Page 114 of We Were Once

Me: A call and not a text?

Ruby: This is definitely worth calling about. Have fun and have sex!

I roll my eyes, and then an image of Trevor getting his hump on flashes. Ugh. No sex! Me: Yeah. Yeah.

Though by how I dressed for the night, I seem to be betting that she’s right, or I wouldn’t have made the effort. I do want love in my life . . . love to replace the other. I get out of the cab and walk into the restaurant. It’s too late to turn back now. I see him the moment I walk in.

Greeting me with a glass of red wine, he kisses my cheek. “You look fantastic, Chloe.”

“Thanks.” We shuffle to the side out of the way from the entrance, and I ask, “What’s the wine?”

“It’s a Syrah from this quaint little winery in the Rhone Valley of France. I discovered it while on a weekend getaway with a girl I met at Yale, actually . . .”

Letting him ramble on, I take a sip, though I’m not much of a red wine drinker. I have a feeling I’ll be drinking a lot to drown out the image still stuck in my head. “That’s so interesting.” I have no idea what he said, but my answer seems to fit, so we’ll go with it. “You said you know someone here?”

“The manager.” He looks around like he might be looking for his friend. Leaning down, he says, “We met at a party in the Hamptons and hooked up in the city.”

“Fast friends. You must have hit it off with him.” A little paranoid, I scan the room but don’t see Joshua or Lola to my relief, but still sip the wine to take off the edge.

I know it’s stupid to worry about such things. What are the odds that I’ll ever see them again, much less here at Salvation?

“It’s not a him. It’s a her.” His tone lightens as his gaze works into the distance. “We hit it off all right.”

What a weird response—oh! “Ew! Why would you tell that story to someone you’re on a date with?”

Nudging me with his elbow, he laughs. “We’re not high school kids. We’re adults, Chloe. Single, attractive, and successful professionals. Lighten up and enjoy life.”

I sigh; my hopes that he could change dashed in less than five minutes. I’m thinking it’s time to cut my losses and leave when the hostess says, “Your table’s ready. Right this way.”

I might be walking, but it’s definitely time to text Ruby. She can save me with one quick call. But when I arrive at the tiny table in the middle of the restaurant, I can’t resist. I burst out laughing. This has to be the worst table in the restaurant with no privacy and potential for waiters to bump into us. Still laughing, I say, “You might not have ‘hit it off’ as well as you thought.”

He scowls, pulling out my chair begrudgingly. “Trust me, you won’t be complaining.”

“No, trust me. I won’t be hitting it off with you either.” I sit because for the first time in my life, I’m in the power position. And selfishly, I’m not only starved, but I want to actually try the food here at Salvation.

I’ve lived a sheltered life, partially because of my upbringing and then because of my school and career keeping me busy. No more. I will live my life on my terms, not anyone else’s. So if he’s looking for a battle of wills, I’m ready to take him on.

I tuck my phone away and order the lobster and champagne because tonight just got interesting.

42

Joshua

When I see the fish plate slide back into the kitchen line, I ask, “What’s this?”

Tyler, a newer waiter in the restaurant, says, “The customer said he wanted it deboned.”

“No.” I push it back down the line. “That’s not how it’s served.”

Picking up the plate, he says, “I’ll tell him.”

“Some fucking nerve,” I grumble, covering the sauté station tonight for a cook who called in sick. I call to the back line, “Check the souffles!”

Todd says, “Settle down. You’ve been on a rampage all night. Not getting laid?”

“I’m preparing food the way I created the dish to be served. I can’t deal with picky eaters tonight.” He’s just pushing buttons since he knows I can get laid if I want.

The reason I’m choosing not to is the part he’s not aware of. Since this damn city has brought Chloe and me together again, her face would be the only one I’d see if I went home with someone else, her body the one I’d wish I was touching. That’s not right to do to another woman.

Lately, I’m seeing my memories as clearly as I once did. The anger that used to drive me was formed out of necessity to move on, but now the candle I held deep inside is lit with the flick of her wrist, and I feel her taking over parts of my heart again.

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