From my soon-to-be-released LAST MAN STANDING addition to the series, CHANCE.
“The trash gets picked up at midnight,” she told him, apologetically, as she led him to an ancient Volkswagen Beetle, the two front fenders different colors.
“How old is your car?” he asked when she popped the front trunk open.
“A hundred and thirty-thousand miles old.” She started placing the containers inside the spacious trunk. “But still running, isn’t a gas guzzler, and has the added benefit of being paid for.”
Chance helped her stack the remaining boxes. When they were done she slammed the hood down, turned to him and said, “Thanks,” with a smile that took his breath away.
He nodded, looked up, then down the alley. “What time do you get here in the morning?”
“Around six. It’s usually light by then. I can get everything up and running before Lindsey comes at seven and we open.”
He nodded again.
“Well, thanks for the help,” she said. “Can I drop you somewhere? I’m heading downtown, but I can reroute if you need a lift. Or do you drive to work every day?”
He glanced down at her car. He wasn’t even sure he’d be able to sit in the front seat without tilting his head to the side. “I don’t have a car in the city. It’s too stressful driving into work every day and my job’s got enough of that already attached to it.”
She cocked her head and a thought popped into the front of his head. Before he could stop himself, he said, “Let me take you to dinner.” The request surprised him and, apparently, Freddie. Even in the subdued lighting surrounding them he could see her eyes go wide, her mouth drop open.
A good question and one he’d try to answer for himself later on. For now, though, he had the uncontrollable urge to feed her. “I’m sure you didn’t get a break all day and you must be starved. I know I am.”
The quizzical quirk to her brow was followed by, “I’m not dressed to go out to dinner.”
He shrugged. “Doesn’t have to be fancy. I love diner food as much as the next guy. In fact, there’s a great place one block up. Best breakfast in town and their burgers are insane.”
She didn’t look convinced.
“You don’t have to run home and fix supper for…anyone, do you?”
Way to go, Chance. You never even considered she might be married before blurting out your invitation.
She didn’t wear a wedding ring and in his experience women always did. It was the men who removed them or elected to keep their fingers naked.
“No,” she said.
“So, no husband waiting for you to get dinner on the table?” he asked because he had to be clear on the subject.
For a fleeting moment something he couldn’t get a bead on crossed in her eyes. Then it was gone. “That’s a little sexist, you know, assuming it’s the wife who has to always make dinner.”
She was right. “Sorry. That was stupid of me.”
Her left eyebrow rose as she considered his remark. He felt like a jerk asking again but he really wanted to know.
“I wouldn’t use the word stupid,” she said. “Maybe unenlightened.”
That pulled a grin from him.
“But no. No husband at home.”
He held back his sigh of relief, then wondered why she didn’t have a guy waiting at home for her. He knew asking would truly make him sound insensitive so he kept the question to himself.
“Then how do the best burgers in the city sound?”
Chance had always been good at reading body language. It was a talent that had suited him well when the words a client spoke often didn’t jive with the truth of the situation. Their bodies outted them every time.
When Freddie’s shoulders dropped from their hunched position under her ears he knew he was making headway.
“Look,” he said, pulling out a grin he usually reserved for friends and family, “I know you don’t know anything about me other than I’m a divorce lawyer and I like coffee.”
A half-smile slid up her face. “And corn muffins.”
He nodded. “But I’m not a serial murder, I don’t cheat on my taxes, and if you ask my sister she’d tell you other than the fact I tend to argue a point to death, I’m a good guy.”
A full smile graced her face from that declaration.
“So what’d’ya say? Wanna grab something to eat before you head home?”
He held his breath waiting for her answer.
After a few moments when he wondered if he’d ever be able to breathe again, she said, “Well,” as she shifted her bag to the other shoulder. “I am hungry, that’s the truth. It was a long day and I didn’t get a break.”
“Is that a yes?”
Please let it be a yes.
With her lips pressed together and her eyes narrowed slightly she finally –finally – nodded. “I guess it is.”
He couldn’t stop the full-wattage smile that jumped across his face.
Happy reading, peeps. ~ Peg