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Slipperless

By:Sloan Storm

FIONA

The bartender returned with the stranger's beer, sliding it across the  bar with a gentle nudge. He'd taken a seat next to me not five minutes  earlier.

"Thanks." the man replied as he wrapped his fingers around the frost-covered mug.

"You're welcome, sir. Anything else?"

The man raised the glass of amber-colored liquid to his lips, curling  his tanned biceps into a hard ball of sinew as he did. I caught myself  looking at him out of the corner of my eye, for a split second.

Unfortunately, so did he.

After taking a sip, he placed the mug back down on the bar as the bartender lingered nearby awaiting further instructions.

The man turned towards me and with a smirk asked, "So, what are you drinking?"

Mortified I'd been caught, I shrugged and mumbled a reply, "Oh um, it's just a soda."

He nodded and swiveled his head back towards the bartender. "Another soda for the lady."

"No!" I yelped without thinking.

Several people at the bar stopped their conversation and looked at me as  if I had third eye. Sliding into embarrassment, I cleared my throat and  with a polite smile I continued, "Thank you but I'm fine. Sorry, I  didn't mean to be rude."

The man chuckled as he raised the glass to his mouth again. "Coulda fooled me."

Smooth Fiona.

I thinned my lips a bit and looked away from him, returning my attention  to my daily planner. Distractions aside, tomorrow was a huge day for me  and I couldn't afford to let anything take my mind off of it. Not even  for someone like him.

Especially not someone like him. Or his biceps.

"What is that?" he asked, snapping me out of my self-imposed trance.

My eyes darted towards his index finger as it pointed in the direction of my wrist.

"Hmm?" I muttered, not making eye contact and hoping he'd lose interest.

"What … " he said, as he raised the volume of his voice. "Is. That?"

Placing a finer point on it, he moved his finger to my charm bracelet,  which had slipped out from beneath the sleeve of my sweater. He nearly  touched it, and put his digit in my line of sight so there would be no  mistaking what he meant.

"Oh." I shrugged as I tucked it beneath the sleeve. "It's just a bracelet."

"Yeah," he replied. "I know that. It's really unique. I've never seen anything like it. Does it symbolize something?"

I swallowed hard as I stole a peek at him through wisps of my blond  hair. Even in the somewhat dim light of the bar, it was hard to get past  his looks. Of course, I've already mentioned his arms …  Otherwise, wavy,  long brown hair sat atop a square-jawed face with eyes sparkling a  brilliant shade of blue. An ever-present smirk signaled his easy grace  around women. I'd been around it enough times to know.

But this time it was directed at me and not my friends.

Hypnotized by his motion, I felt my pulse quicken as his finger moved  away. I leaned in close to the bar, tucked my elbows into my sides and  reached for my day planner. After I'd closed myself off from him, I  shook my head and muttered a reply as I tried to focus on my to-do list.

"No. It doesn't signify anything. It's just a piece of jewelry."

"Hmm," he grumbled after a few seconds of silence. "Well, that's a lie."

With my hands hooked around the sides of my planner, I turned my head  towards him. I felt a sudden swell of indignation at his insinuation.

"Excuse me?" I said in a rising tone.

He gulped his beer for a leisurely moment or two before placing the mug  back down the bar. Rivulets of water trickled down the sides of it as  condensation formed on the surface of the glass.

"What?" he said as he looked back at me. "What did I say?"

"You called me a liar. That's what."

"No, I said you told me a lie," he said, with that annoying smirk again.  "Everyone lies. It doesn't mean you're a liar. Why are you so uptight  anyway? Pretty girl like you … "

As soon as he said those words, I felt my neck flush. Shit. I hated when  that happened. There was nothing I could do about it. Just another one  of the reasons I chose to keep myself covered up most of the time. My  emotions betrayed me often, so I'd learned to hide them. I turned away  from him and reached for my soda.         

     



 

"Nothing to say, huh?" he chided, as I snatched my beverage.

I swallowed a sip of the ice cold liquid. As the lemony-sweet sparkle  tickled its way down my throat, I glanced back at him. I didn't reply  but instead looked straight ahead and placed my drink down on the bar.  As I did, I noticed him shake his head in my peripheral vision before he  picked up his mug.

"Not very good at taking compliments, I see."

"I'm sorry," I replied, as I continued to avoid his gaze. "I'm just waiting for my friends. I'd like to be left alone, please."

He scoffed just before he took a sip. "Another lie."

Not wishing to be toyed with any longer, I thinned my lips and snapped  my head in his direction. "There's plenty of other women here for you to  charm. Now, I've asked you politely. Please don't disturb me."

"Oh," he replied. "So you find me charming?"

"What?" I said, with a shake of my head. Still looking in his direction, I continued, "No. That's not what I said."

"Sure it is. It's okay, I … "

"No," I said, correcting him. I felt a frown crease my brow. "I don't  find you charming at all. If you must know, I find you …  annoying."

The man turned his upper body towards me. A smile spread tight across  his face, barely restraining his teeth while forming two perfect dimples  on either side of his mouth.

"Well, now we're getting somewhere," he said with a chuckle. "Pleasure to meet you. My name's Gabe. And you are … "

I grimaced at his persistence. Short of getting up and walking off, it  looked as if this conversation wasn't ending anytime soon. And until my  friends arrived to meet me for dinner, I really had no choice but to  hold him at bay.

"Fiona," I muttered.

"Fiona," he parroted. His tone had a lyrical pitch to it, almost as if  he sung it. When he finished, he slid his hand across the bar in a  gesture of greeting until it drew within a few inches of my  sweater-covered fingers.

After a subtle nod of his chin, more charm sputtered from his lips.

"Can I see your whole hand, or is that moving too fast?"

I fought like mad against a smile which threatened to betray me.  Instead, I bit the inside of my lip and moved my palm toward his. As  Gabe took my fingers in his hand he squeezed them a bit for emphasis,  causing me to look in his direction. His digits were warm, soothing and  masculine. He held me there for a moment until at last, he released his  grip. I swallowed and looked away as his gaze lingered on me.

God, where the hell are my friends?

After another second or two he spoke and gestured towards my planner.

"So whatcha got there, Fiona? Looks really …  official."

Official was hardly the word I'd use to describe my planner. My entire  life revolved around it and had for at least the last five years of my  existence, especially now. Not that someone like him would understand.  Everything about Gabe seemed casual, carefree. Just by the look of him,  he was the type who glided through life without a worry in the world.  Well, not all of us were so lucky. Or free from worry. Anyway, Gabe was  about as opposite from me as he could possibly be.

"It's nothing," I said with a dismissive tone. "I just use it to stay organized."

"I see," he said with a nod. "Impressive. Well done, looks like a lot of organization."

I shook my head.

Nearly finished with his beer now, Gabe took another pull of the golden  fluid. Putting his glass down, he continued, "So what brings you here  tonight? Pretty lady like yourself … ?"

That's the second time he'd called me pretty.

I didn't answer. Rather, I pretended to be looking around the restaurant for my hopelessly late, so-called friends.

"You're not used to much attention from men are you, Fiona?" he said,  leaning in towards me. "All covered up, nose in your planner …  a little  hostile."

"I am not hostile!" I snapped. As before, a number of people seated  nearby took notice of my outburst. I closed my eyes in a blink of  frustration before opening them towards him once more.         

     



 

"Hey," Gabe said as he leaned away a bit. "Take it easy. What's with the attitude?"

"I'm sorry." I moaned as I crossed my hands together over the top of my  planner. "Listen, I'm just here to have dinner with my friends. That's  all. I don't understand why you won't leave me alone."

Gabe ignored me. I might as well have said nothing.

"What's the occasion?" he asked.

"Um, well I've just landed a big interview. They wanted to take me out  and celebrate. It's not something I would normally do, but they  insisted."

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