*** This is Part 1 of my exclusive newsletter serial ‘Nobody Looks Good in Leather Pants’! Part 2 will be included in my newsletter going out this week! Go here to sign up **
What do I have to lose?
All I needed to do was email the guy, set up the date, pray he was even a fifth as amazing as Emily said he was, and show up. That’s all.
I am such a Scaredy McFrightenedton . . .
Staring at the blinking cursor on my screen, I eyed the “x” in the upper right hand corner. I could just close the screen, go to the start menu, select shut down, and watch my computer screen fade to black.
One year. Twelve months. Just a week shy of three hundred sixty-five days.
Somewhere in the rebellious recesses of my mind, an annoying little voice that sounded suspiciously like mine reminded me that twelve months had passed since my last date. Since my boyfriend had broken up with me via text message, completely out of the blue, on Valentine’s Day.
On the scale of awful, it rated pretty high. This was because the text he’d sent was a picture of him kissing another girl.
In other words, he was a douche.
Sure, I had sworn off dating for the remainder of my life. Sure, I had been resigned to living my existence as a neurotic spinster. Maybe I would get a cat, or two, or four, or seven—might as well make it a baker’s dozen.
But now, after almost twelve months and Valentine’s Day looming, I was ready to throw my hat in the ring again. Get my groove on. Watch Netflix and chill.
And yet, still. I was not so sure.
What do you have to lose?
The thought troubled me. Pursing my lips as I contemplated loss, I realized—sans the possibility he was a serial killer—all I had to lose was time. Time I would most likely otherwise spend watching Room with a View and rewinding the scene on the hill over and over and over and over.
The one where Julian Sands grabs Helena Bonham Carter with his big, masculine hands, holding her around the waist and sliding his—I imagined—cool hand over her cheek, then pulling her to him with expectation. And as their lips meet for the first time, amidst the sea of golden barley, the kiss explodes with passion.
Screw fear of the unknown! Carpe Diem! Seize the fucking day!
I nodded, then began typing.
You don’t know me . . . and I don’t know how to do this. But rest assured, the most terrible and terrifying thing has already been written (the most terrible thing being the word “hi”, because—in this circumstance—it is also the bravest).
Now that my awkward reference to Anna Karenina has been made, let me start again:
You don’t know me. Our mutual friend (Emily Von) gave me your email address. Emily has told me many times that she thinks we would be perfect for each other, that it’ll be “love at first sight.”
Even though I’m a romantic, I don’t believe in love at first sight; the concept strikes me as frivolous and convenient. As Tolstoy said, “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”
But I digress.
If you’re interested in meeting up, please come to Jake Peterson’s microbrewery on Fifth and Pine this Saturday at 6 p.m. (Valentine’s Day). I’ll be the one in leather pants.
Looking forward to it, Anna I. Harris
PS Don’t ask what the “I” stands for because I won’t tell you.
On a rush of adrenaline, I typed the email, the address from the card Emily had given me, and hit send. I reveled in my courage and guts and ability to seize the moment. I smiled at the inspiration of meeting at the microbrewery, most likely brought on by the picturesque barley field of Lucy and George’s first kiss.
I also considered myself to be quite ballsy, having scheduled the date for V-day.
I spent a full minute congratulating myself, dwelling on my amazingness before anxiety hit me like a punch in the throat.
What have I done?
Nervous wreck? Anxiety-ridden? How about deer caught in headlights?
Oh yeah, that and more.
What am I doing here? What are you doing?
I glanced down at my outfit—leather pants. Leather-fucking-pants. Leather pants purchased from a thrift store. I was in someone else’s leather pants.
I was a student, and therefore couldn’t afford brand-new leather pants. But I was also a cosplay aficionado, and therefore owned leather pants.
You know, for costumes.
My part-time job working at the Natural History Museum’s swanky restaurant as a server allowed me to maintain the lifestyle to which I’d become accustomed: copious jigsaw puzzles, tragic romance novels, and thrift-store-finds for my cosplay costumes.
But back to now, because right now, I was certifiable. I needed to find the nearest sane person and sign over my rights to decision-making, or at least give them my computer and passcode to the computer labs on campus.
I glanced around the microbrewery with severe apprehension, and my mind started rehearsing for the seventh time all the excuses to leave when he showed up . . . if he showed up.
It was already five minutes after 6:00 pm.
He is not coming. You are a moron in a stranger’s leather pants, and he is not coming because you are a moron. This is what you get for reading all those books.
I tucked my hair—worn in a cascade of curls down my mid-back—nervously behind my ear and glanced at my watch again, unable to miss the cleavage beneath the purple V-neck I’d decided to wear.
I’d justified it earlier by reminding myself that today was laundry day. What I didn’t want to think about was showing up in leather pants and my green granny sweater, the only other clean item in my closet.
I chewed on my lip and shifted in my seat. The waiter looked my way and our eyes met. His gaze flickered to my chest, and he smiled shortly; then he turned and attended to another table. The knot in the pit of my stomach twisted.
Oh great, now Mr. I-am-married-waiter-guy feels sorry for Ms. Ridiculous-in-leather-pants. I rolled my eyes, reminding myself that no one looks good in leather pants, not in real life.
Then, I looked up and saw leather pants . . .
Leather pants, leather boots, leather jacket, leather motorcycle gloves . . . and blue eyes. The bluest eyes I had ever seen. As mesmerizing as his eyes were, I couldn’t help but notice the rest of him—the entire package. Thick muscular thighs, broad muscular chest and arms, square-cut jaw, and blond spiked hair. For a moment, I thought he was . . . him. My blind date.
However, a split second later, as I attempted to swallow my lust, I’d convinced myself he was not him.
Yes, he had blond hair like Emily had described. Yes, he had blue eyes. Yes, he was tall. But, Lucas had also been described as artsy. This man sure as hell wasn’t “artsy.” Sure, his body was a work of art, his movements were artful, but I would never describe him as “artsy.”
Not-artsy was combing the brewery, turning his head this way and that as though searching for someone. I hadn’t had time to compose myself when his eyes locked with mine, and then it was impossible to tear my gaze away.
He walked toward me.
I swallowed again.
He halted at my table, but I was out of saliva and my mouth felt cottony and useless.
He dipped his head as though waiting for me to speak. Finally, raising his eyebrows, he asked, “Anna I. Harris?”
The sound of my name, especially coming from his mouth and said with his sexy man-voice, broke me out of the trance.
I stood inelegantly, causing the chair to scrape noisily on the wood floor, and extended my hand. “Yes, um—yes! I’m Anna, you must be—”
He cut me off, moving a chair closer to mine and said, “Sit.”
And I did. My face flushed with embarrassment. What am I? A dog? Sit. Bark. Roll over. My face flushed again, this time from unbidden images of me rolling over with him on top.
He was watching me, his elbow resting carelessly on the table, and I burned brighter under his scrutiny. Realizing I could clear my throat, I did.
“So, um, thanks for coming.” I glanced up, meeting his clearly amused stare.
He leaned closer, resting his cheek against his propped up palm. “Not what you expected?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
My eyes widened and I instinctively shook my head. “No, of course I—” I looked away, closing my eyes. Then sighing, I lifted my eyes to his again, “Well, actually, yes. You are not what I expected.”
He raised his eyebrows and scooted his chair closer. “How so?”
I smiled at him, feeling more at ease and more anxious at the same time. “Well, Emily said you were artsy and somehow . . .” I gestured to him with my hand, unable to finish my sentence.
Watching me, his expression unreadable, he stated, “I’m not artsy.”
I couldn’t help it; I laughed. He watched my amusement with interest—giving in to a small smile—before clearing his throat. “Nice pants.”
My laughter faded. I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and narrowed my eyes. “Yeah, well, yours aren’t bad either. Where do you shop? The Leather Warehouse?”
Leaning back in his chair, he smirked and pulled off the leather jacket and gloves, revealing a charcoal-gray T-shirt underneath that proved my suspicions about his chest right. Realizing I was staring, I forced myself to look away. “So, um, Emily said—”
Glancing to the side and sighing heavily, he shook his head. “Look, I need to tell you something.”
Oh God. He’s married. He’s a eunuch. He’s gay. He hates my leather pants.
I tried not to let my panic show as he lifted his eyes to mine. Making certain I was paying attention, he leaned in close. “I’m not who you think I am.”
My eyebrows pulled low, evidence of my confusion.
He continued, “I think you sent me that email accidentally. I don’t know anyone named Emily. And no one tried to set me up with an Anna.”
My mouth dropped open in despair and a rush of intense embarrassment. “Oh my God.” I stood, reached for my bag, and backed away from the table.
Clearly anticipating my movements, the stranger grabbed my hand. This didn’t deter me from intermittently muttering curses and apologies.
“I’m so sorry, this is not, I mean, I’m sorry you came all the way to, I don’t know what the hell I was, you are definitely not, and I’m not, and fuck!”
“Listen,” he stood and moved his grip from my hand to my elbow, “wait.”
I raised my eyes to his, slightly shaking my head. “Why did you even come?”
He took a step forward, dwarfing me with his massive size. His hand—strong and calloused, I noticed without wanting to—shifted to my waist, holding me still and sending heat to my stomach.
Dipping his head to the side and leaning close, he whispered, “I wanted to know what the ‘I’ stood for.”