Back in the living room, Isadora took a quick peek at her phone. She was surprised that RJ had called twice, but he hadn’t left a message. Karim was in the kitchen, putting their dinner on plates.
“RJ called me twice. Do you mind if I call him back?”
“Not at all.”
She started to step onto the patio to call him, but remembered she’d only put her undies and t-shirt back on. She’d only planned for Karim to see her in a thong, not his entire complex. She stayed by the door.
“Hey,” she said when RJ answered. “What’s up?”
“Oh nothing. Just wondered if you wanted to do something tonight.”
“Oh. You called twice, I was worried something was wrong.”
“I did? Didn’t mean to, sorry.”
“If you wanted to do something, I guess the repairs weren’t too expensive?”
“It wasn’t too bad, but it still hurt.”
“Oh…” looking at Karim shirtless reminded her of their morning. “By the way, that was Karim we saw this morning.” He raised an eyebrow.
“It was?” RJ said.
“Yep,” she said, watching Karim. “It was Mr. Sexy Pants.” Mr. Sexy Pants raised both eyebrows at that.
“How do you know?”
“I got a flat and guess who came to my rescue.”
“Shut up. I fucking hate you. I hate you. I curse the day I met you.”
“Hey! That’s not fair!”
“It doesn’t have to be fair. I can hate you if I want,” RJ said.
“Well then I guess I won’t tell you about the rest of my day,” she said, looking Karim up and down and licking her lips.
“What?! The hell you won’t!” RJ said.
“Look, RJ. I have to go.” She was having trouble keeping a straight face.
“Oh no. Don’t you hang up. You cannot tease me like that and then go. I want details.”
“Gotta go, RJ. Love you, bye!” She hung up. And joined Karim at the table.
“He’s a little pissed.”
Her phone beeped with a text.
-Fucking hate you.
“Mr. SexyPants?” Karim asked.
She giggled. “We may… or may not… have given you a little nickname.”
“Sounds more like ‘may’ than ‘may not’.”
“Technically, RJ gave you a little nickname. I just went along with it.”
“Mr. SexyPants?” he repeated.
“That’s what he said. This looks good, want to get started?”
“Oh no, don’t try to change the subject. Exactly how often have you and RJ talked about me? And you all saw me this morning?”
“We’ve… discussed you on occasion. And I was leaving from dropping him off at the mechanic’s when I got the flat. We passed you on the way there, but weren’t sure if it was you.”
“Hmm,” he said, breaking his chopsticks apart. “Am I going to get more details on these discussions?”
“Not much more. But I can say that like Delphine, RJ was instrumental in… convincing me to let my guard down.”
Karim just listened.
Isadora continued. “I was more than a little hesitant.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Well, like I said before… Julian.”
“And, you are kind of a sexy pants. I can admit that I was a little intimidated.”
His eyebrows shot up again.
“You were a little intimidated?” he asked, after swallowing his mouthful.
“Why do you say it like that?”
“You’re… a super sexy pants. I’m the one who should have been intimidated.”
She felt all shy again. “I dunno. You’ve got that whole dark hair, light eyes, sexy stubble, broad-shouldered thing going on. Ok, just talking about it gets me wet. And, that’s quite an intimidating weapon you’re packing.” She had trouble holding back her smile.
He looked a little shy, which surprised her. “Just talking about it gets you wet? And regarding my… weapon, it’s not common knowledge. You’re packing a pair of very intimidating weapons, and those are visible to everyone.”
“Are you saying you were scared of my boobs?”
He laughed. “No. I’m just saying that any man – any straight man that is – would be pretty damn intimidated at the sight of you. Let alone when they see you in action at work.”
She wasn’t sure how to take that. “Um, thanks?”
He smiled and shook his head. “You really don’t understand, do you?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Understand what?”
“I can’t think of a single man at work who wouldn’t want to be in my shoes tonight.”
She didn’t say anything.
“Physically, you are very, very distracting. Everyone sits up and takes notice when you walk into a room. The men, but the women, too.”
Is he trying to flatter me? I’m already half-naked at his table.
“Um. It’s sweet of you to say so, but I don’t think that’s true.”
“It is. I’m telling you. You’ve never noticed?”
“No. I usually have a moment of anxiety when I walk into a room full of people. I get the impression that they’re waiting for me to do something or say something. I’m always nervous about getting it right.”
His turn to look dubious. “You are?”
She nodded, chewing.
“You give off a lot of confidence.”
“Practice. I’ve been faking it for years,” she shrugged.
He watched her another moment, also chewing, thinking.
“I think you’re reading that impression wrong,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“When you said you get the impression that people are waiting for you to say something or do something. I think you feel that way because people are struck by your beauty and they can’t help but look at you, admire you.”
“Karim… you’re embarrassing me.” She couldn’t look at him anymore.
“I’m sorry, Isa. I don’t mean to.”
They were quiet again. Then he remembered something he wanted to add.
“But it’s not just your beauty.”
Oh my god. He keeps this up, I’m going to have to go hide in the bathroom.
“Please stop saying that.”
“You’re beautiful, Isa. You are an incredibly beautiful woman and I am easily the luckiest man in Sacramento right now. If not the entire state of California.”
She had to put her chopsticks down and her elbows on the table so she could hide her face in her hands. He didn’t shut up.
“And you are intelligent, so skilled at what you do. It’s a very intimidating combination.” He chuckled a little. “Why are you hiding?”
“Because you’re making me all shy,” she said through her hands.
“I’m only telling the truth.”
She could hear his smile in his voice.
“You said it was a kite? The bird on your hip?”
“Yes.” She looked at him from between her fingers, hoping he was changing the subject.
“Then come out, little kite. Please don’t hide from me. I didn’t mean to embarrass you or make you uncomfortable.”
He cannot be this sweet and this gorgeous.
She moved her hands a little bit out of the way and peeked up at him.
“Are you going to stop trying to sweet-talk me?” she asked. “I don’t see why you’re going to so much trouble, you’ve already gotten into my pants.”
He smiled again.
“I’m going to keep telling you the truth about how beautiful and amazing you are until I know you believe it. Pants or no pants. Though, I do have to say that I prefer no pants.”
She just shook her head, covering her face again a little. After another quiet pause, she took a breath and hoped he’d let her change the subject.
“So what made you choose California?” she asked. He smirked a little, but answered, letting her lead him away from things that made her feel uncomfortable.