Up In Flames (Page 2)

Up In Flames(2)
Author: Nicole Williams

I narrowed my eyes. “How long have you been here?”

He swam a little closer, and now I could make out the color of his eyes. A bright greenish-blue that, when paired with his dark hair, tan skin, and the appealing angles of his face, could make a girl weak in the knees even from ten yards back.

That sly smile of his went higher. “Long enough to know that your hair color is natural.”

Despite the cold water, my face heated instantly.

“It’s all right,” he said immediately, lifting his hands above the water. “We were brought into the world nak*d and it’s a damn shame somewhere along man’s way he felt the need to cover up.” Those eyes of his sparkled. “Because bodies like yours make clothing a real tragedy.”

I knew in some sick, twisted way, he was trying to make me feel better, but I felt worse. My own boyfriend hadn’t seen me nak*d. Heck, he hadn’t even seen me nak*d from the waist up, and this smiling stranger had gotten the whole shebang. Not only that, I was uncomfortable with the way he looked at me and the way I felt when he looked at me. Some part of me, and if I was a betting girl I’d put it all on that wild streak, liked the way he looked at me.

Liked it way too much.

I cleared my throat and tried to break eye contact. Tried unsuccessfully. “This is private property, you know.”

“No, I didn’t know,” he said, looking around. “Besides, I adhere more to the land owns us, we don’t own the land kind of philosophy.”

“Most trespassers would I suppose,” I said, wondering why, in all of the many lakes, streams, and swimming holes in the county, this guy who appealed to me on a primal level had to choose this one.

“As much fun as this flirty banter is, my balls are about to fall off if I don’t get out of this cold ass water,” he said, swimming towards me.

I told myself he was only trying to get closer to the shore, not to me, but his eyes told a different story.

“So who’s getting out first? Me . . . or you?” His smile curved even higher over that last part.

My eyes went narrower still.

“I guess I am,” he answered for me when my lips stayed sealed. I’d already given him the full show once; he wasn’t getting it again.

Taking a few more long strokes, his feet hit the bottom and he started walking out of the water.

“Same time tomorrow?” he called back at me as his shoulders broke the surface. I’d seen wider ones, but I’d never seen more defined ones. This was so not helping this strange feeling I had coiling up inside of me. That face, those shoulders, that back, and that . . . butt.

I hadn’t been the only one skinny dipping this afternoon.

Look away, look away right now, I told myself.

I didn’t listen.

“My name’s Cole,” he said as he continued towards the shore.

“Don’t care,” I lied, not able to peel my eyes away from that long, tanned, muscled, dripping wet body.

“Last name’s Carson.”

“Care even less.” Did I sound as unconvincing to him as I did to my own ears?

“What’s your name?” he asked, pausing at knee level and glancing back at me.

“My first name’s Keep and my last name’s Walking.”

What was I doing? I never talked like this to people. I’d come in second place as the senior class sweetheart. Second place sweethearts didn’t sass back to nak*d, hot strangers while they were nak*d themselves.

Suddenly, he turned around. All the way around.

My face went blank before I felt heat rush up my neck. It was the first time I’d seen a man’s . . . package, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the first thing I zeroed in on. I’d be lying again if I said I looked away quickly. Instead my eyes lingered until I felt heat wind up my body, tightening around an area south of my navel.

Stretching his arms above his head, he cleared his throat. “I like that flustered look on your face,” he said, and even though I wasn’t looking at his face, I heard the smile in his voice. “See anything you like?”

“No,” I snapped.

“Really? Because that flushed expression says otherwise,” he said, his voice all tease. “I’ve got the whole afternoon open. I’d be happy to give you an in-depth, hands-on tutorial to Cole Carson.”

I managed to close my eyes, and when I reopened them, I was finally able to look away from what I was fixed on earlier. “You have fun with your own hands,” I said, cocking a brow.

Before turning around, he studied my face and that half smile of his moved into something a bit more genuine. “You gonna be all right out here if I go? Not going to drown?”

“Not today,” I replied, my eyes automatically dropping with his back to me again.

I didn’t look away until he disappeared into the trees.

I COULDN’T STOP thinking about Cole. His eyes, that cocky grin, and his backside.

And his frontside, too.

I was positively distracted and sufficiently flustered. That could have explained why three of my orders had gone out wrong tonight. One of the few perks to growing up in the same town with the same people? They let you off the hook easy when you delivered a savory crepe instead of the sweet crepe of the day they’d ordered. If ever there was a time to stiff a server, it would be when they brought you a smoked salmon and cream cheese crepe when you were expecting a crepe stuffed with bananas, chocolate sauce, and walnuts, but no one left me less than a fifteen percent tip all night.

Since it was a Friday night, the cafe had been hopping and I hadn’t had a chance to pour myself a cup of coffee from the time I arrived until fifteen minutes before closing.

I’d worked at Le Crepe’erie most of my life in some capacity. That’s the way it is with a family business. As a grade schooler, I used to sort and sharpen crayons into baskets for the guests that came to dine with kids. As a middle schooler, I’d helped plant the flowers in the overwhelming number of hanging baskets and window baskets every spring. Le Crepe’erie had won “Best Floral Display” ten years running and my dad took almost as much pride in this as he did the quality products he put into each crepe. Since I’d turned sixteen, I’d been serving tables. I was even known to whip together a recipe or two when the chef was fresh out of new ideas.

You would have thought a crepe shop in the middle of small town USA wouldn’t be likely to succeed, but Le Crepe’erie had been in business for over fifteen years now and was an icon in Winthrop. Known for its basic menu that changed every day, there was rarely an empty table on the weekends or evenings on the weekdays. There were two options on any given day: sweet or savory. That was it. We didn’t do pancakes, waffles, or French toast. We did crepes.

You couldn’t get an egg over easy or a slab of ham on the side.

I’ll repeat. We did crepes.

But we made darn good ones.

Guests did have a selection of drinks, so long as it was coffee. We did drip, espresso, cappuccino, or the occasional latte if the customer was real nice.

Crepes and coffee were like a religion here at Le Crepe’erie and you didn’t just come into someone’s church and order hash-browns without it being considered a sacrilege.

“How’d you do tonight?” Dani asked me from two tables down where she was bussing a table.

The last guests were just leaving for the night, so I locked the door and flipped the closed sign over behind them. “Pretty good,” I replied. “Fifty bucks or so.”

“Day-um, girl!” she said, running back to the kitchen to crank on the radio. “My little Bs only pulled in a little over thirty. I need to get myself over to Seattle, have a plastic surgeon hook me up, and start making fifty a shift.” She came back out into the dining room, dancing to the song on the radio. “Do you think I could consider a boob job a business write-off if it helps me make more money?”

I took a long sip of my coffee before grabbing a bussing cart. There was a nice mess ahead of me. “Why don’t you ask the working girls down at Dolly’s Gentlemen’s Club? I’m sure they’d know,” I said, crumpling up a napkin and tossing it down at Dani where she twirled on a bar stool. “And mine are real, thank you very much.”

“Yeah, a real waste of space since no one’s having any fun with them,” she said, tossing the napkin back at me. My mind flashed with the memory of Cole looking at me, gaping at me, and my stomach did another one of those coiling up things.

“Yours get enough action for both of us,” I threw back as I sprayed down a few tables with disinfectant.

“Come on, though. Has Logan cupped, tweaked, squeezed, or hell, even grazed them yet?”

I grumbled as I started wiping down the tables. Dani had been my best friend since second grade. We weren’t exactly an obvious best friend match. Dani was vivacious, cursed more than she talked, and had slept with most of Winthrop’s male population that was under twenty . . . twice. She was short, blonde, and stylish. I was more your wallflower type that strived to stay inside our society’s boundaries. A cuss word in my book was crap or ass if I was really worked up, and I still had my V card firmly in hand. I was tall, brunette, and wore what was comfortable.

I couldn’t pinpoint what had brought us together and kept us together all these years, but I told everyone Dani was my kindred spirit. On the surface, we were nothing alike, but everything that couldn’t be seen tied us together.

“He grazed them this past year at Winter Formal,” I said, sounding defensive.


“Does it matter?” I asked while I tossed coffee cups and plates onto the cart.

“Yes.” Dani swung off of the bar stool and marched my way. “Yes, it most certainly does matter. You and Logan have been together for over two years and the only thing you’ve done is kiss. That is not normal.” Dani was a few inches shorter than me, but she had a way of seeming taller when she looked at me the way she was now.

“Says the girl who lost her virginity when she was thirteen,” I muttered.

She grabbed a dish rag and swatted my butt with it. “That’s because I was the smart one. Why do you want to waste the most virile, wild years of your life keeping your knees closed?”

“We’re waiting for marriage,” I replied automatically, but that was Logan’s reason, not mine.

I wouldn’t have had a problem going all the way with a guy if we weren’t married, but I had a few obstacles in my deflowering way. I was with Logan, and I probably always would be. He wanted to wait until we were married. I might have pushed the issue, but even the making out had gotten a little boring this past year. If a guy sliding his tongue into my mouth couldn’t turn me on, why should I assume him sliding anything else inside me would?

“God. Don’t even get me started on you two and your impending marriage and abstaining until that blessed day shit,” she said, helping me clear off the next table.

“I didn’t ask you to get started on any of it, Dani,” I said. “So why don’t you drop it?”