Leo & Jacinta, “Joyride”
Midafternoon felt hot but not as hot as Jace looked to Leo. They won the jeep keys, first time any remaining competitors had left the property of Lake Somewhere in three weeks. Propped on the side of the vehicle, Leo sipped his cold soda and watched her approach. She wore a tank top and cutoff denim shorts over a swimsuit. The two of them fit like that, he thought, neither being the dressy, indoors type. She called out, “Hey, cool dude. May I bum a ride with you?”
“My pleasure.” Leo would’ve opened her door for her, but he’d taken the top and doors off the jeep for the short ride. A hike, a waterfall, a campfire, a grill, a tent. That’s what the produces of LOVESCENE2020 had offered him for their excursion, along with directions: Three miles down the lakeshore drive.
“Hot day,” Leo commented as he drove away from the house. “But not as hot as you.”
Jace giggled. “Feels good to get away for a while, huh?” She took his hand.
“Feels good to go anywhere with you, Jace.” Leo didn’t even have time to play music in the jeep before they arrived in the middle of nowhere. Their sunshine, lake, and mountain view.
“Wow,” Jace said. “Look at all the trees and trails. Look at the view…” Leo parked on the dirt road. They stepped out. Their eyes toured- their destination for the rest of the day- and if Leo had his way, the night. It was a lakeview of loveliness, set with lanterns and logs yet lit, a tiny tent for two, and a trail that stretched out then vanished on a slope near the water. Leo sent a silent thank you out to the producers and up to the clouds above. What a fate.
“Didn’t they hint there’s a waterfall around here?” Jace shed her clothes in the broiling sun, revealing a white bikini. Her rich dark skin suggested that she lived and breathed outdoors, like Leo. She took off, dragging him. “Let’s go!”
An hour later, tricked by water splashing all around and setting sun, Leo produced a compass. “Northwest of the campsite, they said. We must be near the origin of the falls.”
Jacinta giggled. “You are a man with a plan. I’m glad you’re mine.” Leo’s eyes stared into hers. “I am yours, Jacinta.” He led her on a twiggy trail until water crashed over the mountainside into a swirly pool right before their eyes. “Let me guess, you’re not gonna wear clothes,” she joked, watching Leo approach the bank.
“Hopefully, you’re not either.” Leo’s challenge issued, they skinny-dipped in their own little oasis until darkness and hunger prevailed.
Leo got his wish. They spent a starlit night feeding each other grilled meat and veggies, talking quietly by the fire, and much later, entwined together in tent blankets, sleepy and satisfied. ~ ~ ~
The time to act came quickly. …Since Wilder saw Paige the night everyone danced to Jace’s salsa lessons, he’d been thinking about their boat date on day one at Lake Somewhere.
Her beauty stood out among the rest. Quieter, more graceful, ladylike. Often, when he’d sneak a peek at her from afar, Wilder would catch Paige sneaking a peek at him.
Then the voters went and threw them a curve ball, too. Wilder & Paige, one vote shy of winning the jeep keys. Maybe the voters saw what Wilder had begun to feel- the potential for more. So, he went about the task of recreating their first date on the boat, set to take place (hopefully) while Leo and Jace were away in the jeep. An apology, a second chance, a consolation prize for second place. He went full-scale romantic and slipped a note under her bedroom door this morning. ‘We almost won another date. So…me, you, boat, 5 PM? Wilder‘
Wilder waited…and waited on the dock. 5:01 p.m. 5:05 p.m. He told himself women are always running late for dates. 5:10 p.m. At 5:15 p.m, he decided to give up on her, maybe even invite Andee or Caroline out on the boat. He’d gone to A LOT of trouble, an evening of surprises, to be stood up. He sighed and turned the corner by the boat house. Paige came down the grassy hill. Wilder was taken aback. This woman, a mixture of formal and informal. She never wore much makeup. Style-wise, he never knew. For twenty-one days, she might be found in jeans, a swimsuit, or a sundress. Today, she wore a sleeveless top and fitted shorts. So fitted that he wondered how she got into them.
Paige glanced back at the house and went onto tiptoes when her body was close to his. She kissed him hastily. “This is nice of you.”
Wilder didn’t know a man could lose his breath. How had he missed this on their first go-around? Or had he? He did have a compulsion to kiss her that day. A memorable kiss… He guided her into the boat. “Easy now. No flipping it over.” He winked in the sunlight. Paige giggled. Both recalled her hammock dumping, first moment they met.
Wilder slid close to her, once seated, and put his arm around her. “Mind?” “No.” “You smell good.” He sniffed her shiny brown hair. “Like last time. Like…honey, I think.” Paige laughed. “Thanks.” She moved away slightly and made eyes with him. “My shampoo, probably.”
“Mm, hm.” He sniffed again and winked again. Certainly not the smoothest conversation Wilder ever made with a woman, but it did keep his nerves at bay, kind of, until he pitched Part 2 of their second chance. “The voters are pulling for us, you know. Must sense something here.”
Paige’s turn to go, “Mm, hm.”
Wilder had rowed halfway across the lake and went for it. “You insinuated, on our last date, that since I’m a dairy farmer, I might be good with my hands.”
Paige made a funny little gasp. “And?” Wilder grinned. “Paige, would you be opposed to anchoring away from the house? We might find a surprise.”
“This is very,” Her beautiful eyes scoped his, “romantic, Wilder.” She looked away. “And I think it’s against the rules.” She laughed.
Wilder made an unconcerned face. “What are the producers gonna do? Kick us off Lake Somewhere? I’d find you and try this again, just so you know.”
Paige frowned. Almost too good to be true, the transformation that Wilder had made. “Dansby suggested you don’t know what you want. That you’ve never played the field, Wilder. A good way for me to get hurt.” Light breeze blew her luscious hair over her shoulders. “I felt something for you, just from reading your bio before we ever arrived at Lake Somewhere.”
Wilder shrugged his shoulders and opted for honesty. “Dansby may be right, about when I first got here. A lot of women, flirting, pressure, but…all I know is, you catch my eye daily, and…I’ve rehashed our date more than once.” The boat landed on a sliver of shore. “Paige, you’re a lady.” He heard her breath catch. He offered his hand. “Will you join me?”
She saw a most romantic display in the grass nearby. Flowers and wine and fruit and a guitar and a quilt. “You did this?” “I did.” “You sing or play?” Paige began to walk toward the setup.
“I make food and music. I’m told I’m pretty good with my hands.” Wilder followed her.
She snickered. “I’m a music teacher, you know.”
“I know. I’m nervous as hell.” He chuckled. She sat. He sat. Her eyes were on the guitar. “Um, how ’bout a glass of wine first?” Wilder opened the bottle and poured glasses. “To second dates,” Paige toasted. They ate fruit and talked about life in the lake house outside the real world for a few minutes. Wilder picked up the guitar, strummed, stared at her, took a deep breath, and…The Beatles, “Love Me Do” showed up. They sang together in setting sun.
Later, lying on their backs, sated by wine and an easy date, Paige considered the dusky sky. “I love evenings outdoors.” She ruffled his windblown hair. “You told me on our first date that country boys know a thing or two about pastures and moonlight, walks in the woods and quilts in the grass, truck beds and homemade wine… This has been wonderful. Thank you.”
Wilder had a wine buzz and a Paige buzz, which made him daring. “I want to kiss you so bad. Are you shy, Paige?”
She smiled through the haze of evening. “Only half shy.”
“The other half?”
All the encouragement he needed, Wilder rolled close to her and kissed her lips. They kissed on the quilt until unexpected raindrops interrupted. “Whoa, a big cloud.” Wilder gestured to the sky. “We should probably go.” They gathered items and rushed to the boat.
Seated and rowing in a downpour, Wilder chuckled into the night. “Rain interrupted our first date, too.”
“Oh yeah…you’re right!” Paige huddled close to him in the chilly pelt. “But, truthfully, Wilder, I would’ve stopped anyway.”
The pitter-patter of droplets hit the boat for a span. Wilder finally said, “I’m sorry, I have to ask. Because you…aren’t interested in me?”
Paige’s half-shy side emerged. “No, I’m very interested, but I’m not planning to, you know, with anybody in the short time we will be living at Lake Somewhere.”
Wilder hunched her body close to his. “No worries, baby. I could kiss you into next month and be happy.”
Paige smiled into the pouring rain. “Good. Maybe the voters will give us a chance to…kiss again.”
“Never mind the voters. I can give you that right now.” Wilder’s lips found hers easily. The boat bumped into the edge of the dock, reminding them that they were in a rainstorm and had arrived at their temporary home. ~ ~ ~
He had, maybe, expected this. He had certainly wished for it, a night or two, going into his bedroom at the same time she went into hers, after an evening downstairs with the Lake Somewhere group.
Right now, Wilder merely felt a mix of compassion and guilt. Caroline had come in second, or third place, to Paige and Andee, garnering votes here and there but never a chance for them to pursue each other away from the microscope of the others. When his doorknob clicked and partial light came into his room, he hoped, for a flash, that Paige had changed her mind about spending a night with him. He knew better.
So here she was, Caroline, alone, dressed in a cami and pajama pants, striking red curls stacked on her head, standing over his bed. Wilder watched her in night shadows. Her hand touched his head. “Hair’s damp. I heard you and Paige come in from the storm, laughing.”
“I took her on the boat. I’ve, uh…” Wilder shifted on his pillow. He could hardly see Caroline now with the door shut, or decipher what she’d do next. “…felt something for her, all along, I think.”
“That’s against the rules. Taking the boat out. Besides, Wilder, most of the time, you felt something for me.”
“True.” Wilder became aware of her presence, actually her breath. Her fingertip moved along the edge of the sheet at his chest. His pulse did kick up.
“I overheard Paige say that she wouldn’t come into your room tonight…I’m offering.”
Wilder jerked away as Caroline’s knee pressed onto the mattress. “Caroline, what’re you doing?”
“We deserve a chance.”
Wilder gripped her arm lightly. “I have been attracted to you. You’re a beautiful woman and an interesting person. Of course, I’d go out with you if we won a chance.” He climbed out of bed on the other side. He could feel Caroline’s eyes scan his body in boxers through the shadows. “Otherwise, I…want to give Paige a fair trial. Let’s leave it up to the voters. Goodnight.”
Dansby took Andee by the hand and led her up the elegant second-floor staircase, assuming it would take them to the loft hideaway on the third story. They had agreed at their ritual breakfast this morning; they were tired of coming in third place. Yet, third place…it meant something! A pair of daredevils, they dreamed up a scheme to dress for a real date and break into the loft, come what may. They were going home soon anyway, if they didn’t win more votes. Maybe this would do it…
Dansby brought along hand tools in his pocket. Andee brought wine and cheese. He started to work the lock. “Wait!” Andee whispered. Glancing down the staircase, she squeezed her eyes shut. “Are we sure we won’t be found?”
“If we are, you’re worth it.”
“Dansby…” “Andee…” Dansby jiggled and fumbled. Andee, impatient, confessed, “It irked the hell out of me when you danced with Paige.”
He tested the knob. No dice. “Ditto you and Wilder, babe.”
She sighed. What effort she’d put into her dynamic black dress and elegant up-do just to sneak around like a horny teenager. “Have you ever picked a lock before, Dan?”
“No, An.” He paused, looked at her, and smiled crookedly. “But I work with all those fancy coffee machines and ovens and pastries in the cafes. I’ll get it.”
He jiggled and fumbled, jiggled and fumbled, jiggled and fumbled. The knob turned. The door opened. Handsome Dansby in a nice suit held out his hand. “Please, miss. Right this way. A mere coffee guy at your service.” Andee laughed. Their humor matched, always. She stepped in to a quaint, appealing, secretive place. “We’ve officially crossed a line,” she declared.
“Ah, doll face, you have no idea.” Dansby swatted her backside. “By the way, you might be the prettiest woman I’ve ever been this far with.”
“You’re gonna earn it, playboy.” She handed him the wine bottle and opener and started music on her phone. Dansby knew what to do with food and drink. It was forever an enticement. Smoothly, he opened the bottle, poured glasses, and arranged cheese, bedside. Andee started music on her phone. A slow, jazzy, old-timey tune. This guy was a throwback and it did her heart good.
Dansby stepped into the rhythm and waltzed her around the room. The window view to midnight on the lake far below glittered. Andee had been envious of Leo and Jace’s off-site escapade. Until now.
Whatever that tune was (Caroline, an author and librarian, had helped Andee conjure a playlist) faded and “Moon River” (a song Andee recognized) began.
“That’s my favorite waltz,” Dansby whispered. “Did you make this playlist for me?”
“I did.” Her dazzling eyes seemed to smile at his.
“Thank you.” He tipped her chin. “How did you learn to waltz? You’re good.”
“Jacinta. Today. Crash course.”
“That fast? You’re good.” But, Dansby abandoned the waltz to pull her in close. “You know what they say?”
“No, tell me, funny boy.” Andee melted in his arms, floated on his deep voice, and desired more.
“If you’re good at the vertical dance, you’ll be good at the horizontal dance.”
She laughed louder than planned. “Dan, you can do better than that.”
“Right.” He escorted her closer to wine and cheese and soft sheets. “Breakfast in bed at sunrise, An? You love my lattes…”
She was had.
*** VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!!!*** Ends midnight, Sunday 4/19!
The couple with the most votes gets…A hot air balloon ride date, ON ONE CONDITION! The girls don’t know it, but the guy must conjure a way to pop the question, “Will you be my girlfriend?” Or…wife?!
***The girl with the least votes goes home this week.***
Vote in the comments or on Facebook at Clare Cinnamon, Author.
Stay safe, world! -CC