“Oh finally, a familiar face.”
Josie looked up from the broken section of code she was currently fighting with…directly into the bright blue eyes of Steve, the shy latecomer to Max and Blake’s wedding. To say she was surprised to see him was an understatement; she was relatively sure he was in ‘law enforcement’ like most of the other guests had been, and she could have sworn someone had said he lived in New York like they did, too. “Steve? What are you doing here? I thought you lived in New York?”
That made him smile. “I do, I was in town and I wanted to ask Elise something while I was here…but I took a wrong turn somewhere trying to get to her office?”
He looked embarrassed, and she smiled back. “It can be kind of like a maze in here,” she assured him. “Just let me finish with this line of code so I don’t forget what I’m doing, and then I’ll get you to Elise.”
“Code?” He peered over the cube wall. “Oh, C++, I’m learning that one.”
That surprised her all over again. He’d had on his dog tags at the wedding, and he was still wearing them. Between that and all the gun talk, she’d thought he was a soldier. “Do you do computers for the Army?”
He shook his head. “I used to be in the Army, but I was just a soldier,” he corrected, intuiting the cause of the confusion and touching the bulge of the dog tags under his just-tight-enough blue t-shirt. “I wear these to remember my buddies by, it helps me miss them less. Jake and Amanda started teaching me computers, they said I needed to ‘upgrade my skill set for the modern world’.” He smiled again. “Turns out I really like programming – it’s like sculpting, just with code instead of clay.”
Josie was starting to really like this conversation, but then Elise showed up. “Oh there you are.”
Steve straightened away from the cube wall, looking embarrassed again. “I…”
“He took a wrong turn trying to get to your office,” Josie explained.
“Of course he did.” Elise seemed amused for some reason. “Come on, Steve, let Josie get back to work. You’re too pretty not to be distracting.”
That made him really blush. “See you later,” he told Josie, and added a little wave, and then he dutifully went back up the hall with Elise. Who seemed to be laughing at him, and who Josie could have sworn she heard say, “You just couldn’t be any more obvious, could you?” before they turned the corner.
Josie stared down the empty corridor after them with her mouth hanging open. Had he really…had that been…no, of course it couldn’t have. That was just silly.
A few weeks went by, and then Steve showed up at Josie’s desk again. Looking a little less embarrassed but a little more unsure of himself. She raised an eyebrow, and he blushed. “I was just in town, really – I’ve been going back and forth between here and New York a lot lately. But I thought that while I was here I’d stop and see if you wanted to go to lunch with me – if you haven’t eaten already or you aren’t too busy, I mean. It’s okay if you have. Or you are…” He made a face and blushed some more. “Okay, I’m making a mess out of this, sorry.”
God, he was too adorable to be real. “I haven’t and I’m not, so sure,” Josie told him. “Just let me finish this one line of code, I’m doing tweaks on something. Do you know Python?”
“A little.” She waved him into the cube, and he hesitantly came and looked over her shoulder. “Oh! Yeah, I know how to do that, but not the part underneath it. You’re trying to make it respond faster by shortening the loop?”
“Yep.” She quickly finished tweaking, made herself a sticky note – green 33 – so she’d know where she stopped, and logged out for lunch.
Blake waved absentmindedly when they walked through the lobby. “Don’t forget the meeting at one, Josie.”
“Thanks Blake. Traffic?”
“Monroe is a snarled-up mess.”
“I saw that on my way here,” Steve agreed as they walked out the door. “I wasn’t sure how busy you’d be, so I thought maybe we’d just walk over to that little café on the next block? They have a good Yelp rating.”
Which meant he’d checked first, nice touch. “Sure,” she agreed. “I’ve eaten there a few times – and I always walk over there, because they have a bakery case and the walk there and back lets me get into it.”
He laughed. “Very nice rationalization – Pepper and Clint both use that one too.”
Pepper was Tony Stark’s girlfriend-slash-CEO and Clint was older-model Consultant Ken from the wedding, so yep, ‘law enforcement’. Asking Steve about what he did for a living was definitely out. “I’m sure they have to, New York is just full of amazing restaurants,” she said. “I’d have to walk everywhere all the time if I lived in New York.”
“Most of us pretty much do anyway,” he admitted. “It’s a good city for walking, especially since there’s not much parking to go around – even on my bike I have trouble finding a place to park sometimes.” He looked at her sideways. “Do you like motorcycles?”
“I’ve ridden on the back of one a few times.” With an old boyfriend, but she was not saying that part out loud. “It was fun. The person I was riding with was really good, so it felt safe and exciting at the same time.”
He absolutely beamed. “Maybe someday when I’m in town I’ll take you for a ride on mine,” he said. “If you want, that is.”
“I might like that,” she agreed. They’d reached the café – both of them were fast walkers, apparently – and they easily got a little table on the patio and ordered lunch. Which went really well. Josie had wondered if Steve was a huge eater or possibly on a weird diet – it was obvious he worked out a lot – but he ate normal food in normal portions and did it with table manners that were natural rather than him trying to impress her – actually, she thought that of the two of them she was the one who was more nervous about the eating and drinking part. Mostly drinking, since she had that really bad habit of forgetting to swallow before she talked sometimes.
Steve walked her back to the office, but they parted ways in the parking lot – after he’d asked if he could stop by and see her again when he was in town and she’d said she’d like that and they’d exchanged email addresses. His was inexplicably on AOL. With anyone else Josie might have wondered about that, but since Steve was in ‘law enforcement’ she thought it probably wasn’t safe for him to hand out his work email or his phone number.
Two weeks later Steve emailed her and said he was going to be in town, and asked if she’d like to take a ride and maybe get some ice cream, and Josie was happy to tell him yes. To her surprise, though, when he showed up at the office Elise showed up right behind him. “Josie, have you ever been on a motorcycle with a stunt rider before?”
Steve was immediately sort of offended. “Hey, I’m not…”
She held up a hand. “Steve, tell Josie where you learned to ride.”
“And under what conditions?”
If he’d been a dog, his ears and tail would have drooped. “Um, in combat.”
Josie’s mouth dropped open. “There’s such a thing as combat motorcycle riding?!”
Steve beamed, and Elise rolled her eyes. “Of course – there’s combat everything, if you’re creative enough.” She shook a warning finger at Steve. “Fine. But I need her alive and relatively intact, remember that. Did you bring a spare helmet?”
“I borrowed one of Natasha’s, yeah.”
Elise rolled her eyes again and walked off. “The good ice cream is out on the highway, that place that looks like a half-abandoned dive straight out of a Road Warrior movie.”
“Thanks.” This time Max was in the lobby with Blake when they walked out, and both of them waved. A trickle of other people were leaving for the day, and one or two stopped and stared. Josie ignored them, not wanting to be tempted to give in to her baser instincts and mock any of them because that would look immature. Someday she’d have to figure out how Elise managed to get away with it.
The post-apocalyptic dive Elise had recommended had awesome ice cream, although Josie would never in a million years have gone there by herself because it was really rough-looking. Being there with Steve, though, was fine; the owner sized him up pretty obviously when they went in, but Steve just grinned at him and said his friend Elise had recommended this place as being the best and the guy thawed right out and even told them what Elise liked best on the menu. Turned out he made all the ice cream in-house with local ingredients, and it was so good Josie thought she might never look at Ben or Jerry the same way again and she ate a lot more of it than she probably should have. And then they went out and watched part of the sunset from Steve’s bike before hitting the highway again, and riding with Steve was like being on a really awesome amusement park ride and the helmets had microphones so they could talk to each other, and by the time they got back to FindLove’s parking lot Josie was reeling – in a good way. She slid off the bike and took off the helmet, shaking out her sweaty hair – which she’d been letting grow out again, because she’d decided Stephen from the wedding was right about the shorter style not suiting her as well. She felt like she was glowing, and if the look on Steve’s face was anything to go by she just might have been. “You enjoyed the ride?” he asked.
Josie decided to take a chance. She put her helmet on the bike’s seat, stood up on her tiptoes and kissed him dead on the mouth. “That ride,” she said huskily, “was better than sex. Way better.”
His arms went around her waist – not tight enough that she couldn’t have moved back away from him if she’d wanted to, but enough to let her know he’d rather keep them there if she didn’t mind. “Oh, we can do much better than that.”
“Really.” This time he kissed her, and it was even more amazing than the ice cream or the ride had been. He pulled back, much sooner than Josie would have liked, and let go of her. “I have to go, we both have work tomorrow. But…the next time I’m in town? I’d really like to see you again, Josie.”
“I’d like that too, Steve.” He got back on the motorcycle. “This was an awesome date, thanks.”
Oh god, that smile. “I thought so too. Thank Elise for the ice cream recommendation for me?”
“Sure thing. Talk to you later.” She walked around her car and got in, he rode off, and Josie went home. And dreamed about blue eyes all night.