“It looks perfect. Thank you. Did Rebecca take care of the payment?”
“Yes, though I feel like I have been through a wood chipper.” The man sniffed disapprovingly.
Brad grinned. “Working with her can do that to you.” He shook the man’s hand and tucked the box into his suit jacket, then nodded goodbye and headed back into the restaurant.
* * *
OUR APPETIZERS ARRIVED while Brad was gone, so I snacked on lamb tenderloin, beef carpaccio and shrimp cocktail. I was on the verge of getting annoyed when he appeared again, ducking under the curtain and giving me a smile.
“Don’t smile at me,” I muttered, my mouth full of lamb.
“You can’t just mysteriously disappear mid-romantic meal.”
He reached over and speared a piece of carpaccio with his fork. “No? That’s not part of a traditional romantic meal?”
“No, it’s not. And stop grinning at me. You’re supposed to look remorseful, apologetic.”
He shrugged, his mouth now full of shrimp. “I apparently suck at romantic dinners. It’s good that you’re finding this out early on so the bar can be set low.”
He was so damn disarming it was annoying. I watched as he polished off the rest of the appetizers, glad that I had gotten my portion while he was gone. “So? Where did you scamper off to?”
He wiped his mouth with the cloth napkin and scowled at me, taking a sip from his drink. “I don’t exactly scamper.”
“No, you don’t. My mistake. Where did you lumber off to?”
“Be patient. You’ll find out soon enough.”
“I’m not a very patient person.”
“So I’m finding out.” He was way too cheerful. Something was up. And his nervousness was gone. Whatever the waiter had taken him away for had apparently relieved his tension.
“Do you take drugs?” The question popped out before I could stop it, though, now that it was hanging out there, it seemed like something that I needed to know the answer to.
“Drugs?” He seemed confused.
“You know, coke, heroin, speed, anything deemed illegal in this country?”
“You are the hard-partying college student. I should be asking you that question. I am, how did you put it when we met?...Old.”
“Yes, you are old. Ancient, in fact—but don’t be evasive.”
“No. I don’t do drugs. I am prescribed and take Adderall, if you want to consider that a drug. You?”
I snorted, offended. “No!”
“Your roommates obviously have a strong relationship with weed.”
“My roommates are idiots. Lovable idiots, but still. I’ve smoked weed before, but it doesn’t do anything for me.” He raised his brows. “I mean, I don’t get high.”
“Three weeks ago you didn’t have orgasms either, but that turned out to be false.”
“Oh my Lord, you are never going to let me forget that, are you? Anyway, we—” I broke off when I saw the waiter hovering outside our curtain. I nodded to him and he stepped into our room and began the menu presentation.
The restaurant served veal—which I had never had, so, at Brad’s urging, I ordered that. He, predictably, ordered a steak and a variety of side dishes, and two minutes later we were alone again. The candlelight played on his strong features and he looked at me, waiting for me to continue.
I searched my thoughts, trying to remember what I had been saying. “We need to discuss tomorrow.”
“What about it?”
“I’m going to pretend that your family killing me is not a concern and skip to the next stress point—Burge.”
He shrugged. “What’s stressful about it?”
“Well, to start, I need to convince him that my position is needed, that he shouldn’t drop me as an intern. Plus, I have to fake my way into doing everything that I told him I can do.”
He held up a hand, swallowing a piece of buttered bread. “What do you mean fake?”
I avoided eye contact, reaching for my glass and taking a sip. “Well, I kind of exaggerated what I had been doing for Broward. So that Burge would consider me useful, needed.”
“Kind of exaggerated, or did exaggerate?”
I rolled my eyes at him. “Don’t give me grief. You are the office’s biggest bullshitter.”
“Apparently not. What did you tell him you could do?”
“Operating agreements, basic filings, meeting minutes.”
He shrugged. “Those are basic enough tasks.”
“That I don’t know how to do.” I hated saying the words, but felt that they added credibility to my stress.
He waved off my concern. “Don’t worry about that. He won’t fire you.”
“How do you know that? You were the one harping on me that I needed to make a good impression so he would ignore the inconvenience of taking me on.”
He shrugged, piercing a piece of leftover meat with his fork. “He mentioned you on a call the other day. He likes you. He won’t fire you.”
“Likes me likes me?” I leaned forward over the table.
“What are you, twelve?” He grinned, wiping his mouth. “No, just normal likes you. If I was you, I wouldn’t worry about that.”
Something in his tone, a playful mockery, made me focus on him and I toyed with my bottom lip before taking the bait. “What do you mean?”
“What you look like at the office...” He grimaced, and I bared my teeth at him, causing him to burst out laughing. “Sorry! But you look...”
“Super hot? Sexy? Drop-dead gorgeous?” I helpfully supplied, giving him a lifeline that he didn’t deserve.
“Dorky,” he finished. “Adorably dorky,” he added quickly at my dark face. “It’s a good thing, will help you with your whole ‘faked work experience’ thing.” He was saved by our food, brought by two tuxedoed gentlemen, and our table was quickly filled with large plates and delicious items. When departing, the waiters closed the curtains, cutting off our view of the room and wrapping us in privacy. The showcased view, savory food and sudden seclusion were distracting, and saved me from coming up with a witty response.
We topped off dinner with wine, crème brûlée and flourless chocolate cake. I was absolutely stuffed, and leaned back in the seat with a contented sigh, my eyes closed in bliss.
“Don’t go to sleep on me.” His words sank into my peaceful cocoon, a silky smooth tone that must have dropped half the panties in town at one point or another in time.