“No,” I assure him. “I love this view. I’m-“ A gust of hard wind overtakes me and there is simply no escaping the impact, or the chattering of my teeth. “Okay.” I hold my hands up in surrender. ”I’m cold.”

Surprising me, his hand gently wraps around one of my wrists and he pulls me to my feet. We are close, toe to toe, and I cannot seem to breathe. In defiance of the chill of my skin, heat forms beneath his touch, and begins to climb a path up my arm and over my chest. He stares down at me, and though his expression is impassable, I can feel the tension curling between us.


Hair blows into my eyes, and he releases my arm, and tenderly brushes the hair from my eyes, his fingers lingering on my cheek. “Let’s go in where it’s warm.” His voice is as gentle as his fingers sliding from my face.

He opens the door for me and I enter, nervously avoiding eye contact, trying to will my heart to stop beating at an impossible pace. Soft Mexican music touches my ears and I see no more than ten tables, only one of which is occupied.

He lifts his chin at the small, two-seater table inside a bay window. It is both out of the reach of the wind, and by my standards, intimate. “Looks like the best seat in the house to me. How about to you?”

I nod my approval. “As long as it comes with a few hot peppers to warm me up, I think it’s perfect.”

“A daring eater, are you?” he asks, as we head to our seat.

“Eating is the one thing I can say with certainty I do without a single inhibition.”

He pulls out my chair for me and his eyes twinkle with evident mischief. “Eating is one of many things I do without inhibition.”

My eyes go wide before I can stop them and he laughs before adding, “Don’t worry. I won’t share the other things unless you ask nicely.”

I sit before I dare to ask what things he’s talking about, surprised by how close I am to taking the bait. “Sounds like a question to ask over tequila, which would never work anyway. I’d be too tipsy to remember your answers.”

He settles my briefcase on the back of the chair and his fingers brush my arm, the silk is no barrier to the sweet friction of this man’s touch. I suck in a breath at the impact, and my gaze is captured by his for several intense seconds.

“No tequila allowed then,” he comments softly, before he moves to his seat and grabs a plastic menu from beside the napkin holder and hands it to me.

I eagerly accept it, looking over my options, my head spinning with this man’s wild ride.

“If you’re as daring an eater as you claim to be,” he comments, “I highly recommended the chicken fajita tacos with fire sauce.”

“I’ll take that dare,” I agree readily.

A fifty-something robust Hispanic waitress rushes to our table and greets Chris in Spanish, and even if I didn’t have a basic handle on the language—-as in barely even basic--the way her face lights up as she speaks to him tells me she is quite fond of Chris. It’s also clear that Chris is not only equally as fond of her as she is him, but his Spanish reaches well beyond entry level.

The two of them chat a moment, and Chris shrugs out of his jacket. My gaze goes to his tattoo and I cannot make it out completely because of his sleeve. I’m intrigued by the design, and the rich colors. Is it…could it be…? Yes. I think it’s a dragon.

“Sara,” Chris says, switching back to English, and pulling my attention from the intricate design, as he adds, “this is Maria of the ‘Diego Maria’ Restaurant name. Her son is Diego, the main chef.”

Maria laughs and it’s a friendly, infectious laugh. I like her and I like this place. “Chef?” she demands. “Ha. He’s the cook. We don’t need him getting fancy ideas. He’ll let them go to his head and have us expanding across the country when I like it right here at home.” She gives me a half bow. “And it’s very nice to meet you, Sara.”

“Nice to meet you as well, Maria.”

Chris holds up the menu that matches the one I haven’t looked at. “You in for the taco recommendation?”

I nod eagerly. “Si, dame el fuego.” Or ‘Yes, give me fire.’

They both laugh.

“You speak Spanish, señora?” Maria asks hopefully.

“Badly,” I assure her and she grins.

“Come in often and we will change that.”

“I’d like that,” I say, and I mean it. I really do like this woman and I know it’s because she’s everyone’s mother, just the way my mother had been.

“Corona for me, Maria” Chris orders and glances at me. “You want one?”

“Oh no,” I say quickly. “I’m a lightweight. I have to work.” I glance at Maria. “Tea. No. Wait. I’m on a caffeine high I need to come down from. Make it water.”

“The Corona will bring you right down,” Chris suggests.

“From spilling things to falling over,” I say. “You really don’t know what a lightweight I am. I better not go there.”

Maria rushes off to fill our order and another man sets chips and salsa in front of us before filling our water glasses.

I’m eager to learn more about Chris, both as a man and an artist, the instant we are alone I take advantage of the opportunity. “So you’re trilingual? I assume you must speak French to live part of the year in Paris.”

“Je parle espagnol, français, italien, et j'aimerait beaucoup dessinez-vous à nouveau. Modele pour moi, Sara.”

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