by Allie Boniface
He asked her to dinner the moment they met.
Tall, brash, with chiseled jaw and muscled chest, he crossed the lawn and knelt beside her. “Hi.”
She raised her head; one finger marked the page of the book that lay in her lap. “Yes?” He looked vaguely familiar, she thought, one of the many fraternity brothers who wandered in and out of the library while she squinted into old manuscripts and took notes until her hands ached.
“Can I take you to dinner?”
She blinked. The grass under her bare legs tickled the backs of her knees. “I don’t know you.”
He collapsed beside her, baby blue eyes laughing as he rested on one elbow and squinted into the afternoon sun. “Sorry. Name’s Taylor.”
“Isn’t that a girl’s name?”
He looked wounded. “Not always.”
Then she felt bad. “I apologize.” She glanced at her watch. Her Mythic Short Story class began in ten minutes. His arm, so close to her leg, made her shiver. She moved away.
“So, how about dinner?”
She cocked her head and lost her place in the book. Now she recognized him: captain of the football team. Two years older than she. Pictured every other week in the campus newspaper at some party or fund-raising event or mud-sliding competition with the other fraternity houses.
“I don’t…really think I’m your type.”
“How will you know unless you give me a chance?”
She glanced over her shoulder, a furtive scan of the trees that lined the academic quadrangle. Surely someone had put him up to it, bet him ten dollars he wouldn’t ask out mousy-haired, too-thin, serious Grace Appleby. But she saw no one, no mirror image of Taylor laughing into his palm or elbowing a sleek-haired, sloe-eyed girlfriend in silent mirth.
He smiled, and her shivers started up again. “How about Portia’s?”
Ah. The pricy Italian place outside of town. Now she knew it was a dare of some sort. “I’ve never been there before.”
“It’s nice. A little over-rated, but still nice.”
She thought about asking him how many other girls he’d wined and dined there, but she refrained. She’d find out soon enough.
“I had a really good time.”
They stood in the moonlight, on the sidewalk outside a restaurant that had closed hours earlier.
“Me too.” To her surprise, she didn’t have to lie.
His arm, warm and safe, moved around her waist. She waited for the lean-in, for the smooth, practiced kiss. It didn’t come. Instead he simply looked at her and moved a lock of hair from her eyes.
“Want to go to the shore this weekend?”
A fall breeze brushed her neck. The Shore. It would be cool, she imagined, perhaps gray: perfect weather for a sweater and a hand tucked inside someone else’s.
“I’ve never been to the shore before.”
“Really?” He looked surprised. “It’s relaxing. Not as crowded this time of year, either. You’ll like it.”
He walked her home, kissed her on the cheek, and danced his way through her dreams all night long.
The seagulls ate from her hand as she squished cool sand between her toes. He laughed and took her picture, framing her face in fading light. Her sneakers lay on the beach a half-mile back, next to his hat with the Greek letters that meant nothing to her.
They sat at the edge of the water and told stories. They watched the sun set. And when he ran one hand along her cheek, she was the one who leaned in first. She kissed him, breathed him in, and let the evening air cool the flames that rose inside her.
“I was thinking…” Taylor began.
Grace rolled over in his bed, sheets twisted around her legs. She loved the sound of his voice, the cadence it made against the walls of the room. Dawn had just touched the winter morning. Three more days until they left, he for his mansion in the country and she for her mother’s studio apartment across town.
“Want to ski the Alps over break?” His fingers played over her bare skin, touching the sensitive spots he knew by heart.
She giggled and rolled away from him again. “I’ve never even been on a plane before. And you know I’ve never gone skiing.”
His mouth moved against hers. “I’ll show you how. And on the plane, I’ll hold your hand and count to one hundred until we’re in the air and there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
They stayed in a castle high above the town of Chamonix, and he was right – he taught her to ski, and to order from a French menu, and to breathe in the air that seemed thinner and richer all at the same time. They fought only once, when she fell and bruised her elbow.
“You said you would help me!”
“I can’t be there every minute, Grace.”
The words seared into her, and she spent a long afternoon without him, wandering narrow streets and running her fingertips along souvenirs that would probably break the minute she carried them off the plane, back home.
She sat by herself in the corner of the library. Finals week loomed. Her head ached with thinking, with planning, with imagining. Daylight changed to shadows and then to rain. Thunder echoed inside the old stone building. An emptiness she couldn’t shake clung to her shoulders.
Close to evening, he found her there. He had to turn and walk sideways through the cramped aisles, until he reached the scarred, crooked table. He pushed aside her books and papers.
“I’ve missed you.”
She didn’t answer.
His hands worked inside the pockets of his shorts. His blue eyes dimmed. He scraped a chair up beside her. “I have to tell you something.”
He pulled out a small velvet box and placed it on the open pages of Sonnets from the Portuguese. “I’m in love with you.” He cleared his throat. “I’ve never felt that way before.”
About the Author: Allie Boniface is a romance novelist and high school English teacher living with her husband in the northern New York City suburbs. She’s had a soft spot for love stories and happy endings since the time she could read, and she’s been caught scribbling story ideas on scrap paper (when she should have been paying attention to something else) too many times to count. When she’s not writing, shoveling snow, or grading papers, she’s traveling the United States and Europe in search of sunshine, back roads, and the perfect little pub.
Visit Allie’s website at www.allieboniface.com to find out release dates and all the latest news, or hear what’s on her mind today at her blog, www.allieboniface.blogspot.com.