By Kishan Paul
Joanne’s heart thudded against her chest so loud she worried everyone in Starbucks could hear it. Then there was her brain and ability to speak, both of which appeared to have powered off in the past few minutes. She prided herself in not being shy anymore. Yet here she was five years later, behaving the same as that insecure eighteen-year-old girl, and it was all because of the man standing beside her. Torn between wanting to kiss the heck out of him and running away from him, she opted to just stand there like an idiot, frozen and awkward.
She stared at Shawn’s profile while he gave the woman behind the counter their order. From the way the barista’s cheeks reddened, it was clear she wasn’t the only woman in the room currently Shawn-struck. The crazy thing was he seemed clueless about the panty-melting powers he obviously possessed.
Why was someone like him here…with me? She shook the question from her head and replaced it with one of the empowering ones she’d practiced in counseling. Why wouldn’t he want to be here with me? For some reason it didn’t sound nearly as convincing as it did in the therapist’s office. Maybe it was because he was standing right next to her, smelling amazing, and flashing that dimpled smile at her every other second.
Whatever the reason, the little voice of insecurity inside her was getting louder. While Shawn paid for their drinks, Joanne walked off to the corner and scanned the room for an empty table. She shouldn’t have come and was stupid to think she could handle this. The wounds of her past obviously hadn’t healed as well as she thought they had.
A whiff of cold air hit her when the door opened. Thick strands of her hair came loose from the gust and slapped her across the face. She blew at it and watched it float up, only to smack her cheek on the way down. Her curls probably looked crazy by now. Before she got a chance to move the hair out of her face, Shawn was in front of her running his fingers through the strands.
“I’ve always wondered if your curls were as soft as they looked.”
Joanne’s face heated and when she saw the way his gaze lingered on her mouth, she sucked in a breath. “And?”
His knuckles brushed against her skin. “Amazingly soft.”
Her feet were rooted to the floor, all sounds and people drifted away to nothingness as she savored the feel of his touch.
“Almost as soft as your skin,” he whispered before brushing his thumb across her cheek. “Which was something else I always wondered about, by the way.”
She blinked a couple of times, processing it all. He wondered about touching me?
Joanne cleared her throat and stared at his full lips, one of the many parts of him she’d dreamed about touching. “The tables are all full.”
He smiled and leaned in so close that his breath warmed her skin when he spoke. “Once we get the coffee, we could always go somewhere else. Take the train over to Central Park.”
This was the perfect opportunity for her to tell him she needed to leave. Run, like her fears screamed for her to do.
She nodded and smiled, “Sounds like a great idea.”