Updated: Feb 5
He picked her up an hour early. On purpose. Most of his motivation was to get there before she had time to talk herself into a whirlwind, since he wouldn’t tell her where they were going. He also had trouble staying away from her. He shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and rocked on his feet as she pulled the door open.
“Mac,” she said his name like a warning, but her eyes and mouth smiled up at him. “You said 2 o’clock.”
He cupped her jaw in his rough hand. Maggie tipped her head up so he could press his mouth to hers in a brief kiss. Brief because if he wasn’t careful, her neighbors Trey and Joel might find him with his tongue down her throat again as he pressed her up against her front door. The last time that had happened, the two men had critiqued his skill and provided scores out of ten. Harsh scores. But she’d laughed and snuggled into his chest, so it hadn’t been the worst possible scenario. Mac just learned to be more careful about losing himself in her when they were alone.
“I’m not ready yet,” Maggie said, but she opened her door wider and let him into her apartment.
It was a comfortable space, but Mac had plans for the end of her lease. Plans that involved a shiny new key, the office he and Audrey had been putting together at the house, and moving her in with him.
Mac looked at her faded black leggings and her oversized t-shirt. It was one of his, advertising the university in big block letters across the front. Mac fisted his hands so he wouldn’t reach for her. Plans, dammit, plans.
“So get ready,” he said.
As if she didn’t look stunning, no matter what she wore. As if his heart didn’t threaten to pound out of his chest and her body didn’t draw his hands to her like magnets every time they were in the same room.
Maggie narrowed her blue eyes at him. She shrugged, turned on her heel, and peeled the shirt over her head as she walked away from him. Mac growled as he followed her into her bedroom, Maggie’s laugh lighting him up like a sparkler on the Fourth of July. She stopped in front of her closet and pushed her leggings down over her ass and thighs, letting them pool near her feet. Mac barely caught himself from crashing to the floor as he missed the end of her bed.
She was naked and tempting, and he stepped towards her—intent on doing something about both—when she grabbed a simple black dress out of her closet and pulled it on over her head. Sheturned around, pulling her long hair out from under the collar, and smiled at him. The dress was so quintessentially Maggie—a longer, more-fitted t-shirt—and she stood there beaming at him. She was everything he’d ever wanted and had been too afraid to ask for. So distracted by her presence, he almost missed what she said to him.
“Can you pick out a pair of panties for me, Mac? I’m going to brush my hair.”
They had time, right? Time for him to sink to his knees and put his mouth on her? He knew she hadn’t asked to be seductive. She probably thought it was helpful to have him get her a pair of underwear. Like it would get them out the door faster. Maybe if she knew how little blood was left in his brain, she’d think differently. And he’d lost his opportunity since she was already halfway to the bathroom. Well, he hadn’t lost the opportunity, but he’d have to go get her now, and the tiny bit of distance was enough to remind him they had a date. A date he hoped she’d love.
Mac opened the top drawer of her dresser. He closed his eyes so he wouldn’t get distracted again and dipped his hand into the mass of silk and lace. He pulled out the first pair he could separate. Lavender lace. She’d be wearing lavender lace and no bra under a simple dress and the whole day was going to be an exercise in restraint. Maggie walked out of the bathroom, scraping her hair up into a high ponytail that he wanted to wrap around his fist. This was why he planned most of their dates in public places. So that he’d have to keep his hands off of her until the end.
“Good choice,” she said and took the panties from his grip, slipping them on under her dress. “I’ll just grab my keys and we can go.”
He handed her into the front seat of his car and slid his palm against hers as he started the engine. Maggie squeezed her fingers around his, the corners of her eyes crinkling with her smile.
“Are you going to tell me where we’re going?”
“Do you need to know? Or want to know?” Mac asked.
With Maggie there was a definite difference and while a surprise was fun, it wouldn’t ruin the date if she’d rather know where he was taking her. Her forehead crinkled, and she pursed her lips. Mac shifted his gaze from the empty street to his girlfriend in the passenger seat. The fingers of her free hand tapped along the top of her right knee.
“I’m just being nosy,” Maggie said. “I trust you.”
He let her fiddle with the radio station, as if she wouldn’t settle right back on the original pick. The station was her favorite, and he never changed the dial when she wasn’t in the car. He enjoyed having a tiny piece of her always with him. She was always at the forefront of his brain, so a physical—audible—reminder was a bonus, even when she wasn’t there.
Mac turned the car into the parking lot and Maggie leaned forward in her seat. The arching glass windows, the neat block letters on the sign, the ampersand. She was vibrating by the time he put the car into park. He pocketed his keys and turned to face her, sucking in a breath and the joyous glint in her eye. They shone like jewels in the early afternoon sunlight.
“Books? We’re going to get books?”
Mac nodded as he helped her out of the car, his hand finding her lower back. They crossed the parking lot together and Mac opened the heavy front door, holding it for Maggie to walk inside the bookstore. She stayed by his side, but her body was already leaning towards the gleaming shelves full of colorful bindings.
“This is our first stop,” Mac said. “Pick whatever you want and I’ll carry it and pay for it. We’ll stay until you have all the books that catch your eye.”
“Mac,” Maggie’s eyes widened as she stared up at him, “I can’t do that.”
Mac frowned. “Can’t do what? Do you not like physical books?”
“I love them,” Maggie said, stepping closer to a display table to peruse the titles. “But—” her fingers twisted together and her breathing sped up.
“Hey, it’s okay. I can give you a limit.” He said, and she nodded.
“I can pick three books.” Her breathing was steadier.
“Ten.” Mac had planned on twenty, but he figured that might put her over the edge. He wanted her to have fun, not be uncomfortable. His two most-recent blades sold for more than he’d thought they would, leaving him with more than enough cash flow to buy Maggie as many books as her heart desired. Even if that meant that several months from now, he’d have to help carry the boxes to his own home. If she agreed to move in with him.
“What?” She laughed but was already pulling a book off of the first shelf. Its purple background showed two cartoon people and a bouquet of pink and yellow flowers. “That’s too much, Mac.”
Maggie read the back cover, opened the book and scanned the first few pages, then tucked it under her arm. She walked her fingers down a row of spines before pulling out another. She had three books in her arms by the time she looked back up at him.
“Let me carry those,” he said, reaching for the pile. Mac balanced the books on his forearm and slid a hand into Maggie’s ponytail. Her lips parted, and a flush painted her cheeks. Public. He reminded himself. People all around. He leaned down to press a kiss to her forehead. Her skin was silky and warm under his lips. Mac’s fingers tightened in her hair, tugging enough to make her pant before he released her. “You’re going to pick your books, Maggie. You’re going to let me carry them for you, and buy you one of those cream and sugar concoctions that someone waved an espresso shot at and called it coffee. You’re going to let me pay. And then we’re going to our next stop.”
“Okay,” she breathed, her eyes glassy, and then she went back to the shelves.
Two hours later, Mac handed her a white chocolate peppermint mocha with a mountain of whipped cream and extra chocolate shavings, while Maggie debated between two books. Both covers were black with swirling red flowers and gleaming gold swords. It took Mac a full minute to recognize that they weren’t the same book.
“This synopsis grabs my attention more,” Maggie held up the first book, “but one of my beta readers recommended this one.” She sucked her lower lip into her mouth, worrying it with her teeth. Mac averted his gaze. He didn’t have the extra hands to adjust his pants if he stared too long.
“Get both,” he said, and she shook her head.
“That would put me at eleven books.”
“It’s fine, sweetheart.”
“No,” Maggie put the first book back on the shelf. “We agreed on ten and even that was too many.” She took a sip of her drink, closing her eyes and smiling as she swallowed. “Today has been wonderful, Mac.”
“It’s not over yet.”
Mac paid for the books, slipping her eleventh choice into the pile as Maggie perused a display of bookmarks. He carried the bags out to the car, their fingers laced between them. Maggie swung their hands, humming a song that sounded like a Christmas carol, although it was mid-July. He handed her back into the car and started the engine, sliding his hand into hers again.
“Where are we going now?” Maggie asked. Mac shrugged as he pulled out of the parking lot and turned left onto the main road.
He drove them through the small downtown, turning right at the town hall, and continuing towards the lake. He chanced glances at Maggie as she looked out the passenger window. She was smiling. The genuine, soft smile he sometimes caught her wearing when she looked at him. Or read a good book. Or wrote a good paragraph. He loved seeing her like this. Relaxed and happy. His.
Mac pulled the car into a parking space shaded by leafy trees. He opened Maggie’s door and handed her out into the sun. She shielded her eyes as she looked down at the water. Mac shouldered his leather bag, took the bag of books, and grabbed a blanket and the cooler he’d stashed in the backseat. He piled everything into his left hand so he could lace their fingers together and led her down the grassy slope to a shady spot. Maggie helped him lay the blanket out and she took a seat facing the water. Mac faced her.
“What now?” She asked. Mac caught a peekaboo hint of the purple lace as she shifted on the plaid blanket.
“Now,” he said, “we you get to read some of your new books and I’ll work on lesson plans. I have some snacks when we’re hungry, and when you’re ready to go, we’ll either grab dinner or I’ll take you home.”
Maggie ran her fingers through the end of her ponytail. She pulled her knees up to her chest, affording him an even better look straight up her skirt. Mac moved the cooler to block anyone else from seeing and tried to keep his eyes away. He was not ruining their afternoon together because he couldn’t control himself. Probably.
“You don’t mind spending our date in silence?” Her brows furrowed in confusion.
“You love to read. You have brand new books. I know your kindle is in your bag too. I just like to be with you, Maggie.”
“You brought something to read?” She asked, “Because I can let you borrow something.”
It would be inappropriate to tell her he intended to spend most of the afternoon watching her, right? Just because she’d agreed to date him didn’t mean he could be creepy. Staring at your girlfriend while she read for a few hours definitely counted as creepy.
“I have my laptop. I can work on my syllabi for the coming semester, or do some research on the next blades I plan to make.”
“You’re sure?” Maggie asked. “You don’t want to rent a rowboat and go paddle around the lake or something?”
“Only if you want to read in a rowboat. Then I’ll happily row you around the lake.”
“God no,” Maggie laughed. “I know exactly which book I’m going to start with.”
Mac handed her the bookstore bag, and she handpicked the first book she’d chosen at the store. She gave him a sideways look when she noticed book eleven, but he pretended not to notice. He handed her the spare sunglasses he always kept in his car, and she slid them over her vibrant eyes. Mac turned to open his own bag and pull out his computer, when a small body collided with his.
Maggie sent him sprawling back out onto the plaid blanket. She draped her body over his chest and hips, practically straddling his thigh, and Mac tried to think innocent thoughts as she grinned down at him.
“I love you,” she said and leaned down to press their mouths together.
This kiss was warm and wet and her tongue pressed past the seam of his lips to tangle with his. Mac groaned into her mouth and wrapped his arms around her body, anchoring her to him. He tried to remember to keep his hands above her ass, but he was pretty sure that was an impossible mission. Maggie’s hair fell around them, blocking out the sun, and Mac lost himself in her taste, her smell, her weight.
“You’re going to cut into your reading time,” he said when she pulled back to catch a breath. Maggie laughed, the sound tickling his eardrums and sending bubbles shooting through his bloodstream.
“I’m pretty sure making out is a standard part of any date. The books aren’t going anywhere.”
“Are you saying I rank higher than books on Maggie Babbitt’s list of important things?” His chest swelled with pride and heat and love.
“Of course you do.”
Mac pulled her head back down to his. “I love you,” he breathed over her lips.
And then he kissed her again.