Max wanted to go and take Aria home, but he’d made a point of sitting in Trey’s tattoo parlor to prove to himself he’d not gotten an obsession. However, he wanted to make sure she got home okay, and the only way to do that was to go and be with her.
Dale and Trey were laughing over some joke and he’d missed half of it, so he was pretending to get it, when in truth, he wanted to walk Aria home.
When had he gotten so pussy-whipped?
The bell above Trey’s door rang out, and Max turned to see both Molly and June entering.
They all had a cooing moment over the baby, but he was more interested in what Aria was doing.
Not that he hated kids. He didn’t. He loved kids a lot. In recent months, he’d even considered having a family of his own, and yes, that was certainly not a direction he ever thought he’d be taking.
“Where’s Aria?” he asked, cutting through all their bullshit conversation. He was tired of pretending not to be interested. He wanted to know where Aria was so he could make sure she was okay.
Their conversation this morning hadn’t sat well with him, and well, now, he wanted to make sure she was fine.
June smiled. “She’s on a date. I already got a text to say she arrived and the restaurant.”
She handed him the phone, and he saw the name of where Aria was. “She went on a date?”
“Yes. I think it’s good for her. She’s nervous though,” Molly said.
“What’s wrong?” Trey asked.
“When are you going to admit you’ve got a thing for Aria?” Dale asked.
All of his friends were fucking morons.
“Do you have any idea how dangerous it is for a single woman to go on dates? They could get raped or killed, and you just let her go.”
“It wasn’t about letting her go. She’s old enough, and Aria wants things in life,” June said.
Max ran fingers through his hair. He needed to go home, get changed, and then get to the restaurant. “You’re all a bunch of fucking assholes.”
He didn’t stay, rushing out of the parlor and heading home. His car was parked right outside of his place because he’d decided to walk.
It had been years since he spent so much time running, and as he arrived at his place, he was out of breath, but he didn’t stop.
Aria might need him.
He showered fast and found his tux, the one he always wore for weddings, and then grabbed his keys, heading out. His hair was dripping wet, but he didn’t have time to style it. Besides, he’d put the window down and let nature do the rest. It would give him that messy look that chicks seemed to dig.
On the road, he pressed his foot to the gas, trying to get to the restaurant on time.
His cell phone was blowing up and one glance he saw it was texts from all of his so-called friends.
They shouldn’t have allowed Aria to leave. It was plain and fucking simple. What they had done was bullshit. He was so mad at them.
Aria shouldn’t go out on dates unless one of them was with her. She was sweet, kind, sensitive. Right now, he had a real issue with anyone hurting her.
Pulling up to the restaurant, he found a good parking space across the street, paid the price for the meter, and rushed across. There was a bar, so he didn’t have to even ask for a table.
He took a seat, ordered himself a soda, and checked out the restaurant. At the bar, he had a clear view of the entire place, and he spotted her by the window seat … alone. She had her cell phone in her hand and was typing away.
Where was her date?
Paying for his soda, he walked over and decided to find out what was going on.
“You okay?” he asked.
Aria looked up. “Max, what are you doing here?”
“I was out looking for a date.” He slid into the booth. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Did June tell you where I was going?”
“No, she didn’t tell me.” It wasn’t a lie. No words left June’s mouth over her whereabouts. “What are you doing here?”
“I was supposed to go on a date, but he’s nearly an hour late and I didn’t know if traffic, or if I should leave.” She shrugged.
Seeing how dejected she looked, Max took a sip of his soda, wishing it was something stronger.
Aria hadn’t looked upset in all the time he’d known her, as adults. She held this frosty exterior around her like a blanket, and now, well, he was starting to feel like shit.
She turned to look around the room, and he caught the glint of tears in her eyes and it cut him to the core, to know some asshole had made her feel like this.
“So, hey, beautiful, do you come here often?” he asked, putting his soda down.
“Max, what are you doing?” She pushed a stray curl off her head, and he reached out, tucking it behind her ear. She didn’t push him away.
“Well, you’re here looking for a date, and I’m here all alone. Why not make this a … date?”
She smiled. “Have you ever been on a date?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“You’ve never ever been on a date?” she asked.
“Never ever.” He shrugged. “I’ve not exactly wanted to date women, Aria. You can fill in the blanks.”
“I really don’t want to.” She blew out a breath. “This sucks.”
He watched as she did some tapping on her phone.
“Some people are just meant to die miserable and alone, I guess.” She pressed a button. “There, deleted.”
“What did you delete?”
“My profile. I’m not cut out for this dating world. I can’t even get a guy to come on one date.” She shook her head, and he hated how dejected she sounded.
“Don’t let this loser get to you. He’s not worth it. No one is worth it. You look absolutely beautiful, and if you’d let me, I’d really love to have this date with you.”
“You’ve never been on a date though.”
“So, we can both have our firsts together. How about that?” He watched her press her lips together.
The waitress appeared before Aria could respond. “I see your date has finally arrived. Would you like to order?”
The waitress turned to him, and he saw the interest in her eyes. He wasn’t interested.
“Oh, it’s fine. He’s not my—”
“We’ll both have the steak, fries, and make sure there’s a salad on the side. Don’t be skimpy with the cheese either.” He handed back the menu, and the waitress disappeared.
“Max, that woman thinks you’re on a date with me.”
“Good. I don’t want anyone else tonight but you.” He reached out and took her hand. For a split second, she allowed him to hold her before finally withdrawing her hand.
“I don’t think I can do this. How could you just order like that?”
“One, I know you love steak. Two, everyone loves fries. Three, chicks dig salad, and besides, I’m hungry so the salad is for me. And four, this meal is on me. You’re not paying.”
“Max, this isn’t about the money. Don’t you have something more important to do? Find a girl? Spend the night.”
“Nope. I’m sitting with you, and we’re on a date.”
“This is not an official date.”
He smiled. “You’re nervous.”
“I’m not nervous. I’m just…” Her thoughts ran off, and she stared past his shoulder. “I’m not nervous. I’m just … disappointed.” She repeated her sentence and finished it.
“Why are you disappointed?” he asked.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“We may as well. We’ve got history, you and I. Tell me about what this dick has done, seeing as I’ve already been a dick to you, and I can try and make it up to you in some way.”
She didn’t speak for several seconds. Her hands were clasped together. Suddenly, she leaned a little closer, and he did happen to notice how nice and plump her tits were. He shouldn’t be noticing things like that, but Aria poss
essed a very fuckable body.
“He didn’t show.” She looked up, and tears filled her eyes. “I mean, what if he did turn up but I wasn’t looking, and he saw me, and he didn’t like me? Didn’t like the way I look? This whole dating thing was a waste of time. I shouldn’t have done it. I see that now.” She grabbed a napkin and wiped her eyes.
She wasn’t wearing makeup. Aria never wore any. She was so damn innocent and sweet.
“Why do you want to go on dates so much?” he asked.
“I don’t want to be lonely anymore.”