Thunder clapped, hammering across the sky as lightning seemingly too close to the ground ripped through the large, low, heavy, black clouds. It had been this way for a week. The unprecedented showers were responsible for flooding across Washington and showed no signs of ending anytime soon. It was like a monsoon. Water was everywhere. Ian watched as the rain poured, thinking for the thousandth time about the loss of the work done on the Cage property. It wouldn’t be just the work he was doing that would be undone, there would no doubt be damage in areas his team wasn’t working as well.
The system was predicted to clear within a day, hopefully, they were right. His stomach reminded him of his hunger and he decided on soup for dinner. He compiled the ingredients when the doorbell rang.
Who would be out in this?! He thought. Are they crazy?
The sight of her huddled over and shivering through the glass of his front door squeezed his heart and threatened to stop it. Her head bent, she continued to rap on the door without looking up.
“Kerri?” he called through the door.
She looked up puzzled as if he was the last person in the world she expected to see.
Well, touche, baby.
As he opened the door, he all but dragged her inside and looking out before he closed the door.
“What happened? Why are you out in this weather?” he asked, his voice carrying over the foyer as he thoughtlessly helping her strip out of her soggy jacket and stalked across the room into the bathroom for towels.
“I was in all week. I ran out of food and kept waiting for the rain to ease but it didn’t and nowhere was delivering. Hunger got the best of me.” she told him. “Then on my way back, my car got stuck in the mud. As you can imagine, AAA isn’t out and I’ve been in the car for about 3 hours and now the battery is dead. This is the first house I saw.” she moaned.
“Ok. Well,” he said while rubbing his neck.” You aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Let me get you something dry to wear.”
In his bedroom, Ian tried to ignore the sight of her soaked blouse and sweatpants clinging to her skin. It was foolishly thin for the weather but her jacket would have made up for it. He pulled out his phone and checked the forecast again. Hoping desperately it would be correct. If it was, he just had to make it 24 hours and she would be gone.
He found a shirt he thought would be long enough. He walked briskly back the foyer and handed it to her.
“Bathroom’s over there.” He nodded in the direction she had seen him go for towels.
“Thanks, Ian. You really don’t have to do this,” she said, her voice low, weighted with embarrassment.
“Oh? And what would you do if I didn’t?” he challenged.
Her beautiful eyes rounded fully in her head as she chewed her lip. Just to make her squirm, he forced her to make eye contact. Big mistake. He reclaimed command of the situation.
“Get out of those clothes before you get sick. I was going to make soup. You good with that?” he asked over his shoulder as he headed for the kitchen.
“Um, yeah.” Kerri answered as she shut the bathroom door.
Ian worked quickly, chopping, stripping, seasoning. Anything to keep his mind from straying to the woman in his bathroom. Girl. She’s a girl. He had to remember that. A few minutes later she emerged and the shirt hadn’t swallowed her as much as he’d hoped. Her full large breast, now free of a bra moved freely as she walked, her nipples still peaks from the cold. He pulled his gaze to her face and found himself looking into her eyes. She bit her lower lip and his eyes followed the movement.
Was that deliberate? His throat went dry. Her eyes told him she was flirting with him. He wouldn’t survive her being here if she did this.
“Make.. yourself comfortable.” he squawked, clearing his throat when he didn’t recognize his own voice.
“Thanks. You happen to have a blow dryer?”
“It’s fine. Nice kitchen.” she mused. She ran her long slim fingers along the granite island. Stretching her legs, twisting her body and looking around.
He wished she would leave. But she inched her way around the kitchen, coming closer and closer. He could smell her. Something sweet, fruity and unfamiliar. He wanted to taste it. To taste her. To lick the melanin off her skin.
And then he felt pain. He’d cut his finger. Suddenly she was there, grabbing his hand and holding it under the pipe. Squeezing it. Taking care of it, as though it was the most natural thing in the world. Sally would have never done that. She was prim and proper and never cooked. She would not take the sight of blood easily. Kerri wasn’t like Sally.
Kerri. Her scent filled him. She inspected his wound, confirmed it wasn’t too bad and wrapped it with a towel he handed her. Then she looked at him, at his lips.
“Why don’t you let me finish this.” she said, stepping closer still. The room was charged with so much tension he could hardly breathe.
“You cook?!” he asked incredulously.
“You’re not used to women who cook?” Kerri teased.
“Not women like you.”
“Who are women like me, Ian? Young women?”
“Well, maybe we’ll work on changing that perception, then.” Her eyes sparkled with what sounded to his ears like a challenge.
Ian watched as she took over making the meal with ease and grace. Asking for a few ingredients he never thought to add. Some he had, some he hadn’t.
Several times she caught him staring and the last time he realized she was simply staring back. She was finished, and the food was cooking. The air suddenly became thick, electrifying, tense. The attraction was unimaginable and his palm began to sweat. She inched closer, without breaking their connection and before he knew it, she was in front of him. Standing between his legs, carefully not touching him. He stood up, the bar stool he was sitting on toppled over, the noise and the pot the only sound in the room.
She said nothing, she just stared and it was fraying his nerves. Finally, he closed his eyes, rubbing them against the picture in front of him. Willing himself to turn away, to turn her down.
“Look, Kerri.” You’re a kid, Maddie’s friend…”
“Really? I’m a kid? That’s where you want to go with this?” she looked hurt.
Damn! That wasn’t what he wanted.
“Don’t you care how Maddie would feel then?” he asked, hoping the mention of her friend would change her mind. He needed her to change her mind because if she didn’t, he didn’t think he would be able to say no if she pushed her luck.
“Why would Maddie care what we do?”
“She likes me, right? The other day? The Questions? She must have said something to you.”
Kerri giggled, then turned her smile all the way on.
“Maddie has a boyfriend. She was asking because I like you. Not her. I don’t particularly care for how brazen she was about it, but that’s Madelline for you.” she shrugged apologetically.
“Oh.” Ian didn’t know what else to say. He felt like an idiot. The questions had been troublesome but he dismissed them because despite what she’d said, he had believed that it was Maddie who had wanted to know if he was single. His heart took a dive in his chest, realizing she had been interested in him. Now she was in his apartment half naked under his shirt, trapped by the endless rain.
It’s going to be a long night.