Cynthia burst through the doorway at the back the room. Maroon hair flew as the young woman rushed down the center aisle. She climbed onto the platform and almost stumbled into Molly.
“He’s here.” Cynthia panted as if she’d just galloped through Golden Gate Park in her four-inch stilettos. She braced her hands on the table edge and swallowed a deep breath. “He’s coming up the stairs right now. I almost trampled him getting here first, so I could warn you.”
“Who are you talking about?” Molly couldn’t remember inviting anyone who would generate a movie/rock star level of excitement in Cynthia, whose job was to collect tickets at the door.
“Him. The dude … you know … from last week.”
Molly’s eyes tracked the direction of Cynthia’s waggling finger. Nick stood just inside the entrance of the room. He wore a dark pinstriped suit, white dress shirt, and red and blue striped tie. Drop dead gorgeous didn’t begin to cover his appearance.
“Holy … ” Molly caught herself and gulped down the S word, or at least half of it. Too late, unless Nick found something else amusing. It was enough to plaster a big grin across his face. He waggled his fingers in a brief wave, and her heart skidded against her ribs. His eyes stayed locked on hers. Then he shifted his attention toward a cluster of empty seats. He settled onto one. Molly tore her gaze away and fussed with the gavel and boxes of gift cards.
“Holy, my foot,” Dominique whispered. “That’s sin on the hoof if ever I saw it, and I think I see it now. I take it that’s Mr. Condo.”
“Shhh,” Molly hissed. “He’ll know you’re talking about him.”
“I sense trouble. That’s what. Ignore him.”
“I’m not sure I can, or if I even want to, but I’ll certainly try.”
“I wonder why he’s here.”
Dominique sucked in a deep breath and let it out in a murmured trill. “Lighting up the room, I’d say. Damn, but he’s gorgeous.”
Molly kept her eyes averted. Three nights ago, she’d almost amputated his toes when she practically ran over them with her car. Although certainly not on purpose. What did he expect, sneaking up and almost blinding her with a flashlight? She hadn’t realized it was Nick and not the elusive rapist who preyed on lone women in the South of Market area. She’d acted like any sensible woman — she’d burned rubber. Now he was here and, in less than a minute, managed to totally shred her inner calm.
Molly leaned closer to Dominique and talked out of the side of her mouth. “Don’t make it obvious. Can you see what he’s doing?”
“He’s browsing through the program. No, wait, now he’s staring at you again.”
“How does he look?”
“I already told you. H … O … T. and I don’t need Ouija’s confirmation. No wonder you let him kiss you.”
“You did? Wow.” Cynthia’s smile stretched almost to her ears.
“No.” Molly shook her head, and with perfect clarity, sketched a mental picture of herself glued to Nick in that shabby doorway. A ripple of heat glided up her neck. She grabbed a program off the table and swatted the air. Good luck. Only if she drifted on an Arctic ice floe could she hope to extinguish the embers that smoldered beneath her skin.
She turned to Dominique. “Does he look … annoyed by any chance?”
“You mean because of the near hit and run the other night?”
“If that’s annoyed, I’ll sign up for it any time. Aren’t you going to return the wave?”
“No.” Molly pressed her chin almost into her chest and snuck a glance at her watch. One minute to eight. Almost time to start. She pulled in her breath, held it, and let it out slowly. She waited for her heartbeat to return to something that resembled a normal rhythm. She adjusted the microphone.
“I’m ready to turn this thing on. So be quiet, both of you.” She flipped the switch and gazed out at the crowd. She tried to keep her eyes from straying to Nick, but it was impossible to accomplish. Even more so than when she’d bought a box of See’s candy and tried not to eat most of the chocolate-covered cherries on the way home. At least he’d quit staring at her. He paged through the program instead.
“Good evening.” Molly rushed through her introduction in half the time it took when she practiced it. She blamed Nick for single-handedly destroying her nerves.
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