“Okay, then.” That’s what Sam had said. His leg had bounced like it always did when he was nervous. It was endearing, and one of the things that drew me to him. His grin was another. I melted a little each time he leveled it in my direction, which had made it incredibly hard to hide my attraction. That ship had now sailed. For better or for worse, Sam now knew of my interest, and had agreed to a date.
His words had come at the end of a conversation we’d had at breakfast yesterday morning after we’d cleared up a misunderstanding regarding my intentions when I’d previously asked him out. Well, I suppose technically I’d asked him back to my room for a drink, so I couldn’t actually fault him for not understanding that I truly wanted to date him, not just have a fling while we were here in Honiara collecting research data.
“I’m sorry, Henry,” Sam said now as we approached Mambo Juice’s entry. “I wasn’t thinking straight, obviously.”
Perspiration dripped down my face. My pits felt more than a little damp, and sweat matted my chest hairs. The shower I’d taken right before we’d left the Solomon Kitano Mendana Hotel, where we were staying a few days before heading to the smaller islands in the chain, had been a complete waste of time. But even if I’d known Sam would suggest we walk a mile to the Mambo Juice, I probably would have bathed anyway. I wanted to impress the man, after all.
“I’m fine,” I replied. And truthfully I was; other than feeling, shall we say, somewhat less than fresh, the trek and the heat didn’t bother me. We’d both been out in it all day for most of a week, and would be spending at least five more weeks in the islands before heading back to Seattle. This wasn’t the first research trip either of us had taken to a tropical location, and we were both in good health and in the prime of our lives.
Sam looked miserable, biting his lower lip. His body seemed tense, and his brows drawn together. Not unduly physically uncomfortable, but like he was mentally kicking himself in the ass for having suggested we walk.
“Seriously, it’s not a big deal. If I can’t handle one little mile, then I’m a pretty sad case with no business attempting field work.”
He cocked his head to the side and stared curiously at me as I attempted a reassuring smile. His stance relaxed.
“You’re—” He cut off whatever he’d planned to say. His eyes widened and I got the distinct impression he’d been thinking aloud, and hadn’t meant to say anything.
“You’re what?” Because, really, it was better to find out now, before we fucked up our professional relationship beyond any hope of repair by, well…fucking…if there was something about me that bothered him. We’d been colleagues in the university’s biology department in Seattle for ten months, so we knew each other fairly well. I hoped to hell he wasn’t having second thoughts about dating me.
“You’re…you’re actually trying to impress me, just as much as I’m trying to do the same with you.”
I laughed and pressed a palm to my heart. I was so damned relieved to hear those words. “You’re damned right I am!”
His Henry-melting grin appeared, and I was lost.
© 2016 Addison Albright
© 2017 Addison Albright – 2nd edition