Quick Study - By Gretchen Galway Page 0,1

towards the door. Hoping he wasn’t misunderstanding her, he strode after her, stunned by his good fortune. She had a round, protruding butt, the seam of her tight jeans dividing it lengthwise into a perfect apple. When she reached forward to push open the door to the parking lot, he admired the tattoo above the waistband, something colorful and abstract he couldn’t identify. He needed a better look.

Then reality set in. She was dropping her kid off at a preschool. Mothers meant fathers. He tilted his head to study her left hand, swaying along beside her generous hips with each step, and nearly got flattened by a silver Odyssey backing up in the parking lot. He jumped out of the way just as he had established that she wasn’t wearing any rings. Which was no guarantee, but made him feel better.

They turned onto the sidewalk and approached the cafe. “I don’t know,” she said. “It looks closed.”

He peered through a cloudy window at the rows of empty tables. “There is someone behind the counter.” He gave her a pathetically eager smile.

She stopped and gazed up at him, another measuring look in her eye. After a moment, she said, “I have fresh beans at my place.”

His mouth went dry. He dropped his gaze to study her hot, pink mouth, and tried to swallow. “I am pretty thirsty.”

She smiled at him as though she thought he was a dork, but that was fine. Looking nice and non-threatening was getting him invited to her place. The smell of her, flowery and strong, like the jasmine around his swimming pool at night, filled his nostrils, and he inhaled deeply to catch as much of her as he could.

“I’ve got the red Beetle,” she said quietly. “Follow me.”

He nodded dumbly, then watched her stride away from him without looking back. As soon as she disappeared into her girly car, he sprinted to his Prius down the block and shoved his keys into the ignition, hands shaking. “Thank you, Jesus,” he muttered, too pumped to even smile. He pulled a U-turn into the street, his tires squealing, and nearly ran over a grandmother with three tiny kids jaywalking over to the preschool. Vowing to chill, he put on his seat belt and watched the awkward floppy-limbed creatures toddle out of the way. Vehicular manslaughter would be bad for so many reasons. One being no women for a long, long time.

It had already been too long. Grateful her car stood out, Paul floored it and caught up just before she turned sharply at a Jack in the Box a few blocks away. He could just make out a big yellow flower on the dash next to her.

Another car honked and he slammed on the brakes. Stop sign. Right. Other people on the road. Light-headed, he sucked in a lungful and forced himself to calm down. Other guys did this sort of thing all the time. Not from a suburban California preschool at eight in the morning, true, but at thirty-two he wasn’t getting any younger and had to carpe the diem.

He took one hand off the wheel, readjusted his jeans, and followed her the rest of the way through Pleasant Hill to an apartment building near the mall. Nothing fancy, just a two-story concrete block painted pea-green with scrawny shrubs and a lawn of bark chips. Not the best place for a kid, he thought, but forgot about that as soon as she beckoned to him with a crooked finger from the front entrance.

At her side in seconds, he watched her unlock the dented black entry gate and prop it open for him with her knee, her tight jeans creasing along her thigh. He hesitated in the doorway, gazing down at her, giving her a chance to change her mind. He noticed she wasn’t looking him in the eye anymore. Her fingers kept tugging at the skimpy hem of her t-shirt.

“Come on,” she said suddenly.

He caught another whiff of flowers and woman and leaned closer to breathe more of her. “What’s your name?”

She flinched, then smiled at him quickly and gestured down the hall. “It’s the back unit.” She walked away from him, keys jingling in her hand, to the last door on the right.

Paul frowned, following her slowly, trying to decide if he minded keeping it anonymous. She could find out all about him through his sister. As he followed her into the apartment, all beige carpet and mismatched cheap furniture, he realized she might already

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