By: Candace Blevins

“Did you grow up around here?” he asked, his voice sounding rote.

“Oh, my goodness! You have a talking points list on your phone for conversation!” She hadn’t meant to sound so accusatory, but still. Really? Notes for small talk? She was right though, even the restaurant’s dim lighting couldn’t hide his red face.

His tone was defensive, but persuasive rather than angry. “I can comfortably speak at conferences in front of thousands of people, and hardened attorneys and mediators three times my age say they’re impressed by my handling of negotiations.” He sat back, rolling his eyes and giving a self-deprecating smile. “For business stuff, I don’t have a problem with words, but I have very little experience one-on-one, with a girl.” He realized what he’d said and corrected himself quickly. “Woman — one-on-one, dinner with a woman.”

He paused, obviously frustrated. “Look, you already know I haven’t dated much. You seem shy, too. Has our conversation been so bad?”

She shook her head and answered his question, telling him she’d lived here all her life, asking him the same in return, and knowing in her heart she’d never go out with him again.

She learned the hard way it was futile to start a relationship with someone who wouldn’t be able to stimulate her sexually — no guy’s ego could handle a woman who didn’t get turned on in bed even a little. Unfortunately, the type of men capable of bringing her to orgasm were nothing like Travis Winslow.

The rest of their meal was awkward and stilted and she just wanted it to end. Unfortunately, cooking each bite before you could eat it meant dinner lasted forever. She loved the food and atmosphere, but made a mental note it was a bad place for a first date.

When at last it was time to leave she walked to her car with Travis on her heals. He stepped in front of her door so she couldn’t open it, and as she turned to look up at him he bent down to kiss her. She pulled back and he hesitated, but she wasn’t sure if he was giving her a chance to move away, or was nervous about kissing her.

Cara decided to step to the side to avoid him since her back was to the car; but when she shifted her weight he reached for the nape of her neck and lowered his lips to hers. His hands held her head and his body blocked hers with no hesitation and no doubts, as if her pulling away had compelled him to hold her in place.

It wasn’t the kiss she expected. He controlled her mouth, her lips, her entire body; and she melted into him as he took over. His lips slid on hers as his tongue invaded without tentatively seeking permission, building a slow arousal until her breath caught and her blood pulsed in her ears.

When he released her, sliding his lips to her cheek before pulling away, he kept his hand on the back of her head and looked into her eyes. Not saying anything, just looking. She felt as if he were claiming her, and she was ready to let him.

Wait. What? This was the geek who couldn’t make conversation? She stepped to the side and away from him, prepared to remove his hand from the back of her head if necessary, but he relaxed his hold and let her. Neither spoke, and her mind moved in every direction at once. He’d commanded their kiss in a totally different way than she was used to. Not worse or better, but different.

She went out with assholes who were only interested in getting into her pants, who did and said whatever it took to get her into bed. Travis wasn’t like that, was he? He was so backwards socially and yet so forward with his kisses.

“I don’t understand.”

He didn’t smile, his eyes focused intently on hers. “What don’t you understand?”

Living with musicians had taught her a little about speaking her mind, so she powered through her shyness to say, “You could barely keep conversation going. How can someone too shy for small talk kiss like that? You’re not supposed to have ever had a girlfriend only...” She stopped, realizing it was bad-mannered to bring it up.

He looked at the ground as he finished her sentence. “Only whores, right?”

The air went out of her. How could she be so insensitive? “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize where I was going until it came out. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

He looked around. “Can we discuss this somewhere else?”

“I don’t know you well enough to get in your car with you. If you’re not too good to sit in a Mazda3 we can get in mine.”

“I’m not too good to get into any kind of car, Cara. Besides, it’s cute and looks pretty new, so I’m sure it’s dependable and I bet it gets great gas mileage.”