Cautiously, I opened my room door, just to make sure Faun wouldn’t escape. When I saw that Liana was playing with her on the bed, I entered and quickly closed the door behind me.
Liana grinned when she saw me. “I think those sweatpants look sexy on you too.”
I groaned. “You heard?”
“The walls are thin.” She stood up from the bed, letting Faun down to the floor. “Don’t worry. I think your little flirtations are cute.” Then she darted to my closet. “Now, let’s choose a hot little outfit for my Caren. Something to make the good, old professor sweat.”
“Liana.” The flush spread into my ears.
She just laughed. “How about this one?” She pulled out a dress—a slinky, red halter that shimmered with glitter on the top. Leave it to her to pick the most scandalous item in my closet. “You never wear it. Why buy it, if you don’t wear it?”
“I didn’t buy it,” I said. “You did. For my birthday.”
“And that’s why you should wear it. Or I’ll feel so unappreciated.”
Glaring at my best friend, I placed my hands on my hips. “Don’t you have a date you should be getting ready for too?”
Instantly, the light died from her eyes, as she placed the dress on the bed. Something was wrong.
“Did he cancel on you?”
She shook her head. “You’re right. I should be getting ready.”
“Should I wear the aqua spaghetti strap or the black—”
“Liana!” I stood my ground. “What’s wrong?”
She blinked innocently, putting on a too-cheery face. “Wrong? Nothing’s wrong. I think I’ll go with the aqua. As for you, put on that dress, or I’ll do it for you.”
I stared at her for a few seconds before turning to change. If she didn’t want to talk about it now, I couldn’t force her. Besides, Khit was out there, waiting for me, and I’d promised not to keep him waiting.
And just because I knew it would cheer my best friend up, I decided to go with the red halter. I’d managed to put it on, and went to the mirror to do my makeup, when Liana came bustling beside me, beautiful as ever in her aquamarine dress that glistened depending on the position of the light. How I wished I could be three inches taller, just like her.
She paused to look at me in the mirror, worrying her lip with her teeth. “Caren?”
“Yes?” I wondered if she was finally ready to talk.
“Umm…you know Darryl, right?”
I had to crack a smile at that. Darryl was only the guy I thought I’d liked until Khit came along. We were still friends, but Khit had a jealous streak, so I never hung out with Darryl too much anymore. “Yes, I know Darryl.”
“Well…” Liana hesitated for a second. “If I told you I’ve been talking to him a lot lately, would you get mad?”
“Of course not, silly,” I said. “Is that who you’ve been chatting with online in the wee hours of night? I thought it was Tyler.”
Liana’s guilty expression was the answer to that question. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. It started after you rejected him. He was still hung up on you, and he was trying to spy on you through me. So I had to tell him off. But then we just continued talking, and we’ve even hung out a few times.”
“Is that what was bothering you?” I smiled. “There’s no need to feel guilty.” Then my eyes bugged out, as I thought of something. “Do you like him?”
“No!” she exclaimed, a little too quickly, in my polite opinion. “We’re just friends. You know I have Tyler.”
Yes, but I also knew Liana didn’t really like Tyler, or she’d still be rummaging through the closet, trying on different outfits.
A little more spirit went back into her, as she hummed a little tune and started to apply her makeup. I finished first, and Liana paused to look at me. Gesturing for me to twirl around, I obeyed.
She flashed me a satisfied smile. “Perfection. Go have fun.”
“You too,” I said, and I hurried out to find Khit.
He was at the kitchen counter, where I left him, only now he was in the midst of devouring a peanut butter sandwich. Next to his plate were a discarded wrapper of a granola bar and the peel of a banana.
Khit looked up from eating when he heard me. “That took longer than fifteen—whoa…” He broke off as his eyes bulged out, nearly dropping his sandwich in the process.
Beaming, I couldn’t help but love his reaction. “I guess that’s a compliment.”
“Umm…” he gulped, still at a loss for words. “What?”
“Never mind,” I sighed, grabbing his free hand. “Now drop that sandwich, and let’s go get real dinner.”
He took me to Silverwater’s, a restaurant that was on the pricey side, but not the kind of fine dining that served two shrimp with a dribble of sauce as the main course. The portions were nice and hearty, served with a bread basket filled with four varieties of freshly baked bread. I ordered the restaurant’s daily special, lightly grilled pork loin with a cranberry sauce. It was served with sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes flavored with rosemary.
Khit succumbed to his fox’s cravings, ordering chicken. It had been prepared with a white wine reduction sauce, served with string beans and rice.
“What should we do after dinner?” I asked. “Movie?”
He leaned back, watching me closely. A slow smile spread across his face. “You always suggest watching a movie, and we always do. Don’t you think we should do something more…interesting?”
“Are you saying that it’s boring to hang out with me?” I pouted.
“No, I’m not saying that at all,” he chuckled at my offended expression. “It’s not your company that’s boring…it’s your movie suggestions. It’s always some romantic chick flick that makes both of us cry for different reasons. You, because the movie’s overly emotional, and me, because I’ve been bored to tears.”
“Gee, thanks,” I said dryly. “So now I’m boring, and I have bad taste in movies. And I’ve never seen you cry from boredom. You’re too busy making stupid comments throughout the movie and laughing at your own jokes.”
He shrugged unrepentantly. “That’s the only way I won’t fall asleep. And don’t lie that my jokes aren’t funny. I’ve seen you try not to crack a smile. Very unsuccessfully too.”
I scowled at him. “Fine, why don’t you pick this time then? I’d be happy to watch one of those blood-happy, gun-twirling movies all guys seem to love.”
“Maybe next time,” he said, smirking. “Thankfully, I have a more creative idea than watching a movie.”
“Oh?” That sparked my curiosity. “What are we doing then?”
“It’s a surprise,” he said, a twinkle in his eye. “But why don’t we start by getting dessert at your favorite place?”
My eyes widened expectantly. “Extraordinary Desserts?”
“I love you,” I said, beaming.
“I know,” he replied.
He was being far too arrogant, but I no longer cared. Not with the promise of Extraordinary Desserts on my mind. Why was it that no matter how annoyed I got, he could always charm me out of it?
After being seated at a gorgeous candle-lit table, decorated with rose petals that wafted their lovely fragrance with each touch of the breeze, I proceeded to devour my favorite dessert: an orange-spiced truffle cake, sprinkled with edible flower blossoms and a sweet sauce made from orange zest and honey.
Khit only smiled and watched me eat, having only ordered a cup of coffee. I reluctantly offered some of my cake to him, but he shook his head.
“I know how much you want it all to yourself,” he said. “And I’m not really much of a sweets fan anyway.”
I licked the crumbs from my fork. “I don’t know how you can top this. I’m completely satisfied if we just go home now.”
“Oh no,” he said. “Believe me, I think you might like my surprise, if only just a teensy bit more than your orange spiced truffle cake.”
“That’s hard to believe,” I grinned.
After I finished the last crumb of a crumb from my plate, we piled into Khit’s car and took off once more. It didn’t take long for me to finally figure out where we were headed. The moon cast an ethereal glow on the dark waters of the Pacific coast, the sand glistening like a reflection of the stars above.
“I’m not dressed for the beach,” I protested. High heels and I were not bosom pals, but imagining myself plunging through the soft sand in stilettos made me cringe.
“Don’t worry about that,” Khit said. “I know the weather’s getting kind of chilly, so I packed you a spare change of clothes, warm jacket and flip-flops included.”
I was about to ask how he’d gotten my clothes, but I thought I knew the answer. Liana. She must have given it to him beforehand, which was why I hadn’t been able to find my favorite pair of flip-flops two days ago.
“I asked my friend who works at the aquarium where I could find a nice private part of the beach,” Khit said. “The quieter the better, for what we’re about to do.”
He couldn’t possibly just be planning on star-gazing and moon-watching the whole night. Of course, it would be romantic for any other couple to sit and stare out at the sea, but we lived at the beach. We could see the ocean any time, and we even took weekly jogs at the beach together. In my opinion, it was hardly any more creative than my suggestion to watch a movie.
Of course, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
“Not that I don’t love your idea,” I said. “But what are we doing at the beach at ten at night?”
“Skinny-dipping,” was his instant reply.
I stared at him in horror until he started laughing, and I knew he was only teasing. “If I thought you would agree to it, I would have gone with that idea instead of the one I planned,” he grinned. “Maybe next time, when we’ve cured you of your shyness.”
I could only sit there, letting the blood rush to my face. Because Khit and I hadn’t taken our relationship past just a chaste kiss. In fact, he was the one who always seemed to pull back every time, so I was surprised he was joking about this.
He took pity on me. “Don’t worry. There will be no shedding of clothes in public. That’s illegal unless we’re on a nude beach, and I refuse to go there. It’s filled with old men with bulging tummies.” He shuddered. “Not a pleasant sight.”
“What are we doing then?” I asked again.
“You’ll see.” His voice lowered mysteriously, and he chuckled as I folded my arms across my chest in impatient frustration.