At seven fifteen, Sam parked his scruffy Audi in the pub car park. He sat for a moment, wondering about the next few days, then got out of the car and hefted his small bag from the boot. Striding into the beer garden, he made himself slow his pace as he headed for the little camping field, where the woman he had spent all of the last week, and most of the last year, thinking about would be waiting for him. His feet made no noise on the grass as he rounded the hedge. He saw the familiar campervan, with the black dog sitting inside the door, and then his eyes turned to the woman who sat at her ease on a comfortable chair with a glass of wine on the table at her elbow. She wore a simple white dress and her long brown legs were stretched out in front of her. He walked softly towards her and she turned and smiled.
She stood to greet him, and he bent his head to kiss her laughing mouth.
“You look gorgeous.”
“Smooth talker. You look pretty good yourself.”
Then for a moment there seemed to be nothing to say. Bonnie rescued them by jumping out of the camper and greeting Sam enthusiastically. The small interruption allowed the humans to collect themselves.
“Oh Sam,” Anna laughed helplessly. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”
“And maybe it was. We just have to give ourselves some time. And you do look gorgeous.”
“I tried. Somehow it didn’t seem right not to make an effort.”
“That’s nice. Makes me feel like you think I’m worth an effort.”
“That remains to be seen. For now, how about a glass of wine while the food heats up?”
Anna jumped into the camper and passed out a glass and a bottle.
“Sit. I’m just putting the lasagne in the oven.”
Sam poured himself a glass of wine, then sipped carefully as he sat in one of the two chairs.
“Hey. The wine is excellent, and I’ve always liked these chairs.”
Anna laughed and came out of the camper carrying a small tray. Sam jumped up and took it from her hands. She laughed again.
“Just something to keep us going while supper cooks.”
“Antipasto. How sophisticated.”
Anna sat beside him and reached for her own glass of wine. She nibbled an olive and smiled at Sam.
“Eat. Or I’ll snaffle the lot.”
He grinned, and they both reached for the olives. He grasped her hand and turning it palm up bit gently into the soft flesh at the base of her thumb. She felt a hitch in her breath, then caught her bottom lip between her teeth.
“I didn’t say eat me.”
“But you were right there, and I couldn’t resist a nibble.”
“Shut up and have an olive.”
After that, the conversation got easier and by the time their supper was ready they were almost as relaxed with each other as they had been on their previous dates. They moved inside for the lasagne, and Anna put together a simple green salad to go with the pasta and the warm garlic bread. They sat opposite each other at the small table eating and talking. Sam cleaned his plate with the last of the garlic bread, then grinned wryly.
“It’s a good job you ate the garlic bread too, otherwise a snog would have been right out of the question.”
She leaned over the table and kissed him softly.
“You taste all right to me.”
Before she had the chance to move away Sam put a hand behind her head. He nibbled her lower lip before kissing her deeply.
“You taste more than all right. But I guess we should deal with the dishes before we start fooling around. I’ll wash.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I do. You cooked. And it was delicious.”
They cleared up, working side by side in complete amity. When the little galley was spick and span, Sam smiled at Anna.
“Does Bonnie need to go out now?”
“She’d like to.”
“Shall we then?”
They walked hand in hand down to the little stream. Bonnie had a noisy drink, then came and looked up at the two humans with a quizzical expression on her dark face. Sam stroked her ears before taking Anna by the shoulders and bending to her mouth. This time the kiss was hot and urgent and left Anna’s knees close to buckling. She wrapped her arms around him and clung on tight. He laughed delightedly. “Like that do you?”
“Mm, but my legs are going to collapse if you carry on doing it.”
He swooped her up into his arms and strode back to the open door of the camper. Bonnie frisked around them enjoying this new game. Sam put Anna down just outside the door, and kissed her thoroughly.
“You sure you want this?”
“Oh yeah.” She fisted her hands in his hair and pulled his head down for another kiss. Somehow, they made it inside, where things rapidly turned a bit frantic.
When the world reclaimed them, they lay entwined and Sam smiled down into Anna’s face.
“Well, well, well. You are a pleasant surprise.”
“How so, kind sir?”
“A tiger under the snow. A body like a goddess. Simultaneous. I never had that before. You?”
“Umm. No. But I haven’t had a lot of lovers to compare.”
“Could one be rude enough to ask how many is not a lot?”
Her voice was very small.
He hugged her tightly.
“Don’t sound ashamed. Choosy isn’t a failing.”
“Not so much choosy as nobody else wanted me.”
He was genuinely puzzled.
“Why would you even think something like that?”
For a moment Anna studied Sam’s tattooed chest. Saying nothing. Then she lifted her face and met his eyes.
“Because it’s true. You wouldn’t have noticed me a year ago. I’d stopped hiding when I met you.”
“Protective colouring. I was a plain, gawky teenager, and then there was a lot of shit at home to deal with, and in the end I had a job where anonymity was almost essential. So I developed strategies to prevent people noticing me. Ill-fitting clothes, unflattering hairstyle, never saying boo to a goose, never looking people in the eye. And so on.”
“So what changed?”
“Too much to explain. I realised that my life was a crock of shit. And I bought the camper so me and Bonnie could have some fun.”
Then she couldn’t talk any more and hid her face against his chest again. He stroked her hair, then she felt his fingers removing the comb that had by some miracle kept it in a knot at the nape of her neck. He combed the waves out gently before kissing her temple.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you embarrassed and sad. I really do have feelings for you. Apart from the best sex of my life, you are beautiful and funny, and I’m very lucky just to be here.”
“Don’t be sorry. I have to learn to talk about it.”
“Not if you don’t want to…”
“I do. But I think I can only manage it in bits.”
“Fair enough. I’m not pushing you.”
He rolled her over and ran those knowing fingers up and down her spine before massaging her shoulders and spanning her narrow waist with his hands. He found a thin, white scar just above her right hip.
“Is this one of the things it’s hard to talk about?”
“Yes. I was fourteen. My mother threw a knife at me. I lost a lot of blood and some internal bits and bobs.”
“Oh baby. I’m sorry. Why?”
“Dementia and alcohol abuse.”
“Shoot. You did have something to cope with. However, you came through it strong and lovely.”
She rolled onto her back and used a fingertip to trace the tattoo that wandered across his chest.
“Tell me some more about Smaug.”
“A little rebellion, but you know that. I knew I was going to be a responsible surgeon for the rest of my life, and I wanted something that was for Sam the rebel. It fucking hurt. And my wife hated him.”
“Oh? How odd. I think he’s sexy.”
“Do you now?”
“I do indeed.”
“You wanna demonstrate?”
She walked her fingers down the dragon’s back and followed its tail down.
“Careful woman,” he growled softly, “dragons can be dangerous.”
“I’ll take my chances. Just lay back and take it like a man.”
He rolled onto his back and put his hands above his head.
“Be gentle with me.”