Her free arm circled my neck and she rose to meet me, parting her lips. Glad I hadn’t turned on the stove yet, I set my glass down, putting my arms around her. She leaned in, pressing her lush body against mine. She smelled good, felt fantastic…. I eased off, knowing I was going to be inappropriate any second. Remembering she was armed and could be dangerous, I took a step back. Her smile told me she wasn’t angry, but I knew not to push my limits. If there’s one thing my sisters emphasized, it was that a man better know when to back off and let the lady come to him. I was doing just that. One last, quick kiss, I turned back to the stove.
Rowena watched, fascinated, as I cooked. She asked questions about my ingredients, favorite dishes, wine choices. I asked her about music and we sang together as I cooked. She drained the pasta when it was done and served the salad, adding croutons and dressing as I plated the pasta. Fresh garlic bread, courtesy of Arby, joined the other items on the table and we sat down.
“This is a meal fit for a queen,” she declared as she took her first bite. Once again, she closed her eyes and sighed as she savored the food.
“Thank you. It’s rare that I get such enthusiastic response to my food.”
“I appreciate a well cooked meal. My mother taught me and my brothers to cook, but nothing like this. Now fried chicken, cornbread, gator steak, I’m comfortable with that.”
“I’ve heard gator’s good. Never had a chance to taste it.”
“We’ll go visit Mama, and let you enjoy the local cuisine. She makes a gumbo that will warm the cockles.”
I snorted, nearly spewing my wine. I knew she’d said cockles, but my male brain heard cock. Rowena laughed at me, hammering my back while I choked. It took a few minutes, but I finally got myself under control.
“You’re as bad as my brothers.” Shaking her head, she took a sip of wine.
“How many?” I gasped, still not quite right.
“Four. All older. Not as gentlemanly as you, but then it was just me and Mama working on them. I didn’t have the extra backup your sisters had.”
“Lucky them!” I dodged as she took a playful swing at me. “I love my mom and sisters, but I swear, they were out to ruin my life. I didn’t have sex until I was in college. They ran off every woman I ever tried to date.”
“Said they were skanks. My sister, Marie, who’s the oldest, wouldn’t even let a couple of girls in the house. They dropped by to see me and she told them they were skank hos and had to leave. They hung out in the yard, hoping I’d come out, and she took the hose to them. I didn’t live that down for nearly a month.”
“Was Marie right?”
“Oh, yeah. But at sixteen, what guy doesn’t want a ho or two?” I shrugged, chuckling when she smacked my arm.
Dessert was also courtesy of Arby. He’d made a delicate chocolate torte with cherry liqueur. Accompanied by my fresh vanilla bean ice cream and more of my delicious coffee, it made an excellent end to the meal. We sat in the living room while we ate and sipped. Replete, enamored with the company, I was blissfully happy. I couldn’t remember a time I’d felt this content.
Rowena smiled, setting her empty plate and cup aside. “That was the best meal I’ve ever eaten. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’m delighted you enjoyed it so much.”
“No man ever cooked for me before.”
“Bunch of dumb ass men around.”
Her lips trembled and I wondered what she was remembering that made her so unhappy. Crushed, I slid close. I thought we’d had this fantastic evening, but it had taken a sudden nose dive.
“No man ever did this much for me. I’ve always been the one taking care, doing everything. And here you are, a man I just met, and you make me feel!”
Putting my arms around her, I held her close as she wept. Sir Galahad reared his ugly head, wanting to make the pain go away. Then I realized that just by holding her, letting her get the tears out, I was making it better. Stroking and kissing her hair calmed her. She clung to me, sniffling.
“You must think I’m a complete mess. I must look a sight!” She wiped her eyes with the back of her hands. I handed her a napkin and took another one to her cheeks as she plied hers to her nose. “I’m sorry. I’m a basket case. Now you think I’m totally crazy.”
“No. I think you’re a woman who’s got a lot of hurt behind her. I want to make you forget all that, so you can give me another sunny smile, and tell me my coffee’s orgasmic.”
“How can you be so perfect? There’s got to be a flaw somewhere. No man is as kind, handsome, talented, smart, and dead sexy as you are. What secret character glitch do you possess? What’s going to rear its ugly head, and rip my heart out?”
“Nothing, I hope. I’m not real into heart ripping, gotta admit. I might rip your clothing off, but hearts…. Nope, not my thing.” I leaned back on the couch, long legs stretched out in front of me.
©2021 Dellani Oakes