She stands several inches shorter than me; I bend my head to hers, breathing in the scent of her hair. She uses this shampoo that drives me crazy; the scent is alluring, and anytime I smell it, I abandon all thought but her. I haven’t asked what it is; it’s seemed too forward up to this point, but lately I’ve been trying to identify it by sniffing shampoo in the toiletries aisle of the local drugstore like some weird pervert.
Okay, I’ll go so far as to admit I’ve thought of little else all day but what she would feel like pressed up against me. Yeah, all men think about is sex. You’re preaching to the choir. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: with men like me—and probably Gus, though he’d never admit it—sex and love are all wrapped up together. There’s no separating them. We’ll take sex when there’s no love involved, but it’s an experience of a single dimension: purely physical.
When love enters into it, the pleasure takes on an added dimension that is highly intoxicating and extraordinarily satisfying. Do I want to get Frannie Freeman between the sheets? Desperately. And I have no doubt it’d be an experience of multiple dimensions—and multiple other things as well, if we’re lucky.
But right here and now, I don’t need physical gratification. The thrill of being so close to her, in such an intimate way, is perfection in and of itself.
Her coffee is sloshing out of her cup. I slide my hand over her wrist, my fingers running down the length of hers, and I take the cup, setting it aside.
“Wish you could be in Vegas this weekend, Fran.”
“Sam…” she whispers, but I’ll never know what she was going to say. The ding of the elevator in the hallway seems like the clang of a klaxon bell, startling us both, and we spring apart with unreasonable guilt.
“There you are. I’ve been looking for—oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.” Gus politely looks anywhere but at us.
Frannie grabs her mug. “Don’t be silly. We’re just getting coffee.” She flicks a glance at me, and then smiles at Gus, hectic color blooming in her cheeks as she sidles past him. “If I don’t see you before you go, have a good time in Vegas, Mr. Haldemann.”
“Gus!” he calls after her, impatiently. He turns to me with a wry smile. “Sorry, Sam.”
“No problem.” I’m the one grinning like a fool now, because the few moments alone with Frannie were heaven. “I gave her a broad enough hint. Maybe she’ll show up in Vegas.”
“And what are you gonna do if she does? March her over to the Garden of Love wedding chapel?”
I sock him in the arm and push him out the door. “Maybe. Oh—sorry, Malia. Didn’t mean to run you over.”
Malia Moreno, walking past the break room at that exact moment, looks down her nose at me in obvious disapproval. How she can do so is a mystery, because if the woman stands over five-feet-three-inches, I’ll eat my hat, but she somehow manages.