Jenny sat back sipping her glass of wine while splitting her time between watching Chase grill the salmon and the magnificent views of the mountains, trees, and valley below. Each view had her mouth watering and for different reasons. She settled back into her chair, crossing her legs at the knee, reticent of her mischievous thoughts regarding Chase.
“Dinner is served.” He raised the platter of salmon and asparagus, urging her to join him.
“It smells so good and I’ve worked up quite an appetite.” She opened a cabinet in the kitchen, searching for plates.
She’d just risen up on her tiptoes, bringing down two delicate plates, when she felt his arms circle her. She almost dropped the cream-colored china plates with the cornflower blue trim. She set them down on the counter with a thud and then turned around in his arms. His piercing eyes made her pause.
“We’re never going to eat dinner if we don’t stop meeting like this,” she said, trying to soften the intensity she felt growing between them.
He leaned forward and found her mouth, giving her a quick kiss. He released his hold and held her at arm’s length. “Maybe I don’t want to.” His eyes twinkled, showing his jovial side. The side she really loved, too. Well, there were so many sides she’d come to appreciate.
Jenny couldn’t compliment him enough on his cooking. The salmon was grilled to perfection, something that many people couldn’t do. She forked a chunk of the moist, flavorful fish with the crispy crust and savored the bite. “This is better than any restaurant salmon I’ve ever had.” She closed her eyes while chewing, taking in the savory taste.
“What about the asparagus?” he asked, puffing out his chest.
“Tender and cooked to perfection.” She reached for her glass of Chardonnay. “And the wine, it’s so crisp and clean. A great choice for dinner,” she said, giving him more chest puffing accolades.
After dinner, she filled the sink with water and suds and began to wash the dinner plates.
“There’s a dishwasher, why are you washing them by hand?”
“There are only a few. It won’t take me long,” she said, peering over her shoulder and smiling.
“I’ll go turn the heater on for the hot tub,” he announced.
Jenny finished the dishes and then retired to her room to change into her bathing suit. For this trip she packed her bikini.
He held the door frame and leaned in. “Tub is at ninety-five degrees,” he said, startling her.
She whirled around. “Sounds great.”
“I’ll go get changed,” he said, moving out of the doorway and down the short hall to his room.
Jenny was happy she didn’t have to explain why she wanted her own room during this weekend getaway. She wasn’t quite ready to move into his bed, although, if he didn’t stop kissing her like he was making love to her, she might have to reconsider. She slipped on her flip-flops, pinned her hair up, and waited for him outside on the porch. She could never get enough of the views. She inhaled when she saw the hundred twinkling white lights illuminating the porch.
She dipped her hand in the water. Steam floated into the cool night air. She turned on the button for bubbles and stepped inside. She’d lowered herself into the steamy water, finding a smooth lounger in the corner that fit her like a glove. She leaned back her head, enjoying the jets of powerful water that circled her body. Jenny was so entranced with the experience that she didn’t even hear him slip into the tub.
“Oh, hello,” she said, looking at him through hooded lids. “This feels so good and is just what I needed.”
He inched his way around the tub, finally sitting right beside her. “This is nice—a crisp evening up in the mountains, floating around in a tub with a beautiful woman—what else could a man want?” He put his arm around her.
She rested her hand on his knee. “I agree. It’s a perfect ending to a most wonderful evening.” She snuggled into him, drinking in his earthy smell.
“Uh huh?” Her answer was calm and lethargic.
“Do you wonder where this is going?”
She opened her eyes and sat up straighter in the molded seat. “Do you mean us?” He had her complete attention.
“Yeah, us.” He turned toward her.
She focused on his face. The twinkling lights and the stars in the sky, along with a beam from the moon, created interesting shadows on his face. She drew in her bottom lip and gently held it there between her teeth.
“I’d like to make this more permanent.”
She slid down in her seat, gulping a bit of the hot water. She sat up straight. Permanent, how? Her heart hammered in her chest a mile a minute. Was he going to ask her something big?
“Chase,” she said, putting her hand on his chest.
He tipped his head.
“Before you say something else, think this through. We’ve only known each other a short time.”
He reached for her hands and held them. “Fair enough, but you have to know I’m wildly—”
“Don’t.” She didn’t let him finish.
“I thought you felt the same way.” He lowered his gaze to the bubbles that popped and fizzed nearby.
“I like you so very much.” Why wasn’t she telling him the truth? “I enjoy our time together, and you have the sweetest little girl, ever,” she said, her eyes welling up thinking about Penny. “But …”
“But what?” Now his words took on a gruff tone.
“I don’t want to rush it.” Was all she could muster.
“I think we’ve gone beyond the rushing it part. We’ve practically—”
She pressed a finger to his mouth. “Let’s don’t talk about semantics tonight. Let’s enjoy this wonderful view and opportunity to relax and rejuvenate our bodies, minds, and spirits.” How was that for a load of nonsense?
“Why don’t you just say it? Why don’t you just put your cards on the table right now? You don’t have any plans to take our relationship to the next level, do you? You’re a tease, Jennifer Palmer.” He stood up, letting the water drip down off of his muscular thighs and tight arms. His chest glistened in the moonlight.
She held the sides of the tub for balance and stood up. “That’s not very nice of you to say, Chase. I’m not a tease. I told you how I feel. But I can’t put myself in that position again. I won’t … ever.” Tears trailed down her face.
“I told you I’d never hurt you. I’m not Brad. I’m not that kind of guy.” He touched her shoulder. “You’re shaking.”
She crossed her arms. “It’s cold coming out of ninety-six-degree water into this chilled night air.” She dipped back down into the warm water.
He stepped out of the tub and dried off with a nearby towel. “Well, seems like you have a lot to think about. I’m hitting the sack. See you in the morning.” He turned away.
“Chase, please don’t go to bed mad.”
“What else is there?” he said, moping toward the French doors.
She pulled herself out of the water and bolted out of the tub, grabbing a towel as she sprinted toward him. She put her hand on his as he held the door. “Don’t,” she whispered.
He turned around and faced her. His face full of anguish and pent up desire. “Don’t do what?” he whispered.
“Jenny,” he breathed. “First you want me to stay, then you push me away. I have feelings, too. I’m not some boy toy you can play with.”
Her eyes traveled up to his eyes and then rested on his mouth. She stepped forward, reaching around his neck and holding him squarely so she could look deeply into his eyes, reaching for his soul.
“I do love you. I’ve fallen hard for you, Chase. And I swear, if you break my heart, I’ll take a bat to your windshield.” The corners of her lips pulled up into a coy smile.
“You’d break the windshield of my Jeep?” He held her back and smiled.
“The Jeep and the yellow sports car.”
“Man, you’re a little spitfire. I won’t mess with you.” He pulled her closer and planted a kiss on her lips. “So, does this mean we’ve had our first fight?”
“I guess so.”
“Well, I happen to be great at making up,” he said, leading her inside the cabin.
She had no doubt about that. She wrapped her arms around his waist.
He reached up and switched off lights until they reached the hall. Her bedroom was the first one they came upon. This is where it will get tricky, she pondered quietly.