Kiss A Ginger Day: Chapter One

Kiss A Ginger Day
A steamy romcom serial story

 Chapter One


“This month. That’s my favorite one.”
     The man had to be out of his mind. Alice had suspected he was a little… off. The fact he introduced himself outside the corner bar as “Theodore Gaston the fourth at your service” was a clue. But now to declare January his favorite month of the year?
     “I don’t believe you.” More like she couldn’t believe she was playing this get-to-know you game—something he declared would distract them as they wandered Washington DC streets seeking her car in falling snow.
     She glanced up and down the residential street. It looked familiar. Sort of. “Okay, tell me one good thing about this month because we’re out of Christmas January and now into real January.”
    “That’s why. Holidays are over, pressure off. No one cares what you’re doing. Plus…” He dramatically stopped and swept his arms over long peacoat. “It has ‘Kiss a Ginger’ day.”
     “You made that up.” Probably hoping she was into red-headed guys. He had to be trying to pick her up. Men didn’t just jump in and offer to help you find your lost parked car in thirty-something degree weather for nothing.
     She sighed–mostly at her own stupidity. Who loses their car?
In her flimsy defense, she’d moved into a spot in a hurry—the only spot she could find at 6:55 p.m.
Why hadn’t she paid closer to attention to where she left the dang thing?  And why did she have to have a car that still used a key? She’d kill for one of those fob things that beeped.

     “Not making it up,” he said. “It’s tomorrow, January 12. And January 18 is Museum Selfie Day. January 23 is National Pie Day. There’s Chinese New Year, Martin Luther King Jr. Oh, and damn, we missed National Bobblehead Day.”
     “Tragic.”
     “Right? It was January 7.”
      Yes, something was definitely off with this guy. What was she thinking leaving her friends behind and walking with a complete stranger on a deserted, and very snow-wet and chilly, street?
     Oh, maybe because tonight sucked and the last thing she needed was to die of exposure and in some snow pile—alone.
     She’d left the bar, one of the last residential corner bar holds-outs, after spending an interminable three hours making small talk at her boss’s birthday party—and discovered she’d been a total fool. She had a brief and unadvisable affair with the guy a month ago. He’d then ghosted her, as much as one can in a work environment. So when he invited her to his 40th birthday party, she thought it meant something.
     However, he’d not only invited Alice. He’d invited Stephanie from accounting. And Tricia from HR. Apparently he had a girl a month—something she found out when Stephanie and Tricia accosted her in the tiny ladies room. “We feel bad that you don’t seem to understand. You were Miss December. That’s all.”
     Jesus.
     So she’d stomped out only to discover the sky had opened up and laid a blanket of snow over everything. Pretty, but every single car on the street—correction streets—was a mound of white.
     Then this Theodore guy strode up to her and asked if she wanted to share a cab. She unwisely said she had a car and just needed to find it. He offered to help her search.
     She thought she was being smart by taking him up on it. She’d seen him talking to a few of her work colleagues at the bar and he looked harmless. Then again Ted Bundy had, too, and he turned out to be a serial killer.
      It was Theodore’s hypnotic English accent. It lured her into thinking he was safe. But then within seconds he was peppering her with all these odd questions. Something about conversation would make them forget the cold.
     She quickened her pace, only to almost slip again. “Oof.”
     He grabbed her elbow. “Steady there. High heels, huh?” There most definitely was a judgy look in his eyes.
     “It was a work day,” she huffed. She should have called an uber to take her to her car. If there were any even out. Washington DC generally shuttered all activity when anything fell from the sky.
      He dropped his hold on her elbow, moved to the outside of the street. “Now your favorite?”
     “May. Flowers and all that. So, where are you from exactly in England?”
     “I’m not. From Wales.” His coat’s tail rose up as he reached for his wallet. He drew out a driving license. Held it up to her face.
     “Oh. You really are Theodore Gaston.”
     “Of course I am. Ah, you thought I was kittycatfishing.”
     She laughed a little. “It’s just catfishing. And, yeah, of course I was. I mean,” she waved in the direction of the bar behind them. “It’s what half those people in there are doing.”
     “Well, I’m not anyone.”
     “No, you’re Theodore Gaston the fourth.”
     “Yeah, not my smoothest move to let that slip. I mean, you now could be out for all my money and fame.”
     She stopped. Gazed at him. Shit, was he famous and she just missed it? Washington was filled with celebrities who walked among the ordinary people like her.
     He winked and pointed at her. “Gotcha. I’m as ordinary as the day is long.”
     Okay, he was funny and had a nice smile that sent little crinkled around his blue eyes.
     “Not ordinary. Not if you’re walking me to my car.” Her boss didn’t bother to walk to her front door to pick her up for their “dates.” Just sat in his car, idling, and texting her he was “outside.”
     “Thanks for helping me, Theodore.”
     Once she was in her car, Theodore could go on his merry way. She was tired, cold and needed an industrial-sized vat of tea—maybe laced with amaretto. And she needed to get out of these stupid high heels.
     “Never a chore, always a pleasure, love.”
     A tingle ran down her spine at the charming talk. Her reaction was just the cold.
     He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jacket. “My mother would have my hide if I let a beautiful woman walk by herself in the dead of night.”
     This guy still lived in his mother’s basement, didn’t he? “Don’t want to disappoint mom.”
     “But I know what you’re thinking.”
      “You must save a lot of money living with your parents?”
     “Ha. Like my parent’s place in Tenby Harbour has room for me. No. You’re thinking how is this handsome, single guy with the adorable accent all by himself on a fine January evening such as this.” He grinned at her.
     No, she wasn’t. “I’m thinking I hope I have my toes at the end of this night.” Her feet were stinging probably because they waded through slush and snow.
     They rounded the corner. “I swear I parked on this street.” She raised her arms, let them drop by her side. “But who could tell?”
     “Tell you what. You stand under that shelter.” He pointed at an apartment building with a faded red awning and gold lettering announcing the building as The Paramount. “I’ll wipe off the cars and you yell when one of them looks like it’s yours.”
     Was this guy for real? “You’d do that?”
     “Love, I wore boots. But you?” He pointed at her heels, now likely ruined. “The weather app is a wondrous invention.”
     “So, I heard.”
     He dramatically wiped at the side of a car. “Ah, red sedan something. Yours?”
     “Nope. My car is silver.” She stomped her feet, hugged her arms around her body.
     He made a dramatic slide to the next car, his boots skidding along the wet surface like a surfer. His arms at the same time swiped at the next car’s hood. “Nope,” he called out. “Blue.”
     His head swiveled to face her. “So, is silver your favorite color?”
      “Green.”
     “Mine, too. Imagine that.” He now was in front of a third car and had to shout a little, his voice ringing in the air. “Okay. Favorite vacation spot.”
     “Not here,” she mumbled. She glanced at the darkened townhouses lining the street. It appeared, early-to-bed Washingtonians lived here. It was only 11 p.m. “We should be careful not to wake people,” she whisper shouted.
     “What?” he yelled. “Waikiki, you say?”
     She drew out her phone. A rideshare can’t be too far away. She tapped the app. Forty-five minutes was the earliest anyone could get to her. She brought her phone up to her mouth. “Hey, Siri, call a taxi cab.”
     And, that’s when her phone screen went black. Battery dead?
     Oh, for the love of… This was ridiculous.
      She strode, or rather slid, her way toward Theodore who was arm-brushing off a black Mercedes. The little emblem stuck out of its snow casing.
     “Man, this car is a boat.” He waved over the Mercedes hood.
     “Can I borrow your cell? I’m calling a cab.”
     “Don’t have one.”
     “You don’t have a cell phone?” How did this man live?
     “Forgot it back home. We could go there and—”
     She raised a hand to stop his words. As if tonight could get any worse. She sucked in snow-humid, cold air, and heaved out a foggy breath. “There has to be a taxicab somewhere.” She craned her neck up the street. So. Many. Snow. Mounds.
     Her feet slipped up, and her belly lurched. Strong arms held her. Oh, hard chest.
     He’d picked her up. “Come on, Snow Kitten, since you seem hell bent on finding your car, I’ll carry you, you swipe at the cars until we uncover yours.”
     This couldn’t be happening to her. She started to laugh. “Do you always sweep girls off their feet like this?”
     “Only the beautiful ones with snow in their hair. Now swipe.” He leaned down and she had to hook her arm around his neck to keep from being pitched over.
     What the hell. She swiped at a car hood, not hers. “I am losing my mind,” she muttered.
     They repeated the move on another car. Again, not hers.
     He’d carried her as if she weighed as much as a dried flower. And he kept asking her questions, not seeming to be bothered by the chilled air, though his cheeks and ears reddened. It only made his eyes bluer.
      “Ah, Australia is lovely this time of year.” He shifted her in his arms a little so she could lean down to swipe at a white sedan. “Especially the Great Ocean Road. Fantastic beaches. I can see why that’d be your favorite vacation spot.”
     She’d only been once but fell in love with it. “It really is something.”
     Somewhere between her announcing her favorite vacation spot and favorite fabric–yes he asked that question–she lost all inhibition about being carried by a strange man in a snowstorm. If nothing else, it’d make for a good story. In fact, she’d be sure to tell Stephanie and Tricia on Monday, and with any luck it’d get back to Roger, her bastard boss.
     She’d be extra dramatic about it, too.     
     How a handsome British man who clearly worked out regularly given his breath remained steady despite his arms being full of her, came to her rescue.
     That is, if they ever found her damned car and she’d make it to work on Monday.
     “Okay, Alice, rapid fire round. Red or white wine?”
     “Red.” She’d love a glass right now, in fact.
     “Picnic outside or sheepskin by the fireplace?”
     “Picnic in May. Fireplace in January.” She leaned her head back, gazed at the dark sky dotted by white flakes still falling. It was pretty.
     Sounds in the distance were muffled as if the world was wrapped in cotton. His footfalls softly creaked in the growing inches of snow. The soft plink-plink of snowflakes hitting the ground mixed with the sound of her own breath. Even the beep-beep-beep of a truck in the distance was muted.
      He shifted her a bit. “Jazz music or country?”
     “Of those choices? Jazz.”
      “Oh, good.” He smiled down at her. “Our first date is now planned.”
     “Oh, really?” She eyed him, bouncing a little in his arms. He most definitely worked out—a lot. “Have I landed in a Hallmark movie?”
     “Sorry to disappoint. But I’m not a widow with a sheep farm turned lodge in Scotland or a lumberjack in Montana with a 20,000 acre ranch who’s sworn off love until we lock eyes.”
     She laughed. “A fan, are you?”
     His brow furrowed and shook his head. “Eh. Those guys are amateurs. But my Mum regularly swoons over them. And you think it’s cold here? Visit Scotland in January. Now brush this one.” He leaned over and she once more uncovered a car, not hers.
     “It’s on the bucket list.”
     “We can stay at Glenapp Castle.”
     Her heart hitched a little. “We?”
     “Who’s going to keep your heels dry?”
     “I have boots.”
     “With heels?”
     Busted. “I can get wellies.”
     “Ah, there’s my girl.” His smile grew wider.
     She wasn’t his girl, and he was getting a little too ahead of himself.
Then, again, he was likely teasing. If he was for real, though, he couldn’t imagine what being his girl would entail. Endless questions. Chivalry. Travel. Even if he was a tad odd, he was cute, too.

      “What kind of car do you drive anyway?” he asked, as they stopped at, what, their twentieth car?
     “A silver audi.” She leaned over and let her coat arm, now caked with snow, swipe on the windshield—and bingo. “This one!” She began to wiggle out of his arms, and he mercifully steadied her as she dropped to her feet. She stumbled a little, given her ankles and feet were now numb with cold.
     She dug into her coat pocket, pulled out her key. Note to self in the new year: buy a car with a very loud keyfob chime sound.
     Chivalrous Theodore held on to her as they rounded to the driver’s side.
She got the door open in a loud crack. “You were a lifesaver. Let me drive you to your car?”

     “I’d be a fool not to take you up on it. And for the record, I know where it is.”
     She laughed, and started up the car. He then proceeded to brush off the snow of her car windows with this coat sleeve. The man really was something.
     How often had she met someone who would have spent the last thirty minutes with her like this? How about never.  
     Once he was in the passenger side, the heat had begun to work. She wiggled her fingers in front of the vent sending blessed warm air her way.
     “Okay then.” He yanked on his seat belt. “I’m parked the next block over.”
     “You’re on Ordway?”
     He cocked his head toward her. “Parked in front of the bar.”
     He could have driven away before there was a good six inches of snow on the ground.. “But… you said you wanted to share a cab.”
     He shrugged. “Just wanted to make sure you got home safe.”
     Oh. Her lips involuntarily parted, as she gaped at him.
     She angled herself so her back was against her car door. She was sure a logical question existed in her brain, her body, somewhere. She just couldn’t seem to form words to ask it. What did she want to know?
     Was he playing her? Was he this charming to every woman? Did he just want to get laid?
     Who cared? She needed to get home.
     She put her car in reverse to gain a few inches so she could get out of the parking space—avoid the other two snowed-in cars in front and behind her.
     Of course, her wheels spun. And spun. And spun. And they didn’t move them anywhere.
     “Oh, great.” She dropped her forehead to her steering wheel.
     “Guess we might as well start that first date.”
     “Oh?” she asked, her face still buried in her steering wheel. “Got a bottle of red wine on you? And a fireplace?”
     “No, but I’ve got one at my place a block over.”
     She twisted her face to stare at him, forehead still on the wheel. “You live on Ordway, too?” She lifted her head and slammed it against the headrest. “Why didn’t you save yourself? Why do all this?”
     “To get to know you I’d have flown to Australia and back.” His eyes shone over at her, a half smile camped on his lips. “But only in first class. It’s a really long trip.”     
     When she didn’t say anything, he mirrored her movement. He squared himself to her, took her fingers in one hand. “Okay, would you rather I said Scotland?” he asked seriously. “Because I could do either.”
     She shook her head. “You aren’t real.”
     “I’m as real as the driven snow, love.” He cracked open his door. “Come on, I’ll even carry you to my flat. Unless you want to spend the night here.”
     A stupid laugh erupted through her nose, and she repositioned herself to face the windshield. “Okay, take me to the wine.” She reached for the door handle. 
     He stepped out but twisted and bent at the waist. Sent his blue eyes her way. “And in”–he checked his watch–“fourteen minutes it will be officially ‘Kiss a Ginger’ Day.”
 She sighed, opened her car door. What the hell, not?