Damon’s t-shirt is just tight enough to show muscular definition underneath, without being too snug and his jeans fit him well. I don’t think I blinked yet. Is my mouth open?
I remember my determination to keep this light, casual, friendly, and that I’m only doing this to get him to leave me alone. Right. Not sure I managed to convince myself, but it’s enough to propel me forward.
“Wow.” He straightens and gives me a slow perusal from my forehead to my painted toes. Fire rushes to each area of my body under his scrutiny, and I wonder if he’s Superman—you know, with the heat vision.
I know I’m blushing and can’t help it. Breaking eye contact, I mumble “thank you” and watch the businessmen and college students mingle on the sidewalk, striding to their lunchtime destinations.
I can handle compliments. I’m used to them, and have to be when I work behind the bar. There’s the whole beer goggle thing that just happens when guys keep drinking. Most of those, I can shrug off with a quick thanks, because I know it’s the liquor talking. All of those, actually. But this? This is different. Damn him for making me feel like I regressed fifteen years and am now an uncertain, awkward teenager. I hate this feeling.
It’s not just the self-consciousness, though. Even that, I could handle on a mediocre day. In all honesty, it’s the attraction. Desire is not a feeling I’m comfortable with, and certainly not one I’ve had a lot of experience with. And I have that in spades for this guy. Damn him twice.
“I wasn’t sure you’d actually show up,” he says, “so I didn’t make any solid plans.” With a smile, he holds his hand out to me.
“Well, I wasn’t sure, either, truthfully.”
“I’m glad you did.” His baritone voice sends tingles all through me.
God, he exudes sexy. Must. Be. Strong. I take a deep, fortifying breath. I can do this. One date, and I’m rid of him. My libido whines in protest, but I ignore it.
“So, where are we going?” Good. Just enough chipper in my voice to sound sincere, without being overeager.
“How do you feel about Mediterranean?”
“Great.” I link my arm through his and we start walking.
It’s not too far, but by the time we get there, my feet are killing me. I try not to limp, but as soon as I can manage it, these shoes are getting tossed in a fire pit. Gina will just have to deal.
We sit in a corner booth, next to one window, but the owners have dropped the shade so I can only make out the general shape of people and objects passing by. Works for me, as the sun was starting to get brutal out there.
What are we supposed to talk about? He seems content to just watch me fiddle with the straw, swirling the ice around in my water glass. The clicking of the cubes is oddly soothing.
“You don’t do this much, do you?”
My hand stills. “No. Is it that obvious?”
“A little.” He chuckles. “I didn’t want to put pressure on you.”
At my look of disbelief, he amends, “Well, I did, but only because I wanted to get to know you, and there was no other way to get you out of the bar.”
“The bar is my life.” I shrug. “I don’t have time for much else.”
“I figured that.” His eyes pierce me. “Before you had the bar, what did you like to do? Any hobbies?”
“Ah…” Crickets. That’s what I hear in my mind. Hobbies? My hobby was working and saving for the down payment for the property where I now live and work. “No, I really didn’t have any. I didn’t have time.”
“What about in high school, or college? Any extracurriculars?”
Are dates supposed to feel like interrogations?
“My extracurricular activities were work-study and part-time jobs to pay tuition.” A nervous laugh escapes.
Well, this is one way to kill his interest. Sound as lame as possible.
The self-preserving side of me is screaming in my head to come up with something—anything—that doesn’t make me sound like a hermit who just happens to run a bar in her spare time.
The waitress saves me from saying anything else and takes our order. She’s a pretty girl, with olive skin and long, dark, hair. Her name is Phoebe, and she sashays back to the kitchen, looking back at Damon. I might as well be invisible.
“Pardon?” He seems surprised at my ability to speak spontaneously.
“Oh, nothing. It’s a thing I do. Nevermind.” Swallow me up now, floor. Please.
“Uh, nice try. Spill.”
“I, um, listen to a lot of music. Sometimes I categorize people with a song, rather than by their physical features.” Anytime now, floor.
“So you assigned her Rio? Like Duran Duran’s Rio?”
I nod, rather than speak, in an attempt to limit the embarrassment.
“I can see that.” He sits forward, rests his elbows on the table and props his chin up with one fist. “Did you give me one?”