tagFirst TimeMan on Fire

Man on Fire

byAffairOfTheArt©

Part 1

I glanced at my watch, just ten minutes until the end of my shift at the library, much as I didn't mind my job, I was glad it was going to be over soon. I hefted the last few books off my cart and started sliding them into the appropriate spots on the shelves. The last one was on the very top shelf out of my reach, damn being short. I looked around and located a step stool. I drug it to the appropriate point and stepped up putting it back. With out looking down I stepped down and came perilously close to falling on my ass, a hand reached for my arm and helped steady me. I looked at it and then down to the body the hand was attached to. It was a guy, black unruly hair with some curl to it, icy blue eyes, squarish framed glasses and a wry smile.

"Whoa there, you okay?" He asked me, and all I could think was, 'Damn you're cute.' Good looking in a hunky nerd kinda way, so cute it took me a moment to respond and I swear I squeaked a little when I finally answered him.

"Oh, yea, fine I'm fine thanks." He gave me a lopsided little smile and I could only ogle him as I finally planted my feet firmly back on the industrial carpet. He let go of my arm and I was suddenly aware of the lack of contact. I think I was blushing, but just turned back to my now empty cart and pulled at my shirt, straightening it. I grabbed the cart with both hands, determined to just put it away and pretend this handsome stranger hadn't just touched and then smiled at me. His fingers on my shoulder insured that didn't happen.

"Um could you help me out?" I did my best NOT to sigh as I turned around, was mild irritation a common sign of attraction? I didn't know, I hadn't really done any dating so far. I turned and gave him what I hoped was a helpful, but professional smile.

"Sure what do you need?" He started explaining.

"I need a book with information on cellular mitosis especially as it relates to the asexual reproduction of-" He paused to address his open notebook "Lumbricus terrestris." I raised one eyebrow and he gave me that quirky, and I had to admit it, sexy little half smile. "The common earth worm." He elaborated and then went on. "I think my bio teacher hates me." I couldn't help smiling in return

"You should find what you're looking for over here, in this section." I took him to the pertinent shelves before telling him. "It wouldn't take long to do a specific search with the electronic catalog?" Making it a question.

"No, this is fine, believe it or not, I'm not a huge fan of computers." That was surprising.

"Really?" was all I asked. He nodded, brushing the hair off his forehead in what I guessed was a habitual movement.

"Really, its just information captured in pixels on a screen is just so unreal to me you know?" I just looked at him, not really following. He blew out a little frustrated breath as if this was something he'd struggled with explaining before. He grabbed my hand then, his was warm and I now realized somewhat callused. "This." He told me squeezing my hand, "This is solid, real." I nodded slowly, waiting for him to elaborate, determined not to blush as a good looking stranger I'd just met and didn't even the know the name of held my hand. He then put an all metal pen into my hand, it was cool and slick to the touch. "This is real. Flickering lights, and ones and zeros, are just a little too ephemeral for my tastes." He let go and actually looked a little embarrassed at having man handled me.

"Wow, that's really interesting, I've never knew anyone that felt that way before." He shrugged,

"Its not like I can't knock out a paper with the word processor or access the class content online, it just doesn't really do it for me ya know?" I nodded, not sure if I did, but not knowing what else to say. Instead of speaking I handed him back his pen and then glanced down at my watch.

"Well I hope you find what you're looking for." He looked right into my eyes when he told me.

"I think I have." Oh my God was he flirting with me? No way, someone as hot and interesting as this guy was, was flirting with ME." I just nodded, hoping he didn't notice the rosy bloom of a blush on my cheeks. I turned to go and he stopped me with his hand on my shoulder again,

"I'm Garren, by the way." He told me softly. I turned to face him, sticking my hand out awkwardly,

"Nice to meet you Garren, I'm Calandra." He took my hand and shook it, holding it a bit longer than was absolutely necessary.

"Thanks for your help Calandra, thats a great name." I nodded, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear and giving the standard response to any question about my less than common name.

"My Dad is a professor of Greek Studies, it means 'Beautiful one or the name of a lark'"

Garren smiled at me when he answered

"Beautiful huh? Fitting." and the way he looked at me had me blushing. I just stood there totally unsure how to respond at all but finally mummbled a bit awkwardly

"Um, thanks." His smile widened, lifting one corner up even further and I found myself facinated by it. I almost didn't hear him tell me

"Maybe I'll see you around?" I nodded, definately blushing by then, but determined to not to act like an idiot just because some hottie introduced himself and complimented my name.

"Sure maybe we will, you're welcome, if you need anything you can just ask anyone at the information desk." He nodded, giving me that delicious little half grin again. I couldn't help the silly little smile that appeared on my own face, then turned and walked towards the end of the row of shelves. I turned my head and found him still looking at me, he raised his hand and wiggled his fingers at me in a little wave. I lifted my hand in response and then strode away. I headed towards the desk so I could let the Librarian know I was leaving and clock out. Another aide came up to me and told me in a whisper.

"Who was the hottie?" I just blinked, and she pressed on, her black lipstick and pale face especially stark this close to up. "Come on the guy with the black hair! He was seriously cute in a geeky kinda way." I finally told her

"Who Garren?" She gave me a shark like grin,

"Garren huh? Wonder if he needs any help." With out another word she left back the way I had come. I felt an irrational little surge of something that could have quite possibly been jealousy. I shook my head that was stupid, I just met the guy! I left, doing my best to try and forget the whole incident.

I headed home and settled down for an early dinner of cold cereal as I watched an episode of Doctor Who from the DVD set I'd got for Christmas, it was one of my favorite shows. After washing my dish, I changed my clothes, I was supposed to go to an art show as part of an assignment for my art history class. My room mate Kristine was supposed to meet me at Caribou Coffee before hand so I wouldn't have to go alone. I even put on a little lipstick and eye liner, a rarity for me.

I got to the off campus coffee shop and my roomie was no where to be seen. I ordered myself a drink and sat down at a little table by the front window. It was another ten minutes before my cell phone went off. It was Kristine

"Hey Callie, sorry I'm late but Yates needs me to pull double duty at the psych testing lab, I'm not going to be able to make the art show." I sighed

"That's okay, not the end of the world." She went on,

"I'll make it up to you, we'll go see that midnight showing of "Hard Days Night" this weekend."I couldn't help smiling, she knew how much I loved that movie.

"That WOULD be awesome." I answered her, we talked a bit longer and then hung up. I didn't bother holding back the long sigh. It wasn't like going to an art show on my own was anything so terrible, I just has been looking forward to a little socializing and with my native shyness that was a lot less likely to happen with out the talkative Kristine as my wing woman. Still nothing for it.

I found the little gallery the show was in with out difficulty and went in. It was a show of multiple local artists, heavy on the sculpture. I wandered from piece to piece making mental notes for the paper I was going to have to submit as part of the project. I found one sculpture especially befuddling, it was bands of different metals tangled and overlapping making a rough flame like shape with some sort of etching on some of the bands. I didn't know what to make of it, but found it oddly compelling, as if there was some meaning or story just out of reach. I must have been studying it for a while, losing track of time as I sometimes did when faced with a puzzle. Finally a voice said behind me.

"You see it yet?" I blinked and turned around, to my delight there stood the handsome geek from the library, his hair looking a little less unruly and t shirt now covered with a blazer jacket. He smiled at me when I saw him and blinked owlishly.

"Garren!" I finally said and he grinned at me,

"You remembered! Yes, me Garren, you Calandra!" I laughed a little, and he put out his hand to shake mine.

"Callie please, its what my friends call me."

"Its nice to see you again, Callie." He told me, holding my hand longer than needed I thought, the genuine warmth in his voice surprising me. I nodded,

"You too." He released my hand with what seemed like reluctance.

"So?" He asked me and I just blinked,

"So?" I asked in response and he just pointed at the art work,

"Have you seen it yet?" I gave him a puzzled look,

"I've seen the piece." I told him slowly, and he gave me a expression that urged me to go on. "But it seems like there's something just out of reach I'm not getting, its really starting to bug me!" He smiled at me again, pleased with himself.

"Want some help?" He asked me. I nodded and he moved behind me, putting his warm hands on my shoulders and guided me a few feet to the side and angled me just so. "There." He told me firmly, "See it yet?" I tilted my head to the side and finally with a little frustrated breath told him

"No!" I felt the low laugh of his more than heard it, he was so close to my back. In response he just ran one hand down my arm until his hand held mine and he raised it, closing all my fingers by my index and pointed at the piece. He told me low, his voice right in my ear

"Look at where I'm pointing, follow the invisible line we're tracing on the piece, I think you'll get it." I nodded, flushed by his nearness and touch, as well as the underlying excitement in his voice, the man liked his art. He moved my hand slowly, scribing lines in the air. I blinked, closed one eye and followed and then like magic it leaped out at me.

"Oh!" I exclaimed. He gave that warm rumbling laugh again and I felt it all along my back. "Its a face!" I told him a little breathless, painfully aware of how warm he was, and how my heart rate had sped up ever since he'd touched me. I squinted and moved closer, stepping away from him to get closer to the piece. I regretted the lack of contact at once, but was too captivated by the work in front of me to move back. I took one step to the side and then two steps the other direction. "Those etched lines only make a face if you stand in just the right spot." I said more to myself than to him. He moved up next to me,

"Clever, no?"

"Clever, yes!" I told him. "Whats it called?"

"Man on Fire." He answered. I turned to look at him,

"Its remarkable." He nodded and actually looked a little embarrassed but told me warmly,

"I'm so glad you think so." I tilted my head to the side and then walked even closer to read the little plaque affixed to the white pedestal it rested on, it read ' MAN ON FIRE Garren Michaels'.

"You made this?" I asked astonished. He nodded, looking me right in the eyes again. It was almost unnerving.

"I'm impressed." I said and he smiled. I couldn't help noticing the way it crinkled the skin around the corners of his eyes a little when he grinned like that.

"Thank you." He told me, his voice soft and intimate some how. I don't know how long we stood like that, close and just studying each others faces. Finally he asked me quietly.

"Would you like a drink?" I nodded,

"Yea, that would be good." He gave me a little bow and withdrew. I turned back to 'Man on Fire' it really was an amazing sculpture. No wonder he said he preferred solid real world objects to images on a screen, he was a sculptor and a remarkably good one if this piece was any indication.

He came back, drinks in each hand.

"Its just punch." He told me as he extended one hand, "You didn't strike me as a champagne kinda girl." I smiled up at him,

"Good call." I said taking the drink. We spent the next hour wandering around the gallery, Garren giving me a delightful running commentary on all the pieces, his included. They were all rather good, but nothing that spoke to me like 'Man on Fire.' I looked down at my watch, it was getting late and I had an 8 am class. I turned to my charming companion and told him regretfully,

"I should probably go, I've got an early class." His face fell a little, but he rallied and asked me

"How did you get here?" I told him,

"Oh I just walked, my house isn't all that far from here." He nodded, and then reached for my hand familiarly

"How about I walk you home?" I blinked, but surprised myself by telling him

"I'd like that." So he did. He didn't release my hand the whole way. It seemed just a little odd at first, but by the time we made it to my place it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. Garren was very intelligent and witty, with a quirky bent that continually surprised and delighted me. Finally we stood on my front stoop and faced each other. Why did it seem like this virtual stranger was bringing me home from a date? I shook my head, fumbling for my keys, I dropped them and he stooped to retrieve them for me. He stood, placing them in my hand, his resting on mine. He was close, so close as he told me softly.

"I'm so glad you came to the show tonight." I nodded,

"Quite the coincidence, helping you at the Library and then running into you there." He shook his head, and my fingers unexpectedly itched to brush his dark hair back from his brow.

"I don't believe in coincidence." He told me, his voice low and just a little rough. I swallowed, was it getting warm all of the sudden?

"Oh?" was all I could squeak out.

"Mm, no I don't." He paused, looking deep into my eyes before he went on,

"I enjoyed tonight, I'd really like to see you again Callie." I swallowed again,

"OK." I told him and he lifted the corner of his mouth in that adorable half smile. He reached for me then, his fingers touching my chin and tilting my head up to his a little as he very slowly moved his face closer to mine. The kiss was soft, the barest brush of contact but it did something to me. It felt as if every inch of my skin caught light, invisible fire flickering along every part of me. When I didn't object he kissed me again, a little harder press of his warm soft lips to mine and I let out a tiny moaning sound. I could feel him smile against my lips. He lifted his face from mine, moving back just enough to look into my face. Eyes I didn't remember shutting slid open with languid slowness. He smiled that heartbreaking little smile down at me, obviously pleased at my response. He bent again, kissing me, softly, sweetly.

"Good night Callie." He told me and it took me a moment to remember how to make my vocal chords work.

"Night Garren." He took a half step back, dropping his hand from my face.

"I'll come by tomorrow at seven, take you to dinner?" I just nodded, and his face split into a beautiful grin,

"Excellent." he told me, "Until tomorrow, sweet Calandra."

"See you tomorrow." I told him softly, stunned and thrilled at the turn of events. He left, pausing at the sidewalk to give me that cute little wiggle of his fingers in farewell, I raised my own hand echoing him, and then he was gone.

Part 2

I have to say the blindfold in his car was something of a surprise but he insisted if I saw where we were going it would ruin the surprise. His smile was so disarming and the sweet kiss he placed on my lips after he put it on persuaded me to go along with it. I swear he drove us in circles for many long minutes, Belle and Sebastian playing softly from the car stereo. I had to admit he did get brownie points for liking them. Finally he stopped his somewhat battered Toyota and told me.

"I'm going to go around and open the door and help you out but I'd like you to keep the blind fold on is that okay? I bit my lip, a little nervous, but his voice was so pleading, I knew if I said no, he'd let me take it off immediately, no harm no foul, but he'd clearly had something special planned, did I really want to screw that up? On our first real date? So I just nodded and when he opened the door and took my hand I held on to his hand and arm with both my hands.

"You better not let me trip or run into anything!" I told him, a little surprised at myself for joking so easily with him. I heard and even felt his rumbling laugh in answer,

"I won't I promise." It was a short walk before he told me,

"OK we're going inside in a bit and we have to cross a noisy room to get where we're going, but I'll stay right at your side okay? Just trust me." I fought the urge to bite my lip again, I trusted him, didn't I? He paused, waiting for me to answer so I nodded, taking a deep breath

"OK." I heard him fumble with some keys then unlocked a door and led me inside. It seemed to be darker in here and quiet our footsteps resounding as if we were in a hallway, we strode down the length of it and I became aware of a sound in the back ground, music I thought, something with a heavy back beat. He opened another door and the sound was louder, music for sure something techno-ish with a sensuality I couldn't come up with a better term for. We walked a little further and he gripped my arm tighter

"OK we'll go through the club and to the room where I have your surprise." I nodded and he opened the door. Music poured out of the open door and I was aware of spinning flashing lights against my blindfold, it was disorienting. We walked a few steps and I heard Garren swear softly but vehemently

"Shit." I squeezed his arm concerned

"What?" He didn't answer me for a long moment, and then someone walked by, clearly addressing us both

"Nice." they said, drawing out the 's' sound at the middle, making it sound salacious some how.

"Garren?" I asked, finally frustrated enough I just reached up and took off the blindfold, he tired to stop me

"Callie you might want to keep that -" It was too late, it took me a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dim room, and at first my mind couldn't make sense of the images before me. There were a lot of people wearing a lot of black and leather. There were raised platforms on three sides of the room, one with a couple on it another with a huge wooden cross like thing with various straps on it and the third was empty. My eyes were drawn to the couple on the stage, she seemed to be wearing a skin tight dress of latex, cherry red and her partner was a well muscled man, who much to my shock was wearing only a tiny leather thong in matching cherry red, a zipper strategically placed and a studded dog collar, including a leash the woman was wearing. I gasped.

"God, Calandra I SWEAR I had no idea they'd moved Fetish night to tonight! I would have taken you the long way around if I'd had any clue, hell I would have scrapped this whole thing and gone with plan B." I was still in shock, my eyes flickering from face to face,shocking outfit to shocking outfit, the heavy and oddly sexual music making a lot more sense now. I stammered

"Um so what- what was plan B?" He started leading me across the room, as he answered me his mouth close to my ear so I could hear him over the music

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