Meaghan felt her pulse accelerate when those words registered. She gulped, unable to think of anything to say.
"Meggie?" The unfamiliar endearment caught her off guard, but settled her emotions somewhere near her heart.
"I'm here." She sounded surprisingly calm, given the tumult inside. She licked her lips and gripped the phone tighter.
"I miss you, too."
Rickie felt his soul soar when those sweet sounds registered. He settled back against the leather, barely noticing anything in his surroundings, his whole focus the beautiful words and the woman behind them.
"I was busy all day today; otherwise I would have stopped by your desk. Is everything to your liking at work?" He nearly cursed out loud – why suddenly talk about work?
He could almost hear her smile. "Yes, it's been challenging, but I've enjoyed it so far. As a matter of fact, I have something I'd like to show you. I think there may be a link, but I can't seem to put the pieces together. Do you have any time tomorrow?"
"How about we discuss it over lunch?" Rickie blurted.
A low laugh greeted this; it slid down his spine like warm honey.
"I don't think we'd better." She said, "I'm going to get fat if I keep eating at restaurants."
Rickie tried again. "How about a picnic? I could have something put together, and we could go to the waterfront." He held his breath.
Meaghan thought a moment, but then regretfully replied.
"I don't think so. I don't want people gossiping about…us." Her voice trailed off as she realized she was already thinking of them as a couple. "Some other time perhaps. I can't do anything after work because…"
"…because of your sister's birthday party." Rickie finished, then tensed.
"Oh, I didn't know I had told you about it," Meaghan blithely continued, "but, yes, it's going to be a group of girls. Tina is turning sixteen, so I decided to allow her a slumber party." She chuckled, a sound that caused Rickie's gut to tighten. "It'll be hectic, but fun for her."
Rickie tried for a casual tone. "So what are you doing now?"
"I just finished all the prep work, so it was just quiet time here."
Rickie decided to just jump in.
"Can I see you tonight?"
Meaghan pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at it owlishly. Tonight? She put the phone back to her ear.
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"I'm not really up to guests tonight, Rickie. I'm sorry."
"What about the front porch? That's safe, right?" Rickie's voice became wheedling.
Meaghan almost smiled at the little-boy tone. She thought of a quick way to squelch this.
"Only if you can be here in five minutes," she said smugly, sure that she had crushed his hopes.
Instead, she heard a quiet knock at the door, and heard it echo in her ear. Suddenly realizing she outfoxed herself, she looked down at her pyjamma pants and t-shirt. While comfortable, they might as well be sequinned, silver-thread-embroidered harem pants in this situation. She quickly ran to her bedroom, grabbed her favorite white bathrobe, belted it tightly, and went to carefully open the door.
She could only stare for a moment. Rickie, his dark blonde hair bright in the moonlight, stood before her door, his cell phone still in his left hand. He looked her up and down, then, with a devilish grin, grabbed her arm and pulled her outside and into his warm embrace.