The ride up the hill was arduous, especially racing to his condo in the heat of day rather than casually wandering home enjoying the cool of the evening. Time for a quick shower or Becky wouldn’t want to spend the afternoon in his car. Not that he expected intimacy on the day they’d met again for the first time in years, but he took a minute to run a quick razor across his stubble and brushed his teeth. Silly.
Slipping into the soft leather seat of his Lamborghini, Nicholas almost moaned with pleasure. Maybe that was his misdirected desire for the beautiful woman who would soon join him in the passenger seat.
He felt invincible shifting gears and flying down the switchbacks of the narrow roads, hoping he didn’t encounter any police in these quiet residential neighborhoods. All he would need to do is suggest the officer take a moment to sit behind the wheel and maybe take a spin and the guy would be so starstruck he’d forget how many miles per hour Nicholas had been travelling over the speed limit.
Nicholas slowed as he neared campus and circled the buildings before finding a vacated spot close enough to the café to see his baby from the window. Paranoid? Yeah, just a bit. Justified? Yep. He set the car alarm and jogged across the street to meet up with Becky and Levi.
Even though the two distracted professors were tucked in a booth in the back corner, Nicholas sat at a table near the window, and waved them over to join him.
While Becky creased her brows in confusion, Levi gathered the computer and his bagel, heading toward the table in the front of the café.
“Why are we moving?” Becky asked, grabbing her briefcase and croissant sandwich.
“He won’t let his baby out of his line of sight.” Levi’s matter-of-fact statement included his acceptance.
“Holy Lamborghini,” Becky said, lowering into the chair beside Nicholas. “I can see why.” Her jaw hung open and her eyes never left the candy apple red Lamborghini Urus parked across the street as she took a bite of her sandwich.
“No need to rush your lunch. I won’t leave without you.” Nicholas lowered his voice and bumped her shoulder gently. “I’m going to grab a sandwich. You keep an eye on my car.”
“Okay.” Distracted, she took another bite.
He hurried to order his usual grilled chicken panini and slipped back into the seat beside Becky. “So, Dr. Benson, what have you been up to the past seven years since you finished your PhD? You married? Kids? Boyfriend? Girlfriend? Significant other? Still pining after this hot guy who used to drool over you in the computer lab during grad school?” Nicholas took a bite of his panini, passing the conversational baton.
Becky threw her head back and laughed. “No, I’ve never been married, haven’t really had time for a significant other—male or female. I spend my days in my labs doing research and analysis, spend my evenings eating microwave meals in front of my computer conducting more research and analysis, and get far too little sleep.”
“Do you have a twin sister?” Levi looked up from his focus on the laptop.
“Sadly, no. Not all of us are able to duplicate ourselves and accomplish twice the work of mere mortals.” She turned toward Nicholas. “As for still pining over certain hot geeks from my grad school days, that is something we’ll have to discuss when we have a little more… privacy.”
Nicholas gulped and lowered his voice. “I never said anything about said grad student being a geek.”
“Are you disputing the title?” Her eyes smoldered.
“Absolutely not.” His words had taken on a husky intensity he couldn’t hold back.
“Would the two of you please leave?” Levi never looked up from the computer, but his words held annoyance. “Your foreplay is making me want to puke.”
Nicholas and Becky both sat up, leaning away from each other. He didn’t argue Levi’s request but didn’t want to abandon him. “How are you going to get home?”
“The same way I got here.” Levi pointed across the street. “My bike is locked to that rack.”
“What about my computer?” Becky asked.
“I have my messenger bag right here.” Levi lifted the bag from the seat by his side. “I’ll take good care of your laptop and meet you guys at the condo in a few hours… if you don’t wind up back at Dr. Benson’s hotel room, in which case I’ll see you in the morning. Or afternoon. Or whenever you come up for air.”
“Very funny.” Nicholas stood and offered a hand to help Becky up, savoring the jolt of heat that rushed through his core at the power of her connection. Hotel room? Yeah… no. He’d never even been brave enough to kiss a girl. She was right about him being a geek. Still, geeks have feelings too. Really strong feelings. He needed to get his mind out of the gutter and take her for a drive. On a nice, country road. Not to her hotel. He held up his keys. “Ready?”
She boldly threaded her fingers through his as they crossed the street and he didn’t complain. He clicked the key fob and woke up his baby then held open the passenger door for the spunky professor who was going to bring him to his knees. The wonderment in her eyes as she settled into the leather bucket seat was worth all $270,000 of this purchase.
Nicholas hurried around to the driver’s seat and drew in a whiff of the new car smell, which now held a hint of whatever perfume Becky was wearing. Yeah, he could get used to having her in his car.
“Your brother’s very fun to tease.” Becky’s tone had changed now that she wasn’t trying to make Levi jealous.
“At least he’s finally resolved himself to the notion that you’re not interested.” Nicholas slipped on a pair of shades and carefully backed out of his parking spot.
“I don’t know. He is kind of cute. Looks just like this guy I used to have a crush on during graduate school.”
“Yeah?” Nicholas grinned as he shifted into drive and forced himself to keep his speed down through campus. “Tell me about this cute guy from grad school.”
“Well, he was so shy around me that he could hardly pull a sentence together. But I knew he was only shy around me because I watched him from afar and heard him talking to others when he didn’t know I was nearby. He was so intelligent it was intimidating but he was so kind to everyone that no one was really intimidated. And the work he submitted for assignments was near perfect. Always.”
“I’m far from perfect.” Nicholas cleared his throat and lowered his voice, no longer teasing.
“I haven’t been able to stop thinking of you all these years later,” she said. “I’ve followed your career. You, and your brother’s.”
“Between the two of you, you’re published in so many scholarly journals, I can hardly keep up.”
“We have no life outside of our research,” Nicholas explained. “It’s easy to get published when you’re competing against guys who have wives and kids and other jobs. Plus, like you said earlier, we’re able to duplicate ourselves by working together.”
“That’s how I knew to contact you.”
“And here I was starting to think you liked me for my looks and intelligence and hot car.”
“Darn, you found me out.”
“I hope you know Levi was just kidding about the hotel room. He knows I would never do that.”
“I knew he was teasing.”
“I’ve never even kissed a woman.”
“Nick, you’re twenty-nine years old.” Her jaw hung open. “What other twenty-nine-year-old man hasn’t kissed a woman?”
“Uh… the one who looks just like me and is drooling over your laptop.”
“We’re going to need to remedy this travesty.” Becky laughed.
“You’re going to kiss my brother?” Nicholas feigned shock.
“No, silly guy.” She pushed his shoulder. “I’m going to kiss you.”
“Should I pull the car over right now?” Nicholas teased. He crossed the Charles River and merged onto Interstate 90 heading toward the coast.
“Nah, you’ve waited twenty-nine years. I think you can wait a few more minutes until we arrive wherever it is you’re taking me.”
“I’m taking you to the closest thing we have to an archaeological site in this part of the country. I hope you don’t mind a quick drive.”
“How long is quick?”
“Forty-five minutes in a sports car with one of the smartest men I’ve ever met, who also happens to be really hot and has a crush on me. Hmm… let me think about it.”
“You’re cute.” Nicholas chuckled and lifted Becky’s hand to intertwine their fingers, still in shock that she was back in his life after all these years. “You know what? I think I will let you kiss me today. That sounds like fun.”
As they wound their way south toward the Atlantic coast, banter was light and playful, getting to know each other as adults and peers, interspersed with comfortable pauses of companionable silence.
“Ah, I forgot we have to take a charter over to the island.” Nicholas pulled into the parking lot at the end of the peninsula of Hull, Massachusetts. “I hope you’re not averse to hopping on a boat.”
“I’m game.” She exited the vehicle without waiting for him to come around and open the door for her.
Nicholas reminded himself to be a chivalrous gentleman when possible while respecting her boundaries as a strong, independent woman. He reached out a hand inviting her to connect. She did and his heart soared again.
He paid the owner of Charter Island Tours to take them over to Lovells Island and wait there for them while they did a little sightseeing. Once on the island, they paid to have a driver take them to Fort Standish, one of the earliest fortifications in the modern defenses of Boston Harbor. Once used as a fort and gun emplacement, most of the buildings were now spalled and crumbling.
“Not exactly a thousand years old,” Nicholas apologized. “But an impressive example of ruins nonetheless.”
They walked around the ruins for a little while, discussing how the exploration would play out in Guatemala. They would have a team of experts to cut through the dense forest and obtain all the information they could while camping there for the summer. There were indigenous tribes near the dig site who would understandably be upset to have the scientists poking around one of the sites they consider to be sacred. Once they returned to their respective universities, they would conduct analyses to make sense of the collected data.
Nicholas halted the conversation when they rounded the corner of the fort to face the Atlantic Ocean and stood in a secluded location. This was the perfect place. He leaned his back against the crumbling concrete wall and pulled Becky to him.
Her face grew stoic and she must have known exactly why he had stopped.
“There’s something I’ve wanted to do for years,” Nicholas said, his voice lowering and husky. Slowly to avoid startling her, he reached up and unclipped that which was holding her elegant twist. The golden locks fell and she shook out her hair to fall on her shoulders. He lowered his voice even further, almost to a whisper. “You’re so beautiful, Rebecca.”
Without any further preamble, she leaned forward, and he pulled himself away from the wall and they met in a soft, mildly passionate kiss. Fireworks must have exploded over his head for the way a jolt of energy soared through his body, awaking inner desires he hadn’t realized he’d been suppressing.
This woman was everything Nicholas had dreamt about and more. He couldn’t wait to spend the summer in her presence. They kissed for several long minutes before driving down to the boat and riding back to the peninsula for the 45-minute drive home.