A door opening brought in a blast of cold air and my teeth chattered. An insolent voice talked to the hostess, and I dragged my attention back towards Charlie.
“What kind of movies do you like?”
A man walked along our table and stood in front of us. I waited for him to leave, perhaps he was only getting out of the way of a waitress, but he stood there. I glanced up his torso and jumped.
It was Will.
This time, he was dressed in a black wool sweater and dark jeans, his hair groomed back. It was amazing how handsome he looked when he put in a little effort. He gave me a pleasant smile and then looked down at Charlie with an indiscernible expression on his face. He threw down a small pile of hundred dollar bills. My eyes widened.
“Clear off,” he barked at Charlie.
Charlie looked vaguely offended. “What?”
He blew air impatiently. “Just take the money and leave. Now.”
My heart pounded as Charlie fingered the one hundred dollar bills. There were five hundred dollars there. Would he take the bribe? I would. His muddy eyes slid towards mine guiltily and I pressed my lips into a firm line.
“Sorry.” He gathered them in his fist and stood up to leave.
Don’t be. I was getting bored anyways.
The dark-haired man smirked triumphantly as Charlie swept from the table. He reached out and pulled the chair back and took the other man’s place. He smiled at me as if this was the most normal thing in the world. He just threw almost my month’s rent at my date to get him to leave the table. Is this a rich people thing?
I couldn’t believe the fucking gall of this guy.
“You can’t just—how did you even find me?”
He rolled his eyes at me. “Oh, please. I did you a favor. Both of you looked bored. Besides, that money was fake.”
I choked into my glass of beer. “Are you crazy? He could get in a lot of trouble if he deposits it.”
“Serves him right for accepting a bribe.” He waved over the waitress. “I’ll have tea.”
What an ass. I should be a lot angrier. “Are you stalking me?” I hissed when she left with his order.
“Nope. Just overheard things at the workplace, you know how it is.” He sighed as if he had a long day and looked at me with the hungry expression that first drew me to him. “You look beautiful, by the way.”
I flushed with pleasure and suddenly, the restaurant was too warm. I was stunned and flattered that he tracked me down all the way to Berkeley to—what? Why was he here? My anger stumbled. “Thank you, that’s very sweet. You look great yourself.” I wanted to make a barb about his appearance the other day, but I stopped myself.
One dark eye winked at me. “What is this place?”
“It’s an Ethiopian restaurant.”
Will gawked as the waitress placed a huge platter in front of us, which was covered with a flattened, round piece of bread. The entrees were dropped directly on the bread in steaming piles. There were no utensils and I could see William quietly freaking out about it.
“What the hell—how are we supposed to eat this?”
“You eat it with your hands.” I pointed to the bowl of rolled spongy bread. I took one and tore off a piece. Using the bread, I picked up the food and ate it. The lamb fell apart in my mouth, the rich spices making my tongue dance. It was delicious.
He raised an eyebrow. “Strange choice for a first date.”
“If you don’t like it, I can always call Charlie back. At least he was excited to try it.” It was strange how comfortable I felt around him. Being around Luke usually had me tongue-tied, but William was completely different. He was strange, but not exactly intimidating.
“Not a chance,” he frowned.
“Are you afraid to get your hands dirty?” Rich boy?
His nostrils flared as if he smelled a challenge and promptly rolled up his sleeves. Will gave me an “I’ll show you!” expression as he grabbed a roll of bread and picked up food with a piece. He brightened the moment the food passed his lips.
“Wow, this is really good.” Apparently, his revulsion with eating with his hands was overcome by how delicious it was. He dove back in with gusto.
All right, enough of the niceties. “Why are you here?”
He paused to lean in a little bit with that secret smile that I loathed, the one that could see through all my bullshit. Just looking at him made my skin burn. “I wanted to see you again. I usually get what I want.”
“I’ll bet that you do, but I’m still not interested.” A flush crept up my neck but I didn’t look away from his narrowed eyes. His cocky attitude was wearing thin.
Will’s tossed his head angrily and looked at me like he could hardly believe that someone so stubborn existed. “Well, I’m not interested in you, either. You’re a bit too uptight for my taste.”
Ouch. “I’m in no mood to be bullied.”
He saw the frown on my face and shrugged. “Hey, I’m just being honest. You turned me down in front of those people.” A sad little smile appeared at the corner of his mouth.
I sighed and dropped my gaze, feeling guilty despite myself. “I just broke up with my fiancé of six years. I’m not over—”
“I don’t give a crap about your ex,” he interrupted. “I don’t need to hear about it. Luke told me you broke up almost a year ago. Told me to stay away from you.” He smiled to himself. “Naturally, that just made me want to see you even more.”
Never had I met someone so unapologetically blunt. An invisible knife sank into my ribs, puncturing my lungs of air. I was mortified by what Luke said.
“He said that? Why?” A ripple of anger went through me. What, am I so pathetic that I can’t handle a guy like him? Do they think for one second that I don’t know what he wants from me? “Maybe he wanted to protect me from you. He thinks you’ll hurt me.”
“Maybe he doesn’t want a rift forming between his girlfriend and her best friend. Maybe he thinks it’ll create problems between them both. I don’t know and I don’t care.”
What could I say to that? I stammered as I looked at the table. “Why the hell did you come here?”
“I might have an opening in my department for a talented graphic designer.” He winked at me.
A job offering? That’s why he came all the way here? That made me deflate a little. I thought that there would be a more romantic reason.