Chapter 33 & 34
Meaghan stood there, bemused and touched when, with a courtly flourish that brought squeals from the girls, Rickie presented Leaf with two boxes coconut ice cream squares. After Leaf took the containers, he was quickly surrounded by the rest of the group. Catching Meaghan’s eye, he gave an abashed smile that melted her heart, and she felt herself tumbling into love.
“Isn’t he great!” Leaf effused as she carried the boxes to the table, “I knew you were having problems finding my favorite ice cream, so I called Abang Rickie and he offered to bring it by!” The glow of hero-worship gleamed in the teen’s eyes. Meaghan felt compelled to pull back Leaf’s expectations.
“He might have had something important to do today.” Meaghan watched him as he chatted with the young girls, relaxed and comfortable with their focus. Suddenly he clapped his hands, and they immediately quieted down.
“Is time for cake yet? I heard En Torno’s cake was the best in Sarawak!” He looked over and grinned at the two sisters, looking boyish and happy. To a chorus of affirmatives he made his way to Meaghan’s side. Tucking an arm around her waist, he began to sing “Happy Birthday”, which was quickly picked up by the rest of the group. Meaghan lit the candles and presented the cake. Tina closed her eyes, and with one breath, blew out the candles.
Meaghan began doling out slices of the rich, dark cake while Tina used tongs to dish out the icy white squares. Once everyone had a plate, Meaghan carried the rest of the ice cream back to the kitchen. She was sealing it in a plastic container when Rickie sidled up behind and wrapped himself around her, trapping her arms.
“Rickie!” she protested weakly, already savoring the feeling of him surrounding her. “I have to put this away before it melts!”
He kissed the top of her head and rested his chin on her shoulder, still hugging her.
“I hope you’re not mad at me for crashing the party,” he said guiltily.
“Thank you for bringing the ice cream.” Meaghan shook her head, conscious of her disheveled appearance; in keeping up with the younger girls, her serviceable bun was unraveling, wisps of hair escaping to curl with abandon around her face. Her simple green dress was wrinkled; her flowered apron spotted with stains. ‘I just wish I looked better’, she thought.
Rickie turned her around and pressed her against the counter top and looked into her eyes. “I think you look beautiful.”
Oh no, had she spoken aloud? She closed her eyes as heat crept up her neck. She felt him gently caress her cheek and opened her eyes to see a single eyelash on the tip of his finger.
“Ready to make a wish of your own?” Rickie all but whispered. They looked each other, and then Rickie brought his finger to his lips and gently blew. Meaghan followed the lash for a brief second before her view was blocked as he leaned down and captured her lips.
She tasted both decadent and sweet, a heady combination that had Rickie pulling her closer. He felt her arms slide up and lock around his neck as he deepened the kiss, the actuality of kissing Meaghan far outstripping his imagination. He had a strange sense of coming home, as if she was some missing piece of his soul.
Meaghan felt her knees weaken as his tongue traced the seam of her lips. Without conscious thought, she opened them and allowed him entrance. His hands, of their own volition, framed either side of her face as he plundered further into the warm recesses of her mouth. She barely felt the counter press into her back as Rickie crowded her, the heat from his skin sending frantic impulses along her nerve endings.
A burst of laughter from the living room swiftly brought them back to reality, however, and he dropped his hands and slowly pulled back, resting his forehead against hers, his breathing staggered.
Meaghan’s heart beat frantically against her ribs as she struggled to take a deep breath. She loosened her hold on his neck and skimmed along his shoulders and chest, stopping only when he held her hands over his own strongly beating heart. She felt hers settle in the same rhythm as she look back up at him and saw both humor and desire in his eyes.
“Timing is everything,” he quipped, and then sobered. “I hadn’t really planned this. I just wanted to do something nice for your sister’s birthday. And to see you.”
Meaghan gave in to temptation and allowed her hands to glide down his chest to his abdomen, continuing around until she was hugging his midsection. His arms, which had dropped again during her exploration, came around her in a gentle hold. She rested her head against him, and, in a low voice, said, “I’m glad you’re here.”
Rickie felt a surge of protectiveness when he heard those words from his Meaghan. Giving her a squeeze, they stayed for a moment locked together.
“Meg, we need…whups!” Tina’s head appeared around the doorjamb. “Sorry, but we had a spill. Just keep doing, um, what you’re doing, and I’ll take care of it.” Meaghan tried to pry herself out of his embrace, only to find his arms were like steel bands that refused to budge.
“Rickie!” He ignored the struggling woman for the moment and looked at Tina.
“Leaf, are you okay with this? With your sister and I?” Rickie held his breath, realising how important the answer was to him.
Leaf waved a casual arm as she opened a drawer and pulled out a hand towel. “I saw the sparks between you two a long time ago. I’m wondering what took you so long!!” She laughed. “Anyway, we’re going to get ready for the fashion show. You two have to be our audience, so come out here,” Leaf gave a wink, “but not immediately.” With that, she walked back towards the living room.
Rickie blew out his breath, tension leaving his shoulders. Meaghan smiled at him.
“Were you that worried? You know, she’s liked you since that time we first met in Mulu.”
“I know, but still…”
Meaghan swiftly stood on her toes and kissed his nose; Rickie, surprised, dropped his arms as she stepped out of his embrace.
“I’m going back out to finish cleanup. If you want to flex those muscles and give the girls a thrill, feel free to give me a hand.” And with that, she skipped out, acting much like her younger sister.
Rickie watched her leave, feeling happiness constrict his lungs for a moment. He smoothed his hair, checked to make sure his clothing was in order, and sauntered after her.