“Do you jog?”
“I never got into jogging.” He glanced at her then turned his attention back to the road. “Do you?”
“No. I tried it a few times. It’s too much like punishment.”
“That’s how I see it.”
Hmm. More common ground?
“How do you keep in shape?” Maybe he lifted weights or did karate. Or kickboxing. That could come in handy if he had to defend himself against Duncan Serk.
“I eat junk food.”
“Stop.” The way his jeans fit him left little to the imagination. No bulges anywhere except where her eyes had no business to stray.
“No, I’m serious. I eat it all the time.”
She screwed up her mouth and scrunched her eyebrows then threw him one of her “don’t try to kid me” expressions, but he watched the road ahead. If he ate junk food, could that mean he didn’t have a steady girlfriend? Of course, a lot of women these days didn’t hang out in the kitchen. There were all the times every month she brought home a dinner salad or something hot and already prepared from Whole Foods. If she dated him, she’d cook up enough of a storm to put a sizeable dent in the supermarket chain’s pre-cooked food profits.
“I eat mostly take out. I know a place in the Mission that makes the best enchiladas this side of Tijuana. If you request it, they’ll pile on extra cheese.”
Extra cheese. She thought about the food basket in the trunk of the car. She’d picked it up the previous afternoon from the caterers. Some of the food it contained seemed far from ordinary, such as smoked eel. Would anything that exotic appeal to a man who thrilled to a cheesy enchilada? She was pretty sure the caterers hadn’t included anything with a south-of-the-border taste. She hoped that wouldn’t be a problem.
They passed through the Presidio, the former army base, then onto the Golden Gate Bridge. Crowds of pedestrians, some with cameras dangling around their necks, some pushing baby carriages, thronged the walkway along with bicycle riders and roller skaters. The bridge was probably the hottest tourist attraction in San Francisco, but locals took advantage of it, too. Walking the span was something Molly often talked about but never earnestly pursued. Dozens of sailboats dotted the bay and circled Alcatraz Island. The sun was a golden splash on a pale blue canvas. She looked forward to the balloon ride and the picnic later with Nick.
“I owned a boat once. Well, a tenth of a boat. I chipped in with a bunch of other guys. It was right after I graduated from college.”
“You went in with nine others? How big was the boat?”
“Not too big. I didn’t have the time to use it enough. I sold my share a couple of years later.”
“What made you go in on it?”
“We all thought it would be a great way to attract women. It worked for a few of the guys.” He shrugged.
What a waste of money. He could have invested in a skateboard and, with that body and those looks, gotten the same results. Maybe he’d arrived at the same conclusion.
Traffic thinned as they passed through Marin County and onto the two lanes that headed toward Napa. Neat rows of grapevines covered the gently rolling hills and stretched for miles. Tiny silver streamers anchored amid the vines, meant to discourage the birds from eating the grapes, fluttered in the breeze. The valley was one of Molly’s favorite places. Only about an hour north of San Francisco, it lured locals as well as tourists for wine tasting, shopping, and fine dining. She didn’t know of any restaurants in the area where you could order an enchilada with extra cheese, though.
She glanced over at Nick. “When’s the last time you were up here?”
“Two weeks ago.”
“Really? Yet you bid on the balloon ride. You must like it here. I mean, to come back so soon.”
“I own a house in Napa.”
“Oh.” That took big bucks. “I thought only movie stars and tech wizards could afford this area.” Her tone said, Explain that!
“Well, for now it’s only part of a house.”
“Don’t tell me. You’re partners in it with nine other guys.”
He laughed. “No, I’m the only one who’ll live there, eventually. I hope.”
Talk about ways to reel in women. A house anywhere in the Napa Valley would draw them like mosquitoes to standing water.
“Why did you refer to it as being only part of a house?”
“It’s nowhere near finished. There’s not much more than a roof and four walls. I’ve barely made a dent inside.”
“It sounds like you’re building it by yourself.”
“I work on it every chance I get, but not often enough.” He glanced at her, then brought his concentration back to the highway. “Maybe I could show it to you later if there’s time. It’s really the spectacular view that makes it special.”
“I’d love to see it.” She wondered if the offer was spontaneous or part of some master plan he’d hatched during his sleepless night. Maybe it coincided with whatever had prompted him to bid on the package. At the moment she didn’t much care.
Nick followed the directions on a posted sign and turned onto a narrow dirt road. It ended at a field where a yellow and red striped balloon floated above a passenger basket. Two other couples were already onboard. He parked the car under a shade tree.
“How much of my twelve hundred fifty dollar bid is paying for the ride?” he asked as they walked toward the basket.
“None of it is. Like all the other items in the auction, it was donated.”
“That’s very generous. Is the owner a relative or something?”
“No. We saved his life at the clinic last year. He just happened to be half a block away when he had a heart attack. Someone drove him over, and Dr. Ed worked on him while we waited for an ambulance. Thank goodness it turned out to be a mild attack. He said to call him if there was ever anything he could do to repay us. So that’s why we’re here today.”
Nick put his arm around Molly’s back. “You people are full of good deeds, aren’t you?”
She wondered if that was a compliment or a subtle reminder about her connection to his tenants. She let it drop. Whatever his intentions, she’d made up her mind not to let anything ruin the day’s excursion.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish