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Having Lyra back wasn’t what I thought it would be. I thought things would be like the old days when she and I spent time together, hanging out by the pool or fighting over the remote. She did hold up her end of the bargain by getting a job with a local band as a backup singer and keyboardist, a job that paid pretty well for someone with very little formal training. But when she wasn’t working she would be out at bars and nightclubs with some of her old friends from high school who still lived in town. I hardly got to spend any time with her except for when she would drop by the kitchen to get something to eat before she went out.

Silly me, thinking I could use food to get her to stay in one night and hang out with me. I spent hours learning that ramen noodle recipe just because I knew it was one of her favourite street foods from San Myshuno. I guess spending time in the company of her new friends is more important that spending time with her only sister.

The same sister who just recently bailed her out of some pretty big trouble at that!

Now I don’t feel so bad that I mistakenly added more chili powder in the broth than I was supposed to.

Speaking of ramen, Michael stopped coming by the kitchen to bug me during my shift which was slightly disappointing honestly. I know I acted like I was annoyed but I actually liked his sporadic visits to the kitchen to flirt with me.

Maybe he lost interest in me. He barely looked at me that day when I entered the restaurant but then again he was busy with customers. The last few days were kinda swamped especially today since we were catering to an engagement party. Darren and I barely got a chance to use the restrooms far less take our scheduled breaks. The one good thing about having someone book the restaurant for the evening is that we get to go home as soon as the party is over instead of closing time.

As I was walking to the corner to catch my ride home I heard Michael calling out to me.

“Today was really busy huh?” He said.

“Yeah, it was hectic.” I shrugged.

“So…you heading home now?”

“Uh-huh.” I thought now would be the moment where he would say something flirtatious or ask me out again but he simply said, “Cool.”

There was a silence, a sort of uncomfortable silence, but I had enough of it. All we were doing was playing a cat and mouse game and it’s my own fault because I was the one that started it. Why did I keep turning him down when I liked him so much?

“Michael…”

“Yeah?”

“Tomorrow is your day off right? Well, I’m working the late shift so how about you and I go for lunch together?”

“Seriously? You’re not pulling my leg are you?” He frowned.

“No, I’m serious. I wanna go on that date…if you’re still interested?”

“Yes! I mean, yes, of course, I’m still interested.” He grinned. “Do you have anywhere in mind that you wanted to go?”

“Um…I’m sure wherever you decide will be good.”

“I know just the place!” He beamed, “It has a great view and the food is awesome, the best barbecue food in town actually.”

“What’s the name of this place?” I thought I knew every restaurant in Oasis Springs and the closest grilled food place was all the way in Newcrest.

“It’s a surprise. Don’t worry just meet me downtown in front of the Rattlesnake Bar tomorrow at noon and I’ll take you there.”

So I agreed to meet with him outside of the Rattlesnake Bar. And then he took me to this famous grilled place that he raved about.

“So this is the place huh?” We were at the lookout point downtown. No restaurant, just a small area with picnic benches and grills overlooking the lake.

“Yeah, my favourite spot in town. You can’t get food like this anywhere else.” He said confidently. I thought it was cute. Most guys try to show off by taking me somewhere fancy but I appreciated the simplicity of the venue. It was a nice day, a little windy, maybe a tad too hot but still nice and the food certainly smelled good. Sausages and peppers were a nice touch especially since he could have easily made something more simple like hot dogs or burgers instead. Plus the way his arms flexed as he flipped each of the smoky red peppers… It was suddenly getting a little too hot out here. Perhaps it was the humidity.

“I hope the chef knows I’m very particular and I have extremely refined tastes.” I joked.

“Oh, he knows but don’t you worry. His food is always the best and the service is always with a smile.” He winked.

As he continued flipping the sausages on the grill I watched the way the sunlight twinkled against the blue lake waters listening to the sound of gushing waters from the waterfall. “You weren’t lying about the view. It’s really stunning. I can’t believe I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never been to this lookout point.”

“Sounds like you don’t get out much.”

“I’m a busy woman.”

“Is that so?”

“Yep, you should be lucky I managed to pencil you into my schedule.”

He laughed. “Well I am most certainly grateful the lady has found the time to grace this humble peasant with her presence!”

“Good that you know.” I giggled. “Um…I think one of the sausages might be burning.”

“Nah, the more char the better.”

“Sure you don’t need any help?”

“That’s the fourth time you’ve asked to help. I’m totally capable of roasting sausages and peppers, you know.”

“It’s just that…I’m used to being the one that cooks all the time. No one else in my family knows how to make anything other than a salad.”

“Well you just sit back and enjoy the view of my butt while I cater to you.” He said so boldly.

Was it so obvious?

“I…um…I wasn’t…”

“…checking me out? Sure you weren’t.”

“I really wasn’t!”

“Then I guess I should also stop undressing you with my eyes then?” He stared at me so intensely, so seductively that it gave me shivers.

It really was too hot out here. This humidity was killing me.

Luckily the food was finished so we each grabbed a plate and dug in. It was really tasty, a lot better than I expected honestly.

“What’s the verdict?”

“It’s actually really good, for a novice.”

“Novice? Pssht, I’m not a professional chef like you missy but I’m no novice! I grew up with a single working mother so I had to learn how to cook or I’d starve.”

“And a foodie like you can’t function while starving.”

“Heh. You remembered that?” He seemed touched but I remembered every detail of our non-date like it was yesterday.

We sat there talking for the next half hour about everything from our childhood stories to our favourite music. He told me stories about how he worked at a vineyard in Champs Les Sims for a few months, went skinny dipping at the Bluffs in Windenburg, and how he won first place at the curry eating challenge at the Spice Festival in San Myshuno.

He sounded so interesting, so adventurous…I wondered what he saw in someone boring like me.

Then he talked about a painting he was working on and about how he inherited his artistic traits from his mother who worked as a photographer.

“Is she still in Sunset Valley?” I asked.

“No, she…she passed away years ago. Back when I was in high school.”

“I’m sorry. My Dad died when I was in high school as well. Mom passed away right after I started culinary school.”

“Sorry to hear that. I guess you know what it’s like to go from having your parents around for support and advice and then all of a sudden you’re on your own just like that.”

I did know how that felt. All too well. “That’s why I dove right into culinary school. I spent more time there than I did at home that’s for sure. My brother and sister lived in San Myshuno so it was just me here.”

“At least you managed to channel your energy into something constructive. I dealt with my grief by partying. The only reason I traveled so much was because I went wherever the party was. After Mom died, I had no one.”

“What about your father? Don’t you have any siblings?”

“I might have siblings out there somewhere, I don’t know. My pops was a rolling stone who rolled right out of town when my mom told him she was pregnant with me so I never met him. The worse part for me after she died was being in that house all by myself. The quietness got to me. That’s why I packed up, sold everything and just traveled.”

“So what made you settle here?”

“I got tired of the partying lifestyle. I’ve always wanted to get a place in the suburbs, meet the right woman, get married and have a whole bunch of babies and I couldn’t have any of that if I continued down the path I was on.”

It looked like we had more in common than I originally thought. “So that’s what you’re looking for? A wife?”

“I’ll settle for a girlfriend, for now, know anyone who’s interested?”

“Possibly…”

“I hope you’ll give me a good recommendation.” He smirked.

“You are scoring high points so far. I have no complaints.”

***

***

We went for a walk as we continued talking and goofing around and simply having a great time. Hours had passed and I hadn’t found an excuse to bail because I didn’t want to, a first for me. I kinda didn’t want the date to end.

“I had a really great time but I have to go.”

“Of course, your shift’s in like an hour right?”

“Yeah.”

“So when can I see you again?”

“What do you mean? You’ll see me at work tomorrow.”

“I mean…for another date.”

I laughed. “I know, I was just joking. I’m free on Sunday night.”

“I can’t wait.”

There was something on my mind. Something I had been meaning to ask him all day but it never seemed like the right time.

“Something you wanna say, Maia?” He asked, probably seeing me deep in thought.

“Yes…um…it’s just that you’ve been pursuing me since that time we saw each other outside the Nookstone Café, rather persistently in fact.”

“Yeah, well, I like you a lot Maia.”

I couldn’t stop the broad smile that threatened to consume my entire face once I heard his smooth voice utter those words.  “I like you too Michael…but, why didn’t you ask me out that first night? I thought you were going to but then…you didn’t.”

He shifted away from me uncomfortably and looked slightly embarrassed which made me even more confused.

“I…ah…okay, the truth is that I was a little…intimidated…by you.”

“By me? Why?”

“When you told me where you lived, I kinda figured out who you were.”

“I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.” What did that have to do with anything?

“I’ve been living in Oasis Springs long enough to know that only the richest families in town live in Acquisition Butte, the Baumgartners and the Sloanes, so when you told me where you lived I knew you had to belong to one of those families.”

“I’m actually related to both. The Baumgartners are my cousins. Anyway, so you thought I was some snobby spoiled princess or something?”

“No, no, no. I could tell right after we met that you weren’t. You were so sweet and gracious I didn’t think anything bad about you. I just felt a little…look, I’m just a bartender making minimum wage plus tips and you were so gorgeous and smart and you could probably have any guy you wanted, a guy who could give you more than I could so…I just thought you were way out of my league.”

I almost laughed when he said that he thought I was out of his league because all this time I was thinking to myself that he was probably out of mine.

He continued, “I went home that night kicking myself for not at least taking a chance. I thought about you a lot after that hoping I’d get to run into you again and then…I did. And you were working right across the street from me the whole time! Even better when I realised you ended up working in the same place as me. I just had to take a chance even though you rejected me like 50 times!”

I laughed, “Sorry about that…I wasn’t deliberately trying to play hard to get or anything but we do work together and…”

He took my hands into his and looked into my eyes as he said, “…it’s fine. You’re worth the wait.”

The gap between us closed in and before I had the chance to process what was happening his warm lips pressed against mine and I totally melted into his arms! Maybe the strong arm that encircled my waist was what kept me upright because I had no feeling in my legs but certainly had feelings in other places!

It was the best kiss I had ever had. My only kiss as a matter of fact. I never wanted to kiss any guy I went out with before Michael. But I had no time to feel self-conscious because he took control, gently sucking on my bottom lip, fingers running through my hair, deepening the kiss as he pulled me closer.

And then his tongue entered my mouth and did….something that sent shivers down my spine. He really knew what he was doing! The kiss felt like it lasted for hours even though it was a matter of seconds. And I wanted more. Good thing I had to go to work otherwise I might have stayed there with him on the lakefront all night. Could it be that he’s really that good of a kisser or was the heat making me exaggerate things?

It had to be the heat.  

***************************************************

Hello all my wonderful readers!

I hope you enjoyed this chapter because I’m going to be putting the Sloanes on a small hiatus for the next month or so while I prepare for an exam. I wish this wasn’t the case but I am not so good at multitasking and I really need to focus on passing this test so unfortunately, I have to put myself on a Sims/Wordpress ban. The next time I post a chapter will probably be in mid to late April. I’m really sorry but I have to do this (adulting sucks!)

Thank you all so much for your continued support and don’t worry, this month will fly by in no time…hopefully 😦

–Eddie

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