The mood lightened, and with the help of the tart wine that soon tasted delicious, my high was back and stronger than ever. While we ate, we watched barges cruise the river, and a three-quarter moon on the rise peeking through wispy clouds.
“Dinner was yummy,” I said after draining my fourth glass of wine.
“That it was. Speaking of yummy, how did you make out after our phone call the other night? Were you able to sleep? Because I wasn’t.” During the evening, he’d made it a point to play with my fingers, plucking the tips whenever they were free.
I knew I blushed, because he let out a soft laugh. I allowed my face to hide beneath my hand, and moaned, “Oh no. Do we really have to go there?” I watched him from between my fanning fingers.
“You didn’t like it?” He playfully slapped the tabletop, then palmed his heart.
“I did. Maybe a little too much. That’s the problem.” Lifting my face, I giggled. “I’ve never gotten into anything like that before.”
“So, you’re telling me you’re strictly into the real thing?” He angled his head, cocked a brow, and pinned my fidgeting fingers to the table.
My mouth dropped. “I don’t sleep around.”
“I’m joking. But you did a great job of raising my interest on the phone.”
“Was that all I raised?”
I was delirious, disbelieving I was actually saying sexy things to his face.
“Come here and I’ll whisper the truth into your ear.” With a hitch of his head, he beckoned.
“Don’t tempt me.” My eyes bore intentionally into his.
He made a move as if to sweep his arm across the table, clearing the space from where the waiter had removed our dinnerware not five minutes before.
“Someone once told me, finding a soul mate isn’t easy.” My voice sounded surprisingly steady, my stare intense. The wine was doing its job.
“Sometimes, neither is keeping one.” He drained his last drop of his wine and reached for the bottle, swirling the last inch around the bottom. “And this conversation is growing serious. Another glass?”
I blinked to focus on the objects around me that had begun to float. Stared out the window, where concrete tables and scroll back chairs took on the color of twinkling lights dangling over the patio. “I think I’ve had enough.”
“Me too, I suppose. I hate to call it a night, but it’s like midnight.” His eyes searched my face, testing my reaction.
“And we both have early mornings.” I so did not want the evening to end. The thought of not seeing him again, perhaps for days, possibly weeks, was distressing. I realized I was in no way on the same level of importance as his mother, maybe even Vanessa, but why couldn’t he fit me into his schedule? “I had a wonderful time … Jimmy.” My voice came so from the heart, had it not been mine, it might have brought me to tears.
He gave my hand one last squeeze. “So did I, Jewel. Do it again sometime?”
What the fuck? If this guy didn’t stop flipping from hot to cold, I’d be the one blowing him off. He was dissing me … yet again.
“Sure. I’ll check my calendar.” My voice chilled, along with my emotions. I had to protect myself. Maybe what I said to Casey was right, and this was a waste of time.
Things didn’t feel right anymore. Indigo was capable of inflicting more agony than a thousand Nikos. And his mother and Vanessa only exacerbated my emotional turmoil.
I slid out my chair and stood, making sure to tug my clinging skirt down to my knees. When I leaned over, Indigo made no attempt to curb his gaze which lingered on my bulging cleavage. The wine had hit him too, loosening his inhibitions. He looked about ready to drool.
“Ready to hit the road, James?” I delivered the shocking blow like a pro.
His head snapped back as if I’d slugged him. He squinted with confusion. “Okay … Of course. Yes, I’m ready. Let’s go.”
He ushered me out of the restaurant, into the coat room, without the aid of his hands.
Hugging my sides, I followed him out the door, into the stillness of night, to where the valet waited patiently. Indigo handed him the parking ticket, along with some folded bills.
“It sure has quieted down, huh?” I said, my eyes scanning the empty sidewalk. “Guess we just about closed the place.” Attempting to clear my head, I inhaled too much fresh air, which caused even more instability. I did a sidestep.
Indigo caught me in his arms. “Come here. I want to talk to you.” It wasn’t a request, it was an order.
“We’ve been talking all night.” I shook free.
He reached for my hand. “We need to straighten some things out.”
His grip was strong. When he tried to back me into an alcove at the dark side of the building, once more I pulled away. His touch made me tingle, and I couldn’t bear the inner struggle that was beginning to drive me insane. I just wanted to go home. Fall into my bed, let tears flow, and never think about him again. With the good came the bad, but in my case, I could never accept the obstacles standing in our way.
“Listen. I think I’ll find my own way home. This isn’t working, Indigo. For either of us. I can sense it. Things are too damned strained … and complicated.” Again I wavered, but managed to catch myself before he reached out to me. I stepped further away.
“What are you talking about? The night may have started off on a rough note, but in my opinion, it turned out terrific.” His voice sharpened.
With each advance he made, I retreated, until my feet bordered a garden of shrubbery decorating the side of the building where my heels sunk in pine bark.
Vanessa’s face floated across my mind, followed by his mother’s, and I couldn’t help but take my resentment out on him. “It’s never going to work. We both have obligations. In your case, more than ordinary obligations. And it seems to me you’re carrying baggage.” I reached into my purse for my phone.
“Jewelia …” He grabbed my wrist.
I jerked away and turned, with every intention of stomping off, calling a taxi. Before I’d moved two feet, he came up from behind, snatched my arm, spun me around and yanked me into him, backing us both into the alcove.
As his back hit the wall, our bodies jarred to a halt. My breath was snatched from my lungs. Infuriated, I stared up at him, too stunned to speak, my free hand hammering his chest. Attempting to shove him away, my out of control palm landed on his cheek. From the sound of the crack, I imagined the sting. Within moments my hand was captured by his, my arms pinned, so that I stood crushed to his chest, completely helpless.
“Jewelia,” his voice was hoarse. “Hear me out, please …” His face was beside mine, his lips in my hair, against my ear, brushing my cheek, pleading.
Unable to face his words I pressed my nose to his chest, lost in confusion. Did I want to hurt him so badly? As someone else might have done? Could I find that ounce of understanding inside my troubled heart? Or should I bring a knee to his groin … bite him, headbutt him? Why couldn’t I just tell him I’d been falling in love with him since the moment we’d met … and his indifference had hurt me … and now I was spooked.
He drew back, but didn’t loosen his hold, repeating my name. “Jewelia, talk to me, baby. Don’t shut me out …”
We were two silhouettes surrounded by shadows, features barely definable, but his eyes were outstanding, sparkling like jewels as moonlight struck his face. It would have been so easy to let my body melt into his, surrender every emotion that had fought to surface since the first moment my eyes fell upon his. The darkness was a delectable aphrodisiac, but I couldn’t let myself crumble. I had to break away.