Dinner for 2

Abby dressed for dinner in a soft jersey sundress with a flowery print and a flirty skirt that swirled around her thighs when she moved. Her damp hair would probably frizz, and her cheeks would be too shiny, so hopefully the cute dress would provide a distraction from the total picture.

Because when faced with the realization that she had time to either clean the house or dry her hair and put on makeup, she’d opted for the house. While she zipped around barefoot with the vacuum, while she cleaned the kitchen and dusted the furniture and wiped down the butcher-block countertops, she told herself she’d made the right choice.

Quinn had seen her without makeup, so that cat was out of the bag. The cat still inside its bag was the one that could’ve spilled the secret that Abby wasn’t exactly a neat freak. After three days of not picking up after herself, she had to admit that Reva’s house was beginning to look a little grim.

She’d just put away the vacuum and lit a few good-smelling candles on the table when Quinn tapped on the glass door.

Dressed in oh-Mama-fitting jeans and a Lord-help-me-fitting T-shirt, Quinn also had a charming grin on his face and a bottle of red wine in his hand.

She might have fallen just a little bit in love before she even opened the door. “Hey, you’re right on time.” She grabbed ahold of one of his bare, superfine biceps and dragged him over the threshold. She couldn’t seem to help herself; anxiety had fluttered up from nowhere and urged her to get the greetings over with.

“Come on in.” She released his yummy, warm arm and stepped back to close the door. “So glad you could come. Hope you like…um…” For a second, she forgot what she’d already prepared and put into the preheated oven. Then Georgia reached up with her front paws and propped them on Quinn’s thighs, saving Abby from her anxious downhill spiral. She took a calming breath, and her brain came back online. “Hope you like baked salmon and asparagus with roasted potatoes.”

“That sounds wonderful.” He bent down and petted Georgia’s head with one hand and gave Abby the bottle of wine with the other.

She took the bottle into the kitchen and hunted for the corkscrew. “Thanks for the wine.” She pulled out another drawer. “I don’t know where…”

Quinn straightened and stepped into the kitchen. “Can I help you with anything?”

Georgia followed, staying close to invite handouts or hugs, should anyone offer.

“Nope, nope, it’s all done. I just can’t find… Oh, wait.” She yanked open the door of the still-running dishwasher and waited for the cloud of hot steam to clear. Then she reached in and grabbed the hot metal implement that had eluded her. “Corkscrew’s in the dishwasher.” She closed the door and fiddled with the control buttons. A sudden attack of nerves made her clumsy. “How do you restart…?”

“Um… Abby?” Quinn leaned against the opposite counter, his hands in his pockets. “I’ll figure out the dishwasher in a second. But first, can you come over here?”

She laid the corkscrew aside and turned to Quinn. His blue eyes were just as steamy as the foggy mushroom cloud that had just escaped the dishwasher. “I’m sorry… What?”

He took one hand out of his pocket and crooked a come-here finger. “I’ll help you with the dishwasher. I want to help you with something else first, though.”

“Um…” She licked her lips and stepped closer. “Like what?”

“You seem a little nervous,” he said, still motioning with that come-here finger. “Let me see if I can help with that.”

While Abby stood there distracted by his beckoning finger, Quinn wrapped his other arm around her waist and pulled her close. “You don’t need to be nervous with me,” he whispered, his mouth just inches from hers. He trailed that finger from her chin, down her neck, along her collarbone. He gently pushed aside the thin braided strap of her sundress to bare her shoulder. Goose bumps erupted along her arms as he explored her skin with that one questing finger. “Nice dress. And I especially approve of your choice of footwear.”

She leaned in to him, her lips a breath away from touching his. “I’m barefooted,” she managed to say.

He chuckled. “My point exactly.” His breath smelled like mint and his smooth skin smelled like cheap bar soap, almost aggressively clean. His warm lips closed over hers…

And he was right. All the jagged energy of anxiety that had been zipping around inside her melted away like warm candle wax.

Then Georgia barked outside, and Abby jumped. “I’d better go check what’s going on out there.”

With a satisfied smirk of a grin, Quinn slowly slid the strap of Abby’s sundress back up onto her shoulder. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll restart the dishwasher.”