Love in All the Right Places

bykomrad1156©

"Oh, I see just fine," he told her. He turned toward her and did an obvious 'once over' looking her all the way up and down. "And my eyes tell me I'm right. You are definitely beautiful."

Paige wanted to come back with something snappy. Anything to avoid feeling what she was feeling. But she found she had nothing to say. Nothing except, "Thank you, Kirk."

He pointed to a sign and said, "That's our turn. If you look out to the east you can see the airport." She turned and looked in the direction he was indicating and saw a propeller plane sitting next to a hangar.

"Oh, my God. We're actually doing this, aren't we?" she said, the fear showing in her voice when reality set in.

"Yes, we are," he told her as he turned off the main road.

As they pulled up, Paige could see the airplane and a couple of men near it. That guy looks a lot like your dad," she said pointing to one of them.

"That's because it is," Kirk told her. "He's the pilot."

"Really? He owns a business and he's a pilot. Nice. Is the other guy the one I'm tandem jumping with?"

"No, that's our mechanic, George. He's been here for years. Good guy."

"Good thing," Paige quipped. "I don't see anyone else. Is he inside?" she asked.

"Yes," he said. "Inside the car. With you."

"You? You're the instructor?"

"Fully qualified and at your service. I've been skydiving since I was ten years old. I've got close to 300 jumps under my belt," he told her before going around to open her door.

"Why am I not surprised?" she said with a smile.

"Come on. We've gotta do a safety class inside and have you sign some paperwork."

"Is my death warrant one of them?" she quipped.

"Nah, we only kill a handful of new jumpers a year. I'm sure you won't be one of them." He saw the face she made then said, "Pretty sure, anyway."

Since Kirk was wearing the only parachute, the class was very basic. In less than 30 minutes, they were gearing up for the jump.

"You don't have a shot of vodka or a valium on you by chance, do you?" Paige asked once she was ready to go.

"No way," Kirk said. "You don't want to take the edge of this experience. There's only one first time and you'll want to remember every detail for the rest of your life. Trust me on that, okay?"

"The rest of my life. Hah, hah. Which is what? Twenty or thirty minutes?"

"Black humor is a perennial favorite around here. It's very popular in the military, too. Or so I hear." Kirk smiled at her and said, "Okay. We're all set. Let's do this!"

"Can I change my mind?" Paige asked sheepishly.

"Nope." Without asking, he took her hand and said, "Come with me, young lady."

"I really hate you, Kirk. You know that, right?" she said as he pulled her along.

"Yes, but you'll love me in less than half an hour. You can trust me on that, too."

The plane was already running when they got on board. Kirk helped her buckle in to a jump seat then gave his dad the thumb's up. "We're going up to 13,000 feet so we can free-fall for about a minute or so," he yelled over the engine noise.

"Oh, goody," Paige said snidely.

"Still nervous?" he hollered.

"Who me? No, I just feel like I'm about to throw up. Other than that, I'm just peachy."

"You'll be fine. I promise," he yelled into her ear.

The ascent was slow and gradual but Paige felt like she was in the Space Shuttle. When they finally leveled off, Kirk said, "Okay. Time to get buckled in."

He stood up, unbuckled Paige, then offered her a hand. "I still hate you!" she said as he spun her around and turned her into a human appendage.

"Okay, shuffle over to the door and we'll wait for that light to turn green," he said pointing to a light by the door that was red.

When they got the door, Paige freaked out. "I can't do this! I can't go out."

She tried to push back but Kirk wouldn't let her. She didn't see the light turn yellow as he said, "It'll be fine. It's just pre-jump jitters. Everyone has them."

"No, it's more than that. I'm scared to death. I want to go back to the..."

The light turned green and Kirk lifted her slightly and stepped out. "What the HELL are you..."

And that was that. Paige was screaming bloody murder and Kirk couldn't stop laughing. He immediately steadied them up and Paige stopped shrieking when she saw the ground below them. "Oh, my God! This is SO amazing!" she hollered.

"Told you!" he said triumphantly. "You're flying!"

"I am. I'm really flying! This is the greatest thing ever!" she yelled.

Kirk slowly spun them in a circle a couple of times just to give her perspective. "Okay, I'm gonna open the chute in a few seconds. Remember what I taught you?"

"Yes!"

And just like that, Paige was upright looking out over the horizon as they slowly drifted back to earth.

"Remember how to land?" he said loudly.

"Yep!" she told him as she saw the ground coming up.

Just as they landed, Kirk pulled on the risers and they floated to ground. Paige lost her balance and pulled them over in a heap. That made her laugh and by the time Kirk fell on top of her, he was laughing, too.

"Let me up!" she said.

He turned sideways, unbuckled her and stood up. As he did, Paige jumped up and into his arms and threw hers around his neck. "That was the BEST thing EVER!" she hollered. She pulled back, her smile so big it looked painful, looked into Kirk's eyes then kissed him before letting go and yelling, "Oh, my GOD! That was SO freaking awesome!!"

Kirk was gathering the parachute as Paige continued to celebrate and bleed off adrenaline. He knew that accounted for 90% of her behavior, but he'd never been kissed on the lips before by any first-time jumper. Nearly every women he'd jumped with had hugged him and many had kissed him the cheek. But this was a first and he couldn't help but smile as he pulled the material together.

"So I take it you liked that all right?" he teased.

"That was...incredible! I can't wait to tell everyone I know I jumped out of an airplane!"

"And lived," Kirk couldn't help adding. "I'm glad you enjoyed it. Come on, we need to walk over to that concrete pad where our trusty mechanic will meet us shortly and give us a ride back to the hangar.

Paige talked non-stop the entire way about every detail of what happened. The only words Kirk got in were, "Aren't you glad you didn't take that valium?" She playfully hit him when he said that then went right back jabbering while barely taking a breath.

His dad was landing as they pulled into the hangar and in less than ten minutes they were out of their harnesses and ready to go. Paige waited for Kirk's dad then gave him a monster hug and a prolific round of thank-yous which made him laugh but in a polite way. "We like our jumpers to have fun. So do you think you'll want to learn to skydive?"

"Oh, wow. I hadn't thought about it until just now. But...yes, I think I'd like that."

"Get with Kirk. He teaches the classes. I'm sure he'll take good care of you," he said before excusing himself.

"I like your dad, too" she said still bubbling with enthusiasm from the jump.

"Too?" he asked just to see if he could get a response.

"Yes...too," she said still smiling from ear to ear.

"Oh, okay. Just checking. Yeah, I'm kind of fond of the old guy myself," he told her. "As I told you, he's actually my best friend."

"I'm envious. I love my dad, but we're not super close. I'm more so with my mom, but I have a best friend named Angie who truly is my best friend. Someone you can share anything and everything with, you know?"

"I'd like to meet her sometime," Kirk said casually.

Paige smiled and said, "Hmmm. Something tells me she'd like to meet you too, but for very different reasons."

Kirk smiled back but didn't 'go there.'

"I've got a little surprise for you," he said. He handed her a CD case with a DVD inside. "It's a video of your first jump from my helmet cam. It only takes a couple of minutes to download and burn to a disc."

"Oh, wow. That is just so cool. Thank you, Kirk. How much do I owe for that? For all of this, actually?"

"We can call it even if you'd let me take you on an actual date," he said flashing that great smile her way.

"I thought this was a date?" she said jokingly. She turned serious then asked him, "Do you really want to go out with me, Kirk?"

"Of course, I do. Why wouldn't I? I love hanging out with you, Paige. I have fun with you whether we're just talking or jumping out of airplanes. So yes, I'd very much like to go out with you."

"You don't care that I'm...ancient?" she said with raised eyebrows.

"My dad is 55 and he's the youngest-acting person I know. You're a veritable babe in the woods compared to him." Kirk stopped talking, smiled at her, then added, "Speaking of babes, you are most definitely a babe. No doubt about that."

That made Paige smile then laugh softly. "I have to admit I really enjoy...hanging out with you, too. I just wanted to know where we stand. I mean, all kidding aside, you are a very good-looking guy and I have to assume there are all kinds of girls your age interested in you so I..."

"And yet I'm asking you out rather than them. For that matter, I'm equally sure there are other guys...you know, the um...successful doctor's age...very interested in you."

"Not too many," she said rather quietly. "And you know what? I'm okay with that."

"So is that a 'yes' or are you trying to find an excuse to avoid going out with me?" he asked smiling at her and looking directly into her eyes.

Paige suddenly had a very serious look on her face as she said, "I'm not looking to avoid spending time with you, Kirk. I was giving you the opportunity to not have to spend time with me."

"Well, thank you...I think. But I wouldn't be asking you out if I wanted to avoid being with you, right?" He moved closer to her and put his hands on her shoulders and said, "I can't think of anything I'd rather do than spend time with you, Paige."

"Okay. Well, if that's the case then I would very much like to go out with you," she said, her heart pounding in her chest. Her hair was a mess from the jump and she was feeling anything but sexy in an old sweatshirt and jeans, but she could somehow tell that didn't matter to this handsome young man she wished with all her heart would kiss her right then and there.

"I guess I should take you home, huh?" he said as he lowered his hands. He realized how that sounded and chuckled before saying, "Let me rephrase that. I should probably take you back to your apartment."

Paige smiled but didn't laugh. Her heart was racing again and in spite of herself she said sweetly, "Either one would be fine."

Kirk smiled and raised one eyebrow causing Paige to break eye contact then say, "Well, let me just grab my purse and we can be going."

They chatted about the jump on the way back to her place, then the subject of his sister came up again. "Is there anything I can do?" Paige asked.

"Thanks, but I don't think so. She's mentally very strong and we all know it's just a matter of time. It's a race between a new kidney and..."

"Right. Well, a positive attitude is so important. I spend a lot of time working with patients who are desponded, depressed, and even..." She didn't want to say the word as though it might somehow change things.

"Suicidal?" he offered. "Not Meghan. She's a fighter. She ran cross country and played tennis all through high school and she's smart. Really smart. She graduated 4th in her class with a 3.92GPA. I did okay with a paltry 3.62, but she's just so...smart. She's pretty, too." Kirk looked over at Paige and said, "Her boyfriend of over a year dumped her a couple of months after she started dialysis. What a di..."

"Dick?" she said finishing his sentence this time. "It's sad to me that people are so shallow. Yes, I know they weren't engaged or married, but if you really like someone, how can you abandon them when they need you the most?"

"Obviously, he's not mature enough to handle something like this and honestly? When I was 18 I might not have been able to, either. Meghan's illness has really taught me a lot about things like love, caring, and commitment."

Paige couldn't help but stare as he drove. How could someone that young have that kind of perspective on life? When she was 23, she was anything but committed to anyone or anything but having fun. She wasn't flighty or ditzy. She was just a typical young woman attractive enough to date or hook up with a lot of different guys which she regularly did for quite a few years. Since turning 30, she'd stopped the hook-up thing altogether and began looking for longer (but not long)-term relationships. For the last year, she'd finally reached the point where she was not only ready to settle down but afraid she might have waited too long. She found herself willing to date men she'd otherwise have turned down. Men who who were...stable...rather than gorgeous; men who offered security over other things she still valued but less so as time passed by.

"So how does that sound?" Kirk said causing Paige to snap out of whatever dream world she'd been in.

"I'm so sorry, Kirk. I...I was totally daydreaming over here. Can you say that again?" she asked apologetically.

"That depends on what you were daydreaming about," he said as though he'd been deeply offended.

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe about the sage advice you gave me to stop looking for love in all the wrong places."

"Ah!" he said. "Yeah, sometimes we've got to think outside the box." He looked over at Paige then smiled. "How's that for being cliche?"

"Not too bad," she said. She looked right at him and told him, "I'm definitely trying to look in the right place these now."

He glanced back at the road then looked back at Paige. "Wow. You are so beautiful," he said out of nowhere.

Paige flipped the passenger-side mirror down and saw her hair in a tangled mess and laughed. "You are either the sweetest guy ever or a terrible liar."

"I never lie," he said overly seriously. He held up three fingers and said, "Scout's honor."

"So back to your question; the one I missed because I was daydreaming. What did you ask me?"

"I invited you to go on a wine-tasting tour with me next Saturday," he said. "I was thinking about The Tasting Room. Have you been there before?"

"No. No I haven't. I've been to Rotie Cellars and the Bartholomew Winery, but not The Tasting Room. I've heard it's very pleasant."

"Their website says they're open from noon to late on Saturdays so I was hoping we could maybe go to dinner somewhere nice then head over to The Room."

"Okay, but only if you'll let me help with the expenses," she told him.

"Oh, no. Sorry. I was raised that when a man asks a woman out, he pays. Period."

Paige smiled and said, "Ah. You're a chauvinist."

"Chauvinist? No. Traditionalist? You betcha. I ask, I pay."

"So...if I asked you, you'd let me pay?" she inquired.

He smiled at her and said, "In that case, we could discuss it."

She didn't respond, she just kept staring at him.

"What?" he said.

"Oh, nothing," she told him. "Just...looking. That's all." She assumed the reference went right over Kirk's head, but he got it loud and clear.

"Do you know the next line to that song?" he asked.

"Song?"

"Looking for love in all the wrong places. That song."

"Um...no. I don't believe I do," she told him.

"It goes, 'looking for love in too many faces', searchin' their eyes and lookin' for traces, of what I'm dreamin' of..." He looked back over at her and asked, "So are you finding any of what you've been dreaming of?"

"I'm not sure yet, but it's...looking...very promising," she told him never taking her eyes off of him.

Kirk smiled at her and held out his hand. She looked down at it then back him and returned his smile before taking it. "Did I tell you how beautiful you are?" he asked again.

"You might have, but I tend to forget things. You know, at my advanced age. So I don't mind hearing you repeat yourself." Her voice was soft and sweet.

Leonard squeezed her hand and said, "I think you're very beautiful, Paige."

He walked her to her door and as they stood there he turned toward her and said, "So...I'll see on Saturday then."

"Yes. Saturday. And thank you for today, Kirk. That was quite possibly the most fun I've ever had...on a date."

He smiled then said, "You mean with your clothes on, right?"

His comment surprised her so much she couldn't help but laugh. "Kirk Leonard! Shame on you!" she said realizing he was right.

"That wasn't very gentlemanly of me, was it?" he said as he stared into her eyes.

"Maybe not, but it was true, so..."

He put his hands on her shoulders again and told her, "Saturday seems like a very long way off."

"Yes, it does," she agreed. "A very long way off."

"I'll have your furniture done by Wednesday. I could bring it by—special delivery—if you like."

"Wednesday sounds much better than Saturday," she said, her eyes locked with his.

He brushed her messy hair back then said quietly, "Wednesday seems like a very long way off, too."

"I was just thinking the same thing," she said barely above a whisper.

"Perhaps if we had something to tide us over it wouldn't be quite so bad," he said as he stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers.

"Yes. Definitely," she agreed. "Something to remember."

"And look forward to again," he said as he leaned in to kiss her. Paige gladly accepted his kiss and ran her arms up through his and around his neck while he put his around her back.

The kiss lasted a good 3-4 seconds and ended very slowly. "Something like that," Kirk said.

"Yes. Something like that," she said. "Or...this." She pulled him to her for another kiss and near the end offered the tip of her tongue which was met with his.

"I like your idea better," he told her.

"Well, I suppose I should get inside now that all my neighbors have seen me kissing you on my front porch."

"Oh. Are they watching?" he said looking around behind and to the sides.

"Maybe," she said. "You never know, right?"

"True," he replied. "Why don't we...give 'em something to talk about?"

"You really know your music, don't you?" she said with a smile.

"I'd say pretty much anything to have the chance to kiss you again right now."

"No need for gimmicks," she said. "All you have to do is ask."

"May I kiss you again?" he said. Not waiting for an answer, he pulled her in close and kissed her even longer than either of their first two.

"I think you should go now," she said, her eyes staring into his.

"That's probably a good idea," Kirk replied.

"It's not that I want you to go," she began saying.

"I understand," he told her, nothing more needing to be said.

"Okay, so...thank you again for a wonderful day, Kirk."

"Thank you for agreeing to do this with me," he said again stroking her cheek.

"I like doing things with you," she said very quietly.

"And I with you," he told her. "I'm looking forward to doing more things with you."

"Same here," she said. She began lowering her arms then stood on her toes and kissed him one more time. "So...bye, Kirk," she said before letting him go.

"Bye, Paige," he said waiting for her to go inside. She sat her purse down then peeked out the window and walked him walk away. "Even his butt is cute!" she said to herself.

When he got in his car, Paige grabbed her cell phone and dialed Angie's number.

"Paige? You're still alive?"

"Oh, yes. Very much so," she said happily.

"How was it? Did you enjoy it?" Angie asked excitedly.

"The skydiving or...the kissing?" she said with a big smile on her face.

"The kissing? Oh, my God! I want to hear everything and don't you leave anything out, you hear me?"

Paige spent nearly an hour on the phone with her best friend talking about this new, amazing, incredibly handsome, very young new man in her life. Just before they hung up, Angie told her again, "You know I hate you, right?"

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bykomrad1156© 8 comments/ 62907 views/ 64 favorites

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