her fingers, watches his eyelids flutter and a sharp breath fall from his mouth.

She leaps again. And presses her lips to his.

She only meant to kiss the corner of his mouth but his lips are so soft against hers and she'd been dreaming about kissing him a lot lately and it's unstoppable, overwhelming and beautiful. She samples his flavor, hums around his plump bottom lip and then his arm bands around her waist, drawing her in, tight so tight as she rises to her toes, wraps her hands around his neck, fingers gripped in his hair. His mouth opens to her with a moan she can almost taste, his tongue teasing and seeking and finding all of her and she whimpers, meets him, fueled by the coil of desire unspooling within her.

When at last they break apart they're breathless, their lips kiss-swollen. He rests his forehead against hers, his fingers still gripped to her waist, holding her close.

"Isn't this part supposed to come after the first date?"

"Eh," she shrugs, grins against his lips. "Since when have we ever been conventional about anything?"

"True," he nods, smiling at her and brushing a lock of her hair back behind her ear, his fingertips lingering on her neck, every touch and look and smile reverent, so loving that her heart leaps frantically.

She leans in for a last kiss, just a peck of her lips to the corner of his mouth, a brush of her fingertips down his cheek and then she resolutely tears herself away because if she won't leave now, she won't leave at all.

Walking toward the elevator she sways her hips just a little more than usual, aware that he's watching her every step, her skin prickling under his gaze. She can hardly wait for their date, for every moment yet to come, the future a tangible, exciting thing and she's ready.

She turns her head to look over her shoulder, finds him still standing there like she expected, leaning against the doorjamb as if his legs alone won't hold him steady.

"I'll pick you up at seven."