The blank page stared back as if it had eyes. It was an eerie feeling that gave Sophie Michaels the chills. She reached over and flipped the light switch but nothing happened. She grimaced and remembered the bulb had gone out a couple of days before. The storm clouds had long ago hid the sun and the room was getting dark. As the one lamp in the small room flickered, Sophie tried to think where the flashlight was, in case the power went out.
She rummaged around in the small closet for the flashlight and another light bulb. Organization was something foreign to her and it showed. Schoolbooks, sports equipment, papers and shoes filled the shelves. Stuck in a corner was the empty light bulb package. The house shook from the sudden clap of thunder. Or was it from the way she slammed the closet door? Shadows flickered on every wall from the non-stop lightning.
Rain pelted the windows as the storm intensified. A bolt of lightning struck the old maple tree in the backyard and split it in two. As the branches crashed to the ground, they fell across a power line, sending sparks through the air. Sophie screamed at the instant blackness in the room as the storm raged on.
A sudden intrusion of lights several minutes later scared Sophie even more. With her eyes shaded against the brightness, almost afraid to check, she made her way to the closest window. Through the sheets of rain, she could see two fire trucks, and an assortment of emergency personnel. Men were standing next to a car and pointing to the fallen wires. Sophie watched as some of the crew turned a hose onto the neighbor's garage. Flames and smoke spewed out of the small building.
Without thinking, she ran towards the door, afraid for the people living in the house next to her. After stumbling into furniture, she turned the knob, flung the door open and ran outside. The smoke was thick and curling into the air from the fire. People were coming out of their homes to gather in the front yard. Sophie watched the organized chaos as she hurried to join the group.
"Sophie, over here!" she heard from the crowd.
"You're lucky that tree didn't fall on your house, too," another voice called out.
"I swear it was the loudest thing I ever heard," someone said.
"Where are the Calhouns? Has anyone seen them?" Sophie asked no one in particular.
"They're with the fire chief. One of their kids smelled smoke and woke Mrs. Calhoun up," the first voice replied. "Thankfully it was the garage and not their house."
Sophie stood next to the growing circle of concerned neighbors. She heard one of the firefighters telling another how fortunate the homeowners were. It occurred to her that it could have been much worse if the garage hadn't been a separate building. She shivered and wished she had thought to grab a jacket. Even though the rain had let up, and it was a warm night, her blouse stuck to her skin.
A man with a jacket identifying him as being from the local electric company walked their way. Sophie heard his velvety rich voice as he spoke to an older man from down the block. Soon he turned her way and smiled. Her heart pounded when she saw how gorgeous he was.
"Excuse me, ma'am. I'm Luke Flynn from the electric company. I understand you live next door here," he stated.
"Yes," Sophie confirmed.
"I wanted you to know the men will get your power back on as soon as possible," he explained.
"Okay. I couldn't find my flashlight though," she blurted.
"Your flashlight?" Luke asked with a confused look.
"I was looking for it because the light bulb burned out and then I heard the tree and saw the lights and it was too dark," she rambled.
"Are you alright? You didn't fall and hit your head..."
"No, I'm just nervous," Sophie mumbled.
"There's nothing to be nervous about. Things should be in order by tomorrow," he told her.
"Tomorrow? How do I see tonight?" she questioned. "I mean, it's dark in there and..."
The chuckle Sophie heard was warm and friendly. She blushed as she realized how dumb she must have sounded and tried to think of something smarter to say. Luke excused himself to talk with another worker and soon walked back to the truck. Sophie gave a quick wave to her neighbors and ran back into her house.
After feeling her way to the bedroom, she stripped off her soggy clothes, slipped on some pajamas and stumbled back to the living room. Sophie forgot all about the new story she had been trying to write earlier. For the next hour, sitting on a chair by her window, Sophie watched the crews work. When her eyes drifted shut, she settled lower in the chair, pulled a throw over her shoulders and slept.
A crick in her neck from sleeping in the chair woke her up several hours later. The sun was shining as if the storm of the night before had never happened. She took a fast cold shower since the power was still off and dressed for work. The clock had stopped so Sophie checked her watch. Running late was typical for her even without any excuses. Shuffling through her purse, grumbling at the junk inside it, she grinned when her fingers touched her keys.
It crossed her mind that it was a good thing her garage was too messy to fit her car inside. Without any power, her electric garage door opener would be useless, and she would be stuck at home. Hearing her stomach rumbling reminded her she missed breakfast. Several miles away she decided to grab some coffee and a donut from one of the convenience stores. Zipping in should take almost no time she told herself.
Sophie pulled into the store's parking lot and aimed for the empty spot near the door. Still cursing at herself for running late again, she slammed the car into park and grabbed her purse. It didn't matter how early she woke up, or how good her intentions were, something always happened to make her run late.
Scrambling out of her car, her mind on the meeting she was due at in half an hour, Sophie swore when she felt her nylon catch on the seat. Almost afraid to look at the damage, she stood up, slammed her door shut and twisted to check it out. The hole already had a run going from her ankle to above her knee.
"Great, now I have to buy a new pair," Sophie muttered. "What next?"
"Were you talking to me?"
Sophie thought she knew the voice but couldn't quite place it. She turned as she straightened up and found Luke Flynn standing a few feet from her. Sophie was mortified that he heard her talking to herself.
"Hello," she said. "You're from the electric company."
"That's right. We spoke at the fire last night." Luke explained.
A deep breath calmed Sophie's nerves. "I'm Sophie Michaels."
"Good morning, Sophie. I hope you didn't struggle too much without power last night."
"That was nothing compared to the cold shower. I had goose bumps all over," she replied.
The look she received from Luke at that statement brought a blush to her cheeks. Sophie knew she was built decent, but in her opinion, she was just average. Her short auburn hair framed her face enough to draw attention to the startling green of her eyes.
"I can imagine you did," Luke said. "Yes, I can imagine it."
The subtle flirting surprised Sophie. Luke had been working last night and had talked to so many people.
"Luke, it was nice to see you again but if I don't get to work on time my boss will have a fit," Sophie explained.
"No problem, Sophie. I really should be at work already myself," he confessed.
"Have a great day, Luke."
Sophie hurried into the store and scoured the racks for the panty hose. With a pair in hand, she cut down the rows, looking for the coffee machines. Lucky for her there was no line. While filling a cup with the dark brew she pulled a few napkins from the dispenser. Adding a lid to the cup, distracted when it failed to go on straight, she bumped someone on her left.
"Excuse me," she apologized.
"Following me, Sophie?"
Luke stood so close that Sophie could smell the lime cologne he wore. She saw the gleam in his blue eyes as he smiled down at her.
"Would you like me to?" she teased.
"There are many things I'd like you to do," Luke whispered close to her ear.
Sophie felt the chills go down her spine at the implications in his words. Several images popped into her mind as he looked at her. When another customer wanted coffee it reminded her where they were.
"I'd like to hear about them sometime, but right now, I should be at work," she said.
"Good point. I don't want to rush when I tell you either," Luke grinned.
They each paid for their purchases and walked to the door together. Sophie tried to think of a reply. Luke saved her as they reached her car.
"Is it alright if I call you sometime?" he asked.
"I'd like that, Luke," Sophie told him.
Luke opened her car door for her and waited until she had settled to close the door. He leaned into the open window as she started the car. Scrounging for some paper, she ripped a piece off her grocery list, scribbled her number on it, and handed it to Luke.
"Have a good day, Sophie," he said. "By the way, you have gorgeous legs."
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he stood up, waved and walked over to his vehicle. Sophie sat there stunned that he had noticed at all. She was wearing a calf-length skirt since she was on her way to work. Then it occurred to her he must have been watching when she pulled it up to check the run in her hose. As she drove to work, she remembered the heated look he gave her in the store. She was still smiling when she parked her car at work.
The day flew by for Sophie and soon she was on her way home. A quick stop at the market provided the makings for a salad for her dinner. Sophie pulled into her driveway a short time later still unsure if the electric was on. The chaos from the night before was gone only to reveal the burned out shell of her neighbor's garage. She could see just how close some of the tree branches had landed to her house and shivered at the thought.
Sophie brought her groceries in and dropped them onto the counter. The blare of music greeted her from her bedroom. Afraid for a moment that someone was in her house, she hesitated to go further. She kicked off her heels and picked one up as she made her way silently through the rooms. Her computer blinked at her from the desk. With a laugh, she remembered the radio had been on when the electricity went out the night before.
A quick change of clothes and Sophie was back in the kitchen fixing her dinner. Her mind was on the work she had tried to do the night before. Only a few people knew that Sophie dabbled in writing in her spare time. They had read a couple of her romantic stories and enjoyed them. None of them had an idea she also wrote erotica. Sophie wasn't ashamed of it. She was just a bit unsure how others might take it. It was her secret for now.
An idea had formed during the course of her day and she went to work getting it onto the computer. Sophie finally turned it off at midnight and went to bed. The next several days followed a similar routine of work and then home to write. Over the weekend, she cleaned her house, did the laundry, and caught up on errands.
Monday was a busy day at work and Sophie left exhausted. Once home she decided to order a pizza for delivery instead of cooking. The telephone rang minutes after she hung it up.
"Sophie?" she heard through the receiver.
"It is," she replied.
"This is Luke Flynn, Sophie. Am I interrupting anything?" he asked.
"Hello, Luke. No, I'm just waiting for my pizza to get here," Sophie said.
"Then I won't take up your time," Luke told her.
"Did you eat yet?"
"No, I just got home," he answered.
"Come on over and join me then," Sophie offered.
"I'd love to. Are you sure—" Luke began.
"It's a super supreme, Luke," Sophie stated. "There will be plenty for two."
"It sounds great. I can be there in fifteen minutes," he said.
"Perfect. The pizza will be here about then. I'll see you soon," Sophie replied.
Sophie ran through her small house picking up things. She looked down at her jeans and sweater and decided not to change. The doorbell rang just as she finished checking her hair. Luke stood on the steps holding a pizza box and grinning. A bit confused, Sophie opened the door, stepped aside, and let Luke in. He laughed at her expression and explained how the pizza driver pulled in right behind him.
"I intercepted dinner," he said.
"You shouldn't have, Luke," Sophie told him.
"Our first date and you were going to buy dinner?" he teased.
Sophie blushed when he mentioned a date. It reminded her of the story she had been working on. Two strangers bump into each other at odd places around town, date and soon fall in love. She knew it was a fantasy based on how she met Luke.
Luke told Sophie a bit about his family. He was the youngest of five children and the only one that didn't live in the same town his parents did. She laughed when he told her about the latest trip home. His mother had arranged a single woman from town to attend the family dinner in the hopes Luke would like her. According to Luke, she was loud, rude and obnoxious. Sophie almost felt sorry for him until he winked.
Around nine o'clock Luke got up to leave. Sophie walked him to the door and thanked him for the pizza. She had enjoyed herself and hoped Luke had as well.
"This was fun, Sophie," Luke said.
"It was very relaxing, Luke. Dinner was great," she teased.
Luke chuckled and waved as he walked to his truck. Sophie locked the door and headed to her computer. She was disappointed he hadn't mentioned seeing her again. For the next hour, she had her imaginary couple going all over town together. When she stopped for the night, she was pleased with the progress of the story, already thinking ahead to the next part.
Sophie put in a few extra hours at work the next couple of days. She kept busy in the evenings by mowing the lawn, weeding the flowerbeds, and writing. Soon it was the weekend all over again and Luke still hadn't called. She reminded herself he was a busy man and would call when he had time. What she didn't expect was to see him at her door Saturday afternoon.
"Luke!" she exclaimed.
"Busy, Sophie?" Luke asked.
"Not at all. I was just writing. Come in," Sophie said.
"Thanks, but if you're in the middle of something, I don't want to bother you."
Sophie opened the door wider and motioned for Luke to enter. A quick glance showed the computer screen no longer showed the story she was working on.
"I'm ready for a break. How have you been, Luke?"
"I'm sorry I haven't called. We're in the middle of more training at work. It's been a crazy week," Luke explained.
"Have you had dinner?" Sophie questioned. "Shall I order something?"
"Dinner sounds great. We can go out if you'd rather," Luke offered.
"I was going to call that new Chinese place in town," Sophie told him.
"You're on," he agreed. "Chinese is perfect."
The two worked out an order and Sophie called it in. She offered Luke a drink and they went into the living room to wait for the food. Conversation went easy just as it had the night they shared pizza. Then Luke brought up her writing. Sophie wasn't sure how much she was ready to tell him on that subject.
"Have you published anything?" Luke inquired.
"It's just something I do for fun," she hedged. "I don't let many people read it."
"Why is that, Sophie?"
Sophie looked at Luke and made a quick decision. "I write erotica."
"How did you get into that?" he asked.
Sophie explained how she had been bored one afternoon and began to write. The finished product wasn't very good, she added with a laugh. From there she had kept at it and discovered erotica was fun. Luke's raised eyebrow and grin made Sophie blush. Lucky for her the doorbell rang just then. They dug into the boxes of Sweet and Sour Chicken, Crabmeat Rangoons, Moo Goo Gai Pan, Spring Rolls and Pork Chop Suey. Conversation stopped only while they were enjoying the multitude of food in front of them.
They went into the living room after Sophie cleared the table. Stories of family, school years and work filled the next couple of hours. Luke checked the time and told her he should be leaving. He grinned as he walked past the computer.
"So when can I read your stuff?" he asked.
"Um, I'll have to think about it," Sophie hesitated.
"Embarrassed about it?" Luke teased. "Or are you afraid it isn't good?"
"I'm not ashamed of it and I never said if it was good or not," Sophie defended herself.
"There's nothing wrong with that genre, in my opinion."
"You really want to read some of it?" she asked. "It's something you're interested in looking at?"
"I know we just met and haven't learned a lot about each other. One thing about me you'll discover is I don't lie," Luke stated.
"That wasn't what I meant, Luke," Sophie apologized. "I'll find one for you."
Sophie scrolled through the titles of her stories on the computer to find the one she thought was her best. A few clicks and it was ready to read.
"This is a recent one," she explained. "I'll wait in the kitchen while you read it."
She scurried out of the room before he could reply. Luke went over to the desk and sat in front of the computer. It didn't take him long to realize that Sophie was a talented writer. She had a way of pulling the reader right into her story. After he was finished, Luke stayed where he was, trying to piece together the parts of Sophie he knew so far. Soon it occurred to him she was waiting for his reaction and went in to join her.
"You are very talented," he told her softly.
"I don't know about that," Sophie replied.
"Have you looked into publishing anywhere? I'm sure someone out there would love to see your work," Luke told her.
"No, I haven't. Then people would know..." she admitted.
Luke looked at the woman in front of him for the longest time. He wanted to hold her but was afraid she would take it the wrong way. The content of the story was erotic as she said. It also brought a stirring to Luke's groins that shocked him. He hadn't read anything with sex in it for years.
"Sophie, I know what you do now, and I still respect you," Luke said.
Luke took a few steps closer to Sophie. He lifted her chin with his finger and looked into her eyes. The uncertainty he saw in them hit him deep in his gut.
"You're a beautiful, sexy, caring woman. Writing what you do doesn't change any of that to me," he reinforced.
Sophie licked her lips and tried to think. All she could think about was how beautiful the blue was in his eyes.
"Thank you for sharing it with me," he began. "I had fun today although next time we go out."
Sophie felt her uneasiness leave and laughed. "We can do that."
"My schedule is a bit crazy again this next week. I'll call you," Luke promised.
"Good night, Luke," Sophie whispered.
Sophie locked the door and went over to her desk. The story Luke read glared back at her on the computer screen. She closed it and opened the current piece she was working on. Fantasy and reality wove together as she added to it. When her eyes began to burn, she went to bed, only to dream of sparkling blue eyes.
The week was typical for Sophie. Work kept her busy each day. One evening she went to see her sister Toni. She was considering telling her what she wrote. Maybe it was time to stop hiding it. Luke saw nothing wrong with it, she reminded herself. With those intentions, she drove across town, a weight lifted from her shoulders.
Toni was eight years older than Sophie was. Her husband of almost twenty years worked in construction. He had built them a beautiful home with plenty of room for their three children. Sophie often wondered what it would be like to have a husband and kids. She wasn't jealous of her sister. More envious, she admitted. Sophie thought for sure she would be married before she hit thirty.
Sophie's two nieces were home when she arrived. It was always fun to see them and catch up a bit with their lives. Toni was fixing dinner so they all gravitated to the kitchen. The girls soon went to their rooms to finish homework.
"Can I ask you something?" Sophie began.
"Of course," Toni replied.
"Have you ever read any sexy stories?" she went on.
"Romance you mean?" Toni questioned.
"Not romance, but sexier stuff, erotica," Sophie clarified.
"I have," Toni admitted. "Stuff like that is easy to find on a computer, you know. Why?"
"What do you think of it? I mean, what do you think about the people that write it?" Sophie continued.
"I'm not sure I understand, Sophie."
"Well, do you look down at them for writing about sex?" Sophie expounded.
"Of course I don't. Why are you asking all this anyway?" Toni probed.
"Would you be ashamed of me if I wrote like that?" Sophie challenged.
"Sophie, you're my sister. I wouldn't be ashamed of you," Toni confirmed. "Now what is this really all about?"
"That's what I do," Sophie whispered. "I write erotica."
"You have to let me read it," Toni shrieked. "Did you bring some?"
"No, it's all on my computer," Sophie replied.
"E-mail it to me," Toni demanded. "Do it tonight when you get home."
Sophie was amazed Toni wasn't judging the genre she wrote. Not that Toni was that type person, Sophie reminded herself.
"Alright," Sophie agreed.
Toni's husband came home then and the topic went to other things. Sophie was glad her sister didn't say anything to her brother-in-law. Telling two people in a few days time was already stressful enough. She waved to her sister and mouthed thank you. Several minutes later, she pulled up in her own driveway, exhausted.
Sophie thought about going right to bed but she knew Toni would bug her until she e-mailed a story to her. She attached a couple to a short message and hit send before she changed her mind. The telephone rang an hour later.
"Holy cow, Sophie, those were so good," Toni said in lieu of hello. "I want more."
"Hello, Toni," she answered. "Do you really think they're good?"
"Sophie, I've read stuff on-line that's crap compared to this. Have you looked into any of the sites?" Toni asked.
"I don't even have any idea where to begin," she admitted.
"I'll send you the links for a couple. They have sections where you can sign up and submit your stuff. You need to do it," Toni went on.
"What if someone from town reads it? They'll know it was me, Toni. I'd be so embarrassed."
"Make up a name. You don't have to use your own. Call me after work tomorrow and I'll come over to help you," Toni stated.
Toni added a few more thoughts before she hung up. Sophie spent half the night wondering what she had done. It scared her to have strangers read her work. On the other hand, it excited her, too. She was so distracted at work that day her boss gave her several odd looks. The minute she got home, she called Toni, letting her know she was ready to do it.
The two girls giggled at the silly names they thought up. Nothing felt right yet to Sophie. The ringing of the doorbell startled Sophie. Not expecting anyone, she was surprised to see Luke standing there, a grin on his face.
"Okay, I didn't call, but I was on this side of town," Luke said.
"Sophie, who is it?" Toni called out from the living room.
"I'm sorry. You have company. I'll leave," Luke stated.
"No, don't go, please. It's my sister. She's helping me, ah, well, come in and you can see," Sophie stammered.
Sophie introduced Luke to her sister and explained a bit how they met. Toni hadn't seen Sophie with a man for quite a while and it intrigued her.
"Alright. This is what we're doing. After I let you read one of my stories, I thought about what you said, and showed Toni a couple. She thinks I should submit them to some of the writing sites that accept erotica," Sophie explained.
Toni raised her eyebrow when she realized her sister had shown Luke before her. "They're better than a lot of the stuff out there."
"I agree. She has a knack for drawing you in that many writers lack," Luke replied.
"We're trying to find a fitting name for her to use. Got any ideas, Luke?" Toni asked.
"What have you tried so far?" he inquired.
Toni went over some of the names with Luke. They tossed more combinations around as Sophie stayed out of it. She blanched at a few, blushed at several, and shook her head over most. Nothing had been decided when Toni said she had to get home. A quick good-bye and she was out the door.
"She seems nice," Luke said.
"Yeah, we get along really great," Sophie responded.
"So what name are you going to use?" he asked.
"I don't know yet, Luke. What do you think about the ones you heard?" she questioned.
"Well, I thought 'GreenEyes' was okay," he said. "I have an idea though."
"You do? Tell me," she demanded.
"This might not be what you have in mind—" Luke began.
"Just tell me," Sophie said again.
"I like 'Flame' for you," Luke admitted.
"You're thinking of the fire next door. That's when we met," she reminded him.
"Yes," he agreed. "There's always a sparkle in your eyes when I see you, too. You make me think of heat and passion."
Sophie stared at Luke. Her gaze went to his lips. She wanted to feel them on hers but was afraid to make a move. Luke made it instead.
"I've wanted to taste you ever since I first saw you in the rain," he said softly.
His lips captured hers in a sweet, soft kiss that seemed to never end. Sophie felt his tongue run over her lips and gasped. Luke slid his tongue into her mouth and deepened the kiss. Sophie groaned as she felt his arms wrap around her. The feel of his body next to hers was enough to drive Sophie wild. Her tongue danced with his as she laid her hands on his shoulders.
Luke felt himself swelling. Her nipples pressed into his chest. He knew it was too soon to do more even though his body screamed at him. His hands roamed over her back as he slowed the kiss. It was tough, but he stepped away, putting space between them. Sophie still had her eyes shut when he looked down at her.
"You have to know I want you," Luke spoke first.
Sophie took several deep breaths and opened her eyes. "Yes."
"I don't want just a few nights, Sophie," he told her.
"Me either," she agreed.
"Will you go to dinner with me Saturday night?" Luke asked.
"I'll pick you up at six," he stated.
"Alright, Luke," Sophie answered.
He leaned in and dropped a kiss on her forehead before he headed out the door. Sophie didn't move until long after the sound of his truck was gone. She finally got ready for bed and turned the lights off. Her mind was still on those few minutes with Luke as she closed her eyes.
In the morning, she checked her e-mail before work, as she always did. There was one from Toni so she opened it first. It was short and to the point.
"I want details!" Toni had written in huge letters.
Sophie laughed at the message as she sent off a reply. As she hit send, she grinned, knowing it would bug Toni all day. Even at work, she smiled whenever she remembered what she wrote. As expected, when she got home, the answering machine light blinked. Hitting the button, she leaned against the counter, waiting for the messages.
"Sophie Michaels, you better call me back as soon as you get this," she heard.
The way Toni spoke made her laugh as she waited for the next message.
"Don't make me tell mom," Toni's voice said from the machine.
Sophie had tears running from her eyes as she thought of all the times Toni used that line on her.
"I'm on my way over and you will talk to me," was the last message.
She was still standing there laughing when Toni walked in.
"You can't send me an e-mail like that and expect me to accept it," Toni stated.
"Like what?" Sophie asked when she could speak.
"I told you I wanted details," Toni repeated.
"I gave you my answer, Toni," Sophie chuckled. "Are you saying you didn't like it?"
"Let me think, Sophie," Toni said as she glared at Sophie. "Your exact words were 'Short version. Yes, we did it. He's hot. No further details necessary' I believe."
Sophie burst out laughing all over again at the indignant look on her sister's face. Tears rolled down her cheeks when she saw Toni put her hands on her hips.
"You look just like mom, Toni," Sophie got out.
"Don't you change the topic on me, young lady," Toni said with a stern voice.
"You are her," Sophie roared.
The irony of it hit Toni right then and she began to chuckle. Soon both girls were giggling so much they couldn't talk.
"You still owe me details," Toni reminded Sophie when she could speak again.
"The sky is blue," Sophie began. "So are eyes and water and—"
"Don't give me that crap," Toni cut in. "Wait. You said eyes are blue. I bet he has blue eyes!"
"He was here. You met him," Sophie reminded her.
"You're a devil, Sophie Michaels," Toni said.
The telephone rang just as Sophie started to reply and she grabbed it on the second ring. Within a few seconds, she turned her back on Toni, lowered her voice, and smiled. Toni noted the behavior and pictured herself much the same way when her husband called while they dated. All Toni wanted was her sister to find a good man to make her happy. Without a word, she picked up her purse, slowly opened the door, and left. Sophie never even heard her go.
Sophie hung up the telephone many minutes later. She was surprised not to find Toni anywhere in the house. A quick peek outside showed her car was gone. Sophie said a silent thank you to her sister for giving her privacy. It had been Luke on the phone and Sophie forgot all about her sister. The rest of the evening was quiet for Sophie. She fell asleep thinking of what might be in her future.
The next two days dragged for Sophie. She wanted it to be Friday night so she could see Luke again. Thursday night she went through her closet to find something to wear. Nothing looked right to her, and in a panic, she called Toni. They wore the same size, Sophie knew, and Toni had great taste. Her sister promised to be right over with several outfits for Sophie to check out. Sophie ran out to greet her sister as soon as she heard her arrive. They each grabbed some clothes and went inside.
An hour later Sophie stood in front of her mirror in awe of the sleek black dress she wore. Sleeveless, with an empire waist, it was in the style that Jackie Kennedy made famous. The back zipper and front darts completed the look. Sophie dug around in her closet and came out with a pair of stilettos. She stared at herself in the mirror and wondered what Luke would think.
"That's the dress, Sophie. If you want to make a killer impression, that's the one," Toni stated.
Sophie carefully hung the dress back up and set the heels next to her dresser. Her eyes shimmered with excitement.
"I like him, Toni. I really like him a lot," Sophie admitted.
Toni watched her little sister and hoped it would go well for her. The few minutes she talked with Luke made her think he was decent. She planned to keep an eye on things so he didn't hurt Sophie.
"You deserve good things in your life. Maybe he's the one for you," Toni said.
Toni left with the remainder of the clothes safely back in her car. Sophie wandered through her house until bedtime. Last thing she thought of was being able to see Luke the next day. In the morning, she raced through getting ready, grabbed a muffin, and made it to work with a minute to spare. The boss was out for the day so she was able to catch up and actually leave a little early. She wanted all the time she could to get ready for her date.
Sophie felt her hands shake as she attempted to apply her make-up. A long shower had been refreshing until she realized what time it was. Now she struggled with the simplest tasks in her preparation. A desperate call to Toni ended with a promise that she would be over in a few minutes to help. Sophie sat on the edge of her bed and cried.
"Sophie?" Toni called.
Toni walked into the bedroom and knelt in front of her sister. It was obvious she had been crying and her hands were ice cold.
"Hey, it's alright. I'm here to help now," Toni said. "It's big sister to the rescue!"
Sophie gave a small smile and hugged Toni.
"I'm just so nervous. Luke is a great guy, Toni," Sophie told her.
"Let's make you even more beautiful than you are right now, then," Toni chuckled.
For the next hour, Toni fussed over Sophie's hair and make-up, fixed her manicure, and finally zipped up her dress. The two giggled like they had years before when Toni practiced on Sophie. Slipping into the stilettos, a big smile on her face, Sophie heard the doorbell ring right on time. Thumbs up from Toni encouraged her as she opened the door to see Luke standing there.
"My god, you're gorgeous!" Luke said and whistled.
Sophie blushed softly. "Thank you, Luke."
"Every guy that sees you will be jealous of me," he remarked.
"I'm glad you approve," she grinned. "Toni helped me."
"You don't need help. Someone as beautiful as you already stands out," Luke stated.
"Hello, Luke. Good to see you again," Toni said as she joined them at the door.
"Toni, hello," Luke replied.
"Be good to my sister, Luke."
Toni whispered the words to Luke as she squeezed through the doorway on her way out. Sophie couldn't hear what Toni said, but knowing her sister, had a general idea.
"Thank you, Toni," Sophie added.
Luke helped Sophie into his car and made sure she had her seatbelt on before he closed the door. He settled himself behind the wheel and started the car. The conversation was light and comfortable considering Sophie's nerves earlier. Luke told her about the phone call from his mother the night before. She reminded him that at his age he should be married and giving her more grandchildren.
"Maybe our moms should get together. I hear the same thing all the time," Sophie chuckled.
"I remind her that when the right woman comes along I'll do just that," Luke remarked.
The restaurant was trendy with several people waiting for tables. Luke gave his name to the host with confidence. He confirmed his reservations that morning and a table awaited them. Sophie felt glamorous and smiled the entire evening. Luke's eyes smoldered each time he looked at her.
"Have you written any new stories?" Luke asked.
"I have one close to finished," Sophie replied with a blush.
"Do I get to read it?" he wondered.
Sophie thought about some of the words that she had written that week. The story was her fantasy of what might happen between her and Luke.
"I don't think so, Luke," she said.
Luke tipped his head and watched Sophie for a few minutes. He appeared to be thinking and she worried he might guess what the piece was about. Instead, he talked about the new house he was having built, and some of the decisions he needed to make.
"So the contractor wants me to pick out floor coverings this week," Luke began. "How am I supposed to know what will match?"
Sophie laughed at the face he made. "It's easy, Luke."
"Then you try it once," he said. "Carpet, hardwood, vinyl, neutrals, warms..."
"Think about how you'll be using each room. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the house. Now what do you see?" Sophie asked.
Luke did as she said and saw the house of his dreams. "I see kids playing in the den, with toys all over the carpet, and my wife nursing the baby."
Sophie envied the woman in his image. She didn't want to admit it was almost identical to what she yearned for.
"Now you know how easy it is to choose things for your new home," Sophie remarked.
They talked a bit more of his house as they finished dinner. Luke took care of the bill and pulled Sophie's chair out for her. His hand rested on her back as they weaved through the other tables to the exit. He helped her into the car as he had done when he picked her up. They were both silent on the drive back to her house. Once in her driveway, Luke shut off the car, took a breath, and turned to Sophie.
"I won't ask if I can come inside, Sophie, even though it's what I want to do. Sex isn't what I want from you," Luke started. "When I saw you standing in the rain, concerned about your neighbors, something twisted deep inside me. I'm thirty-four years old, Sophie."
He spoke quietly as they sat in the near darkness of his car. Sophie held her breath as she tried to follow his words.
"I've dated many women over the years. All the years I went for hot bodies were a waste. What I should have been looking for was someone that made me smile, with a sense of family, and with intelligence. I guess as I got older I realized the important things a mate should have," Luke explained.
"When we're young we don't always have the experience to make the right decision. Having fun is as far as we can see at times," Sophie added.
"The day I signed the contract for my house I sat in the middle of the land and wondered what I had done. It was as if from that moment on I was a responsible adult. I was committing myself to staying here," he went on.
"Owning a home isn't for everyone," Sophie said.
Sitting so close to Luke, the stars twinkling above, Sophie was confused where Luke was taking the conversation. They hadn't known each other long enough for her to sense his moods. She waited for him to continue.
"Sophie, I really like you. You're beautiful, sexy, smart and sensitive," Luke expounded. "I don't want to screw things up with sex right now."
"What are you saying, Luke?" Sophie asked.
"I'd like to get to know you better and see where it leads us," he answered.
"I'm sure you know I'd say yes if you wanted to come inside tonight," Sophie stated.
"I know that, Sophie," Luke sighed.
"You're right about not knowing each other very well and I'm not looking for a few nights of sex either. Getting to know each other sounds perfect to me," she ended.
"Then I'd better let you get inside before I change my mind," Luke chuckled.
Luke held her hand as they walked to her door. Sophie thought how right it felt to be with Luke. The future looked very good indeed.