I stepped out the car, still not quite believing he let me drive it. The vehicle was easily the most expensive thing I'd ever touched. It was fun to put my foot down and know that it would jump to whatever speed I chose. The amount of control I had sitting behind that wheel was invigorating.
"You're flushed," Peter commented, brushing my cheek as he rounded the car. "I'd think you'd ran here."
I raised a hand to my cheek, feeling the heat beneath it. Chuckling nervously, I answered, "I just like your car."
Peter's arms wrapped around my waist, pulling me closer. "Good, then you won't be leaving me soon."
Smiling up at him, I pressed my lips to his. "Not soon, no." I kissed him again, pulling him closer, my hands sliding over his back. One of his hands drifted up, under my ponytail, cupping my neck, thumb on my cheek.
It was not a warm day, but I was starting to think I'd worn too heavy a coat. No... wait. I broke the kiss abruptly, stepping back. I giggled a little. "You'll make me overheat," I warned him.
His eyes drifted down my throat, which I was pretty sure was pinker than usual, over my coat and back up. "You could just shed a layer," he suggested with a smirk.
I mock punched him. "We haven't gone anywhere yet," I complained. I turned on my heel and started down the path, shoving my hands in my pockets.
The crunch of leaves told me he was following, so I didn't turn. I did throw out an arm to stop him though, pointing. "That is a chickadee." It was one of the most common birds, but it was on a low branch, practically watching us.
Peter stopped, examining the tiny songbird. It chirped at him.
"Chick-a-dee-dee," I sang to it.
I giggled. "Yes. It has another call, listen." The two note call was sounding elsewhere around us. "Phoe-be," I sang, mimicking. Peter smiled at me. "What?"
"You are adorable," he answered. "And your voice is lovely."
I narrowed my eyes, sure he was teasing, but finally let it go, continuing down the path to the marsh.
Once there, I was able to point out six different ducks, as well as geese and one heron. We also saw a muskrat and chipmunks.
"They're even smaller than squirrels," Peter complained, watching another stripped tail disappear under the bridge.
"There are a lot of small things around here." I picked up a tiny red spider mite, no bigger than a grain of sand, but on my skin we could see all eight legs.
Peter brushed it away quickly. "I want to kiss that," he muttered, putting his lips to my hand, closer to the wrist.
I chuckled. "They aren't dirty. Not really," I looked down again feeling his eyes on me. "You're still hung up on that aren't you?" I asked. "Getting dirty?"
He shrugged, his nose scrunching in distaste. "So?"
I shook my head. "There is so much fun to be had getting dirty." I slipped off the edge of the boardwalk. Peter snagged my elbow, and I looked at him, curious. I was standing on soft soggy marsh, but I wasn't up to my knees. I was only a little wet, more cold. "I'm fine," I told him, pulling my arm away and searching for something in the reeds.
|We Heart It|
Peter chuckled the first time I lunged, missing my prey. He landed with a splash the second time. I'd overextended and landed with a smack in the mud, but I had what I was looking for.
"This is disgusting," he complained helping me to my feet, my hands still cupped around my prize. "Are you okay?"
I was ginning like a madwoman. "Perfect. Look." I opened my hand very carefully and the frog stuck his nose out the hole. He almost escaped, but I closed my hands again, pushing him back inside.
Peter, startled, had fallen backward and was sitting in the mud now, looking like he might scream, or cry.
I turned and sat beside him. I was so muddy by this point that a little more on my ass wouldn't hurt anything.
"Ready this time?" I asked, holding out my hands to him.
He grumbled but nodded.
"Why?" Peter asked looking at me and wiping away a bit of mud from my cheek.
I shrugged, smiling brightly. "Why not? How else will you ever see a frog? They don't tend to just sit on a branch for you like a bird. You have to get dirty sometimes to get what you want. I'm not about to let a little mud stop me." I stood and offered him a hand.
He smiled, taking it. "Sarah would have liked you more than I thought."
I held my breath, hoping this was it. He turned and climbed back on the boardwalk, so I let my breath go and took his hand.
"She never let anything stop her either," he said with a sigh. "Can we head back? I'd really like to clean up."
I tried not to let my disappointment show as I turned back down the path.
Peter sighed, taking a few quick strides to catch up to me. "Beth," he moaned, exasperated. "You'll understand, okay. When we're clean, and I tell you the whole thing, you'll understand why I wanted to get out of the mud."
I didn't stop, but linked my arm through his, nodding. "If you say so. Shower at your place?" I asked with a grin.
He missed a step, but kept up with me, licking his lips. "Uh, yes. That... Yes." He ran a hand through his hair, nervous. Then he looked at the mud on it and grimaced.
I couldn't help but laugh. I ran a little ahead so I could turn and see the sticky matting that had resulted. Then I crooked a finger, before opening my arms to him. Peter grinned and stepped quickly into them, kissing me. I put my hands on either side of his face, sliding them up into his hair.
He broke the kiss, a little breathless, more so than me. He realized this when he met my eyes. His were suddenly curious, then brightened with understanding. "You didn't."
I laughed loudly and ran away, hoping he would chase me. I had just rubbed mud on both his cheeks and in the rest of his hair. He looked so natural, so unassuming, so... mine. I wished I could have him like that forever. One day, he'd be that comfortable with me. One day, he wouldn't first look in the mirror to make sure every thing was in place. One day, he would first look to me, see me in a mess, and not care that he was too. It was there, the beginnings.
He caught me up, swinging me from behind. I laughed as we whirled together. He set me down hard, looking in the direction of the parking lot. "My car," he murmured.
I laughed loudly. "It'll clean!" I took off my jacket and reversed it, hoping to keep most of the mud off the seats. He took the driver's seat this time, after wiping his hands on a tissue. I shook my head and fought off giggles. We were both so filthy. It was great. It was also cold though. The wet mud was now much closer to my skin. I reached for the heat and Peter grabbed it first, using the opportunity to take my hand and rest it with his on the gear shift.
"You're sure you want to come back to my place? I can drop you at home," he suggested.
I thought about it. It wasn't late in the day, barely noon. I'd been looking forward to spending the whole day with him. Jamie was inviting Brian over, and I did not relish the thought of meeting him for the first time looking like this. I'd do it. I mean, might as well let him know what he was getting into as far as Jamie's friends went, but I wouldn't enjoy it.
Was Peter asking because he thought I expected more? Showering together? I let my mind follow that thought. I liked that thought. I liked picturing myself curled in his robe drinking hot chocolate while we warmed up. Yes, I was totally in for this.
"I'm sure," I said with a smile. "Hope you have a big hot water tank. Could take some scrubbing," I teased, wiping some of the mud from his cheek.
He made another face, squeezed my hand, and pressed a little harder on the gas.