I’ve never been on the back of a motorcycle. I’ve never had any desire to be. But when Ian and I ride through the steep, winding streets, I understand the appeal. Having an excuse to hold onto Ian is liberating; at first, I uncomfortably wrap my arms around his waist, but when we go flying around the corners and up and down hill after hill, I lean into him and hold on with all I’ve got. I love it.
We pull up to a stop sign, and Ian looks down at my legs and sees chill bumps. He rubs his hands together and then over my legs to try to warm me up. It just makes my chill bumps hot, but doesn’t actually make them go away.
“Let’s get you warm,” he says before taking off again.
We drive to Fillmore Street and park in front of Peet’s, home of my favorite coffee. He gets off first, still holding the bike up and watches as I hurriedly yank my dress down, grinning mischievously all the while. Either this man is seriously happy or there is something about me that cracks him up. I have a feeling it’s the latter and if I didn’t feel so happy myself, I’d want to put him in his place a bit more.
“Let’s check out this…” He’s stops mid-sentence, mouth slightly ajar, as I take the helmet off and shake my hair out.
“What? Is it bad?” I try to finger through my hair, smoothing out the tangles.
He clears his throat. “Uh, no. Not bad. At all.”
He looks unsure of what to do. For a minute, I think he’s going to take my hand, but he pauses and puts his hand on my back. The thought that he is withholding affection leaves me divided. I’m relieved because I know now more than ever that I have to settle things with Michael for good. There can’t be any question whether we’re together or not. Time won’t make me care more for him than I do now.
However … the ache that takes over my body from Ian’s caution becomes a weight the longer I’m around him. My hands crave him.
Instead of going to Peet’s, Ian leads me down the street to a cute boutique.
“Let me buy you something.”
“No!” I shake my head and look at him to make sure he’s listening. “You don’t need to buy me anything.”
“You were freezing on the bike. And I just … want to get you something,” he says, ducking his head onto my shoulder for the briefest second. He holds up a pair of wicked jeans. “Will you think of me every time you wear these?”
The jeans are fabulous. I’m swayed for a moment. “They’re great. But no! You don’t need to spend money on me.”
“I’m going to keep you warm. You may as well get the right sizes because we are leaving here with an outfit.” He rubs his hands up and down my arms. “See? You’re still chilly. And I don’t want to take you back to the house. Please. Unless you want to go back?”
“No … I don’t. But…”
“Okay, it’s settled. Will these fit?” He hands me the jeans and when I try to look at the price tag, he rips it off.
My mouth drops open. He laughs and lifts my jaw with the back of his hand. He picks up a fitted long sleeve shirt and holds it up to me.
“Yep, you are dangerous in red.”
“It’s really low.”
“You’re a sneaky one.” I accuse him.
“You’re a smart one.”
So far, he always has the last word. I kinda like it.
“Do you see something else you’d like to try?” He asks politely, attempting to look innocent and failing.
I’m not much of a shopper—I think we may have already established this, but when I have a day with Ian Sterling, I really don’t want to waste time shopping.
I shake my head and go into the fitting room. The jeans fit like a dream. I didn’t even know I had this booty. My legs look miles long. And well … the top … I’m speechless. This shirt makes me look like a sexpot. I have NEVER … I don’t know if I can do this.
I make one more attempt to adjust my cleavage and glance back in the mirror. My hair almost reaches the waist of my jeans and it’s holding up fairly well, considering the windy ride. I don’t quite recognize myself, but it’s a GOOD THING. Folding my dress, I take a deep breath and step out.
I hear him before I see him. He curses under his breath.
I turn around and raise an eyebrow. Do you like? My eyes ask.
“Hell, YES,” he says out loud.
He won’t even let me properly thank him, much less pay for any of it. I thank him anyway and he says, “No, thank you.”
We walk outside and I’m warm from the inside out now. Ian is quiet, but doesn’t take his eyes off of me. It’s disconcerting. He points to Peet’s when we get back to the bike. I nod and think this is the best day I’ve ever had.
As we drink our warm drinks, we sit and watch each other. Once I realize he’s not expecting me to say anything, I relax and stare back at him. So much is being said without a single word. I’m not sure how much time passes; at least long enough for both of us to finish our coffee/mocha.
Finally Ian breaks the silence. “What are you doing to me, Sparrow Fisher?” He says it completely serious.
I don’t know what to say. How do you answer that?
I’m not sure why or how the mood shifted, but it’s less playful and a dozen notches more intense when I climb onto the back of the bike this time. When I wrap my arms around his chest, he puts his hands on top of mine and holds them there.
He turns his head and says, “You up for a little adventure?”
“I’m up for anything.”
When we’re going up, up, up, I lay my head on Ian’s back and close my eyes. The bike finally levels out and when I open my eyes, we are at the top of Lombard Street, the crooked, brick street with eight hairpin turns in one block. I gulp.
“Do you trust me?” he asks over his shoulder.
He shakes his head. “Wise woman.”
“Let’s do it,” I say.
I’m a bit terrified as we pull around and get behind a couple of cars to go down the steep street. The view at the top is one that would be easy to take for granted when you’re used to seeing it all the time. There are almost too many scenic views to soak them all in, but we both fill our lungs with air and do our best. The billowy clouds are close enough to touch. Coit Tower is in the distance and the Golden Gate Bridge is way past that. I think I might even see Alcatraz.