The hike back was almost all uphill. Thankfully, the trees blocked the sun most of the way. Maryanne’s car was still the only one in the parking lot. She threw the empty water bottle in the recycle bin. “I thought I was going to die.”
Lucas wiped his forehead with the back of his arm. “We climbed 1400 feet from the creek. You did great, even with flip flops.”
“Ugh… I’m going to have blisters between my toes.”
He removed his wraparounds. “About that mountain lion, I’m—”
“Don’t!” Maryanne unlocked her car. “I forgave you about five miles back, but you owe me for the torture march.”
“How do you want me to pay?” He extracted a towel and madras shirt from his backpack. “I have to change shirts. Try not to stare.”
“Pffuh, I don’t want to get sick.” Maryanne slid into the driver’s seat. He wouldn’t be able to see her looking from this vantage point. He stood with the passenger door open, his ridged abdominals in full view. A trickle of sweat rolled down the center line but was quickly dabbed away. He turned his back and put on deodorant—Old Spice original scent. Hmmm… a traditional man. After rolling up his towel and tank top, he stuffed it in his bag and climbed into the passenger seat, his shirt still partially unbuttoned.
“I’ll get the buttons.” She reached for his shirt and her breath quickened. What was wrong with her? She’d been throwing herself at him all day. This man-drought made her irritable and snappy. It’d been, what? Four months since John walked out? Why hadn’t Vera fallen off the wagon yet? She swallowed and licked her lips. Lucas’ warm breath was sweet on her face.
“Thanks.” He whispered, so close to her ear.
Her hand flattened on his chest. Sitting in the car, they were almost the same height. It was doable. She trailed her fingertips to his collarbone. His body stiffened and he cleared his throat. “Uh… We have to be somewhere in twenty minutes. I reserved a class for us.”
“A class?” She squeaked.
“Yes, I think you’ll like it.”
“Oookay…” She checked her teeth in the vanity mirror. All clear. Eye makeup was a little smeared, but nothing seriously wrong. “Go back the way we came?”
Lucas pointed out the window. “Yes, but make a left on 92 and turn into a winery. I’ll put it into the GPS.”
“Thanks,” Maryanne mumbled. Despite all the suggestive talk, he seemed uncomfortable touching her. But then, why did he pursue her so avidly? She stepped on the accelerator. At least the wine-tasting class would cheer her up.
They drove past a Christmas tree farm, quite charming and cute. Traffic piled behind a slow moving truck before clearing near a stretch of nurseries and businesses. On the left was the sign for the winery. Maryanne parked in front of a small wooden building with a “wine tasting” sign. She got out and locked her car.
“You like red or white?” She asked Lucas.
“Ah, good, he’s there.” Lucas pointed toward a tin building on the other side of the parking lot.
“What’s over there?”
“You’ll see.” He took her hand, sending a warm thrill through her heart. They walked to the front of a rollaway door. It opened into an art studio. Glass pumpkins, translucent hearts, and paperweights sat on the shelves, and colorful lamps hung from metal rods.
A man greeted them. “Hi, I’m Dan. You Lucas?”
“Yep, and this is Maryanne. We’re here to take the glassmaking class.”
The man showed them sample hearts, paperweights, and pumpkins. “Before you leave, you’ll be making one of these.”
“Seriously?” Maryanne said. “How do you get the ridges on the pumpkin?”
“Top secret.” The man grinned as he took the money from Lucas. “So what are we making today?”
“This is so cool!” Maryanne held up a small sea-green speckled pumpkin with a curly gold stem. “I’d like make a pumpkin like that one.”
“That color is a favorite,” Dan said. “How about you?”
“A red and purple heart,” Lucas answered.
Strange choice for a man, but hey, he was definitely different. Cute, hot, and inhibited.
“You want to go first?” Lucas asked.
“No, you go ahead. It looks dangerous.”
“Nothing to it,” Dan exclaimed. “Put on these gloves.”
Maryanne took pictures of Lucas dipping the iron rod into the crucible and holding it in a furnace. He created several layers of color by rolling the molten glass in colored powder. When it was time to shape the heart, Dan gave him a knife and asked him to cut the cleavage.
“I’ll let her cut it.” Lucas waved Maryanne over and smiled sweetly.
“Watch out or she’ll cut your heart.” Dan laughed.
After a brief instruction, she held the blade and cut upwards, separating the two lobes. Lucas used large tweezers to draw the tip, and it was finished. Dan placed the hot glass into the annealer to cool.
Maryanne worked her glass blob under Dan’s instruction. It was hard work to make layer after thin layer and rotate the rod to keep the glass from flopping downward. When it was time to shape the pumpkin, Dan helped her push the heated glass into a jagged round mold and pull it out. He dipped a smaller rod into a crucible of golden glass and attached it to her pumpkin, curling it several times.
He put her pumpkin into the annealer before she had a chance to admire it. “Well, that’s it. You can pick it up tomorrow or I can mail it.”
“I’ll pick up,” Lucas said.
“That’s it?” Maryanne peeled off the protective sleeves and gloves.
Lucas guided her to the front of the studio. “If you want one of those lamps, I’ll buy you one.”
“No, I couldn’t.” She stared at a pink and blue jellyfish wall lamp with long, curly tendrils. It was probably a couple hundred dollars, but perfect for a nursery. A hot, thudding pulse hammered behind her ears. Flustered, she turned for the parking lot to catch her breath. Her hormones were definitely out of control.
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Genre: Women's Fiction, Contemporary Romance