Damon had sex appeal.
Miranda felt her heart rush with excitement as she clung onto him from behind, turning her head upwards to watch the canopy of orange leaves passing overhead as they sped along the secluded forest road. Her exhilarated laugh was whipped away by the wind, and she understood why Damon had referred to his motorcycle as his freedom, as the sentiment pulsed through her body with every bump and vibration.
He seemed more lighthearted when they pulled back into town and stopped at a bar, holding her hand as he pulled her through a crowd of people to secure a table for them. It was a cheap place, dingy but respectable enough, and a moment later Damon was placing a glass of beer in front of her. In a funny sort of way, Miranda felt like cutting loose and shedding her lawyer demeanor, if only for the next hour. She wanted to be a woman out on a date with a man, and Damon was perfect for the part.
The beer was cheap and unappealing, but she drank it anyway for the buzz. It made it easier to talk, to share the secrets that she had kept hidden inside for most of her life.
“I have an older sister,” Miranda found herself saying after taking a gulp. “She’s a total bitch though, and I haven’t talked to her in years.”
“Why is that?” Damon asked, propping his elbow on the table to thoughtfully hold his chin with his hand, a mischievous smile playing on his lips.
“She’s the sort of person who climbed the social ladder on her back, if you know what I mean.” Miranda took another drink. “I worked hard to get where I am, but everyone assumes that I’m just like her, you know? It drives me crazy! Anyway, we were always competing with each other while we were growing up, to prove who was the best.”
“I did!” Miranda smirked. “Her name is Amanda, can you believe that? Our parents are pathetic; I don’t talk to them either.”
“I can definitely see why.” He nodded, then tilted his head to one side. “Hey, about what happened with Alice earlier …”
“No need to explain.” Miranda held up her hand. “It’s difficult to see your ex married to someone else. Trust me, I understand you better than anyone else can.”
“Here’s to us.” Damon lifted his glass. “Brought together by our exes shacking up.”
Miranda snorted into her drink. “A midlife crisis and a young single mother – truly a match made in heaven.”
Damon took a long draught, then said, “I wish I had a way to forget her and move on.”
“You will. It might take some time, but it will happen. And don’t worry, because I’ll be here to help you.” Miranda reached across the table to pat Damon’s hand. “I’m a good lawyer.”
“You’ve been a blessing in my life already.” Damon shifted away where Miranda couldn’t reach him any more, so she let her arm drop. “Do you want another beer?”
“I’m more of a margarita person.”
Damon’s eyebrows shot up. “Really?”
“But don’t tell anyone, okay?” Miranda felt a little giddy at her confession. “They all think that I’m a red wine sort.”
“Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.” He winked. “Though if you expect me to pay for everything, I’m going to have to cut you off after this. I’m trying to go clean, and my job doesn’t pay much.”
“How do you like working?”
“I had better ways of getting more money faster,” Damon said with a shrug. “But it’s probably good for sweating all the crap I’ve done out of my system.”
Miranda watched his backside as he left to order more drinks from the bar, grinning. She had met Hackett while she was still an undergraduate, and at the time had been grateful that their relationship had given her the excuse to focus on her education and career, rather than spending her weekends out socializing. However, after they had broken up three years ago, she discovered that not only was she hopelessly inexperienced when it came to dating, men in general saw her more as a lawyer than a woman, and that no one found her appealing. Damon had been right on the mark with the comment he had made earlier, and there were nights when she did wake up in the darkness and wish that there was someone in the bed beside her. She had privately consoled herself with the thought that Hackett was similarly alone, but now that he was married it rankled her.
She hated the way that he had protectively embraced Alice, and twitched with restrained anger as he had glared at Damon. She even hated the way he had adopted Alice’s illegitimate child, with every intention of providing and caring for something that didn’t belong to him, all because he had fallen in love. She had always known deep down inside that he had never felt passionate about her, and she had willed herself to believe that he was incapable of intense emotions. Now she knew that he had not considered her worthy of it.
Miranda decided that she was going to have a little fun with Damon. She swore to herself that she wasn’t going to let herself get too involved, but there was no harm in flirting. For once, she was going to let the lawyer take the backseat while she reveled in the attention of a sexy bad boy type. After all that she had been through, she deserved it.
When Damon returned with her margarita, she took a sip then slowly wiped the salt from her lip with her thumb, giving him an alluring look through her eyelashes as she did so. It felt so over the top that even she broke down into giggles, and Damon leaned over to whisper into her ear, “You don’t need to act like that to get my attention.”
He sat down and gave her a cryptic smile as butterflies danced in Miranda’s chest, so she took another drink to suppress them.
“Oh wow, this has way more tequila in it than usual,” she commented.
“Did the bartender make it too strong? I can go back to get another one for you.” Damon reached for the glass, but she scooted it away.
“Don’t worry, it’s fine.”
“Really, the guy didn’t look like he knew what he was doing. I can have him re-make it for you.”
“Do you think I can’t handle my liquor?”
Damon held up his hands. “Fair point. Carry on then.”
“You know, I haven’t done anything fun like this since I was twenty-one. I’ve been all business since then,” Miranda confided.
“So it’s been about two years, right?” Damon said with a roguish grin, and Miranda rolled her eyes.
“More like thirteen.”
“No way! You’re way too beautiful to be a day over twenty-five.”
“Oh stop it.” Miranda felt herself blush. “That type of flattery will get you no where with me. I’m way too smart to fall for it.”
“Ha ha, how about this then? I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying talking to a more mature woman.” Damon’s foot touched hers underneath the table, so she raised her toes up to brush his leg. He continued, “Alice was sixteen when I met her, and sure she was hot and all, but she was also a total air-headed teenager. I like how much more self-assured you are.”
Miranda laughed delightedly. She couldn’t remember what they talked about after that, but before she knew it the sky had grown dark outside. Damon took her back to the motel then walked her to her car, where she leaned against the driver’s side door as she told him goodbye. The memory of him pressing her against Hackett’s car earlier sprang unbidden into her mind, and she found her lips inviting him to kiss her almost of their own accord. He leaned forward as if to grant her wish, then took her hand in both of his own and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“Take care, Miranda,” he said, then slowly walked away, turning to wave before he got to the door to his motel room.
She felt a little dizzy.
Miranda sat down in her car and wondered if she had too much to drink to drive safely home. Her heart was pounding in her ears, and she had to close her eyes to take in several deep breaths. It took several minutes for her to feel well enough to make the trip home.
The night felt dark and heavy as she drove home to her condo, and the door to the entry way banged shut behind her with a loud echo. She flipped on the light, dropped her bag onto a nearby end table, and took off her coat.
“I’m home,” she said, walking to the living room and retrieving a bottle of fish flakes to drop into a small tank with a solitary goldfish. “You wouldn’t believe the sort of day I had.”
She sat down in an armchair, kicked off her high heels, and picked up a book, staring at the pages as she slowly chewed on her lip, unable to focus. Damon had wormed his way into her mind ever since the day she had driven him from the prison to the motel, taking up more and more space after every encounter. He wasn’t going to let her sleep that night.
Miranda wondered when she would be able to come up with an excuse to see him socially again.