Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2012 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
She considered not changing. But she found her jade dress hanging in the closet, the one
bought for her college roommate’s
wedding and had not
worn again. The one that had elegant lines and graceful curves and just enough skin showing to be interesting.
So she shimmied into a new pair of silky pantyhose, slid on the dress and misted herself with her favorite scent. Then she pulled her hair out of the no‑nonsense barrette she commonly wore to work, combed it into soft waves and spritzed it in place. She considered a pair of heels in the closet, but
made her back hurt, rejected them in favor of a glossy pair of black slides.
On her way out, she stopped quickly at the
refrigerator [MH1] for a tall glass of iced
tea. Considerably refreshed, she grabbed
her purse and ran out to meet Cliff.
He lounged by the car, deep in the latest issue of a specialty hardware magazine. He looked up at her approach
, and, strangely enough,
, to savor the warmth in his eyes, warmth
had never seen before. She got
in the car, determined to keep that warmth,
determined to keep her temper under control, determined to exude
professionalism. All right, sexy
Determined to be perfect.
The inside, however, was not rustic and homey.
In fact, it looked like one of the eighteenth
century[MH3] palaces she had
toured in Europe last summer, so rich and ornate was it. And
the clientele she could see reeked of old money. ‘Wonderful,’ she
thought. ‘He picks a great time to play
British noble. I should have gone
out and bought something new and stunning. ’
however, seemed right at home. The maitre d’hotel
greeted him by first name , and
showed them directly to one of the best tables in the place.
Then the wine steward came
by, and he and Cliff spent about ten
minutes discussing the finer points of the selections on the list, all of which
were over $100 a bottle , she was sure. There
would be no raspberry beer for her tonight.
Then, of course, the waiter came over to explain the menu for the evening. In French. Cliff handled that with an aplomb she certainly wouldn’t have managed with her one semester
of French. She did
get in one merci beaucoup, but other than that was satisfied to nod
pleasantly. So much for Ms. Perfection, she thought ruefully. She might as well
get used to feeling like she had braids, braces and skinned knees around Sir
After that, at least three people found excuses to drop by and chat with Cliff. “Oh, darling, I’ve known Sir Humphrey for years!” one rather large woman exclaimed. She dripped with diamonds, and pronounced ‘years’ with
Vickie had to bite her cheek to keep awake
while she was talking. [MH4]
The third person she didn’t like at all. All right, maybe it had something to do with the woman’s incredible beauty. It surely couldn’t have been how she had waved her
in front of Cliff as if she were displaying .
And of course it didn’t bother her at all that Cliff didn’t seem to mind—why
should it? It was none of her business who Cliff wanted to scale. Right? Right.
Vickie unwadded her napkin as the woman swayed back to her table.
worried about spending time alone with Cliff at all. Maybe this was one of those restaurants
she had read about, where people went to be seen by the in‑crowd, not to really
eat or enjoy each other’s company, or even to discuss business. She would have been better off canceling and
going to McDonald’s. Then, as if he hadn’t
had enough visitors, Cliff waved the waiter back to the table. She was just about to excuse herself and walk
home, all twenty or thirty miles, when the waiter reached them. Cliff casually held out a bill of rather
“Do you have anything a little more secluded?”
The waiter looked at Cliff, then at Vickie, then smiled at Cliff.
Vickie blushed. “We have business
,” she put in, then realized that that didn’t sound any better. Sure they had
business. She was wearing the type of dress that just oozed business.
But the waiter was already leading the way
out of the main dining
room. Cliff picked up their drinks and
stood, waiting. Apparently she was supposed to go next. So she followed the
waiter, trying very hard not to think of the big man just behind her. Certainly
not trying to sway like Ms. McKinley. Well, maybe a little.
The waiter lead them to a small room with a single table. Cliff
down the drinks and pulled a chair out for her. Oh, wonderful.
[MH5] She had never done this right. The times Ron had tried it, she had either fallen straight on her behind, or he had bump‑bump‑bumped the chair into place. One time he had scraped the thing over her foot. So much for not embarrassing herself.
But as she
Cliff smoothly pushed the chair in so that her behind
hit the chair just
as the chair reached the optimal position.
never meshed so perfectly in her life.
Certainly not her social life. In fact, it had felt a little like working on her
team, where each one knew the others so well, words
were often unnecessary.
Cliff took the chair across from her. His eyes sparkled over the candle between them, and he smiled again, that warm, wonderful smile. He took his glass, and as if he had read her mind, toasted, “To teamwork.”
Unnerved, she took her glass too, but only mumbled some inanity before taking a deep gulp. She quickly put the glass down, and then, feeling strangely shy, looked at him.
He was gazing at her as though she were the only thing in the room. She had noticed that about him
, of course; this
ability to concentrate totally on a single person or thing. But it still made
her tingle, made her feel absolutely special. Her heart thudded as his gaze
shifted downward, to her mouth, her chin, the thin gold chain at her neck, and
finally lingering at the
gentle curves of her breasts. Then he raised his eyes to hers and his smile
became warmer , knowing, intimate.
The clank of china warned her that the waiter was coming down the hall toward them. But Cliff did not release her eyes the whole time as the waiter set their soup before them, refilled their wine and water glasses, and cleaned a few odds and ends from the table. And when they were again alone, he took her hand.
She trembled as
the bronzed ,
slim fingers touched hers. Artistic, yes, but quite strong , she
noted while he leisurely traced the lines on
her palm. Each stroke seemed, like cat’s fur, to build up the charge on her
skin. Then he turned her hand over and caressed the back of it with his
fingertips. Her breathing had become shallow, her eyes bright with the
sensations he was evoking. He turned her hand back over, considered it a moment,
and slowly, lightly, kissed her palm.
She closed her eyes and suppressed the groan in her throat.
She could not see him watching her carefully[MH6] , eyes gleaming in the semidarkness. She did not see him read her beginning
arousal, which she was trying so
desperately to hide . But when his tongue followed the same lines as
his fingers had moments before, she gasped.
Her eyes flew open
but she could not stop him or her reactions as he gently kissed, then
nibbled her wrist. His one hand
but now the other
began caressing the inside of her arm, and the sensitive
skin at the joint, while his mouth worked its way up to
her fingers. Then, with his
on to hers, he lowered his mouth onto her index
finger, grazing it once with his teeth, and then closing on it , hard.
Her breathing became ragged. It seemed as though he was trying to extract every ounce of her through her fingertip. She was now more aroused than she had been in years, and yet he had touched nothing other than one hand and arm.
He was probing the delicate flesh at the base
of each finger with his tongue. She
imagined what the sensations would be at her earlobe. Or neck.
Or along the curve of her breast.
An embarrassed cough
her out of her entrancement, to an awareness of the [MH7] pair of waiters in the room , ready to serve the main dish. Apparently, it
was something that had to be finished with great flourish by the table,
by dousing it with alcohol and turning
it into a three‑alarm fire.
[MH1]This sets up a bit I did later. I may end up taking out the whole underdressed/overdressed thing.
[MH2]I changed my paragraphing significantly after realizing my husband beta reader was missing important facts that I’d put mid-paragraph.
Now the way I learned it, you put your most important thing at the end of the paragraph, and lead up to it. But when I did that it didn’t create excitement, it created confusion. Granted, my husband is a speed reader, but how many other readers read the first sentence in a paragraph and, if it doesn’t interest them, skip to the next?
So I started putting important stuff RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING. I also break paragraphs so that really important things stand out, a single line sandwiched between two thicker paragraphs. Like this.
[MH3]“It looked like” = TELL
Thick red carpet, gold flocked wallpaper = SHOW
[MH5]Characters in stories--not just mine--are always swearing for emphasis. As a reader I get tired of that. But even “Good grief” and “Oh wonderful” are just gentler substitutes for swearing. I like to get creative. It’s a quirk of mine and taken too far probably annoys some readers. But I’d rather do this than have damn everything.
[MH6]This is a POV error. She can’t see him! How does she know he’s watching? If I were doing omniscient POV or even mixed in a quick hop to Cliff’s head, I could do it. I chose to keep inside Vickie’s head and work the info in another way.