Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction strictly for entertainment purposes. Please do not copy, publish or alter this work in any way without the written permission of the author.
Stephanie looked into the mirror and released a cry of despair. She had hardly eaten anything at dinner- a considerable feat considering the enormous Thanksgiving feast that Annabella had laid out in the main dining room- but somehow, defying all laws of logic, her hips had grown about half a mile wider since she had woken up that morning. It was incredible. When she had tried on the clothes earlier, the pants had looks fabulous- the buttery brown suede skimming her curves with flattering closeness. Now they made her look like a slut. With a sigh, the woman tugged at the zipper, and flew to the closet. Anthony would be here any moment….Anthony would be here!!!!….and she didn’t have the slightest idea what she was going to wear.
How was it possible that it was already almost six o’clock? Time hadn’t seemed to move at all this morning. It wasn’t until she had finally given herself permission leave the table and return to her room to get ready that the minutes had begun to stream past in a blur.
Anthony would be here in five minutes…..Anthony!
Stephanie closed her eyes as the memories of the night before flooded in. She had finally told Anthony what she felt- that she loved him as more than a friend…and he hadn’t run away! He had wanted her too! He had said so, and then he had kisses her….Involuntarily, she smiled at the memory. She could almost still feel his lips against hers, his strong hands on her back….
He was going to be here in FOUR minutes! Stephanie snapped herself back to attention. Her eyes fell on a corduroy skirt and matching jeans jacket. She could change it, but removing the black turtleneck sweater that she was wearing would undo her hair…THREE MINUTES!
She was stuck with the slut pants.
With a sigh of frustration, Stephanie hopped into her ankle boots and looked for her coat. She frowned as she spied the supple black leather jacket, suddenly struck by the number of cows that had died for her outfit. What if Anthony was an animal rights activist? What if he was allergic to leather?
TWO MINUTES! Stephanie felt a fluttering in her stomach as she threw the jacket on her shoulders and ran to the mirror for a final check. She should have thought of all of this earlier. She had been surprised- distracted by the sound of his voice first thing in the morning when he had called to arrange the date- a trip into town to watch the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas lights in the park, and to visit the little festival booths set up in the center of town. She had half-believed that the night before had all been a dream, and when the phone had rang….
ONE MINUTE. Stephanie clawed for a brush, suddenly noticing that her hair looked completely ridiculous. Cosmo hair. What had possessed her to think that a bluefly.com ad was an appropriate inspiration for a hairstyle? The woman wearing it in the picture was a cartoon… Maybe if she could find a hairclip, she could just tuck it up and – –
A gentle rapping at the door interrupted the line of thought.
He’s here. Stephanie thought with despair. And I look like an idiot….
She looks like a model. Anthony had to struggle to keep his jaw from dropping when Stephanie opened the door. Her hair was fluffier than usual, – part of it had been teased back at the crown and secured with a tortoiseshell clip. Her bangs that slashed saucily across her forehead, and the rest fell around her shoulders, flipped up on the ends. Her clothes were equally attractive- soft looking brown suede pants, black books, black jacket…A lot of cows died for that outfit, he thought, noting the abundance of suede and leather, but she looked amazing. At least the creatures had not died in vain.
“I….uhm…..” Forgot how to talk. Anthony thought as he struggled for a simple “hello.” He finally managed it.
“Hello.” Stephanie replied with a shy smile. She looked at the tissue-paper wrapped bundle in his hands. Sensing the gaze, the Dr. thrust the parcel forward.
“They’re for you.” He said quickly. “They’re flowers.” You moron. She knows that they’re flowers.
“Thank you. ” Stephanie smiled as she accepted the gift, inhaling deeply.
I should have brought roses….Anthony lamented, the mixture of mums, tigerlilies and brown-eyed Susans which had seemed so jaunty and attractive in the store where he had bought them suddenly seeming cheap. His worried gaze watched her face…
He didn’t bring me roses. Stephanie smiled into the blossoms as she held them to her nose. How had he known that she didn’t like them?- at least not the hothouse variety that came from the florist. The flowers that he had chosen were perfect. She smiled at the doctor before going to put the flowers in the vase beside her bed.
“Shall we?” She asked when she returned.
Anthony nodded, holding open the door, walking a half-step ahead of her as they walked down the staircase, into the lobby, and then out of the Inn. Stephanie had a brief moment of confusion as Anthony rushed ahead of her. Then she felt her cheeks color with pleasure when she saw that he had gone forward to hold open her door and help her inside.
He washed the truck.
As much as possible for a twenty year old vehicle, the body gleamed, and the fraying upholstery had been covered with a blanket. She was pleased by the obvious effort that he had put into the date. His own appearance showed equal care. His oxford shirt, the collar peeking over a heathered-green sweater that brought out his eyes- and his khaki chinos had been neatly pressed. His shoes were polished, and his hair had been gelled within an inch of its life. She suppressed a giggle as she pondered whether his boxer shorts- somehow Anthony struck her as a boxer man- had been ironed too…
“Have you been in town before?” Anthony asked as they pulled out of the parking lot and onto the road that led back past the Clinic and out of the Point.
“Once.” Stephanie replied. “I used the courthouse library to finish a project for work.”
“Do you like it?”
“It’s charming.” Stephanie smiled. “Have you been often?”
The doctor nodded, reaching down to shift gears. Stephanie felt a shimmer of electricity as his forearm brushed her leg.
“I seem to be going more and more. I met a lot of the other doctors when I was applying for privileges at the hospital. A couple of them are trying to start a pediatric outreach clinic. If they can get the grant, I’m going to ask NormaJean if I can work there a couple of afternoons a week…I know that she hired me for the clinic, but they don’t really need me all the time. If I take a cut in salary…”
Stephanie nodded her head as he spoke. She wasn’t really certain of the arrangement that he had with NormaJean, but she couldn’t imagine that the other woman would try to stop the doctor from working in town if he thought it could do some good. It was amazing how selfless he was. All of the doctors that Stephanie knew- the ones her firm represented along with the hospital back in Kentucky- wouldn’t have taken a paycut to save their own grandmothers’ lives.
“….We’re going to try to work with the local WIC office.” Stephanie watched Anthony’s face as he continued to speak, admiring his profile, and the bright emerald eyes that he kept on the road. “There’s a real need for preventative care for the underinsured. The County Health department can take care of acute cases, but they can’t really build a relationship with the patients. If we can identify the at-risk patients in infancy and design a monitoring study to….” Anthony’s voice trailed off and he dragged his eyes from the road just long enough to give Stephanie an apologetic look. “Sorry. Shop talk.”
“It’s interesting.” Stephanie said truthfully. “That’s where I was the week before Tina’s wedding.” Anthony informed her. “-Working with Doctor Calbain on the grant proposal.”
“I thought you ‘didn’t want to be with me’.” Stephanie said lightly, but with just enough emphasis to remind him that those were the words that he had spoken at the wedding.
Anthony nodded. “That too. I didn’t trust myself. I-” Anthony blushed as he tried to explain. He fumbled with the words for a few minutes, then abruptly changed topic. “We’re crossing.”
Stephanie looked up at the road, bracing herself for the moment of panic that she always felt when she traversed the threshold to the Point. It always seemed harder to her on the way out: One moment you were traveling along on the road that led to the Inn, and in the next you were on the highway, the world behind you closed up as if it had never existed at all. The process was extremely disconcerting- she was glad that she had Anthony with her to remind her that it wasn’t just an illusion after all.
“Are you okay?” Anthony’s voice was concerned.
Stephanie forced a smile, releasing her breath as the truck merged onto the divided road that followed the coast into the town. “I’m fine…still getting used to it.” She explained.
Anthony nodded and patted her knee. “It took me a while too.”
Stephanie jumped at the touch, all fear forgotten in the shimmer of heat that followed instantly from the doctor’s touch. “Ummm.” Was all she managed in reply.
Smooth, Girardeau. Very smooth. Anthony chided himself for patting Stephanie’s leg. He hadn’t meant anything by the touch- they had been speaking so naturally that he simply reacted without thinking- but Stephanie had jumped away like she had been burned. She didn’t jump away last night. He reminded himself, his thoughts lingering briefly on the kiss the pair had shared. At any rate, he didn’t want to jeopardize things by rushing now. Making a mental note to keep his hands to himself, the doctor concentrated on the road.
“There’s the hospital.” He gestured at a modern-looking building just before the road narrowed. “And there is where I go to church.” He drew his eyes from driving again to gauge her reaction to the last sentence. He wasn’t certain how much of his past that Stephanie knew.
“It’s lovely.” She said simply. Then she turned her attention forward. They were entering the village proper now, and the sidewalks on either side of the road were thronged with people. “It looks like the whole town turned out!”
Anthony pulled the truck into the parking lot of a local bank. “Sit still.” He commanded, and Stephanie did as she was told, waiting for him to walk around, open her door, and help her out again.
Such a gentleman. Stephanie’s cheeks hurt, and she knew that she much be grinning like an idiot. Anthony’s behavior was so perfect that she half-imagined that his mother had given him a “Firm talking to” before the date had began. As it was, she had the odd, out-of-time sensation that she was back at the junior prom. The only thing missing was a corsage. With any other man, the formality might have seen cloying or contrived, but with Anthony- who really was so innocent and eager to please- it was a refreshing change.
“It’s this way.” He said, leading her into the stream of people heading out of the parking lot to the right. They stopped at the end of the street to wait for the light to change. Stephanie stood at Anthony’s side, trying to avoid being separated by the other people.
The back of Anthony’s hand brushed against hers, and she looked up, her eyes flying to his face to see if he had been trying to get her attention. The doctor was staring intently at the light. It was nothing.
Stephanie craned her neck around to look at the other people milling around them. Most were in fancy holiday outfits, as though they had just came from their turkey dinners. There were mothers and babies, old women and little girls, even a few grumpy old men looked as if they were anxious to return to football. Stephanie smiled at them when she felt the contact of Anthony’s fingertips once more. She turned quickly, this time managing to catch his gaze.
“The light has changed.” He explained quickly.
Yes? No? Did she want him to hold her hand or not? Anthony’s stomach was in knots. He had offered to take her hand twice now, but hadn’t been able to read a response. Why was this so complicated? He didn’t remember it being this hard.
But you can forget a lot in twelve years.
Twelve years. Had it really been that long? Yes. He had gone on his last date when he was twenty years old on the last Saturday before he had started at seminary. He had escorted a family friend to a wedding.
“Are you sure you want to die a virgin?” He remembered, as though it were yesterday, the absolute horror of Mary-Margaret Jenkins grabbing his crotch under the table at the reception. He still wanted to die of shame- but at least Mary-Margaret would have let him know if she wanted to hold his hand.
This was ridiculous. Screwing up his courage (and under the pretense of pulling her out of the way of a stroller), Anthony took her hand.
She didn’t pull away.
He was holding her hand! It was a tiny, ridiculous thing, but it had made Stephanie feel as though she were walking on air. His grip was firm, but comfortable. A perfect fit.
Soon they arrived at the little merchants stalls that had been set up on the streets closest to the park. The couple walked past them slowly, examining the wares.
“Are you hungry?” Anthony asked, nodding his head toward a group of food vendors.
“I hate to admit it, but I am.” Stephanie replied. “Every year after Thanksgiving dinner, I swear that I’ll never eat again….”Of course, this year I didn’t eat it to begin with…
“Good.” He flashed a smile. “I’m starved. Kim is a lousy cook!”
So that was where Anthony had eaten Thanksgiving dinner. Stephanie had wondered when he didn’t make an appearance at the Inn dining room- though she knew that the “uncoupled men” sometimes stayed away on holidays. Still, it was odd- wasn’t Kim Australian? Why was he celebrating the Pilgrims lasting through the winter?
“What do you want?”
What did she want? Panic. What carnival food could she possibly eat while looking “dainty”?
Anthony continued speaking. “Do you like corndogs?”
Stephanie nodded. Were corndogs dainty? “Sure.”
“Diet Coke?” He remembered from their afternoons at the Clinic.
The woman nodded, bracing herself for the “I’ll get it”/ “No, I’ll pay, I insist.” Battle, but instead, Anthony simply released her hand. “I’ll be right back.”
Before Stephanie could protest, he was gone. In a few moments, her returned with their food. Stephanie accepted hers. The pair stared at each other for a minute, wondering who should take the first bite, and she finally decided to go first.
It was heaven. Hand dipped, the batter slightly sweet, deep-fried so that the outside was crispy, but the inside was mealy and moist. Stephanie took a second taste, and then dabbed the napkin at the edge of her mouth to wipe away the grease.
“Good?” The man asked, already half-finished with his own.
“It’s incredible!” Stephanie gushed, wiping away another drop of oil. “But I don’t want to think of the fat content….Can’t you get your medical license revoked for passing out these things?”
The doctor grinned and shrugged. “They’re good for business.”
They started walking again as they finished eating, meandering along the harbor where some of the fishing boats were already strung up with lights, then returning to the town center and the little carnival and crafts show taking place. Stephanie’s attention was draw to some of the sales booths. One woman was selling dried flower garlands and wreaths. The lawyer bought one for her office back home. From another seller, she purchased a Christmas tree ornament that was a snowman s’more- the body made from two white marshmallows stacked on a chocolate and graham cracker base.
“These are cute!” Stephanie pointed to another item in the snowman stall. Along one wall were plaques that had been painted with male and female snow people. Some of the signs also sported smaller snowmen meant to represent children. A few even had tiny figures with pointed ears and collars- snow cats and dogs! Underneath each figure was a name, and then a family name was written in large letters above them.
“I guess they add the names after you buy the sign.” Anthony remarked, noting the stock of items that had snowpeople, but no writing.
“We can do it while you wait.” The shopkeeper interjected, noting their interest. “How many kids do you have?”
“We?….uhm….none.” Stephanie stammered. “We aren’t married!”
“Really?” The old man seemed surprised. He looked at them both closely, then shrugged and turned away.
Well she certainly made a point of that. Anthony tried not to read too much into the vehemence of her correction. It had secretly pleased him to be mistaken for a married couple. In spite of himself, he imagined their own little snowman plaque in his mind. The Girardeaus…..of course, the biggest plaque that they had pre-made had only four baby snowpeople….
“Anthony?” Stephanie was staring at him with a puzzled expression.
“It’s nothing.” He said, taking her hand again. “Let’s get to the park…I think that they’re going to start the lights soon.”
Together, they walked the final block to the town’s center. Unlike the bustling marketplace, the park was quiet and dark. Anthony could make out the wireforms that the lights were rigged on, but unilluminated, it was impossible to make out their shapes. He hoped that this was worth coming to. His own hometown, back in Maine, had held a similar light display in the winter. It was small, but beautiful. He had always loved being there when they were first turned on.
When they arrived, the mayor of the little town was already making a little speech. He thanked all of the sponsors, and then countdown to flipping the switch began.
TEN! NINE! EIGHT! SEVEN!
Anthony stepped slightly behind Stephanie, holding her shoulders back against her chest as their eyes turned expectantly into the darkness.
Stephanie leaned her head slightly backwards against him so that she could look up at the stars, and the doctor’s grip tightened.
The crowd gasped collectively as the park suddenly blazed to life. With the flip of a switch, the park was bathed in sparkling lights, and the introduction of “Jingle Bells.” Had begun to blare over a PA system tucked between the trees. It was amazing.- better than the one Anthony remembered at home. He looked to Stephanie’s face…
She loved it. Stephanie blinked her eyes several times as they adjusted to the sudden illumination. The world seemed to have been transformed, and the dull, cramped square was a glistening fairyland.
“Do you want to walk around and see them all?” Anthony asked.
No, I want to stand here and lean against you. Stephanie thought, but she obediently stepped away and took her place at his side.
Light displays had been set up around the entire perimeter of the park. Some were more spectacular than others. There was a stocking filled with gifts, skaters on a pond , a North pPle, even a candy factory with lights that blinked on and off to look as though the sweets were moving down an assembly line manned by elves. There was a nativity , a sleigh, and a few bizarre choices as well- like a helicopter, a steamboat, and the Eiffel Tower.
“Christmas around the world?” Anthony said with a shrug.
Stephanie laughed, but her face fell as she realized that they were back where they started. She hadn’t expected the date to end so soon.
It was as if Anthony could read what she was thinking.
“Would you like to stop at the Tavern on the way back and get some cocoa?” Please say “yes”.
“Yes!” Stephanie said quickly, and Anthony felt a wave of relief. If she had been having a terrible time, she would have said that she was tired, wouldn’t she? This was working….
They walked back to the truck and then drove to the Point. The way in was easy- there was no turn or abrupt change. Soon they saw the Clinic on the left-hand side of the road, and a little beyond it, the lights of the Tavern.
Anthony ran around the truck to let Stephanie out and they walked toward the tavern together, making a beeline for the door on the back wall marked “No Admittance.” The doctor paused a moment before turning the knob. Perhaps he hadn’t thought this through. It was likely that a lot of Point residents would be hanging out there at this hour- and as far as most of them knew, Stephanie was still with Terry. Perhaps he should just take her home….
The woman seemed to sense his hesitancy. Her gray-green eyes widened expectantly.
“It’s nothing.” Anthony said with more confidence than he felt. The people at the Point would know what had happened soon enough- there was no sense acting as if he had something to hide.
Terry wasn’t at the bar. That was good at least. Unfortunately, the doctor and his date arrived just as the jukebox finished playing a song, and the silence that followed- heightened by the fact that everyone in the little bar seemed to have suddenly stopped talking- seemed orchestrated to make the man feel as awkward as possible.
“Do you want to sit at a table?” Anthony asked. His voice was quiet, but seemed to echo through the room.
“Yes, please.” Stephanie answered quietly.
He’s embarrassed. Stephanie tried to act cool and collected as she followed Anthony to a booth in the rear of the room. She could feel the eyes of the people pretending not to look at her as she walked across the room, and she wondered what they were thinking. Had Terry spread the story yet? What had he said. Stephanie hadn’t even had a chance to confide in Tina. She had returned to her room too late to call, and then this morning they had to help with preparations for Thanksgiving dinner…
“Hello Stephanie and…” A familiar voice said. It was Wendy. Looking up, Stephanie could see that the woman was trying to diffuse some of the tension in the room. “…Anthony?” She added slowly, clearly expecting someone else. “Would you two like to sit with us?”
Stephanie gave the woman a grateful smile. “Uhm, thanks but….”
She mumbled an apology under her breath and continued shuffling after Anthony toward a booth.
Terry had definitely told them. Looking around the room, Stephanie suddenly had the feeling of what it was like to be a caged animal. Their expressions weren’t judgmental, at least. Wendy and Jeff just looked concerned. Kath and East looked surprised. Lady looked…..happy? And SID seemed as if he were about to explode. Her eyes seized on the slickly dressed man. He was bobbing up and down on the barstool as if the desire to make some sort of scene were physically bubbling up inside of him, making it impossible to sit still. “The ThornE Birds, don’t you get it?” The computer program’s whisper drifted to her ears. Stephanie couldn’t make out the woman’s reply, but whatever it was made the man fall abruptly silent. Stephanie felt her cheeks color, hoping that Anthony hadn’t heard. If anyone were blameless in what had transpired, it was Anthony, and she couldn’t stand to be the cause of embarrassing him.
“Cocoa?” Anthony’s voice drew Stephanie back to the present. She nodded her head, relieved to see that he didn’t seem to mind the attention that they had garnered.
“With some butterscotch Schnapps?”
“That sounds lovely.” Stephanie waited while Anthony went to get the drinks, feeling very exposed until he returned. They sipped the steaming liquid in silence for a few moments, looking up as a slow song began to play.
“Would you like to dance?” Anthony asked. Stephanie started to nod her head, and then she remembered the staring eyes all around them.
“Not right now. I’m tired.”
“Oh, right.” Anthony sounded as though he had been rebuked.”Yeah, I guess you didn’t sleep too much last night. I should get you back.”
“We don’t have to go just yet!” Stephanie said quickly. She put her hand on top of his, holding him still. “I’m just feeling a little….self-conscious.” She confided, tilting her chin toward the onlookers.
The tension in the doctor’s face eased at the explanation, and he settled back into his chair.
For the next few hours, Stephanie and Anthony talked quietly over their cocoa. The woman thought that she had known him well after all the time that they had spent together working on the bed and the painting, but now she realized how much time they had spent talking about things other than themselves. She learned, with surprise, that Anthony had been in seminary in Columbus, Ohio- only three hours from the city where she had been raised- and that he was the only child of a couple who had been in their mid-forties when he was finally born. Although the people around them continued to watch them with interest, they otherwise left the pair alone. Stephanie became less and less aware of the scrutiny. Listening to Anthony’s voice, she felt as though they were on his back porch again, during the weeks when they had first met, and her sense of ease returned.
Stephanie could have sat at the table sipping cocoa all night, but an involuntary yawn brought Anthony’s final story to an abbreviated conclusion.
“It’s late.” He said quickly.
“It’s alright. I’m not too tired.”
“Liar.” Anthony teased gently, raising his hand to her cheek to stroke it gently. “I need to get you back to bed….May I see you again tomorrow?”
Tomorrow! Stephanie’s heart leapt. At least she knew that he hadn’t had a completely terrible time- he wanted to see her again.
“Of course.” She answered quickly.
The moment of truth. Anthony felt his palms begin to sweat as he steered the truck around the final curve to the Inn. They had arrived at the end of the date, and what happened next was anyone’s guess. Should he try to kiss her? She had reacted well to the hand-holding- and he had technically already kissed her the night before, though that spontaneous embrace seemed somehow different than the prospect that laid ahead. Last night, he had been too overwhelmed by what had happened to do anything than permit his body to react. Now, however, he would have to think about it. How did they keep their noses from bumping? Where did he put his hands? Tongue? No tongue?
Anthony felt entirely out of his depth…and they were at the Inn already.
“Should I walk you up to your room?” He asked timidly as he turned the ignition to “off”.
“I’d like that.” Stephanie responded. They shared a shy smile before walking into the building.
Stephanie’s quarters were a tiny guest bedroom on the front side of the second floor. Most of the permanent residents (Or at least those of long-standing), had taken apartments on the back side of the inn that overlooked the sea. It was just as well that her wing was barely inhabited. The halls were deserted, giving Anthony more confidence about what he was about to do.
Their first kiss….Well, their first real kiss.
He took a deep breath, wanting to make it memorable and feeling hopelessly unequal to the task.
“I had a good time tonight.” Wasn’t that what they always said in the movies? Well, at least it didn’t sound completely stupid.
“Me too.” Stephanie smiled up at him. She was standing very close to him, her neck arched upwards so that he could smell the perfume on the snowy skin beneath her chin.
“I-” What came next??? Anthony’s heart hammered as he tried to remember the next move. I want to slip into something more comfortable? I’ll call you??
Stephanie’s lips parted slightly.
The kiss. The kiss came next. Feeling his stomach churn, Anthony laid his hands gingerly on the woman’s shoulders and bent forward to bestow the caress.
The kiss! Stephanie’s blood pounded like a bass drum inside her ears as she waited for Anthony’s lips to descend upon hers. At LAST, he began to move, tipping his chin to the side, and slowly lowering toward her. She leaned forward in her heeled boots, meeting him halfway.
The kiss was warm and soft – like a blanket fresh from the dryer. It was gentle, asking nothing, but it still sent chills along her spine. Anthony maintained the contact for precisely three seconds, and then he began to pull away, but Stephanie raised her hand to the back of his neck and forced him to remain in place.
The doctor made a sound of surprise, but didn’t pull away. He repeated the kiss from a moment before and then, as if Anthony were slowly becoming more confident, the kiss deepened.
The first brush of his tongue was shy and tentative, but its stroke became bolder as Stephanie widened her mouth to accept the foray. She felt another shiver as his hands dropped lower on her back, moving in slow circles along her spin. Stephanie moved one of her own hands to the small of the doctor’s back- as much to keep herself from falling as for any other reason. Anthony caught her own tongue lightly between his teeth and sucked it softly, stealing her breath, and the woman felt a tightening in her core.
Oh God… Stephanie pulled away, trying to clear her head. She had loved Anthony for a long time – that was easy to admit to herself now – but she had never lusted for him before. Her attraction to him had been oddly inverted- first coming to appreciate his temperament and his mind, and only now experiencing a more animal attraction. Did he feel it too? Did his body ache for her the way that she longed for him?
Footsteps on the stairs jolted the two lovers apart, and they stared at each other guiltily as Michelle and Colin, doing their best to politely ignore the doctor and his date- walked down the hall.
“I suppose I should go.” Anthony said quietly.
“Do you want to come inside?”
Stephanie stared at the doctor, wondering if she had gone too far.
Yes. Every nerve in Anthony’s body wanted to scream acceptance of the invitation, but his intellect, though shaken by the unfamiliar feelings coursing through his veins- still held the upper hand. “I’d better not…” He said reluctantly. Noting the flash of embarrassment that course across the woman’s face, he added quickly. “I do want to, but….” He looked at his feet, wondering how much he was willing to reveal.
All of it. He counseled himself. There was no sense trying to hide his thoughts. He was a terrible liar, and there was no reason to believe that Stephanie couldn’t accept the truth. “I’m….terribly new to this. I don’t know where my boundaries are…or yours, and I don’t want to screw things up.”
“I don’t want to rush you.”
“I don’t want to rush myself.” Anthony said, planting another kiss on her forehead, hoping to reassure her that he hadn’t been upset by her invitation.”I want to savor every moment with you.”
“Because you think its going to end?” Stephanie half-joked, trying to diffuse the sense of tension that she felt at being rejected.
“Because I think it won’t.” Anthony soothed, brushing her hair away from her forehead. “This is only the beginning he whispered. “The best is yet to come.”