Danny parked in front of Biddy’s building, then walked her back to her door. She lived in a tiny duplex apartment in King William. He figured Araceli had found it for her—an aged house with spreading oak trees in the front yard. Her door opened off the side, at the end of a cobblestone walk that dodged around mountain laurel and holly. Somewhere he could smell night-blooming jasmine.
“Well.” Her smile seemed a little tentative all of a sudden. “Thanks for dinner. And for seeing me home. And for being so nice about the boys. I know they can come on a little strong sometimes.”
He shrugged, trying for practiced nonchalance. “No problem. I enjoyed it. Dinner, that is.” He gave himself a quick mental kick. At this point he was supposed to be wise, sophisticated, urbane, all that stuff. Unfortunately, his urbanity seemed to be taking the night off. He felt like a sixteen-year-old coming home from the junior prom, hoping he’d get to first base at least.
Danny closed his eyes. He was a lunatic. That much had been clearly established by the events at the carriage house. But he wasn’t a stupid lunatic. He was not—repeat, not—going to put any moves on Biddy Gunter.
“Danny?” Her voice sounded anxious. “Are you okay?”
“Super.” He managed to come up with a smile that seemed halfway authentic, although he’d never used the word super before, outside of the McDonald’s drive-through line.
“Well . . .” She didn’t sound entirely convinced, but she produced a slightly shaky smile of her own.
And then he did something absolutely boneheaded—he leaned close enough to smell her faint scent of performance sweat and gardenias, the mixture of sweetness and musk, the essence of woman that clung to her skin. Immediately, he was a goner. Almost before he knew what had happened, he leaned further and pressed his lips to hers.
Her mouth was warm and soft and faintly startled. Or maybe it was her eyes that were startled. He tried his best to pull back, not to lose it completely. But pulling back suddenly didn’t seem to be an option.
His logical half screamed at him. Get the hell back. Make it quick. Say something clever and move on. Do not—do not—get involved with Biddy Gunter. Your assistant. The manager’s sister. The one who’s watched you becoming a first-class nutcase day by ghastly day.
And then Biddy’s arms looped shyly around his neck, almost as if this was her first kiss, yet when her mouth moved against his, he knew it was far from her first. He pressed his hands along her sides and gently pulled her closer, feeling the warmth and softness of her breasts pressed against him. His logical half shrugged its metaphorical shoulders and took a hike, while other parts of his body began to clamor for attention.
For a few moments, he let himself feel the heat, the clenching in his chest, the rush of need in his groin, and then he pulled back, slowly, to rest his forehead against hers. “Holy crap, Biddy,” he whispered. “What was that? What just happened here?”
A millisecond later he wished mightily that he’d confined himself to a simple Wow.
She stared up, her forehead furrowed.
“That was . . .” He fumbled through the meager stock of adjectives his numb brain could supply. “. . . very terrific. Very, very terrific.”
Okay, the results were official. He was both a lunatic and a moron.
Her brow had furrowed even more. Of course it had. He was obviously certifiable and an idiot to boot.
“Terrific,” she said, slowly. “Very, very terrific.”
Her lips trembled, and, for one agonizing moment, he thought she might cry. Then he realized she was more likely to giggle.
He closed his eyes again. Once upon a time, he’d been able to handle a simple kiss without making his partner crack up. Of course, it hadn’t been exactly simple, had it? “I should go home before I make an even bigger ass of myself.”
Then he felt cool fingers, gliding across his forehead. “It was terrific,” she murmured. “Even very terrific.”
Danny carried the memory of her touch all the way up Broadway to his house in Olmos Park. It didn’t change the fact that he’d behaved like an idiot, but somehow it reduced the sting, even if only slightly.