We were among the last to leave the dance, reluctant to end the evening. Someone had turned off the pretty party lights and switched on the full fluorescents, which beamed down on us, killing the room’s party glow, turning it back into the no-frills parish hall. Erica and Kelsey had gone home long ago, most of the crowd had thinned, and the DJ packed up his gear. Members of the Women’s Group cleared the tables.
Mel and I sat at our table, massaging our aching feet.
“We’ll be lucky if we can walk tomorrow,” I said.
She groaned. “Why do women wear such ridiculous shoes, anyway?”
“They look great,” I said, glancing at our strappy, spiky sandals lying in a pile under the table.
“Well, they don’t feel too good.” She pointed and flexed her foot. “I think I’ve got a cramp.”
“You girls ready to go?” Justin asked as he and Matt returned from helping the DJ wheel his equipment out to his car.
I dreaded the evening’s end, but the hour was late, and we had church in the morning. I put on my shoes and grabbed my purse and shawl.
“See you in the morning, Mel.”
I’d never danced so much in my life and was as tired as after any monster practice. Justin and I walked out of the hall, saying goodbye to those staying behind for cleanup. Outside, the chilly night air woke me up, and I wrapped my shawl around my shoulders, wishing I’d worn something warmer. The Jeep was parked and running at the door.
“Your chariot awaits,” Justin said as he opened the door.
“When did you do this?” I asked as I climbed in, grateful the heater was running.
“When I came out to help the DJ load his truck I figured I’d start the Jeep and warm it up for you.” He shut the door.
His foresight and thoughtfulness touched me. “Thank you,” I said as he settled into the driver’s seat. He shrugged and headed the Jeep toward home.
Minutes later, we parked outside Maggie and Pat’s.
“All tucked in for the night at the Flynn’s house,” Justin said. He left the Jeep running while we observed the house.
“Well, it is almost midnight,” I said.
“Looks like someone waited up for you.” The living room lights lit the windows, and the glow of the TV was visible through the drapes.
“Probably Aunt Maggie.”
“I’d better get you inside.”
He opened the door and helped me climb down from the Jeep. Taking my arm, he walked me up the short pathway to the front door. The porch light was on, and I heard the murmur of the TV.
“I had a great time tonight,” he said. “Thank you for coming to the dance with me.” He edged closer toward me.
I blushed as the space between us grew smaller. “I’m glad you asked me,” I managed to get out, remembering my manners. “I had the best dancer on the dance floor.”
He smiled. “You’re a great dancer, too. Maybe we can do this again sometime.”
The idea of future dances with him sent a burst of energy through me which I hoped he couldn’t detect. “Okay,” I said, trying to sound noncommittal.
“You know I want to kiss you good night,” he whispered, edging even closer so that now his warm breath brushed my cheek.
“Okay,” I mumbled, not knowing how to respond to that. I’d never been kissed before and hadn’t expected to be kissed tonight, although the thought had crossed my mind.
Justin leaned in closer, and a second later I felt his lips against mine, soft and smooth. He lingered a moment and then put his arms around me in an embrace, our lips locked. He broke the kiss with a sigh and buried his head in my hair.
“You smell so good,” he said.
I was still reeling from the kiss, my eyes closed, as I returned his embrace and held him close. I needed to catch my breath and slow my racing heart, almost impossible with him so close. “You mean I don’t smell like chlorine?” I asked, defusing the moment before the excitement carried me away.
He laughed and pulled his head back, relaxing his grip on me. “Not at all.”
I let go of him and smiled up into his beautiful blue eyes.
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