WILDER AND PAIGE – “Love Boat”
Paige lounged in a hammock near the lake. She had dressed in a lightweight gray top and flared jeans with her dark hair falling in wand-made curls over one shoulder. 5PM, the leather-band watch on her arm read. Any second now, Wilder would appear somewhere around here and their first date on the boat would begin.
Butterflies swirled in her belly. Crazy to have that feeling, she hadn’t even met Wilder yet. Somehow, they missed running into each in the two hours since everyone arrived at Lake Somewhere. All Paige had to go on was the semi-seductive picture of him in the blue robe with a pillow over his face and a bio that claimed he came here to find a soulmate. The butterflies bumped in her belly again. Wilder probably wouldn’t be interested; he had also stated in his bio that he wanted someone to ‘surprise the hell out of him.’ On the contrary, Paige was indeed the type he had been set up with repeatedly back home, unsuccessfully.
Wilder, under the awning of the lake house porch on the back side, peered over the horizon and spotted Paige in a hammock strung between two trees close to the dock.
Her hair danced in the late-day breeze. April first, seventy degrees, and cloudy with a chance of rain; Wilder knew those things because he was a farmer. He could see Paige only from behind as he walked. It had been 300 days since he went on a bona fide date with a woman. This woman seemed harmless and peaceful enough, and wasn’t she just what he was NOT looking for? Softly but distinctly, he said, “Paige…” She flipped in the hammock and barely got to her feet without landing in a heap on the ground. Her hands went through her hair as she stood erect. “Oh, hello, Wilder,” she managed with an embarrassed laugh. They shook hands. Wavy dark brown hair, both saw. His, tousled from a long day of travel and wind, and hers, from being flipped upside down before, commendably, landing on her feet. Both saw deep blue eyes, too.
Paige skipped a breath and recovered by stepping briskly in the direction of the paddle boat tied to a post at the dock’s end. Wilder roped the boat in and held the metal edge with one hand. “Try not to flip the boat,” he picked at her.
“I’ll try not to fall out, too.”
Wilder chuckled and openly checked out her physical appearance at close range as she took an ungraceful step onto the boat floor. She openly checked him out as he stepped in with the grace of a native fisherman at sea. He also wore a gray button-down shirt and jeans on a solid frame with great muscles. He sat on the middle bench. She sat beside him with as much space between them as the narrow boat would allow. He glanced. “We’re too much alike.”
She sighed. “I knew you’d say that.”
“After too many admirable attempts at too many similar matchups, I’ve become a firm believer that opposites must attract.”
Paige felt instant disappointment. She had been told by men that she was exceptionally beautiful and had hoped that Wilder would find that to be so, and might overlook the fact that she did not know how to be The One of six vying females here that could ‘surprise the hell out of him.’ Wilder was exceptionally gorgeous with an accent that surprised her. Wisconsinites had an accent? Then again, so did Kansans, really.
She watched as he opened a cooler. “Let’s see what the producers left for us…Ah, two beers, pimiento cheese and crackers. Interested?”
Wanting a shot at this guy, who seemed so good and real on his 150-word bio (yes, she counted), Paige took a stab at surprising the hell out of Wilder, her blue-eyed, soft-talking, superhero-sized first date. “I am interested.”
He glanced. He grinned. He took his time spreading cheese on a cracker. “Want me to feed it to you? Give the voters a little “thank you for thinking we belong together” moment?”
She twisted her shoulders and opened her mouth in a cute gesture. The cracker and cheese slid in with Wilder’s body leaning close. A smooth, easy move. Yummy. He returned to his side, chomped his own cheese cracker and chugged a long swallow from his beer bottle. She sipped hers and took a second stab at catching him off guard. “A dairy farmer, of course you’re good with your hands.” She blurted it on purpose (she’d been trying to think of something to catch him unaware all afternoon) but felt a blush on her cheeks.
His eyebrows lifted. He studied his large, calloused hands. “They get the job done.” He winked.
Whoa. Such a handsome guy. Paige gripped the seat to steady her. “You’re much more attractive without a pillow over your face.”
“On the contrary, you’re just as fun to look at from behind, Paige.”
She decided she might flip herself into the water after all. She felt rather warm inside. They chomped crackers and cheese before she asked, “Shouldn’t we be getting to know each other? You know, the typical first date stuff.”
“I feel like I already know you.” Wilder looked at her with a crooked smile.
This time, it felt like to Paige, he did not seem quite so disappointed that they were a seemingly predictable match. The participants at Lake Somewhere had been instructed to get straight to the point. They were in jeopardy of being voted off, of going home, if they couldn’t produce a spark. Paige abandoned her inner protests to be the quiet, disciplined good-girl-who-became-a-teacher and stuck with fun banter. “My two ex-boyfriends were city guys. I bet country boys have a little something extra to offer.”
“Besides ‘being good with our hands,’ we know a thing or two about pastures and moonlight, walks in the woods and quilts in the grass, truck beds and homemade wine, if that’s what you mean.”
“Ooh, sounds fun. Yes, I guess that’s what I mean.” She smiled. He looked amused. Their boat drifted aimlessly on a lovely blue-green abyss between two tree-covered mountains. Wilder hadn’t bothered with the oar after he pushed away from the dock.
He swigged his beer. “So, what do you think of living in Kansas? Are you in a big city or small town?”
“City. Wichita. Best place in America.” It felt like he stared at her lips when she answered; he had definitely scooted closer to her on the boat bench.
He elbowed her arm. “Home of Cessna, mentholatum, and Pizza Hut.” Her eyes widened that Wilder knew such facts. “You’re even prettier, by the way, when you’re surprised, and you look good in a pair of jeans.”
“Ditto the jeans, Wilder.”
“This would’ve been a better date at night. It’d be awesome how many stars we could see from this vantage point, Paige.”
Paige flirted, “Besides our nosy housemates on the shoreline couldn’t see what we’re really doing at night.” She motioned. Wilder counted five Lake Somewhere competitors onshore. He rowed farther away. Suddenly a bug flew into Paige’s hair. She jumped.
Wilder dropped the oar into the boat and swatted the bug. “Scared of a fly?” Their faces were close. A breeze was all that moved between them. Before either said more, rain started to pour. Wilder rowed to shore fast, on the opposite side of the dock to where contestants rushed for cover. He lifted her out of the boat, unnecessary, and Paige wondered if maybe he was showing off since they won the first date. It was a wonderful feel, how his arms and hands touched her body as he set her on ground. True feelings unknown, their blue eyes met. Partially drenched in rain, her thin shirt plastered to her body, Paige got caught up in the romance of being observed from afar by the others and admired up close by Wilder.
All the encouragement Wilder needed, he bent down and kissed her. Her fingers played in his hair as their lips twisted. It was a sexy, sweet, swift kiss. “Hope you don’t mind kissing on the first date. We’re instructed to be on fast forward here.” He smiled. The downpour had ceased.
“No woman would mind being kissed like that,” Paige said between heartbeat flutters. She noticed Wilder’s eyes watching something else. She looked up. Caroline stepped from cover nearby. She called out, “Hi. Hope your outing was nice! Wilder, may we chat for a minute?”
He said to Paige, “Thanks for a good time,” and walked in Caroline’s direction.
Andee didn’t like coffee. Never had. A California girl, she was more of a mimosas or green tea type. She found Dansby in the kitchen, like he’d promised in their flirty confessions after the voter results came in. He wore more than an apron, which mildly disappointed her.
A dark, good-looking guy, he asked, “Hi, Andee, want a latte?” He was arranging items on the counter.
“Hi, Dansby. I’m not your basic pumpkin spice white girl.” She laughed. He turned away and worked coffee-shop-guy magic anyway while she watched. Oh, he was such a cutie!
In a minute, he handed her a ceramic mug with a milky heart swirling in light brown liquid. “Try it.” She accepted, blew atop the mug to cool, and sipped. It was the most delicious drink she ever tasted.
“So, Andee, who do you think you’ll like here?” Dansby pushed shabby bangs off his forehead.
She looked into her cup, up at him, and smiled. “You.”
OKAY, EVERYONE… VOTE FOR WEEK 2! 4/2 Closes at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday night.
Who do you want to see next and where (library/reading nook, game room, outdoor hot tub, loft hideaway, boat house/dock, boat)?
***Vote here in the comments or on FB, Clare Cinnamon, Author!