Nicholas Dumont stared at the paper cup holding his still too hot Sumatra blend coffee, and studied the brown lid with an undeserved intensity.
Then he snuck another look at the beauty two tables over.
Fifteen minutes until midnight, on a Friday night no less, so the bookstore coffee shop was mostly empty.
Tired clerks enjoined customers to bring their purchases to the front registers, but last-minute browsers still scurried among the shelves. Those readers were hardcore.
He, on the other hand, was just bored.
Brevington Books and More was a classy mid-town independent--it was all glass and wood and metal, with three levels housing books, music, DVDs, and other treasures--such as framed posters of old horror flicks, a display of first edition comic books, and the mini-museum showcasing ancient artifacts from around the world. The kids' section was a paradise for youngsters--bright colors, small furniture, and chunky toys. He liked that the store made just as big a deal out of their small press published authors as they did the New York Times bestsellers. He'd found himself drifting more and more often to the place, just to hang out, to people watch, to think.
He sipped the coffee, deemed it too hot, and unable to resist, looked again at the lady. She wore her blonde hair long, longer than was usual for her age. It had multi-toned highlights and loose curls that flirted with her shoulders. She was rounder than the stick thin club girls who so often pressed their bodies against his while trying to woo him. She was taller, too, her long legs stretched out under the table, her ankles crossed, her feet shucked from cork wedge heels. He noticed the pretty red toenails and the little star tattoo above her ankle. It was gold, and he had the insane urge to flick his tongue there. Her concession to summer was a pair of khaki capris, and a filmy animal print shirt with three-quarter sleeves. Yes, she was beautiful, but he recognized camouflage when he saw it.
Still, the woman typing so efficiently on her laptop was just that--a woman.
He got up, taking his coffee with him, and sauntered to her table. "May I sit?"
She flicked her gaze from her laptop to him, and frowned. He was nearly struck dumb by the intense blue of her eyes. He smiled to hide his discombobulation. She was softer in the face, too, but her beauty wasn't faded and her make-up wasn't applied desperation. That's what he enjoyed so much about older women--they had grown into themselves, comfortable with their bodies and what they could do with them.
He wondered what she could do to him.
"The high school is down the street," she said, recognizing his interest and dismissing it.
"Oh, I wasn't on my way to school, ma'am," he drawled. "I just wondered if you needed a lift to the nursing home."
Her gaze had returned to the laptop, but after his comment, those gorgeous blue eyes snapped to his, and he waited to see her reaction. He could see the corners of her lips quiver. "Don't you worry about me," she offered coolly, "I have my walker and my Life Alert pendant."
"Oh, now I couldn't let you go off all alone. My grandmother would never forgive me if she knew I'd left one of her friends to fend for herself."
She stared at him, her gaze revealing nothing, and then she grinned. The impact of her curving lips was nearly as devastating as her eyes--especially with the dimple that appeared like an exclamation point on the left side of her mouth. "Grandmother, huh?"
"She's eighty-six," he said. "But you might be a little younger than that."
"Only by a year or two."
He studied her face, and let her see how much he wanted to nibble those apple red lips of hers. She wasn't intimidated. She flourished a hand toward the chair across from her. "Go on, Romeo. Have a seat."
"Romeo?" he said as he took her invitation. "You know, that story ends tragically."
"So will this one," she muttered. She closed the laptop. "You got a mommy complex, or what?"
"I love my mother. She bakes chocolate chip cookies and sends me the wedding announcements from my ex-girlfriends." She was also the genius behind Genteel, a chain of upscale lingerie shops that catered to women over forty. She and Dad had made a mint on the concept, and last year, they'd sold the company so they could travel. Even though he'd grown up rich, he'd made his own fortunes in technology. Between his trust fund and his own fat bank accounts, he never had to work again.
Keeping himself entertained was another matter.
"How old are you?" she asked.
"How old are you?" he countered, just to see if she'd bite.
"Forty-two." She said it with pride, as though she'd earned the age and the rights that came with it. Here was a warrior with dented armor and bloodied wounds, but still standing on her own two feet. He wondered what kind of life she'd had, what had shaped her to become the woman she was now.
"Yes," she said, her gaze sliding over him. "You certainly are."
And she sighed. "What do you want?"
A cougar, he thought. You.
Before he could formulate a response, she leaned over the table, and looked beguilingly at him. "How about a quickie?" she whispered. "I'll get a hot young man, and you'll get yourself an experienced woman."
He considered her offer. He had no doubt she would have sex with him, but there was a sneer in her tone, as though she would think less of him for fucking her. Or maybe she was hoping to drive him away, mistakenly believing that his fantasy would crumble under the reality.
"Okay," he said. "How about my car?"
"I don't fuck in frat boy cars."
He didn't think anyone would mistake his Aston Martin for the ride of a college student. But he'd gotten an upgrade from highschooler to frat boy, so that was progress. "You're a woman of discerning tastes."