Ax is a motorcycle cop. Zenobia works for the Geek Squad. He pulls her over on the road, but doesn't give her a ticket. He thought she might be having car trouble, because she had difficulty with her standard shift car. He also wanted her name and number. Since he's not shy, he asks her out to dinner and she picks a new barbecue place. Since he doesn't know where they're going, they take his car, but she drives—his 1959, cherry red Impala.
She perused the glossy pictures, wrinkling her nose over the bacon ice cream sundae.
“Bacon is great,” she said. “But not for desert.”
“I agree. But I'm glad you're not a vegetarian,” he said with a grin. “I dated a girl back home who was vegan. Of course, she didn't share that fact with me until we went out to a steak and seafood place. She whined the whole time that it was cruel to eat meat and called me a murderous carnivore.”
“So I ordered her the surf and turf when she went to the bathroom and left her with the check.”
“That was so mean!”
“Yeah, well I didn't like being called a murderous carnivore in public. Loudly, I might add.”
“That was rude of her. I would probably have done the same thing you did.” She considered a moment. “No, I would have ordered that and shoved her face in it. Then walked out.”
“Believe me, I was tempted. She knew the name of the restaurant before we went. Wouldn't that be your cue to say, By the way, I'm a veganous herbivore?”
Zenobia giggled, nearly spewing her coffee. “Veganous. . . .” She laughed more, trying not to choke on her beverage.
Ax tensed, mentally reviewing what to do for someone who was choking. He didn't think the Heimlich worked on someone who had inhaled liquid. Instead, he suggested she raise her arms and try to relax.
The waitress came over to see what the problem was. Zenobia tried to speak, but started coughing again. Ax explained, telling her about the veganous herbivore. The waitress laughed too. She helped Zenobia to the restroom and came back for their order.
Ax had no idea what to order for Zenobia, so she said she would come back. Five minutes later, Zenobia sat across from him once more and the waitress returned. They placed their orders and sipped coffee while they waited.
“I assume you didn't see the herbivore again?”
“No. I was a little disappointed though. It was our third date and I really hoped to get lucky.”
“Well, ya know, she wasn't a meat eater,” Zenobia said with a smirk. “Probably wouldn't have been that much fun.”
It took a moment for her words to have the desired effect. Ax's ears turned pink, the color rose to his cheeks and he started laughing. He didn't quite choke on his iced tea, but it was close.
“I can't believe you just said that,” he whispered.
“I take lots of people by surprise,” she replied, winking at him over her glass.
“Probably wouldn't have been that much fun,” he repeated, snorting.
The waitress arrived with their food. Ax greeted her, blushing furiously. The waitress leaned over, murmuring to Zenobia.
“What on earth did you say to him? He looks ready to fall out.”
Zenobia ducked her head. “I really can't repeat it. I shouldn't have said it in the first place.”
Taking the waitress' arm, Ax pulled her close so he could whisper in her ear. She burst out laughing and had to muffle herself with her apron. She tapped Zenobia on the hand.
“That was so funny! I'll have to remember to tell my hubby that. He's not vegan,” she said with a sly wink. “And neither am I.”
Ax and Zenobia laughed again, drawing curious looks from other customers. Some frowned at them, but Ax merely smiled and waved like the Queen of England. That got some deeper frowns, but also several return waves.
They finished their meals, pointedly avoiding talking anymore about the vegan girl in his past. Instead, he asked Zenobia questions about her family and the Greek community in the area. They decided to go for a walk on the beach.
“Visiting New Smyrna Beach was the first thing I did when I got here. I'm a beach boy by birth. I grew up on the Carolina coast. Can't keep me outta the water.” His accent got stronger through the sentence. It flavored his words with hints of the Old South.
Ax's eyes grew dreamy when he thought about his home. There was a hint of pain there too. Zenobia didn't ask, but she knew something bad had driven him from his home. She sensed a bitterness tinged with longing. He was no stranger to pain, Zenobia decided. What had compelled him to come here, so far from home?
“The beach here isn't as nice as the one down home.”
“World's Most Famous Beach is a disappointment?”
“I think so. If you like condos and dirty sand, that's the way to go.” She danced excitedly, eyeing the car. “Can I drive?”
“Be my guest. I'm totally turned around. If it weren't for the ocean, I wouldn't know compass points at all.”
“GPS, my friend. It's a wonderful thing.” She started the car. Putting it in reverse, she backed with confidence.
Ax watched with amusement as she pulled up to a stop sign. “You don't have to be so careful. I'm not going to give you a ticket.”
Zenobia blushed, dropping her head. “That obvious?”
“Relax. Enjoy the moment. How often do you get to drive a car like this?”
The light changed. Zenobia hit the gas with a bit more enthusiasm than she intended. The tires squealed. Ax threw his head back, laughing loudly. Zenobia mimicked the movement, but didn't take her eyes off the road.
“This is a sweet ride,” she proclaimed. “Lots of power. You can feel it vibrate—”
“Oh, yeah?” He chuckled behind his hand. “Didn't know I drove a vintage, cherry red—vibrator.”
“No, sugar, I'm a man. Plain and simple. And I assure you, everything this baby can do, I can do better.”
“You can go zero to sixty in under two minutes?” She glanced at him, raising an eyebrow.
“No, takes me more like two hours. What I lack in speed, I make up for in—satisfaction.”
“You packing a V-8 I don't know about?” She licked her lips, her fingers flexing on the wheel.
“You'll have to pop the hood and find out.