stereotypical downscale Italian restaurant, right down to the red and white checked tablecloths and multicolored stained glass lampshades and bulbous shakers of Parmesan cheese on each table. Truth is, at this point I was so intrigued by her that she could have brought me to a greasy spoon diner and I’d have been happy. So we sat down, and a young buxom waitress magically appeared and took our order. For an eternity of seconds we sat, looking at each other. She took her hat off, her hair frizzing out a little, and I liked that she just ran her fingers through it once to try to make some order out of it. My last girlfriend, Laura, wouldn’t have taken it off in the first place, but if she had, she would have disappeared into the bathroom for half an hour to sculpt her hair back into place.
She met my eyes and grinned a little. Hers were a pale blue green, with a dark iris surrounding them, and what little makeup she wore showed them to their best advantage.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked.
“I’ve never kissed a guy taller than me,” she answered without hesitation.
I chuckled. “My dad used to play basketball for Duke. Babe, I’m a freak of nature.”
She smiled. “I guess I am too.”
“You know that’s just begging for me to say let’s go get freaky, right?”
She laughed again. “You’re getting better at this.”
“I was just out of practice. So ... why are we in a hurry, anyway?”
“We’re going to the theater.”
I raised my eyebrows, grinning. “Okay,” I said. “I’d love that.”
Truth is, I really would. One of the advantages of living in Glen Cove was that it was a very short trip to New York City. I’d gone to several Broadway shows with dates in high school.
She smiled. “You passed that test.”
I laughed. “What, you’re testing me now?”
She nodded, laughter in her eyes. “You’re too perfect, Ray. Do you know how hard it is to find a guy who doesn’t see you as a sex-object?”
I met her eyes. “I definitely see you as a sex-object.”
She blushed, a deep red that reached all the way to her ears. I liked that. “Yes. But you also at least pretend to be interested in the rest of me.”
I leaned forward. “Carrie, any girl who wrestles with mountain lions is on my short list of amazing people.”
That made her blush even more. “Trust me, I don’t wrestle with them. Although I did once, accidentally.”
I waved a hand in the air, dismissing the comment. “Seriously. I know we haven’t known each other that long. I know this is new. But—I could fall for you pretty damn easily. Just so you know.”
Her breath caught, and her eyes went wide. Of course, our waitress chose that moment to reappear. “Are we doing okay?” she asked, in a kind of fake cheery voice as she placed a platter on the table.
I smiled back. “We are!”
Actually, the pizza looked fantastic, and I’d been cooped up in an aluminum tube eating peanuts for the last eight hours. I was doing better than okay, I was doing fantastic. I had a good beer, a good pizza and a good woman, all in one place at one table. This was the stuff of dreams.
The waitress went away, and Carrie watched me, and said, “What are you thinking about?”
By this time I was biting off a huge chunk of pizza, so I quickly swallowed, then said, “Pizza. Beer. Woman. I died and went to heaven.”
She threw her head back with a full-throated laugh. The kind of laugh that you want to join in.
“I didn’t know you were such a savage, Ray.”
I winked at her. “I know I give off this suave, cultured appearance, but in fact, I’m a guy.”
“I never had any doubts about that.”
I caught her eyes again, and her lips curled up in a grin, and I thought once again how much I wanted to feel her lips and body against mine.
It was a strange, awkward moment as we stepped out of the car in the valet parking area at the theater. I looked over at Ray