tagRomanceButterfly Kisses

Butterfly Kisses


Amanda chuckled quietly to herself as she watched the Malachite crawl up her outstretched leg. Four summers volunteering at the local live butterfly conservatory had yet to wear away the wonder she felt every time she stepped inside. The little greenhouse, a side exhibit in Brookside Gardens, got oppressively hot and crowded later in the summer; right now, near closing time in mid-May, was the best time to sit back, keep an eye on those mischievous twins with the magnifying glasses, and enjoy the soft rustle of the wings of five hundred butterflies, up close and personal. The petite young woman brushed escaping wisps of blonde hair out of her eyes, stretched languidly, stood up slowly so as not to disturb the green butterfly tickling her calf, and checked her watch. Her shift lasted another hour and ten minutes, but the conservatory stopped letting visitors in at four, so the end of the shift promised to be quiet. She glanced down at the Stephen King novel tucked into her regulation purple apron, anticipating a relaxing afternoon.

Anticipation gave way to curiosity, however, as the entrance doors opened with a familiar creak. Amanda caught her breath as a gorgeous young photographer stepped inside. He moved with the quiet grace of those who knew their way around the place; photographing insects that start at a breath of air requires far more care and patience than most visitors know. The young docent at the exit completely forgot the butterfly on her leg as she watched him, admiring the shoulder-length, sun-streaked brown hair brushing against his camera.

Soon enough, it was time for the mischievous twins to be shepherded home, and Amanda recovered herself long enough to perform the regulation check for hidden butterflies. After releasing an orange Julia Longwing from the brim of the little girl's hat, she sent the visitors on their merry way and turned to find their last visitor of the afternoon standing right next to her. As a rule, she tried not to make any sudden moves around the butterflies, but it took all of her self-control not to jump or frantically search for another errand.

The visitor, though, seemed completely at ease as he addressed her. "Are they usually this still? This is remarkable."

Amanda recovered her practiced poise, but just barely. "Uh, well, it's actually kind of chilly out, as far as they're concerned. It needs to get about ten degrees hotter than this before they're really active."

"By which point it can't be terribly pleasant in this glass box, I take it." He stood perhaps five-ten, most of a head taller than her, and he spoke with just a trace of an accent.

"Well, when you've got three classes of second-graders in here, plus a hundred other people, it gets oppressive. But the sight is worth it." She tried for her best charming smile; being out of practice, she feared she'd donned the one marked 'witless grin' instead.

"I'd imagine it is. Are you here all summer...Amanda Lane?" He'd read the regulation name badge pinned to her white Wings of Fancy T-shirt.

"Off and on, whenever they need me. I'm interning with a Latin American interest group downtown, so I'm mostly here on the weekends." Realizing she was about to tell her life story to a complete stranger, and a very attractive one, she caught herself. "I believe you have the advantage of me, mister...?"

"David Cook." He offered a hand, and she shook it heartily. His large, strong, weathered hand nearly engulfed her small one. "Latin America, eh? That's a far cry from butterflies."

"I'm a Foreign Policy major, soon-to-be college junior. Butterflies are just a side interest." She smiled. "How about yourself? You're not carrying nearly enough equipment for a professional photographer...I didn't even have to confiscate your tripod!"

They both laughed. "Nah, I'm an engineering grad student. Finding beauty and making memories...they're my side interests." He looked her straight in the eye when he spoke. Amanda felt a flush creeping into her cheeks and silently cursed her Scandinavian ancestry.

"That's wonderful." She glanced around, willing herself to calm down, and was saved by the call of the older black woman at the far door. "Amanda? I'ma gonna head home. You lock up and get the key to Miz Cheryl, 'kay, baby?" Amanda waved to acknowledge her, then turned to David to explain, "You know you've got another hour, right?"

David smiled. "Good to know. So it's just you and me, I guess?" He winked; Amanda smiled bashfully and turned away to study a pair of spiraling Royal Blues.

For the next twenty minutes or so, David took pictures and called out questions while Amanda called back answers and performed a few mundane closing tasks around the exhibit: watering plants, releasing newly emerged butterflies from the cage in the center, collecting the few dead specimens along the windowsill. Normally, these tasks took ten minutes, tops; today, though, she dawdled, turning back to follow the lovely young man with her eyes. She felt an undeniable thrill at the sight of the sun on his hair, the eagerness of his green eyes when he found a new specimen, his broad shoulders beneath a tan pub T-shirt...and a wicked ass in tight faded jeans.

Finally, David stood up and stretched, smiling at the little blonde. "So if nobody's around, do you have to stay until five?"

"Nope. As long as I get the key back to the office, I'm free to fly." She smiled up at her fluttering charges. "Unlike these guys. They have to stay."

"Are you heading straight home...or might I ask you for a tour of the gardens?"

Ah, thank heavens; she'd been hoping dearly that he'd be the one to ask. "I'd love to. My housemates aren't expecting me for dinner, so I've got all evening."

"Wonderful! I don't think you can leave just yet, though."

"Oh?" She was confused. His tone was flirtatious, but his body language was perfectly neutral.

"You've got a hitchhiker." He'd picked up her term for escaping butterflies. Amanda giggled as a lovely Costa Rican Clearwing, a tiny, transparent-winged butterfly not two inches long, crawled down from her hair and onto her cheek. David snapped a quick picture before the moment passed; the butterfly, in defiance of normal butterfly behavior, stayed put.

"You know, we tell the kids sometimes that if one lands on you, it's a butterfly kiss." She glanced shyly up at David, gauging his reaction; she was expecting a laugh or a roll of the eyes, not the gentle, lingering brush of his lips against her other cheek.

"I learned another type of butterfly kiss," he murmured quietly in her ear, as the Clearwing took flight—and landed safely just behind David's ear. Amanda, a mildly superstitious girl from years of theater and softball, took it as a wonderful sign.

Within three minutes, Amanda had removed the apron and name badge and stowed them in the office, retrieved her purse, and locked up. She led David out the back way and gently took his hand. "Anywhere in particular you'd like to go? There's the rose garden, the fragrance garden, the duck pond, assorted hangouts for deer..."

David wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Anyplace that's not busy...if that sounds okay to you."

Amanda looked up shyly and met the look of (infatuation? lust? love? Call it passion, she decided finally) in his eyes. Throwing caution to the nonexistent wind, she wrapped her arms around his neck, stood on tiptoe, and kissed him full on the lips. David was momentarily taken aback by her boldness; after about a second of that, though, he gathered her close to him and returned the kiss, tracing his tongue gently over her lips, running one hand slowly down her back, entwining the other in her tangled hair. When they broke the kiss for a breather, David squeezed her ass gently through her jean shorts. She chuckled and brushed a feathery kiss against his strong jaw.

"If you're up for a walk, not even the ducks will bother us on the far side of the pond."

David shouldered his camera bag and kissed her cheek. "Lead the way."

(To be continued soon...It's my first story, so comments would be appreciated. Thank you!)

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