“Want to go for a walk?” Nicholas leaned closer to Becky but didn’t need to speak too quietly because the chatter in the conference room was more a post-meeting circle of smaller conversations. He stood and offered his hand, helping Becky from her seat.
As if their earlier taunts hadn’t garnered enough teasing, being the first to leave the table, and leaving together, set the group off again.
“Sneaking off together already?” Matthew asked.
“Dr. Benson doesn’t want to lose the bet,” Levi said. “She’s got a lot invested in tonight’s adventures.”
“You get her pregnant and I’m holding you in breach of contract for stealing one of my best faculty members,” Timothy called from across the table.
“Gentlemen, we are going for a walk together.” Nicholas nodded regally to the group. “I may not have a degree in physiology, but I’m pretty sure that won’t get her pregnant.” He escorted Becky from the room.
“Goodnight, guys!” Becky called over her shoulder. “Hold onto that money for me!”
“You’re adorable, you know that?” Nicholas kissed her temple. He led her onto the dusty street that ran alongside the basecamp and toward downtown Flores. The lights from the city lit the sky in an urban glow that only penetrated a short distance before being swallowed in a blackness speckled with a million diamonds. A car honked in the distance and a dog nearby barked incessantly for no apparent reason.
“They’re all too easy to tease.” As she’d done when they first rode in his Lamborghini, Becky’s cadence shifted as soon as they were alone from flirting with the guys into a mature lady. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to spend the evening trying to seduce you.”
“That’s good, because I was kind of hoping to save that until after we’re married.” He wondered how she’d react. When she’d learned he was twenty-nine and never been kissed, she’d laughed at him. By deductive reasoning she would have already figured out that he was still a virgin. Would his desire to wait until marriage be a deal-breaker? He hoped not but now would be the time to get that out of the way before getting too emotionally involved and have their hearts broken.
“Me too,” Becky said without hesitation.
“Really?” He turned her to face him. “You’re not just saying that?”
“No, I’m serious. I may flirt and goof off, but when it comes down to actually sleeping together, I really want a lifetime commitment first.”
Nicholas let out the breath he’d been holding. “I figured you were going to think I was a prude and a geek.”
“Well, I know you’re a geek,” she teased then turned and kept walking. “I’m glad we talked about this because it’s better for us to make that decision now than in the heat of the moment, ya know?”
“No, actually, I don’t.” Nicholas chuckled. “I’ve never gotten that far around the bases. I’m so inexperienced, I don’t even know what the bases are, unless you’re comparing them to acids, then I can tell you the coefficients to balance any chemical equation.”
Becky threw her head back and laughed, seeming carefree and excited about life. “There’s definitely enough chemistry between us, I’ll give you that.”
“See if we were smart, we’d just sleep in the same hotel room tonight, take their money in the morning, and go out for brunch.”
“Tempting… but so are you.” Her contemplative whisper told its own story. “I’m not sure I want to tempt myself that way.”
Nicholas pulled her to a stop again, the dust from the road settling in a puff around their feet. He searched her blue eyes for a moment, the waning light darkening them to nearly grey. “Rebecca Benson, I think I might fall in love with you.”
“You know what I think?” She allowed herself to drift closer until their bodies were nearly touching. He waited for her to answer her own question. “I think you need to start looking for jobs near Houston.”
“You think so, huh?” He reached up and tucked a lock of hair that had fallen from its clip around her ear, then just boldly reached around and pulled the clip out entirely letting her hair cascade over her shoulders. “For our wedding I’d love for you to wear your hair down.”
“Are you proposing to me, Dr. Stephenson?”
“Would you like me to propose to you, Dr. Benson?” He stepped even closer and wove his fingers into the heavy locks at the base of her neck, still damp from her shower a million hours ago before two plane rides and one very long planning meeting. “How is your hair wet after all these hours?”
“Hair doesn’t dry when it’s tucked up in a clip. Plus, the humidity here won’t allow it to dry. I’m probably sweaty and gross.”
He pulled the hair off one shoulder and placed a kiss behind her ear, causing her to go limp in his arms with a soft moan. He moved to the other side and placed a kiss there as well. His voice was husky as he mumbled, “You don’t smell sweaty to me… at all.”
“That’s good…” Her words were barely a breath. “Yeah, so, about this whole waiting for marriage thing, how committed to that notion are you?”
“About eighty percent.” He kissed her neck again then moved up her chin toward her lips. “Seventy-five, maybe.” He captured her mouth in his and thought to himself, fifty-fifty. Maybe forty-five.
As they kissed while standing in the dusty street behind the makeshift conference room where their team were still sitting around chatting and laughing, all Nicholas could think about was how quickly the numbers were falling and how good brunch would taste in the morning.