“I’m not going to sleep with you.”
Keith put down his fork and wiped his mouth with his napkin. He frowned. As far as he could tell, the date had been going well, but admittedly, he was no expert. He mentally reviewed their evening. He’d arrived at seven sharp with a box of chocolates, and flowers he’d picked from his own garden. She’d seemed surprised yet delighted by his gifts. Her reaction had been encouraging and just the ego boost he needed. It also helped that he’d spied one of his novels on her coffee table. Up until that moment, Imani had not been exactly receptive to his attentions. She’d taken off the ugly sweater she wore at the library, but the pants with the high waist and the beige blouse that could have doubled as a garbage sack proclaimed that she’d taken no pains with her appearance for this date. Her hair was pulled back in the usual curl-defying bun at the back of her head. Hell, jeans and a t-shirt would have been an improvement. Yet she persisted in hiding her figure from him. She’d removed her glasses but he had already surmised that they were merely decorative and not for any corrective purposes.
Dinner conversation had been going well. They’d discussed their work, their favorite books and their pets. And then apropos to nothing, she’d given him this announcement. He’d heard somewhere that within moments of meeting a man a woman knew if she’d sleep with him or not. Had he fucked up their initial meeting that badly? He didn’t think so. He’d been too stunned by her to speak. But he hadn’t needed to. Stephanie had stepped between them and dominated the conversation.
Maybe she was suffering from the misguided notion that he was only interested in sex. Not that he would decline if she offered. It had been over a year since the last time he was with a woman. And he wanted Imani very much. He cleared his throat. “Have I said or done something to make you uncomfortable?”
“No. That’s one of the conditions of dating me. I won’t sleep with you and I don’t expect you to pressure me to do otherwise.”
“Imani, I want to get to know you. I don’t expect you to become intimate with me right away.”
She sipped her water and then used her tongue to catch a drop of water on the edge of her full bottom lip. “I don’t just mean tonight. I mean ever.” Her gaze locked on his. “It’s one of my conditions.”
He frowned. She couldn’t be serious. He counted to ten before asking, “Care to explain? Are you waiting for marriage?”
“No.” She sighed. “You might as well know this going in. I don’t like sex. No, I hate it and if it never happens to me again, I’ll be happy.”
Shit! What did he say to that? Keith wouldn’t lie. He wanted her. He studied her face. She tried to downplay her looks, but she was damned beautiful. Her skin was flawless milk chocolate. The contrast of her gold eyes was arresting. He could only guess at what her body was like due to her ugly clothes, but he knew that she was well endowed and curvy.
Her cat came through the room. It was so quiet that they could hear her lapping at the water in her dish. Was she expecting some sort of agreement from him?
An ugly possibility occurred to him. Keith cleared his throat and asked as gently as he could, “Were you attacked or hurt in some way?”
Imani emitted an impatient noise. “I wasn’t raped or molested. Can’t a person simply dislike something without having a reason?”
He supposed it were possible. But hating sex? She’d said that first night she’d dreamt of him. Each night as they’d gotten closer to making love, he’d begun hoping her statement was a meaningless dream aberration akin to spotting a pink and blue cat. Though relieved that she’d never been assaulted, he was even more confused. He continued to probe. “When was the last time you had sex?”
“Let’s see, I’m twenty-seven, so five years.”
Five years! “And you haven’t missed it? Craved it?”
“No.” She moved string beans around on her plate with the tines of her fork.
Keith was speechless. How could such a sensual creature not want to be loved, cherished, or fucked? “How many…lovers have you had?”
Her deep amber eyes narrowed. “I suppose I should let you get all these questions out, but I want you to know that that is not a question you ever ask a lady. And I will answer you, but after tonight, this is a dead subject. I’ve been with two men. I tolerated them when they wanted sex, but I don’t intend to ever get myself into that sort of relationship again where I’m doing things that I’m not comfortable with merely to please someone else.”
He was hesitant to ask more questions because he really didn’t want to picture her with other men, but as this was his one opportunity, he continued. “Were your previous lovers inexperienced?”
“The first one was. The second one wasn’t. Believe me, I thought of that. It wasn’t them. It was me. I simply don’t care for the process. I don’t mind kissing, hugging, cuddling, but that’s as far as it’s going to go with me. Can you handle that?”
“I want to be with you,” he said slowly. He didn’t consider himself a prurient person, but he wasn’t a holy man. He didn’t want to lie to Imani, but he didn’t think that committing to a life of celibacy was possible for him. “What about children? Do you want them?”
“Yes. But that’s what in vitro fertilization is for.”
Keith shifted in his seat. “Are you interested in marriage?”
“Would you really want to marry me knowing that we’d never have sex?”
“I’d be proud to call you mine.” He didn’t mention that he’d felt like she was his since the first second he’d seen her.
“You seem like a sweet guy, Keith, and I don’t want to hurt you. But if you think I’m going to change my mind or that if you propose it will make a difference, you’re wrong.”
He laughed. “You just called me sweet and insinuated that I’m manipulative in the same breath. Since ‘sweet’ isn’t an adjective a man aspires to, I’m not sure which is worse.”
She smiled. “Sweet is good. It’s gotten you this far, hasn’t it?” She stood and cleared their dishes. He followed her to the kitchen and helped her clean up. When they were done, she leaned back against the counter. “So, what have you decided? Do you want to keep seeing me?”
There was only one answer he could give. “Yes.”