I watched as Stellan glanced at his watch and then look around for me. I tapped on the glass and he turned and looked at me with a smile. He motioned for me to come out of the store and I nodded.
“Have you been waiting long?” he asked as I walked down the steps of the store.
“Not at all,” I answered. “I never pass up an opportunity to go into a book store.”
“Did you see me walk up?”
I nodded. “I stayed near the front so I could I keep an eye out for you.”
“Are you hungry?”
“I sure am.” I was starving actually, but didn’t let him know that. No need for him to know the woman he was taking to lunch ate as if she had a tapeworm in her stomach. I’m sure it was going to catch up with me sooner or later and then one day I was just going to explode to the size of house. “Where are we eating?”
“Never been there,” I replied as we walked. I hated Red Square with a passion but in the span of four days I had been there three times and rounding out my total of visits to six in my life.
“Do you come here often?”
“Not really. The only place I’ve been to is that book store.”
“You’re not missing much. The Square is very boring.”
“You don’t like it?”
Stellan shook his head. “If I didn’t have an office here, I’d never come. All these restaurants, bars, shopping stores are horrible. The Bistro is the only place here that isn’t over priced and under plated.”
“Do you come here often?” I said as the awning for the restaurant appeared in the distance.
“Probably once a week. If the weather’s nice, I’ll sit on their patio and not think of work while I’m eating. If the weather’s crappy, they have a great back area that’s screened in and heated. I figured since it wasn’t raining today and it’s actually nice on this winter day that we could eat outside.”
“That would be nice.” The weather had been warm one day, rainy the next, and down right cold and despite it being in the winter, I loved enjoying the outdoors and any reason for me to sit outside in the sun made me happy. I might have enjoyed the rain but I preferred the sun.
“Hey Stellan,” a voluptuous raven-haired hostess said as we walked into The Bistro.
“Hey Lena. Two please. Patio if you have anything open.”
She smiled at me but I knew it was a fake smile. Her smile couldn’t hide the daggers she held in her eyes. “Follow me,” she said. She led us through the restaurant and onto the patio. “Ed will be your server. Enjoy your lunch.”
“She’s seems as nice as a cobra,” I said as she walked away.
Stellan laughed. “She is a cobra. She’s the type of woman that plays men for fools. I would have introduced you, but she wouldn’t have cared since you’re a female.”
“Have you been played a fool by her?” I had to ask. I needed to know something about his past other than what he had said at Pizza E Vino.
“No,” he answered with a shake of his head. “She’s totally not my type and pardon my bluntness, but she’s a bitch. If you’re not showering her with attention, then you’re nothing to her.”
“So someone you know has been played a fool by her?”
He nodded. “Coworker. He fell for her like a ton of bricks. She drained his wallet and his heart right out of his chest. She didn’t even think twice about it.”
“Women like that irk me,” I said, picking up my menu and scanning over it. “She probably damaged your coworker so much that if a woman was being nice to him and truly interested in him, he’d run screaming from her.”
“Your usual drink Stellan?” our waiter said as he arrived at the table.
“And for you ma’am?”
“Water’s fine for me.”
The waiter nodded. “I’m Ed and I’ll take care of you. I know I’m suppose to tell you about the lunch specials now, but I’ll be honest, they’re not that good today.”
I chuckled to myself. I liked Ed and his honesty.
“This is Anna’s first time here,” Stellan said. “I’m trusting you to suggest something so she’ll return here for lunch with me again.”
I felt a blush coming on but forced it back. It was too early into our date for me to be blushing. “Don’t let me down Ed.”
Ed took a deep breath and sighed. “No worries. I got this,” he said confidently. “Do you like soup?”
“I recommend the soup and salad combo. Get the truffle and mushroom soup with the winter salad.”
“Then that’s what I’ll have,” I said, closing my menu.
“And for you?”
“I’ll have the same thing.”
Ed nodded. “I’ll return with your drinks and bread.”
“Do you know everyone at every restaurant you frequent?”
“Not everyone, but I’m a bit of a foodie nut.”
“Do you like to cook?”
Stellan nodded. “My ideal Sunday would be to spend the day in the kitchen trying out new recipes. Do you cook?”
“I like to, but I’m no top chef. I like to eat more than I cook.”
“I’m always needing volunteers to sample food.”
“Sign me up,” I smiled. Ed returned with our drinks and bread and left us to our own business. The patio was fairly empty for such a nice day but the only company that mattered to me was the person sitting across from me. “Before I forget, I brought you something.”
“What?” he asked.
I reached into my purse and pulled out a bag from the bookstore. Holding it out to him, I said, “It’s the stand alone novel that’s becoming a series. I also tossed in a book from one of my favorite writers. It felt weird buying just my novel.”
Taking out the books, he looked at mine. “From the best selling author of The Hiding Place trilogy comes Port of Indecision,” he read a loud.
“You can stop there,” I interrupted.
“Port of Indecision?” he asked while looking at me.
I shrugged my shoulders. “It a line out of a Jimmy Buffett song,” I answered. “I needed a title. That book takes place near water and my editor didn’t hate the title.”
“I’ll have a complete review for you by the weekend.”
“You don’t have to read it by then.”
“I’ll have both books read by then. I’m a voracious reader.”
“And that is such a turn on.” I took a deep breath and looked away from him. “Damnit, I really need to start watching what I say.”
“I like your honesty. It’s refreshing.”
“Yeah and it also doesn’t make me seem crazy at all does it?”
“Trust me, I know crazy and you’re far from it.”
“Sounds like you have a story.”
Stellan nodded. “I do, but it’s not a lunch time share. It’s something you share over a bottle of tequila.”
“I’m afraid so. Maybe I’ll share it with you one night this week.”
I shook my head. “Not over tequila. That stuff makes either very giggly or very mean.”
“I think I’d like to see you giggly drunk.”
“You say that now, but when you’re sitting next to me and the porcelain goddess, you’ll be thinking very differently.”
“I’ll be the judge of that. Can I ask you a question?”
I looked at him and nodded.
Sitting back in my chair, I chewed at my bottom lip. I didn’t need him to tell me my face was bright red because I felt it. “That Roman can’t keep his mouth shut.”
Leaning forward onto the table, Stellan smiled a half-cocked smile. “So it’s true. You did say that.”
I nodded, still sitting back in my chair. God, this was going to be embarrassing. I know he said I didn’t seem crazy but I for sure didn’t want to become a crazy woman. I wanted to have a little decorum in his eyes. It didn’t have to be a lot, but a little would have been nice.
Leaning forward and leaning on the table, I sighed. Fuck dignity. I was just going to put everything out there for Stellan. If I scared him and he ran, at least I would have been honest with him and mostly honest with myself. “I have excellent taste,” I said trying to make him blush. “I won’t lie. When I ran into you and you walked away, I cursed myself for letting the most beautiful man I had ever seen walk way.” This time his face reddened. “I made you blush this time didn’t I?”
He nodded and rubbed at his chin. “Beard and all?”
I nodded. “I find it hot.”
“But you’re not normally into guys with beards?”
“No, but you’re different. It looks good on you.”
“And if I shaved?”
“I probably wouldn’t recognize you out of a party of two.”
He laughed and started playing with his fork.
“I take that back. I’d recognize your eyes. They’re intense. You’re one of those people who actually are staring at the person when you’re looking at them.”
“Does that make you uncomfortable?”
“I get nervous,” I answered, “but it’s because I fear I can’t match your stare.”
“I’ll try not to be so intense.”
“Don’t. I like it. When you’re talking to me, it makes me feel like I’m the only person on earth.”
Stellan nodded. If I had scared the crap out of him with my honestly, then his face didn’t show it. Neither did his body language.
Could I have really met a nice guy my mind wondered. Could my honesty be really that refreshing to him?
“Tell me something no one else knows about you.”
I looked at him. “Like what?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Something you would be embarrassed to share with someone else.”
“Which only makes it more embarrassing if I share it with you.”
“But you have a tendency to say what’s on your mind so why be embarrassed?”
“Making a fool out of myself by letting something slip out of my mouth without thought is completely different than saying something that’s embarrassing with thought.”
“I’ll go first then. I don’t regret knocking you down because it allowed me to meet you but I do regret not getting your number at that very moment.”
“I saw you the day before at the bar,” I confessed. “I just thought, as you already know, that you were the most beautiful human on the planet. I tried to work up the courage to talk to you but couldn’t. So I kept on drinking and hoping liquid courage would arrive but it didn’t and then you left.” This would have been the place where most men would have asked for the check and left. I was flashing crazy like a Vegas neon sign.
“I saw you too. You were sitting alone in the corner.”
My heart stopped. “You saw me?”
“That corner doesn’t hide you nearly as much as you think it does. A beautiful lady sitting in a bar by herself in the afternoon is going to get noticed. I knew I had seen you before when I knocked you down at the bookstore, but it wasn’t until later in the day when it all clicked into place. I try not to have a lot of regrets in my life so I went to the bar hoping to run into you. I saw you and you were there with Roman, but I said screw it and decided to send you a drink anyway.”
“I’m glad you sent me that drink.”
“Me too. Mostly I’m glad you weren’t with Roman.”
“Not my type and remember, he’s a Ken doll.”
“You know, I still owe you a drink from that night. You left without cashing it in.”
“I didn’t forget. I requested a rain check. Maybe I could cash it in on Friday when you come over to my place for dinner.” I looked at him and felt his eyes lock onto mine. “That is if you don’t already have plans already.”
“Nothing I can’t change,” I said. I didn’t want to seem completely sad and desperate by saying I had no plans at all.
“Good,” he said as Ed appeared with our food. “Will you wear those red heels you wore to Pizza E Vino?”
I swallowed, feeling my hormones jumping to action. “If you would like that, then yes.”
Ed eyed us both and placed our food without saying anything to either of us. I could tell he didn’t want to interrupt whatever was happening at the table.
“I’d like that a lot,” Stellan answered.
This page copyright © 2009 Shelia Taylor
All rights reserved | This is an excerpt of the rough draft and not the final version