Peak of Desire Ch. 01byvirgofemme©
*So this is one of the stories that i'm currently working on. For those of you who are wondering, I am still writing a sequel to Tattoo of Love, so it's definitely in the works! I've had an idea for this particular story for quite some time now, so I thought I would at least get a start on it. I hope you enjoy the chapter, and thank you for taking the time to read. :)*
Erica Mitchell exited the cool, air conditioned bookstore and stepped out into the blazing sun. The dry, hot climate that came along with a Burbank summer was nothing new to her, but when one was suffering from the symptoms of an oncoming period, it seemed to magnify even the smallest irritations.
Making her way towards her usual lunch spot across the street, she walked with her signature gait. Her skinny black jeans clung to her toned thighs, and her curvy hips swayed alluringly as she made her way forward. The steps she took were quick and purposeful, as if she were on her way to some important meeting.
As she reached the office park courtyard where she regularly ate lunch, she made her way towards a circular table with an umbrella attached to it. After taking a seat, she placed her purse on the table and dug inside to retrieve her compact mirror.
As she studied her reflection, she was happy to see that she felt worse than she looked. Her hair was styled into a face framing haircut, cleverly downplaying her round face to give it a more oval appearance, and although she did appear a bit tired, she was pleased to see there weren't any rings beneath her almond shaped eyes.
Noting that her mocha colored skin had a slight shine to it, she swiped her cosmetic sponge against the pressed compact a few times, then placed a few dabs on her nose and forehead. Once she was satisfied with her appearance, she snapped the compact shut and put it back in her purse.
Although she didn't have much of an appetite, she knew that skipping lunch would only lead to her being lightheaded. So she opened the plastic container which held her salad, then fed a forkful of lettuce into her mouth. The courtyard featured a beautiful stone fountain which added to the relaxing atmosphere, and her ears were caressed by the gurgling noises it created.
She took a quick glance at her watch, then released a sigh. She was only halfway through the day, and already she was aching to be off the clock. Her stomach was bloated and she was starting to feel crampy, and all she felt like doing right now was talking a nice, long nap. Yet six hours were still left before she got off work, so all she could do was just make the best of things and get through the rest of the day.
She stuck her fork into an olive, then brought it up to her mouth and popped it inside. As she munched pleasantly on her Greek salad, she eyed the mirrored windows of the high rise building which was located a dozen yards in front of her. Her eyes landed on a window washer who was squeegeeing one of the higher level windows, and as she watched him at work she found herself intrigued.
She'd always been curious about window washers, and was curious about the type of personality that one must possess in order to do a job like that. It seemed like an interesting profession, and she heard they were compensated very well.
As she watched the man at work, her eyes fell on the long ponytail which hung behind him. Reaching mid-back, it swayed along with the rhythm of his movements as he washed the windows. She couldn't help admiring his long hair, and found that it was one of the main things that intrigued her about him. That, and the fact that he was suspended hundreds of feet above the pavement. Her eyes remained peeled on him, watching as he pulled himself up to the next level of windows.
She saw there was a bucket attached to each side of the wooden plank he was sitting on, and noticed that he regularly alternated between the both of them, dunking his squeegee in the right, and then the left one.
By the time she'd finished her salad, the window washer had reached the top level of the building, and was just finishing up on the last window in the row. After dropping his squeegee in one of the buckets, he utilized the pulley system to swiftly lower himself down to street level. Once his feet were planted on the ground, he worked to unlatch himself from the harness.
Realizing it was her chance to get a look at his face, she stood up from the table and dumped the empty food carton in a trash bin. In order to exit the office park courtyard, she would have to pass by the high rise building, so it would give her an opportunity to check him out as she passed by.
Trying not to be too obvious about it, she threw a casual glance his way as she passed by, allowing her eyes to rove across his facial features. Since he was still unhooking his harness, his eyes were focused downward, and this emboldened her to get in a good, long stare.
Standing just over six feet tall, he had a russet colored skin tone and deep set eyes. His hair was raven black and straight, with a shine which was enhanced by the radiant sun. She allowed her gaze to linger as she passed him by, and as he suddenly lifted his eyes to meet hers, she knew she was caught. Her cheeks grew hot and she immediately averted her attention.
As she continued along her way, she had the feeling she was still being watched, so she threw a glance over her shoulder and saw that he was still looking at her. She didn't know whether he was watching her out of curiosity or genuine interest, but what she was sure of was that he was damn gorgeous. To her surprise, she saw a little smile cross his angular features.
Too stunned to smile back, she lifted her eyebrows in surprise. This prompted him to give her a wink, and she felt her mouth curl upward in response. She felt a thrill rush through her from his unexpected reaction, but her moment of elation was quickly transformed to one of dismay, as she tripped on a loose stone in the flooring of the courtyard.
Erica tried to regain her footing before she fell, but unfortunately wasn't able to. She hit the ground hard, releasing a cry of pain. She heard a snicker come from one of the lunch tables, and from out of her peripheral vision, she noticed a group of office workers turn their heads to stare at her.
Her cheeks burned with embarrassment, and she shamefacedly pushed her palms against the ground so that she could rise up. From her peripheral vision, she spotted the window washer approaching her, and as he reached her side, he squatted down so that he was at her level. He held out his hand, and she placed her palm in his so that he could help her up.
"Are you okay?" His face creased in concern.
"Yes, I'm fine." Her right hip hurt, and she could feel that her elbow was skinned, but she did her best to play it off.
"Yep." Erica could feel the eyes of every lunch goer in the courtyard plastered on her, and she desperately wished that she could turn invisible, but since she couldn't, the next best thing was to quickly be on her way. "Thank you for helping me up."
"No problem." He bent down to place the stone back in its hole. "They really should fix this. You're the third person to trip on it today."
"Yes, well..," She let her voice trail off, as she was uncertain of what else to say. "Bye." She turned and quickly made her way out of the courtyard.
As she walked back to work, she continually replayed the embarrassing moment in her head. If she hadn't kept her eyes on him for so long, then she never would have tripped. She couldn't believe she'd made such a fool of herself, and was now left feeling like a clown. It wasn't at all like her to be clumsy, but his sensual gaze had enraptured her, leaving her pretty much powerless to do anything but stare back.
A part of her was wishing that she would see him again, and yet she also knew if she did, that it would be difficult to live down what happened. A small sigh escaped her lips, and as she reached the bookstore where she worked, Erica pulled open the door and walked inside.
The cool, air-conditioned atmosphere felt wonderful against her skin, and the musky scent of old books, coupled with the earthy fragrance of sandalwood, pleasantly flooded her nostrils. As she approached the cashier counter, she offered a greeting to Iggy, the store's owner.
"Hello. Did you have a good lunch?" As was customary whenever he was reading a good book, his gaze remained firmly planted on the pages in front of him.
She nodded in response, eyeing the silvery strands that were threaded throughout his hair. "It was okay. Would have been better if I hadn't tripped and fallen on my way back over here, though."
"Ouch, sorry to hear." He briefly looked up to make eye contact with her. "Did you get hurt?"
"I skinned my elbow, and my hip hurts a bit. Nothing too serious, though."
"We have a first aid kit in the office. You'll find some alcohol pads and band aids in there." He looked back down at his book and then said, "So, what did you eat for lunch?"
"Rabbit food again?" He shook his head in amusement, then pushed up his round, tinted reading glasses. "One of these days I'm gonna take you out for a nice, fattening lunch."
"I always welcome free food. The only requirement I have is that the restaurant be Vegetarian."
He scrunched his nose up at the suggestion, then rubbed his graying beard. "Well, I never tried that type of food before, but I guess I'd be up for it. Just let me know when, it's my treat."
"Will do." She continued along her way through the tall shelves of books until she reached the back of the store, where there was a door marked 'employees only.'
After punching in her code, she pushed the door open and entered a moderately sized room with a small desk, a leather office chair, a grey file cabinet, and a small fridge, which had a coffee maker directly on top of it. Rows of books were neatly stacked up on a long counter, separated and categorized according to their subjects, and a box marked 'cd's' sat beside a large stack of comic books.
After placing her purse in a cubbyhole beneath the counter, she retrieved a first aid kit from a small cabinet above the fridge. After cleaning up her scraped elbow with an alcohol pad, she covered the small bruise with a band aid. Once that was done, she opened the small fridge and took out a miniature bottle of water.
After downing the cold liquid, she threw the container in the trash and then headed back out into the main area of the bookstore. As she was exiting the door, she noticed her coworker approaching, who was an alabaster skinned redhead with blue eyes.
"Hey, Tammy. You heading out to lunch?" She placed her palm against the door to hold it open for her coworker.
"Yep. I'm meeting up with my boyfriend at that new taco spot down the street." She slid her hair band off to release her coppery locks, then shook her head a few times so that her hair had a tousled look. "So are we still going out for drinks tonight?
"Doesn't look like I'll be able to. These cramps I have are kicking my butt."
Her face creased in concern. "Oh man, that sucks. Sorry to hear. I have some aspirin in my purse, if you'd like to take one."
"I already took one earlier. Thanks for offering, though."
"Okay, well I hope you feel better soon."
"Thanks, and have a good lunch." She gave a parting wave, then headed for a large, cushiony armchair where a stack of books had been left behind.
After collecting them in her arms, she walked through the rows of bookshelves until she reached the fiction section, then returned the books to their proper spots. Noticing a tall stack of books in the middle of an aisle, she headed toward them, then bent down to retrieve them. But before she could pick them up, a voice halted her movement.
"Those are mine."
Glancing upward, she recognized the man standing next to her as one of the bookstore regulars. Standing around medium height, he had light brown hair and gray eyes. Dressed in his usual attire of a faded band t-shirt and dark colored corduroy pants, he offered her a shy smile. She'd never asked him his age before, but if she had to guess, she'd say that he was in his late twenties.
"Oh, sorry Ned. I figured they'd just been abandoned." She stood back up to her full height.
"It's okay." He nervously ran a hand through his hair, then cleared his throat. "So how have you been?"
"Pretty good. And you?"
"Busy as usual. I finished school a few weeks ago, so I'm working as a computer programmer now."
"Oh yeah? Well good for you. Congratulations." She offered him a smile and placed her hand briefly on his arm, causing his cheeks to flush with color.
She'd meant it as nothing more than a friendly gesture, but seeing the effect it had on him, she realized that it could be mistaken for flirting. Noticing a bookcase with a shelf of haphazardly placed books, so she made her way over to it, with her admirer following along behind her.
"How have you been doing?"
She gave him a funny little smile. "You already asked me how I was doing."
"Oh, right. Sorry about that." A sheepish look crossed his face. "I've never seen you wear those earrings before. Are they new?"
"Nope, they're antiques. They were handed down to me by my grandma."
"Oh yeah? They look expensive. My cousin owns an antique shop. She has a lot of nice stuff there."
"That's nice." She gave him a weak smile.
"So I've been thinking about taking a class on woodworking. You have any books on that?"
"Yeah, sure. Follow me and I'll show you a few."
She led him out of the row they were currently in and over to a stack of books at the very back of the bookstore. As she came to a stop, she felt him step on the back of her shoe, and as a result, the heel of her foot slipped out of it. Stifling a sound of irritation, she bent down so that she could fix her footwear.
"Sorry about that." He lowered himself to her level so that he could assist her.
"Ned, it's fine. Don't worry about it."
Intent on helping her, he placed his thumb into the back of her leopard print flats so that she could slip the heel of her foot back in. Once her shoe was back on, they both rose up from the squatting position, yet unfortunately managed to clunk foreheads on the way up. A sound of pain fled her lips, and she rubbed the spot where their noggins had connected.
"Sorry again. I just keep on messing up, don't I?" His face visibly fell at the expression of displeasure on her face.
She couldn't help but feel bad for him, and knew that his clumsiness was just a part of his nature. "It's okay, no worries." She reached up to tug a few books off the shelf, and then took a few moments to thumb through the pages. Then she handed them both to him.
"These should be good to start with. They both have plenty of illustrations and step by step instructions, so you can't go wrong with either of them."
"Thanks, Erica. I appreciate it."
"No problem. You need anything else, just give me a shout." She said it reluctantly, hoping that he'd decide to leave her alone, but she knew that her wish would most likely go unanswered.
As she walked away she could feel his gaze lingering on her, and it wasn't until she was out of his line of sight that she began to relax. It wasn't that she disliked him, because he was actually very nice, but his awkward nature made her nervous. He visited the bookstore on a weekly basis, and whenever he came in, he tended to stay for hours, so she was beginning to tire of seeing him around. Ned had a way of rambling on about various things, and often changed subjects at the drop of a hat, so holding a conversation with him proved to be quite challenging.
Erica knew he had a crush on her, and she did find him kind of cute, but personality wise, he just wasn't her type. She preferred her men to be more dominating, and had always been attracted to males who had a high level of confidence. Ned possessed neither of those traits, so she couldn't ever consider the idea of them getting together.
She walked over to the new arrivals display table at the front of the store, and began to neaten it up. Once it was nice and tidy, she headed for the counter to chat with Iggy, who was clicking away on the keyboard of the store's computer system. Erica noticed that the bookshop's resident cat, Theodore, was stretched out next to the cashier, and she reached out to pet him. As she scratched him behind the ear he purred contentedly, then rolled over onto his back in hopes of enticing her to give him a tummy rub. A small chuckle fled her lips, and she ran her palm across his orange and white striped belly.
Spotting a small stack of books on the counter, she decided to inquire about them. "New arrivals?"
"Yep. Just came in half an hour ago. Have a look." He slid them closer to her.
She picked up the book that was on the top of the stack and read the title, then flipped it over to have a look at the synopsis. "Hmm, seems like an interesting read."
Iggy glanced up at her over the top of his glasses. "You're kidding, right?"
"No, I'm serious." She returned his lingering gaze with one her own. "Why, what's so weird about this book?"
"I just didn't take you for one of those apocalypse preparation freaks. Do you believe in zombies, too?"
She rolled her eyes playfully. "No, of course not. But I don't see what's so illogical about an apocalypse. It could happen, you know."
"Sure it could," he said in a voice that was dripping with sarcasm. "They've been forecasting doomsday for decades now, and yet it still hasn't happened." He shook his head to convey just how ridiculous he found the idea.
"Well I can't say for sure that I entirely believe it's going to happen, but I still think it's good to be prepared anyways."
He gave a light chuckle and then said, "Yeah, okay." As the sound of a ringing phone filled the air, he reached out to grab the receiver. "Iggy's Used Books, how may I help you?" There was a short pause as he let the other person speak, and then he responded. "Yes, we're located in Burbank. This is the only location we have."
The person on the other end of the line had a voice so loud that Erica could hear them speaking, and as they went into a long-winded ramble, Iggy rolled his eyes and looked down at his wristwatch to express how annoyed he was. She grinned in response, then grabbed the stack of newly arrived books off the counter and headed towards the bookshelves.
* * * *
The day had turned to evening, and only an hour remained before quitting time, so Erica was taking care of all the duties that needed to be completed before closing the store. After setting up a new display by the front door, she went to work at replacing the signs which displayed the different sections of books.
Most of them had become old and faded looking, so they were well overdue for an update. As she was taping a new sign up in the anthology section, Iggy popped his head around the bookshelf and glanced down the aisle where she was located, then called out to her.
"On my way out now. Have a good evening, and I'll see you tomorrow morning."
She glanced over her shoulder at him. "Later, Iggy. Have a good night."
The little bell over the door tinkled as he left the shop, and she felt a tiny rush of excitement course through her. Her coworker, Tammy, had finished her shift half an hour ago, so she was now the only person on duty. While her coworkers hated to close, she loved it. The shop closed at nine p.m., but by eight o' clock, the bookstore was pretty much deserted.
She had just finished taping up all the signs when she heard the little bell tinkle once again. A faint smile curved her lips as she recalled how forgetful her boss was. He always left something behind, so it was pretty much customary for him to return to the store, only a few minutes after his departure.