The First Dinner Part 1

         Dinner had been nice. The hotel restaurant was intimate with its low lights and soft music playing in the background, regardless of its high ceilings and a wall of windows showing the road and the park beyond. Carol had loved the finely cooked catfish platter and it looked like Josh had enjoyed his plate of New York Steak and vegetables. He consumed it entirely, even as they chatted, and now leaned back in his chair sipping his beer. The couples in tables around them made a small buzz around the room and it gave her a feeling of contentment. She had felt so alone since her husband had passed a few months ago.
          Gerald was a solider and from all the awards he received, a really good one. He was barely home, always on another deployment, mission, or drill. Carol understood why though. He took care of them the only way he knew how. The money he brought in allowed for them to help provide for their family. Raising three kids on her own with only her job to support them would have been hard and they both had agreed it might not be any easier if he got a civilian job. Besides, Carol knew Gerald would have been miserable in a civilian job. He tried before and let’s just say it wasn’t a good experience for anyone.
          Three months after his passing, she had decided to try to get out there and be around people again. Her kids had insisted on it. She knew she was smothering them, and she just couldn’t help it. Even at 16, her oldest was getting annoyed at the constant mothering. She couldn’t blame him, he told her he hated seeing her act this way and wanted to see her try to live again.
          A week after that discussion, her friend had told her to just invite new people in. She was unsure how to really do that at first but then decided on a whim, to add some new friends to her Facebook page. It was a step, she decided. After clicking on a bunch of new friend requests for random people, one of those requests had messaged her. He had asked her how they knew each other, and when she told him they didn’t, they started talking to get to know each other. Those messages lead to text messages, then phone calls, then video chats, and now she and Josh were here, eating dinner for the first time together.
          It had gone well. She already felt like she knew him. Carol thought that when she got to meet him face to face, it would have been more awkward than what it was. Bile threatened to rise in her throat with all the butterflies swarming around in there since she had said yes to their date two weeks ago. He had set everything up, at her denial for him to do so. They lived in different states and decided to meet somewhere for the weekend, like a mini getaway. She had never been to New York and he wanted to show her around. He had booked the plane ticket, the hotel, the dinner, and from what he revealed, a carriage ride tomorrow.
          It was romantic but she still felt a little weird at someone else planning everything. That was normally something she did, and it was a bit unsettling. Cristy, her friend who pushed her to get a life, told her to enjoy it. Relaxing was not a normal thing for this mother, but she was trying.
When she first got off the plane, after grabbing her baggage, she walked towards the exit. Her shaking hands and sweaty palms evidence of her nervousness about this first real encounter. The descending escalator gave her a full view of the lobby. Her heart began to speed up when she spotted him to the right side of the exit doors. He was just like his photos, his crew-cut black hair and sun-kissed skin a contrast to the baby blue fitted tee-shirt he sported. His eyes covered by the dark sunglasses he wore.
          He hadn’t spotted her yet and that gave her time to appraise him openly without feeling odd about it. Sweeping her gaze down his body she took in his muscle tone, his sculpted arms, and the way the shirt clung to them just right. His jeans hugged his legs at the thighs, outlining every beefy muscle, and resting over some sneakers. Her mouth began to water, and she swallowed, loudly. The man standing next to her looked at her with concern and she just smiled back at him. The escalator was almost at the bottom when she turned her gaze back around.
         Josh had spotted her. His sunglasses placed on top of his head now and she was stunned by his dark brown eyes. The smirk on his face only attracting her more and making her blush. Her gut twisted with anxiety and she took in a shaky breath. “Ok. Here we go.” Carol muttered under her breath to herself.
          She reached the bottom of the escalator, pulling her bags along with her, and made her way toward him. The moment she had dreamed of for the last few months was finally here. She would get to meet the man she had been talking to, face to face. Could her body be anymore confusing right now? She wanted to run to him, but she also felt like she should get back on the plan and go home. Her friend’s words, “Go get a life”, played over and over again in her head, spurring her on.
         “You made it. How was your flight?” He spoke loudly to overshadow the noise around them.
         “It was good. Nothing too exciting. Felt like I was shoved in a tuna can though.” Carol parked her suitcase and bag next to her.
         He gave a light chuckle easing some of her tension. “Tuna can huh?” He placed his cell phone back in his pocket. “I am so glad you are here.”
          “Me too.” Her voice came out more solid than she felt but it was the truth. She wanted this moment to happen.
          Surprise hit when he moved in and hugged her. Her body tensed up as he wrapped his arms around her, and she gave a little gasp. Seconds ticked by and her body began to relax, wrapping her own arms around his neck. There was a second where she felt odd like she considered this cheating, but then her brain reminded her that she was single again.
         He must have felt her change in mood because he squeezed her a bit tighter, pressing her body firmly against his. Carol laid her face against his hard chest and breathed in his masculine scent. Making a mental note to ask him later what he wore.
         She felt his lungs expand when he tilted his head and smelled her hair. “You smell amazing” she heard him say and felt like she should giggle. No one had ever smelled her hair like that before. Her eyes fluttered closed. She felt a sense of contentment being wrapped in his arms. Something she had longed for, even before the news of her husband’s passing.
         Her mind began to wander but it was brought back when Josh’s lips pressed against her ear, “I am so glad you came.” He whispered and heat flooded her body. Her eyes popped open.
         He pulled back then, and she was grateful even though she missed the contact. His eyes roamed her body before he reached for her bags. “You don’t have to do that.” She began to protest but Josh lifted one hand.
         “I want to.” He hauled her duffle bag over his shoulder and grabbed the handle of her suitcase. “Now let’s get settled in at the hotel. I got two rooms as you asked.” He started walking, Carol falling into stride next to him. “Are you hungry?”
          “Starving. I only ate breakfast before I left.”
          “Good. We will get settled in and I will come to get you by seven. That should give you enough time to get ready right?”
          His questioning gaze turning to her. His eyes capturing her attention again. “Yes. That sounds nice.”
           The whole way to the hotel in the back of the taxi, he sat right next to her. Their fingers entwined and his thumb rubbing the back of her hand. They talked as if there was nothing weird between them. It was as if they had known each other longer than they did, and their comfort level was so easy. By the time they reached the hotel, she was wondering what had her so nervous in the first place.
          All of that changed though when she got into her hotel room. She was alone with her thoughts. Memories, old and new colliding, and making it seem surreal. Her emotions warred within her. She knew this wasn’t cheating, told herself mentally, but something was holding her back and she wasn’t quite sure what it was. She was attracted to Josh, knew she could see them becoming more, but what if she did something wrong? What if her mind won out over her body? How could she find peace in a mental place like where she was? He knew of her past, knew of what she was going through, and was understanding. He had been supportive of her fears and never pushed her. That was one thing that drew her to him. His compassion.
         By the time she was showered, changed, and ready to walk out the door, her insides were becoming a civil war. One half of her fighting with the other and anxiety was a key player. The uncertainty of how her evening would go was making it harder and harder to handle the night.
          She all but jumped out of her skin when the knock sounded at her door. She smoothed down her dress, trying to calm her shaky nerves, before reaching for the handle and greeting Josh.
          As soon as his eyes met hers, her fears of the evening melted away. Sex oozed off him in waves. He wore a long-sleeve deep red button-down shirt with some dark grey slacks. She tilted her head to stare up at him and noticed he gave her his own appraisal. His eyes sliding up and down her body had her nerves peaking again and she felt the heat rise to her cheeks.
          “You know you are beautiful when you blush.” The statement only making her blush more. “That dress really brings out the redness in your hair.” Carol looked down at her crimson-colored dress. The dress was a parting gift from Cristy. Her friend said she saw it in a dress shop and knew she had to buy it for her. Carol, of course, protested, saying she never really wore dresses, but her friend made her swear she would wear it. Now, she was glad she did. The way Josh looked at her, like she was the meal, had her insides melting.
          She cleared her throat. “Thank you. You ready to go?”
          He stepped back and held out his arm for her to take. “Yes, Ma’am.”
She turned and grabbed her purse off the table next to the door before stepping out into the hall and shutting the door. The shy smile she gave him, as she took his arm, only one indication that she was looking forward to dinner.
          During their meal, she expected Josh to try to be a perfect gentleman. When she had dated, before getting married, men always tried to impress her at the beginning. She used to hate the false sense of behavior because their true selves would always come out later and it was disappointing to her. Maybe it was because they already partially knew each other or maybe it was just his normal personality, but she didn’t get that once from him. He seemed self-conscious at times, playing with his utensils, apologizing for messing around on his phone for long minutes at a time, or how he would laugh a little too loud at something she said that had others staring at them. Those moments had her laughing even harder, causing more attention their way. It was refreshing to see he wasn’t perfect because she sure knew she wasn’t.
          Now their meals were done, and she was stuffed. The food causing her to feel a lulling sense of sleepiness. He stretched, causing his chair to creak, and she laughed again when he almost fell backward. A waiter rushed over to their table asking if everything was ok.
         “Yes, sorry. Just unable to handle my chair it seems.”
         The joke lost on the waiter as his smile turned into a frown and he surveyed the chair Josh was sitting in. Carol couldn’t help but bust out in giggles that had the waiter’s eyes narrowing on her. His frown now replaced with an almost scowl.
           “I see.” The waiter said. “Well, would you like anything else this evening?” The waiter straightened and looked between the two of them. Josh’s eyes landed on hers and his eyebrow arched in question.
         Her cheeks already flushed from her laughing; Carol shook her head for fear of laughing once again. “We are all good,” Josh stated.
          “Very well then Sir. Here is your check. Just let me know when you are ready.” The waiter pulled out a strip of paper from his vest pocket, but Josh already had his card in his hand, handing it over to the waiter.
           “No need. We are ready.” The waiter just took the card and turned back the way he had come.
          “No dessert?” He asked her.
          “I am stuffed. I don’t think I could eat anything else right now if I tried.” She slowly placed her utensils and napkin onto her empty plate. Something she always did before leaving a table. “Maybe I will call for something later.”
         Josh said nothing as he watched her. His eyes taking in every movement she made. When she was done, she leaned over and grabbed her purse. She checked her cell phone for messages before putting it back and resting the purse on her lap.
         Her eyes met his and the look he was giving her had her pulse speeding up. His intense stare made her squirm a bit in her seat. His focus was broken when the waiter returned with his receipt. He thanked him and got up. The waiter turned and walked away to another table.
          Josh walked over to her chair as she pushed it back and took her hand to wrap around his arm, helping her up. “Ready to go back to your room? Or did you want to do something else?” The hopeful look in his eyes dimmed some when she said she wanted to go back to her room for the night. She knew she had disappointed him, but she needed to get out of this dress and heels. They were killing her feet and she was still uncomfortable wearing an outfit that showed her legs. “Ok. Let’s get you back upstairs then.”
          They walked back to the elevator in silence. The air almost stifling inside the elevator as they stood there. The elevator music barely registering as the pounding of her heartbeat in her ears drown out the noise. If she could just get back to her room, she could calm herself down enough to not feel so on edge. Her nerves would relax when she was alone. She didn’t realize Josh had moved right next to her. Her focus directed on getting to her room and finding some calm.
          His hand slid around to her waist and she realized he had said something in her ear, but she couldn’t make out what. Shaking her head, she said “what?”
         He chuckled, his hot breath fanning the skin at her neck. “I said, you look good enough to eat.” He nipped at her ear and it made her start a bit. “No need to be scared baby.” He placed a kiss on her neck. “You have known for weeks that I wanted to touch you. I have told you that.” His fingers ran up and down her side where his arm wrapped around her, while his other cradled her chin to turn her face to look at him. Carol could feel the warmth of his body pressing into her side and she felt almost intoxicated with the emotions running through her.
         “There is no reason to be scared around me little mouse. I can wait if that is what you want but I thought you said you wanted to see how it felt to be in my arms too?” His expressive eyes told her that he spoke sincerely. The smooth motion of his hands on her side and the feel of him pressed against her. The reference little mouse would have had her giggling if she wasn’t so aware of him touching her. She had told him before she was a mouse compared to him, height-wise, and it was true. He toward over her 5’2 frame by a good foot.
          “I did,” she squeaked out. Her mouth fighting to catch up with her brain. Inside her head, she was running a million miles a minute and she figured he could tell. His hand tilted her head up further as the arm around her turned her to face him.
         She went to say something, but it was stifled as his mouth came down upon hers. Her eyes fell shut and she lightly moaned from the soft feel of his lips. As he kissed her the hand on her chin moved around to the back of her neck fisting a handful of hair at the base. She moaned again and the rumble that came from his chest in response had heat pooling low in her stomach.
         His tongue pushed against her lips and she slowly parted them, allowing him access. When he deepened the kiss, the arm around her tightens, almost lifting her off the ground. She felt him hard against her. Knew what it meant. If he didn’t have a tight grip on her, she knew she would have been a puddle on the floor of the elevator from how weak her legs felt.
         Her tongue met his and she felt a jolt of electricity shoot up her spine. This time he was the one to moan. The low baritone of his moan vibrated her whole body. Slowly, he rubbed against her. The sensation sent shivers all through her and she felt herself get wet. This moment would be one she would never forget.
         The elevator door slid open at their floor and they didn’t notice until they heard someone clearing their throat. Carol ripped her mouth away from Josh’s and turned her head to stare at a couple holding the door of the elevator open. Josh’s hands fell away from her and she moved back a few inches. Keeping her head down she picked up the purse, she wasn’t aware she had even dropped, and tried to fix any loose ends of hair. Josh moved in front of her, blocking her view of the couple.
          “Sorry.” He said maneuvering around them to get out of the elevator and hold the door for them to get in. Carol was sure her face was beat red at being caught like some high schoolers necking in the elevator. She couldn’t even look up when she passed the couple, also apologizing before stepping off onto her floor. Embarrassment flooded her.
         She and Josh stood there in the hallway as the doors closed. She was lost in thought as she stared at the floor. He made an odd noise and she noticed he shifted his pants. Her eyes lifted watching him adjust himself. The look in his eyes showed sympathy but also a raw hunger. One she thought was mirrored on her own face.
         She wanted him. Had adored the way he touched her and loved the way their bodies fit together. She never thought she could feel such intense emotion again, but this was also a different type of emotion from what she and her deceased husband had felt like together. Josh was so much different than Gerald that it was like Earth versus Jupiter.
         “Are you ok?” He asked. His eyes searching her face. His hand reached out and gently rubbed her arm. He gave a smile and a jerk of his head as she just nodded.
         “OK. Let’s get you to your room.” He linked his arm with hers and nudged her to move with him down the hallway. She followed, without any complaint.
         They walked the short distance in silence. She was grateful because it allowed her to clear her mind. As soon as that happened the thoughts came. Was she moving too fast? Was this normal? The attraction she felt for him, if her body was any indication, was really strong. It almost scared her.
         Carol felt him tug her back when they reached her door and she went to keep walking. He lightly chuckled. “A penny for your thoughts?” He asked, arching an eyebrow questioningly.
         “Sorry,” she apologized again. “I was just thinking over how fast all this seems.”
         He tugged her in front of him and moved a strand of her hair that fell from behind her ear. His eyes seemed to glitter as she stared into them. “We have been talking for months. I don’t think it is fast at all. If you feel we need to slow down, we can. I don’t want to rush you into anything, but I will say, what we just shared in the elevator was amazing.”
         “It was.” She agreed without hesitation. She couldn’t deny that fact.
         He leaned in closer. Their foreheads almost touching. “If you feel what I do, please give us a try. I promise to not make you regret it.”
        Her heart raced and her palms began to dampen again. The way this man affected her body, would be the death of her, she was sure of it. She needed to get a grip on herself before she made a decision. She already made a big one by even agreeing to come. Knowing more could come out of it but also knowing it could end badly. So far, nothing bad has happened except her own mind fighting with her.
         “I am tired. Can we try again tomorrow?” The breathless way her words came out sounded odd even to herself. His eyebrows drew together but he didn’t protest. He brushed a light kiss to her forehead and backed away. Straightening himself, he pulled down his shirt some.
         “OK baby. I get it.” He hooked a finger into the collar of his shirt and stretched it out some. She figured he was flustered just as much as she was and felt bad about causing it. “Let me know if you need anything tonight. Good night.” He turned and walked away from her.
         “Good night.” She mumbled, stunned at how abruptly he just left her. That was until she realized he stopped at the next door over and ran a key card through the scanner. The door popped open along with her mouth. “Wait,” she started, “your room is right next to mine?”
         He tilted his head towards her and smiled. “Yes. I asked to be close to yours” He opened the door and stepped into the doorway, holding it open. “Like I said if you need anything, let me know. I will still be up for a while.” With that, he disappeared, and the door shut behind him.
         Carol stood in the hallway, stunned. He was right next door. That new development had her even more intrigued now. The notion of him being so close did exciting things to her libido. She tried to push down the many thoughts that ran through her mind as she pulled her own key card from her purse and opened her hotel room door.
       After getting into her room she tossed her bag down on the hall table by the door. She stared at the connecting door that leads to Josh’s room. He planned this. She wasn’t sure if she should be elated or worried. He wasn’t a serial killer; she knew because she had him checked out several times before agreeing to come all this way to see him. Plus, her friend and kids knew where she was if anything weird was to happen. They had been talking for months and she felt like she knew him intimately. Besides, there were always cameras from the hotel. No, he wasn’t a threat.
         That just left her with a thrilling sensation coursing through her body. Should she let him in, or should she sleep it off? Either way, she figured it would be hard to sleep. Tossing and turning did not appeal to her since she had done it for months. Having someone she wanted to help her with her needs didn’t sound so bad, did it?
         Cautiously, she moved toward the adjourning door. She opened her side and stared at the other door. Trying to be as silent as possible, she leaned against the door. She could hear water running and some noise she assumed was the TV but couldn’t make anything out. Closing her eyes, she silently said a prayer to gain the nerve to raise her hand and lightly knock on the door.
         Her eyes flew open when the water shut off and she backed away from the door just before it swung open. Josh stood there, shirtless. His belt was hanging around his pants that had been unbuttoned and zipped down, showing the V of his hips. Her eyes roamed back up his lightly muscled stomach to his face. He was smiling at her. The biggest grin plastered on his face.
         “Did you forget something little mouse?” His voice sounded deep and his head tilted slightly as both his hands held onto the door frame of his room.
         She nodded.
        “What did you forget?”
        She swallowed. It was now or never. “You.”

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