"I met someone."
"Lindsey, that's great. Where? When?" Kara's voice held the excitement Lindsey had expected.
She switched the cell phone to her other ear and took a deep breath. "At the grocery store, yesterday actually."
Kara laughed. "The grocery store? How romantic." Her voice dripped sarcasm. "What's his name?"
"Alejandro." She tried not to make it sound too dreamy, but it was hard to even utter the name without doing so. My friends call me "Alex," he'd said, but with his sexy accent and looks, Lindsey couldn't even think of him by that nickname yet.
"Alejandro? Is he Hispanic?"
"Spanish actually. His family owns a vineyard in Spain. Moved here a few months ago to join his cousins on the family farm."
"Yeah. Strangest thing. That's part of why I called. Alejandro's aunt and uncle own a dairy farm not far from where you are. Isn't that a coincidence? I thought Trevor or Justin might know them."
"That is crazy."
"Yeah, what are the chances either of us city girls would meet a man who owns a dairy farm? Let alone both of us."
"What's his last name? I'll ask the guys if they know him."
"Ramos, but his cousins have a different name. It's his mother's side or something like that. Thompson."
"Hmm, doesn't ring a bell. But I don't know all the neighbors. I'll ask. So, you just met him yesterday?"
"Yes, it was a long day. Suffice it to say, my ice cream melted ... in the cart." Lindsey laughed.
"Seriously? You just stood in the aisle talking to a guy?"
"Yeah, pretty much." Lindsey inhaled before continuing. "Listen, Kara, I was hoping you could tell me what it was like when you met Justin, and well Trevor too, I guess. Did you know he was the one right away?"
Kara paused too. Lindsey could hear her breathing over the line. "Lin? Is this serious?"
"I guess. I mean, it seems like it. He ... sort of knocked me off my feet. And I believe it was mutual. Do you think it's possible? I mean to just run into someone in a grocery store and then feel like ... like you've known them forever?"
"It's possible. Yes."
Lindsey didn't give her a chance to finish. "It's just so weird. I haven't ever felt like this before. You know, giddy." She tried to repress another chuckle.
Kara didn't. She laughed. "Maybe he's the one. When are you seeing him again?"
"Seven. Dinner. Kara I want you to meet him. I don't know anyone else who could possibly think this wasn't just too weird. Including me. My hands are shaking just thinking about it."
"Because you really like him? Or because you're scared?"
"Both." Kara was one of the few people who knew a lot about Lindsey's past.
"Sounds about right. When I met Justin ... well, you were there."
Now it was Lindsey's turn to laugh, hard. "Yeah, you'd known him for what? Eight minutes before Jess and I found you guys playing tongue hockey against the outside wall of Boot Scooters?" She couldn't keep the mirth from her voice. "You were dazed after that, and you still are. That's why I called. I need you to tell me what you felt. Tell me I'm not crazy."
"You definitely aren't crazy, Lin. And ... I don't think I can quite describe how I felt. Warm. Happy. I couldn't stop smiling. Remember when you guys were helping me get ready for our date the next night, and you made me wear that slinky dress? I thought I'd die. It so wasn't me. But, man did I feel sexy in it. And it was worth the look on Justin's face. And Trevor's."
"Did you meet Trevor that night?"
"Yep. I didn't realize the implications at the time, but yeah. He was at the house."
"I guess I'll have Jess doll me up tonight like we did you. Wish you were here."
"Me too, Lin. Hey, why don't you bring him by later, after dinner?"
Lindsey shuffled back and forth. She couldn't keep her feet still she was so wired. "That would be awesome. You could confirm if I'm crazy or not."
"I can confirm that right now. You aren't crazy. I'm sure it'll be fine. But if it makes you feel better, I'll have the guys check him out. Ask a few questions. Surely, someone knows him, or at least the family he's living with."
A familiar knock sounded at the door, sending a chill down Lindsey's spine. Three firm raps. "Shit."
"What's the matter?"
"The Bible Trio is here again." She peeked through the edge of the curtain on the front window to verify her suspicions.
"Jeez. They've been by there a lot lately, haven't they?"
"Yeah, guess they are really intent on saving my soul. They won't take no for an answer. I've stopped opening the door. It's the end of my summer break. In just a few weeks I have to start working and enter the real world. I don't need them constantly putting a damper on my good times."
"I'm sorry, Lin. Ignore them. They'll get the hint one of these days."
"Thanks, Kara. I know they've been a pain in your and Jess's butts over the years too. I appreciate your support."
"No worries. Think about your date tonight instead. And stop by whenever you want. We'll have drinks or something. I'll make a dessert."
"And, Lin, don't worry if you can't make it. I'll understand. If it just seems too weird, or you're having too much fun, just don't show."
"'Kay. Wish me luck."
Lindsey stood in front of her full-length mirror and couldn't believe the vision in front of her. "Is that even me?" she asked Jessica.
"It's you, all right. A little more makeup than usual. A few curls in that long straight hair. A tight dress. And voila." Jess sat cross-legged on Lindsey's bed, leaning forward over her knees with her chin on one hand. "You look to die for."
Lindsey wasn't sure. "Is it too much? I didn't look anything like this when I met him. Maybe he likes his women a bit more ... plain."
"Girl, you never look 'plain,' so that can't be true. Even without makeup, hair in a ponytail, wearing sweats, you look like a tall cover model." Jessica ran a hand through her own short locks. "Wish I had your long, thick hair."
"Are you kidding? I'd kill for your sophisticated style." Jess always looked put-together, even first thing in the morning. Her short, dark hair with blonde-tipped highlights always appeared salon perfect. Multiple dainty diamond and hoop earrings added to her glamour.
"Whatever." Jess raised her eyebrows.
"Well, thanks for the ego boost." She twisted and turned to see the back of the dress. "Is it too short?"
"No. Stop worrying. It'll be great."
"Yoga pants, by the way."
"I wasn't wearing sweats yesterday. Yoga pants."
They both laughed, and then Jessica turned serious. "I almost forgot to tell you. Those people came by again yesterday. I had words with them."
"Shit. Yesterday too? They were here this morning again. I didn't open the door. What did you tell them?"
"I said you were out and that you weren't interested. And would they please stop calling and stopping by."
"Not that it'll do any good, but thanks."
The doorbell rang.
Lindsey turned around with a gasp. She shook all thoughts of her unwanted visitors from her head. Tonight was her night and she wasn't about to let her past ruin even one second of her future. "He's here already. Mr. Prompt. I'll never be able to keep up with that."
"Stop worrying. He isn't taking you out because of your timeliness. He likes you." Jess jumped up and headed for the front door. "How 'bout we let him in?" Her chuckle echoed as she sped down the hallway.
Lindsey took one more look in the mirror. Jess had, for the last hour, painstakingly helped her arrange her normally pin-straight hair until it now cascaded around her face in ringlets. She did look good, she had to admit.
Who cares? It's just a date. Why did it seem like so much more?
Her dress was skimpy, by her standards, and black. Too short, but heck, you only live once. Hopefully, he'd find her long legs sexy.
Having very few occasions to wear heels, Lindsey carefully turned and stepped from the room, doing her best to avoid the piles of rejected clothes lying all over the floor. Hopefully, Alejandro wouldn't want to see her private space. She'd die of embarrassment right now.
When she came around the corner, she sucked in a breath at the sight of Alejandro's firm, sexy ass encased in perfect-fitting, black pants. The muscles in his thighs and butt made her want to squeeze them with her hands ... or her legs...
In less than a heartbeat he turned to face her, a huge smile on his face, probably from something corny Jess had said to entertain him.
"Lindsey, you look gorgeous." He stepped toward her, which was convenient since her legs seemed to have stopped working. She was frozen in the hallway several feet from him.
His gaze traveled the length of her, not ogling, but admiring, as he advanced. Lindsey stared at his handsome face. His soft brown hair was filled with blond highlights from the sun and it hung slightly too long, the thick waves swaying across his eyes. Perhaps he needed a trim, but she loved it that way. It was incredibly sexy the way he tossed it away from his eyes as he leaned into her.
Startled by his unexpected proximity, Lindsey continued to hold her breath.
Alejandro casually reached for her elbows with his warm hands and leaned across first her left and then her right cheek, breathing a kiss over each.
Ah, you idiot. He's Spanish. It's a greeting, you dolt.
Chills coursed down Lindsey's skin from her neck clear to her feet. She gritted her teeth to avoid outright shivering at his touch, his scent. He smelled like summer, a hint of tropical sunscreen under the soap he'd showered with. And his hair, all those glorious locks, caressed her cheek as he pulled away. Whatever shampoo he'd used was perfect for him, a very masculine almost outdoorsy scent.
Lindsey cleared her throat, hoping her voice wouldn't squeak whenever she was finally able to say something coherent. "You too."
You too? Is that the best you can come up with? A degree in education with an emphasis in English and the best you could utter was, "you too?"
"Gracias, mi alma."
Whatever mi alma meant, she loved the way it sounded rolling off his tongue. He'd have her any way he wanted if he kept using that sexy Spanish voice.
What was she thinking? She needed to slow down a bit. No way was she ready for an intense relationship. Her body was getting ahead of her mind just by his proximity. Sure, her shrink would tell her to go for it. Let loose. Move on with her life. But could she really do it? Could she slough off the first eighteen years of her life after four years of counseling?
"Are you ready?" His eyebrows rose in question, his palms still wrapped around her elbows, seeming to cover half her arms in their gentle warmth.
Lindsey had always been quite tan, but when she glanced down at their skin next to each other, she realized how much darker Alejandro was. Probably from working outside all summer. The sleeves of his deep purple dress shirt were meticulously folded up far enough to reveal his bronzed muscular forearms covered in a dusting of blond hair.
She couldn't help wondering if that same hair covered his chest or if he was smooth under that shirt. As she returned her gaze to his face, she paused at his neck. The top two buttons were undone, but not far enough to answer her question.
"Yes." It was going to be a short night if she didn't come up with anything more conversational.
He didn't seem to mind, however. His smile grew slowly across his face as if he were completely aware of her plight and found it amusing.
He couldn't be of course.
"Shall we?" Letting go of one elbow, he guided her toward the front door with the other.
Jessica was nowhere in sight. Not surprising. She never liked to interfere.
"Where are we going?" Ah, a full sentence. And even apropos.
"I thought we'd try that new Spanish restaurant across town. Do you know it?"
"No." Does that count as a sentence also? "But, it sounds wonderful."
"I hope it's authentic and not a disappointment. You never know about these places. I've heard good things about it, but not from anyone Spanish. We'd be taking our chances. Are you up for the adventure?"
"Absolutely. Even if it's not completely what you're used to, it will surely be delicious."
"We Spaniards are culinary snobs." He probably wasn't kidding, but his words were so gentle and his face so calm, she didn't believe he was even capable of disappointment right now. A fact that made her feel pretty good.
Alejandro led her toward a brand new black Toyota truck parked in the street in front of the townhome she shared with Jessica. Ever since Kara had moved out earlier in the summer, they hadn't bothered to get another roommate. They had both gotten teaching jobs locally and as soon as school started in a few weeks they'd be making enough money to handle the expenses. In the meantime, they were enjoying the last few weeks of summer, their last few leisurely weeks for what could be a long time.
Ever the gentleman, Alejandro opened the passenger door and held on to Lindsey's arm until she was situated inside. She felt like a princess in his care. Doted on. Appreciated.
American men never seemed quite so polite, or maybe that had been just her experience.
In any case, who cared? The man currently circling the hood of the car was so suave she wanted to lean into him and soak up his tender warmth.
And his accent was so musical; like melted caramel it oozed over her every time he spoke. Especially when he spoke in Spanish. She'd taken four years of high school Spanish and two years in college, but that barely got her by.
Maybe if she hung around Alejandro for a while, she'd actually learn something.
I hope so.
When he slid into the seat beside her, he started the engine and then reached for her hand. "You truly are bellisima this evening, carina."
She got the idea. "Thank you." Lindsey was so comfortable with him. It seemed as though she'd known him a long time.
Of course, they'd spoken for about two hours last night. She felt like she truly did know him in some ways. Once they'd finally made it out of the grocery store, he'd helped her load her trunk and they'd wandered into the coffee shop conveniently located next door to the supermarket. The lattes didn't even come close to reaching Alejandro's coffee standards, but they still laughed and talked for so long, she'd lost track of time.
Alejandro's large hand enveloped Lindsey's small one. She couldn't concentrate with his thumb rubbing circles across her palm. He was going to drive her mad. If there hadn't been a seat belt law, she'd have slid right up next to him and laid her head on his shoulder with no concern whatsoever for how forward that would be.
Truth be told, she couldn't wait to feel his soft lips caressing her skin again. Last night, when he'd walked her to her practical Honda Accord, he'd pressed her back into the driver's door, wrapped her face in his palms, and kissed her to oblivion. Sure, it had started out slow and hesitant, the faint hint of coffee mingling with her own, but then he'd angled his head to one side, pressed his body against hers, and licked the seam between her lips until she opened for him on a moan.
The episode was so erotic, a book could have been written about that kiss alone. Her entire body trembling with need, she'd gripped his forearms until her nails nearly dug into the skin. After what seemed like an eternity, he'd gradually pulled away, raining kisses along her cheeks before settling his forehead against hers.
"Manana entonces, carina? Until tomorrow?"
Why did his words in Spanish sound so much more lyrical? Those beautiful words meant "until tomorrow?"
"Yes." It was all she'd been able to articulate at the time, and she hadn't improved much since then.
If only he would kiss her like that again...
And please, God, let me enjoy this without enduring flashbacks from my childhood.
She deserved it. It was time to move on.
Alejandro gritted his teeth all during the short drive to the restaurant. Please, if there is a God, make this evening perfect.
He'd driven over to the quaint corner location earlier in the day, seen the inside firsthand, and made a reservation. It had the appeal of home and made him anxious to get a taste of the delicious aromas floating among the lunch crowd.
He actually felt the pangs of missing his family today for the first time in months. He'd come to America in the early spring on a whim. His cousins had been begging him for years to join them in Washington. The timing couldn't have been better. Two of his cousins, Mariam and Sean, had married in the last year and moved farther away from the farm. The family was a bit shorthanded, and their call had coincided perfectly with Alex's recent ugly breakup. Not to mention a restless need for a change of scenery.
Alejandro was settled. Happy. Loving the change. And living in the sprawling ranch home owned by his mother's brother had proven to shake any doubts he'd had before leaving the vineyard about living with family. The house was enormous and there was plenty of privacy. At twenty-eight, Alejandro hadn't looked forward to the possibility that there'd be restrictions, rules, questions.
His mind was at ease. He'd slid right into Sean's old quarters and was enjoying himself immensely.
However, he'd been completely unprepared to run literally straight into the woman he would spend the rest of his life with during a quick stop at the grocery yesterday to grab a few items for his Aunt Stacy. The poor woman hadn't said a word when Alex had returned three hours later, empty handed, preoccupied, and begging forgiveness when he saw her face.
The awaited flour and eggs were forgotten, the "fried" chicken baked, and his aunt, without asking a single question of her normally extremely thoughtful and considerate nephew, had spent the evening biting her tongue, a sparkle in her eye that expressed her amusement at his floundering actions.
The cause of this distraction now sat next to him with a slight smile curving up the corners of her luscious pink lips. She'd let him grasp her hand when he'd climbed into his truck beside her and had even scooted his direction across the bench seat, as much as the seat belt would allow.
Lazily drawing circles across her palm with his thumb was now driving him mad. Her skin was so soft and warm, her grip on his fingers making him long to have her grip other parts of his body with the same passion.
Again he prayed to a god he'd suddenly found himself taking a keener interest in. Please, just help her understand.
Alex knew he'd eventually have to confront her. She was his mate and that was fantastic. But ... she was human. She had no idea what was about to happen to turn her life upside down.
He had no idea when he might go about telling her the details of the unimaginable world he would open up to her, but it would have to be soon. He didn't know how many days he could go with cold showers and the constant need to adjust his cock in his pants. Even masturbating twice last night after he'd excused himself from the family had done nothing to ease his discomfort. He was still hard nearly twenty-four hours later.
"So, why have you never been to this restaurant before, Alejandro?" When she spoke his name, with an accent that sounded almost precisely like a native of his country, it made him almost groan out loud with visions of her screaming the word in passion as she came. And she would. He'd make sure of that.
"I have been so busy since I got here in the spring, I guess I just haven't had the chance. My cousins have eaten there and they tell me the menu is authentic and delicious. I hope they are correct. It's really tough to find the cuisine of Espana replicated in the States. A rare delicacy."
"I'm sure it will be wonderful." When she smiled at him, one sweet dimple exploded on each cheek, begging him to run his tongue through the indention. He glanced her way to catch this expression, wishing he could stare at her forever without running off the road.
Two more miles and then you can sit across from her at the table and look to your heart's content.
He'd purposefully selected a specific corner table when he'd been there earlier, slightly out of the way where they'd have some privacy to get to know each other.
Although, he felt like he'd known her for years after last night. They'd practically spoken on top of each other the entire time, laughing and joking about their different life experiences.
It was with great relief that Alejandro pulled into a parking spot and turned to stare into those gorgeous brown eyes that hypnotized him with their warmth.
He practically flung himself around the front end of the truck to reach her side, bereft of the feel of her soft fingers in his.
As she stepped from the car, he caught a significant glimpse of the V between her legs. Her short dress couldn't hide much as she was forced to put one foot down and then the other. She reached to adjust the front, even tugged the fabric with both hands to more concisely cover herself before raising her face back to stare into his eyes. She was clearly unaccustomed to dressing in such a short skirt. Her cheeks were flushed. Was she embarrassed? Did she feel self-conscious about what he might have seen between her legs during the brief exit?
She'd have to get over that fast, but the idea of her being shy about her body made him almost tremble with the anticipation of ridding her of any preconceived notions she may have acquired about sex in her twenty-two years. Why did the idea of her initial timidity only make him harder?
"Shall we?" As soon as she'd adjusted her dress to her satisfaction, Alex once again grasped her hand and guided her toward the entrance.
"It's lovely. I don't know why I haven't been here before myself. Maybe it's fate that we are to experience it for the first time together." Lindsey sucked in a breath on the end of that sentence, and he looked at her with a smile. She shivered beneath his touch, turning her face toward the ground.
Alex pulled her close as they reached the door, wrapped his arms around her to stave off the chill she'd experienced, as though caused by the evening air, and kissed the top of her head. "I'm certain you are correct, carina."
Her hair smelled of the floral shampoo he would never forget from yesterday. The soft strands glided across his lips as he pulled reluctantly away, wishing for all the world they weren't in public, it wasn't their first official date, and he didn't have to spend the next week going through the formalities dictated by human society to court and woo this woman before he could divest her of her clothes and delve into all her glorious wonder.
Would the bronze skin of her arms and legs extend to her entire body? Was it natural? Or did she have tan lines? Perhaps tiny straps of a string bikini would extend across her shoulders and reveal smooth white breasts that would contrast with ripe pink nipples.
Again, he gritted his teeth as he guided her through the front door.
"Good evening, Senor Ramos. We have your table ready. Right this way."
"How did they...?"
"I came by earlier to make a reservation. So we wouldn't have to wait," he explained.
"How thoughtful." She beamed at him.
"Esta bien, Senor?" the maitre de questioned, his eyebrows raised.
"Is this okay?" Alejandro turned to Lindsey.
"Of course. It's wonderful."
"Perfecto, gracias," he said to the polite man.
He released the breath he'd been holding as she eased into her chair. He didn't know why he'd been holding his breath. She didn't seem the type who would have complained about the location of the table.
He just wanted everything to be ... perfect.
And it was panning out that way.
The table was small, which had attracted Alejandro right away. He wanted to be able to touch her across the tablecloth. Hoped to share morsels of food. Hell, he wanted to be able to kiss her if he desired, lick dabs of garlic and olive oil from her lips. He wouldn't, of course, but he wanted the possibility to exist nonetheless.
"The ambience is so ... romantic," she stated, peering around the room. "They even have a little band wandering around. What do you call that?"
"Mariachi. They'll meander from table to table during the evening. It's actually a Mexican tradition, but fits in perfect here."
She was right, of course. He couldn't have chosen better, assuming the food was as good as the service and atmosphere. Dim lighting interspersed with candles provided the perfect setting for the seduction he had planned.
By the end of the evening, he wanted this woman to be so comfortable with him she wouldn't balk at seeing him every opportunity they had. He knew it wasn't customary in the U.S. for new couples to see each other so frequently, among humans that is. But lupines knew in an instant when they met their mate, and Alejandro was as warm-blooded as any American wolf when it came to claiming his woman. He wanted her fast, soon, often, and aggressively.
Now he just had to convince her.
"Their music is wonderful."
"I'm glad you like it." He reached across the table and took both her hands in his. "Have I told you how beautiful you look tonight?"
"I believe you did, but thank you." A pink blush once again crawled across her cheeks, making Alex wonder if he'd see that same flush across her breasts in the near future. Would her skin blotch in the telltale sign of a satisfied woman after she orgasmed?
Releasing only one hand, he angled a menu in front of her and then opened one for himself.
Five seconds went by before she looked back up at him. "I'd love for you to just order for both of us, if you don't mind. I have no idea what anything is and I bet you have excellent taste in food." She bit her lower lip between her teeth and grinned.
"I'd be honored." Alejandro couldn't keep himself from reaching up and running the pad of his thumb along her bottom lip, gently releasing it from the clutches of her perfect straight white teeth. "If you don't have any preferences, I'll order an assortment of tapas to start. That'll give you a smattering of foods to explore."
"They're kind of like what you call appetizers, only smaller. Just a few bites on a small plate. Extremely common and popular in Spain."
"Is there anything you don't like?" He gazed into her deep brown eyes, hoping she wasn't a picky eater. Spaniards loved their food with a passion unmatched in other countries.
"Not at all. I eat everything."
A shadow fell over them as the waiter approached.
"Good evening. I'm Raul. I'll be your server tonight. Can I interest you in some wine?" The waiter had arrived on the tail end of their conversation as though planned. "We have a wonderful house vino from Rueda."
He had yet to question Lindsey about her preferences when it came to wine. Again, the stars would be so very nicely aligned if this seemingly perfect mate of his also enjoyed the vino rojo of his home country. "Do you like red wine, Lindsey?"
"Sometimes. Let's try it." She may have been a bit reserved about the feelings she felt slamming her concerning having met him only yesterday, but he'd have to give her credit for being adventurous. She wasn't backing down.
"Dos vasos, por favor. Or better yet, just bring us a bottle." He didn't want to have to wave someone down for more wine if they found themselves enjoying the delicious flavors of Castilla y Leon.
"So, tell me more about your family. What made you decide to leave Spain?"
"Pretty simple, really. Our families are very close. Ever since I was a small child we took turns every other year visiting each other. One year they came to La Rioja and the next we came here. I've always found the dairy life intriguing. Acres of open land. Even though this is the U.S., my aunt and uncle have always lived a life similar to that in Espana--as laid back as you can get in this country." He grinned. "When two of my four cousins married and moved away, they needed some extra help. It was a great opportunity for me."
"You must be a wine snob." She giggled when she spoke, and he loved the sound of her voice traveling across the table and tempting his libido. "You didn't tell the waiter you knew his selections better than he does or even look at the menu."
"Well, I wouldn't consider myself a 'snob' as you say, but I do know something about wine and grapes. You can't go wrong with a nice bottle of red from Rueda." He grasped the hand he had released earlier and resumed his gentle grip, trying to keep it light and not scare her off. What he really wanted to do was pull her around the table, situate her straddling his lap, and kiss her senseless while reaching between their bodies to finger her to orgasm right here in the restaurant. The burning need to have her, naked and at his mercy, would not remain simmering on the surface. It kept rearing its head and making him squirm with as little notice as possible beneath the maroon tablecloth, attempting repeatedly to adjust his growing hard-on.
"I haven't been much of a wine drinker as of yet. I hear it's an acquired taste."
"Definitely. I'll be honored to guide you on the journey. You're with the right man." That was an understatement. He was without a doubt the only man she'd ever be with for the rest of her life, and he'd most assuredly be "guiding" her on so many "journeys" in the next few weeks, her head would be swimming. Hopefully in sexual satisfaction.
How had he gotten so lucky?
He hadn't ever quite pictured himself ending up with an American woman, but fate had a way of dropping the unexpected right in one's lap at the most surprising moments.
Fate had done well by him in the last twenty-seven hours.
"So, where is your vineyard in Spain? Tell me about it."
"It's in La Rioja, in the North. Running a vineyard is a year-round experience. There is always a new step involved in the making of wine. Just when you get bored of watching grapes grow, it's time to harvest them and start the winemaking process." He smiled across the table at the oversimplification he'd just described in about two sentences. He wanted to know more about Lindsey. Everything about her.
"What do your parents do? You said you're from Seattle?"
"Yes. I'm from Seattle, but my parents aren't living." She looked down at the table as she said the words.
"I'm so sorry, carina." Alex's heart squeezed as she spoke the words. He couldn't imagine life without his parents, his huge extended family. It saddened him to think of her, anyone really, alone in this world.
He squeezed her hands tightly. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Could we not? It's a long story. Some other time?"
"Of course, mi alma." No sense spoiling the evening with sadness. He wanted to know everything about her and grieved for her loss, but her eyes were downcast. Now was not the time or place.
Alejandro had to let go of Lindsey a moment later when Raul returned with their wine. With efficient precision, he presented the bottle and then removed the cork and poured a splash of deep red heaven for Alejandro to sample. After a long inhale with his nose inside the wide glass, he took a quick sip and declared the wine excellent.
The waiter poured them each a glass. "Can I interest you in some tapas to start off?"
"Actually, we may order so many tapas we won't have room for a meal." Alejandro glanced at the menu and quickly made a few selections. "Let's start with solomillo al ajillo, tortilla espanola, calamari, y ensalada de papas rusas."
Raul memorized the order and nodded before heading for the kitchen.
"I have no idea what you ordered, but if it tastes half as good as it sounds, I'll be in love." Her gaze was back on his, the sorrow of a moment ago forgotten.
"I ordered the most common things you might find in a tapas bar in Spain. It'll give you a sampling. You'll love it." He grabbed her hand again. He couldn't seem to keep himself from maintaining contact. "Try the wine."
He watched in anticipation while she sniffed and then sampled the dark red wine. "Mmm, it could grow on me." She smiled and took another drink.
"You'll love it paired with some cheese and jamon serano, a Spanish ham. We'll order that next."
"I'll be stuffed!"
"I don't like my dates to end the evening hungry." Not that he had any intention of ever having another date. Well, with anyone but her.
Dios mio, she is so gorgeous.
Her cheeks began to glow, probably from the influence of the wine she was sipping. It was a beautiful look on her, but he didn't want her drunk either. "That wine is strong. Be careful not to drink too much before the meal. I'll be ... how do you say? Scraping you off the floor?"
Lindsey laughed and set her glass down. "That would be embarrassing. I'll try to avoid it." Her eyes nearly danced. She seems relaxed. Happy. Thank God. Now if he could just win her over completely with the food of his home country, he'd be a satisfied man.
Lindsey was in love. Well, perhaps that was a bit strong a word for a man she'd spent all of three hours total with, but she was certainly in lust. Surely, it was too good to be true. The proverbial shoe would most likely drop at any moment.
He was kind, considerate, handsome and sexy. And his eyes... A woman could get lost in those eyes and never come back. He looked at her so deeply; he seemed to see her soul.
Even when he'd mentioned her parents, he understood her need to drop the subject.
And his hands. He never stopped touching her. His fingers rubbed circles on her palms, then her wrists, then her fingers. She couldn't stop thinking about what those hands could do to other parts of her body, a body that was aching to find out.
She'd been fidgeting around her damp panties since they'd arrived at the restaurant. When she looked down at their joined hands, she couldn't prevent the image of those huge, work-roughened, tan fingers working her to orgasm. And she had no doubt he could do it. In fact, probably right now under the table, given the opportunity.
The idea sent a shiver down her body. She was so horny, she thought she'd combust before the evening was over. In the past few years she'd had a few boyfriends, even one that lasted several months, but no man had ever, ever, made her ... want ... so desperately. In fact, no man had ever brought her to orgasm, to be honest.
What made her think this one could? And why did she think she could relax enough to let him? Now that was a hurdle Dr. Barbara Mathius, her shrink, would have a field day with. Hell, the woman would probably declare her cured and tell her not to come back.
So she had no idea why she felt so confident about Alejandro. But she just knew. And man did she want to test her theory.
But she wouldn't. Of course. Who comes on this strongly to a man she just met yesterday? He was marriage material, so far, until the bomb dropped and she found out he picked his nose while driving or chewed with his mouth opened or got blazing drunk and acted like an idiot. An infinite number of possibilities existed. She was just waiting to find out which one it would be.
Or maybe she'd get lucky and he would be marriage material. In that case, she had a moral standard not to sleep with him on the first date. Or the second. Probably.
Four years of counseling had gotten her to this place. A place where she felt almost normal, like a regular adult woman should. Dr. Mathius had helped her weed through the parts of her childhood that were reasonable to keep and toss out the parts that didn't work.
She shook the meandering thoughts from her head. "So, are you planning to stay in the States? Or are you just sort of taking a sabbatical from grapes?" Damn, that thought just popped out of her mouth. What if she did really fall for the man and he decided to leave? Yikes.
"I have no definite plans. Just letting life lead me where it will right now. It was a blessing in disguise to come here and regroup. And now I've met such a fantastic woman, maybe I'll just stay." He raised an eyebrow and chuckled. Making it virtually impossible to know if he was joking or being somewhat serious. She wasn't sure which she preferred.
It was way too soon to have such a discussion, and she positively should not feel regret burning a hole in her stomach that he might move to the other side of the earth.
She involuntarily squeezed his hands tighter as though that would prevent him from escaping. And what the hell was the matter with her? She just met him yesterday. She didn't even know his middle name, and she was worried about the fictitious possibility that in the distant future he might leave?
Absurd. She shook the thoughts from her mind as the first plates of food arrived.
Begrudgingly, she let go of Alejandro's hands and sat back to make room. Another sip of wine proved he was indeed correct. It was growing on her. Or maybe it just tasted better and better the more she drank. That reality was more likely.
"Okay, try this first." Alejandro stuck his fork into a piece of steaming meat and potatoes, getting the perfect bite organized on the utensil before he held it to her lips.
Sheer delight exploded on her tongue. The tender pork literally melted in her mouth, the mix of garlic, olive oil, and spices combining to send an actual moan escaping from her. "Man, that is good. What did you call it?"
"Solomillo al ajillo. It's a garlic pork dish." He smiled and stuck the fork into the tiny plate before offering her another bite. "It's a favorite among Spaniards."
"Are you going to sit there and feed me all night or try some yourself?" she mumbled after the second bite, hoping there was no meat stuck between her teeth. "You'll need to actually taste the dishes to find out if they are authentic. My word truly won't suffice in this case."
He smiled again, and his lips made her gaze desirously in their direction, remembering their soft texture from last night, a perfect combination of gentle and demanding that had kept her sex dripping all evening after parting company. And Lindsey was not accustomed to being so aroused.
He must have been thinking the same thing, or perhaps she just willed him toward a repeat performance because as she stared at his smile, he slowly leaned forward until they were once again locked in a kiss. It was a slow perusal, with him nibbling around her mouth for several moments before pulling back.
"You're right. The solomillo is excellent. I'll try some myself."
Leaving her in a state of lust, he took his own bite next and nodded his agreement while he chewed. "Perfect. My hat to the chef. I believe we have a winner," he stated after swallowing.
"I'm glad you like it. I was worried you'd find this tiny restaurant in the middle of Washington a bit lacking."
"Nah, the company is so alluring that I doubt I would have noticed if they served us cardboard."
"I don't believe that. You should be a food critic with your passion."
"Don't believe it until you've been to Spain yourself. All of us are this way in my world. Food snobs I tell you. And passionate about our meals. Which we don't miss. Our world centers around when and where we will eat, sparing no expense."
"I believe you." She smiled at his expression of pure delight over the next bite he took. She still hadn't picked up a fork.
And as it turned out, she didn't need to yet.
"Oh, the papas are just as good." He shoveled a bite of what looked like potato salad with carrots and peas into her mouth. It had looked ordinary enough, but he was right. It wasn't American potato salad. A hint of garlic and probably more olive oil tempted her pallet.
"Mmm," she moaned around that bite too, and then again when he presented her with a crispy bite of calamari that rivaled any she'd ever eaten. She'd never been particularly fond of the visual, with the tiny tentacles fried up in front of her, but somehow this evening was turning out to be an experience in culinary delights unlike any she'd had before.
The last tapa looked like an ordinary omelet, but again, filled with onions and potatoes, was a divine twist on the American version. "This is what we call tortilla in Spain. Often referred to as Tortilla Espanola so as not to be confused with those flat floury disks in Mexico." His nose raised in mock snobbery that wasn't altogether a joke.
Lindsey grabbed her fork and joined the fun. They continued in this fashion for another two hours, feeding each other bites of the various tapas Alejandro continued ordering until Lindsey thought she'd pop. Her dress wasn't going to be near as attractive when she stood up as it had been when they'd arrived, with her stomach filled to bulging.
And all along, the experience was so sensual, as though they were actually making love, with each other or the food itself she wasn't sure. And didn't frankly care. It was the best date of her life.
And if she could somehow manage to not jump into bed with him and ruin her reputation as the nice girl, perhaps he'd even ask her out again.