picnic

“Our date. Not mine.” He led her through the open gate and up the sloped path toward a patch of open grass on top of the gently rounded hill where he laid out the blanket.

”Nice view,” Tamar said quietly  placing the bag on the middle of the blanket, her eyes scanning the wide open space. She could breathe freely here. Her spine relaxed and she took a deep breath, releasing it slowly. ”Very nice.”

“I’m glad you like it.” He busied himself opening the containers of food and laying them out, pulling out plates and silverware while she took in their venue for the evening. “Get comfortable.”

The tantalizing spices and herbs from their meal pulled her in and Tamar settled on the other side of the food, watching him set the silverware. The corner of her lips curled up in contained amusement, watching him. He was either an extremely friendly guy or he was a very bored one. Cute too. She pulled her eyes back to the food. ”Chicken marsala?”

“See something you like?” he asked innocently, unpacking cups and a chilled jug of lemonade before looking up to meet her eyes.

”I like this,” she pointed to the uncovered marsala dish in front of her.

He reached for her plate and started to scoop some of the chicken marsala onto it. He paused to look up at her. “You’re not on a diet or anything like that, are you?”

One brow cocked up. ”Do I look like I’m on one?” Tamar laughed softly, reaching for her plate. ”I can get my own food.”

“I’m not going to get my tongue all tied up trying to answer that. There’s no right answer.” He pulled back to pour the drinks, a smile tugging at his lips. Her laugh was soft and pretty when she let herself laugh. No high pitched giggle or annoying cackle.

”Smart boy,” Tamar answered, dishing out some of the other pasta dish. Then she paused, frowning lightly at the cup. ”Do you have water?” Her eyes lifted to his face. ”I’m on a diet.”

He lifted his head and his eyes traced lightly over her body. It was hard to tell with the baggy shirt but from what he’d seen during their last two meetings, she filled out in all the right places despite her petiteness. “You’re kidding.”

Tamar’s eyes narrowed as his gaze traveled from her head to her toes,  warm shiver skittering up spine. ”Eyes on me, Casanova.” A cool evening breeze swept over her head tugging at her hair. ”And I was joking. My drink please,” she said sternly, extending a hand out.

“They are.” He bit back a smile and let his eyes trail back up to her face, amused by her pointed glare. “You make a comment like that and any healthy man is going to do the same check,” he offered in his defense and handed her a cup.

Tamar rolled her eyes and lifted the cup to her lips, eying his amused expression. She lowered the cup. ”What happened to you being a gentleman?” She asked, reminding him of his comment on their first meeting.

“The difference is, I was looking for the sake of your health. I had to evaluate if it would be in your best interest to be dieting.”

She shook her head, licking the sweet juice at the rim of her cup. ”You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”

He focused on the pasta he was scooping onto his plate, anything to avoid watching her lick the edge of that cup. She was dressed in an outfit a kid wouldn’t even attempt and with those thick lime frames covering her face. There shouldn’t be anything attractive about her. Watching her lick the rim should have been awkward, not unsettling. “I’m just being honest with you.”

”I s’pose I can’t hold that against you, can I?” Tamar lowered the cup and reached for a fork. ”Since we’re being honest, mind if I give it a shot?”

He glanced up warily, lightly stabbing his pasta with his fork. “Go for it.”

”Are you a Richie or something? Are you here on a full scholarship or is Daddy paying your way through. Because even if I had a bucket full of spare change, I couldn’t afford to waste it on this running joke.” She eyed him over her pasta.

“A richie,” he repeated quietly, setting his plate down. She had no idea how far from the truth she was despite the fact he did indeed have a full ride to Covington. “No. I don’t understand why you insist on calling this a joke or a spring project. Why can’t I just be a guy taking you out because I want to get to know you better?”

”Tell me, Dylan, if you and I were in a cafeteria with normal people, say your friends and instead of half-drooling primped girls ogling you all over, would you still cross the room and come to me?” Her brows lifted. ”I don’t know who you are and I was probably a safer choice to the pack of squealing girls in that class, right?”

He frowned at her. “Fine. If we’d been in a cafeteria like that? No. I didn’t want anybody hanging all over me while I was trying to get through the class and get out. So I came to you because I didn’t think you would. And you proved me right. You were supposed to be a class associate. You weren’t supposed to be…interesting.”

The corner of her lips worked up a half-smirk. ”I’m anything but boring. Didn’t the hair and clothes clue you in?”

“Right but it wasn’t supposed to be interesting to me,” he tried to explain. “No offense. I just didn’t plan on…wanting to get to know you.”

“So my irresistible wit reeled you in,” Tamar supplied casually, lifting a forkful of pasta to her mouth. She chewed slowly while watching his eyes, realizing now that this costume probably wouldn’t do the job after all.

He smiled. “What can I say? You’re amazing, Your Highness.”

Her cheeks flared visibly and she laughed it off, lifting a hand to push the stubborn now-curly strands from her face. “Anyone tell you about your smooth mouth?” She held up a hand, realizing her words. “You know what, don’t tell me. I can already imagine just how many have.” Retrieving her fork, she took another bite of the food and shifted her gaze over his shoulder to uniformed soccer players moving to the middle of the field. Her brows rose silently. A night soccer game?

“You think I’m that smooth?” he asked picking his plate back up. “Let me guess. You think I run around campus trying to chat up every girl I see huh?”

Tamar smirked, drawing her knees up to her chest and propped her elbows there. “No comment.”

He shook his head, rolling his eyes. “Clearly, since it took me all morning to get all those girls numbers. Good to know you think so highly of me.”

“You’re welcome. I had a feeling I wasn’t the first girl you ever crooned to,” Tamar replied just as easily, watching as the teams split and moved to either end of the field.

He leveled his gaze on her. “I only wanted one number that morning but somebody took off before I could get it.”

She dragged her eyes over her shoulder to look at him curiously. “Whose, Mrs. Neilson’s? You could’ve just asked her. Heads up though, I think she’s married.” The corner of her lips curled up.

“Very funny, Tamar. You know who I’m talking about, but it’s okay because I’ve got her here with me now.”

“Not for long,” Tamar replied as she pushed herself off the blanket. “It’s getting late.”

“We haven’t talked about where we’re going from here,” he prompted her innocently.

“Going from where?” Her brow furrowed slightly. “I already told you. One date, which we just had.”

“Now I’m making you another offer. Another date.”

She blinked at him, disbelief in her eyes. “Are you serious?”

“And this time, you won’t try to scare me off with crazy outfits,” he added with a knowing smirk. “I want to get to know you. Not the ‘weird girl’ you’re trying to make this about.”

“This is how I dress,” Tamar replied without missing a beat. She pushed her curly hair from her face, mentally shaking her head that even her hair was not following the plan. “What is this about? I can give you my resume and a short biography if you’re that curious. Why waste your time with the other stuff?”

He stretched his legs out and looked up at her. “It’s my time. Let me use it how I want.  I already told you. I want to get to know you. Why’s that a big deal?”

Tamar rolled her eyes. “I’m not any different on paper as I am in flesh. Tell you what I’ll do for you. Give me your email address, I’ll draft my entire biography and send it to you. Big deal taken care of.” She folded her arms across her chest, frowning down at him.

“I’m not a big fan of reading. Besides, that’s no fun. I want to figure it out myself. If you’re no different on paper, you won’t mind me figuring you out in person.”

Eying him warily, Tamar knew she couldn’t win this time. She’d have to retreat to her room and plot some more. “I’ll think about it,” she rescinded, lowering her hands to her side.

“You’ll give me your number, right? Just so I can check in while you’re thinking. Wouldn’t want you to come up with the wrong answer.”

Tamar laughed aloud. She couldn’t help it. “You don’t lay off, do you?” She sighed. “Well, it’s too bad. I don’t have a phone to my name.” Lowering back onto the blanket, she began putting up the food containers into the bag. “Come on, let’s go. It’s getting dark.”

“Does that mean you have a phone to someone else’s name?” he challenged easily. “Come on Tamar, I promise I won’t tell anybody if you give me an inch or two.

Her hands stilled and she shook her head incredulously, staring up at him. She hadn’t expected him to be so quick on his feet. “And do you promise not to take a mile if I do that? And yes, it is in someone else’s name.”

“What do you consider a mile?” he asked playfully.

“I refuse to answer that.” Tamar nudged his leg by hers. “Move it.”

He leaned over to pull his phone from his back pocket. Unlocking it, he passed it to her. “You first.”

<<Chapter 3 || Chapter 5>>

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