Blind With Love [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Becca Jameson
eBook Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
eBook Description: Kristen Nickels has a full plate. She has reluctantly agreed to a blind date with her best friend's brother, literally blind! The timing couldn't be worse, however. She is leaving town in just days to face a difficult medical decision. A secret she has shared with no one but her boss. Chase Edwards has been blind since the age of eight. He is currently waiting on a cornea transplant. He has wanted his sister, Margo, to set him up with her friend Kristen for quite some time, and he is far from disappointed. The two experience instant chemistry and spend a glorious evening together. In a whirlwind twist of fate, Chase gets the long awaited call in the middle of the night that corneas are available and Kristen rushes him to the hospital, only to disappear without a trace during his surgery. Baffled by her departure, Margo instigates a search for Kristen while Chase recovers from his transplant. But will her detective skills prove to be enough? The unexpected ending will twist the heartstrings.
eBook Publisher: Atlantic Bridge/Liquid Silver Books, Published: 2011
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2011
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17 Reader Ratings:
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sorry, Ms. Nickels. Yes."
"But, sometimes you're wrong, right? Could there be a mistake? Maybe I should get another opinion." Kristen reached for her briefcase filled with medical papers on the floor next to her. From her seated position across from the third doctor she had visited this week, she glanced up at his furrowed brow. How many more opinions do you need, Kristen?
She started to get up and then paused. The air was stifling.
A large mahogany desk took up most of the office. It was so pristine she wanted to reach over and mess up the papers stacked neatly in the corner. Every item in its place, even an ink pen sat precisely situated upon forms in front of the doctor. Too bad her life felt anything other than neat and tidy right now. She was spiraling out of control.
Dr. Hanson raised an eyebrow at her, but said nothing. He just sat there in his gray pinstriped suit and waited. Even his perfectly coifed hair was in place. Gray--to match his suit, his walls, and Kristen's mood.
Kristen was sweating. She needed to make a decision. She couldn't put it off any longer. Time was wasting.
"Okay," she stated flatly on a long exhale. Her shoulders slouched in defeat and she dropped her briefcase back on the floor. "What do we do next?"
Two weeks later
"No. Absolutely not!" Kristen Nickels glared at her closest friend, Margo Edwards. She couldn't very well walk away from her--not while trapped in an elevator listening to Margo's latest proposal.
The classy-looking brunette entwined her fingers before her, stopping short of getting down on her knees. "Please? I'd do it for you."
"The hell you would--" Kristen grabbed the rail as the elevator pulled to a jerky halt, gripping her toes in her three-inch heels to keep from tumbling over. The door moaned open, but no one was there. With her luck the darn thing would probably stop at every single floor on the way to the eleventh, where they had both worked for the last five years. And it would undoubtedly get stuck between floors in a conspiracy attempt to force Kristen to listen to her friend's pleadings. She should have known it was leading up to this all through their lunch break.
"Look, I know it's a lot to ask, but I promise my brother is awesome, and you two will get along great. I can't bear the thought of going on a blind date alone and I'm just dying to meet this friend of his."
Time to buck up and put her foot down before things got out of hand. Margo's whine of desperation was getting on Kristen's nerves. And, was it not getting hotter by the minute in the oppressive elevator? Kristen tugged uncomfortably on the neckline of her blouse. To make matters worse, someone must have eaten their lunch on the run today, because the enclosure smelled like a tuna fish sandwich.
"You know I hate blind dates." They never turned out well. Besides, Margo was aware Kristen had been extremely busy with work this month. Of course, she had no idea what else was currently eating up Kristen's time and attention. But Kristen had no intention of sharing any of her private life with anyone right now, even her best friends. She just wasn't ready. Oh, who was she kidding? She didn't want to deal with their pity. The looks they would send her way when they thought she couldn't see them. Why is she asking me to do this?
"Yes, but this wouldn't be the same as a real blind date. It's my brother. He's...he's like a...a brother. Besides, you wouldn't be alone. I'd be there too, and Ryan." Margo tilted her head and drawled the word "Ryan" like he was the object of the affections of a sixth grader. Did she think this was a persuasive argument?
"Margo, look, you are one of my dearest friends. I'd do almost anything for you, but blind dates always turn out bad for me, and a 'double date' with your brother is still a blind date for me. I've never even met him. And, who is this guy you are 'dying' to meet?" There. Way to hold your ground, Kristen. You don't have time for this right now.
"Ryan's a friend of my brother's. I've seen him, well, even been introduced to him, a few times when I've gone by my brother's office. Chase always talks about him..."
"That's funny. You never talk about Chase. I don't know anything about your brother. What, is he ugly? Old? Fat..."
"Blind." Margo's voice softened. Her bright blue eyes grew misty. "He's blind."
Kristen's jaw dropped as she sucked in a quick breath, silencing her tirade. Stunned, she looked down at her prim black skirt and picked at an imaginary piece of lint. "Seriously?"
Margo nodded. "Yes."
Could I possibly feel like more of an ass right now? Kristen didn't know how to respond. But she was definitely losing ground. The elevator opened and a man in an Armani suit stepped in. No one spoke as the elevator crawled to the next floor and the man exited.
Margo cleared her throat. "Listen, like I said, I know it's a lot to ask... But I promise you'll have a good time. I didn't want to tell you about his disability because I didn't want it to influence your decision. I was hoping I could convince you to go without playing the 'blind' card. It's just dinner..." She paused. "Screw it. I'll get Theresa or Sally to go. Don't worry about it."
Yes, I could possibly feel like more of an ass.
Kristen's shoulders drooped. "No, no, no. I'll go. This Friday, right?" That was pushing it. She had so much to do before Sunday. Guilt rode her, but in all honesty, Margo had a way of talking Kristen into almost anything. The last time the two went out on a double date, Kristen's escort was so into himself he didn't shut up the entire evening. He'd gone on and on about his important job as an accountant, his BMW, his house in the suburbs. Kristen winced at the memory. She'd gotten exhausted from listening to him. He'd never once asked about her. Granted, he'd been a friend of the guy Margo was dating at the time. Not someone Margo had personally set her up with. But still...
"Really?" Margo's brows shot upward. A smile spread across her mouth. "Thank you so so so much. I promise I'll make it up to you. And I promise it will be fun." Margo was a bit too gleeful for someone who just had their feelings hurt. The elevator ground to a halt and the two made their way into the hall.
"Did you just guilt me into this on purpose?" Kristen pushed her long hair behind her ear and glared at her friend, trying hard to be angry, and saw the answer written on her face. Margo had a look of satisfied relief. Figures. Knowing Margo, the entire conversation was a set up. Great. Fine. How bad could it be? Maybe a little fun would take her mind off other matters for an evening.
Besides, she felt guilty about not telling Margo that Friday was her last day of work. She'd given her notice immediately after leaving the doctor's office two weeks ago. This would be one last thing she could do for Margo. Maybe they would have a great time and end their relationship with a fond memory. What could it hurt? Come Monday morning, Kristen's life was about to drastically change.
"Come on, Kristen." For the umpteenth time, Margo banged on the bathroom door. She'd arrived early, as usual, to find Kristen not quite ready. The two of them had moved into the same apartment complex two years ago, when their respective leases had been up. It made life a lot easier, not having to fight traffic to get back and forth across town to get together. "We're going to be late. I told them seven. What are you doing in there anyway?"
In the years Kristen had known her friend, she could count on one hand the number of times Margo had been late. No, not just late, but anything less than fifteen minutes early. The girl was all spunk. Always beyond prompt and peppy. It was one of the reasons Kristen enjoyed her company so much. Always shiny side up. Not a bad way to be.
Large green eyes stared back at Kristen in the mirror. "Coming. Just give me a minute." She dabbed another layer of dark mascara. "Finishing my makeup." For five years the two had been friends, ever since they had literally run into each other coming out of their respective offices in the Simon Building. Kristen double-checked her long brown hair, giving it a fluff. She chuckled remembering the time they met. Both had had an armful of papers that went spraying into the air and flying around the hallway like paper airplanes. It had taken so long to straighten out the mess the pair had become fast friends by the end. Of course, Margo was the easiest person in the world to talk to. She could make friends with an ant if it were the only living being around.
"You did hear me say Chase is blind, right?" Margo's muffled voice couldn't hide the humor behind it.
"Ha, ha. I'm still not going out to a restaurant looking like a slob. There will be other people there, you know." Kristen ambled out of the bathroom feeling a bit apprehensive, hoping like hell she didn't say anything stupid and offend Margo's brother this evening. She had no experience dining with a blind person. "Where are we going, anyway?"
"Giovanni's. It's a little Italian restaurant downtown. Chase loves the place. Their food is excellent, so he goes there often. Shall we go?" Margo headed to the door without waiting for an answer.
"Wait, do I look okay? Am I overdressed?" Kristen was plain nervous. Blind dates were hard enough, but the stress of going out with her best friend's brother... There was no way to judge this evening's attire based on what Margo was wearing, a sexy little black dress and pumps that made her legs a mile long, because Margo always dressed to kill. Besides, she was the one out to impress. Why are you even stressing about this? It's just one night. What difference did it make if he was a toad? She would never see him again. She needed to lighten up and enjoy this evening.
Margo paused and turned toward her. "I'm sorry. Guess I'm a little anxious. You look fantastic. I wish my brother could actually see you. You would knock him off his feet. Kristen, you always look great. You have the most beautiful, straight, long silky hair men just want to run their fingers through, and a perfectly proportionate body that...well, men just want to run their hands over." She laughed at her own jest.
Kristen reached up to smooth her hair. What would it be like to not have it anymore?
"I sound sappy. But, really, you know I love that black miniskirt. After all, who picked it out for you? And that blouse is the perfect shade of green to bring out your eyes."
Margo's candor stunned Kristen. Her cheeks grew hot. "Thank you, Margo. Those were very sweet things to say," she practically mumbled. Sure, girls traipse off to the bathroom together and fix their makeup and hair, but they don't always take the time to pump up each other's egos so eloquently.
"Come on. Don't get all sentimental on me." Margo smiled. "I'm just saying you don't need to be so nervous. You look fantastic. Any man in his right mind would think so too, even my brother."
Kristen wanted to ask what Chase was like, but hadn't. Really, what did it matter? She was going on this blind date with him anyway, and if he was anywhere near the same gene pool as Margo, he would have to be stunning. Would he be tall and lean like his sister? Would his hair have the same thick texture with perfect waves that gave it just the right amount of body? What color were his eyes?
"Well, I guess we should go. Don't want to be late." Kristen tried to sound a bit mocking to lighten the mood. "I'll just grab my purse..."
"Yeah, that will be hard to find beneath all this clutter." Margo laughed. It was an ongoing joke between them. Kristen was the neat freak; Margo was anything but.
"Hey, I like to keep my apartment tidy. It makes me feel good. Okay?" She couldn't help but chuckle. And even found herself straightening the jeweled-toned plaid pillow on her perfectly angled beige couch on their way through the living room, just to make her point.
Margo pushed it back the way it was on her way by just to be a brat.
"I'll drive. I have a lot to do this weekend, so I can't drink too much." A cursory glance around the apartment brought on a bout of melancholy. She wasn't willing to let go of the place yet. She just wasn't ready for that. She'd deal with it later.
They arrived right on time, but not before Chase and Ryan. Margo pointed them out across the crowded restaurant filled with Friday-night diners. "There they are...over there."
Kristen turned her head in the direction Margo pointed. She was floored. Holy shit. Two of the hottest guys she'd ever been out with sat at the indicated table. Her curiosity was definitely piqued. "Wow, how did you spot them so fast? Which one is Chase?" They couldn't even move forward through the throng of people waiting for a table. No wonder, either. The smell of garlic and tomato sauce wafting from the entrance to the kitchen made Kristen's mouth water. She hadn't realized she was so hungry. She'd been too busy to eat much today, wrapping up all the loose ends for her replacement.
Thank God her boss had been extremely understanding and had not uttered a word to the rest of the staff about her resignation. She couldn't stand the thought of them all staring at her, asking a hundred questions before she left. She'd simply slipped her stuff into a box at the end of the day and snuck out when no one was looking.
A slight nudge to Kristen's left brought her out of her wandering thoughts. She shook her arms at her sides in a quick motion to relax her tension and let go of thoughts of tomorrow. Live for just tonight, Kristen. Have a great time.
"Chase always sits at that table. He's the one on the left. The hot one on the right is Ryan." She laughed.
"Really. I think you might be mistaken." A smile spread across Kristen's face and she yanked herself to the present. "You didn't mention your brother was...well...so sexy." Thank you, God. No matter what, this evening would surely not go as poorly as other blind dates. She could always sit and stare at him all night, even if he proved to be less than apt at communicating. Please God, let him be a great conversationalist.
"Ew. He's my brother. Could you keep those sorts of opinions to yourself?" She scrunched up her face, but was clearly pleased to see Kristen was interested.
As they made their way through the horde of waiting diners, Kristen locked her gaze on the man who would be her date. He sat completely at ease with his friend, and she could see the two men were already having a glass of wine. They must have been there a while. Interesting. Prompt. I don't see that too often. Maybe it runs in the family. Kristen prided herself on her rather organized lifestyle, a direct contradiction to Margo's bubbly, but incredibly messy world. Kristen often thought Margo's scattered apartment was probably a duplicate copy of whatever went on in her brain. Although Margo often referred to her as "anal" or "type A", Kristen was nevertheless, usually five minutes late.
Patrons packed the entire establishment, not just the entrance. Despite this, Kristen noticed it was not a loud atmosphere. The tables were spaced far enough apart any patrons aspiring to enjoy an evening of conversation could do so with relative ease. The ambiance was perfect. Not too dark. Not too bright. Very welcoming. Soothing, even. Kristen relaxed her shoulders ever so slightly.
As they approached the table, Kristen quickly realized she wouldn't have readily identified which of the men was Chase. She'd thought it would be obvious which man was unable to see, but until they actually arrived and began introductions, there was really no distinguishing quality about either man identifying him as "blind". Just two gorgeous, sexy men out for the evening. Impressively gorgeous and sexy. A detail Margo seemed to have previously left out. Although it was true, most sisters wouldn't rate their brothers on any sort of sexy scale.
They finally made their way to the table and Margo, ever the hostess, made introductions. "Chase, Ryan, this is my friend, Kristen." Kristen noticed Chase was not looking directly at her. Of course, dummy, he doesn't know quite where you're standing.
"Oh...sorry. Hi, I'm Kristen. Kristen Nickels." Should I shake their hands? How does one greet a blind person when they meet? Kristen was instantly very nervous and realized a little too late her hands were actually sweating. Hopefully no one would reach out to...
Both men stood, but it was the dusty blond one that extended his hand. So much for making a good first impression. She had no choice but to stick her damp palm into Ryan's. "Ryan Adams." Kristen hesitantly accepted the proffered hand and smiled.
Ryan's perfectly manicured, white-collar hand was not sweaty and sticky. Wait, why did she care about impressing two guys she was only out with as a favor to a friend? Because they're hot, that's why.
"This is Chase." He motioned toward the other man with his free hand.
Saving her from any further embarrassment, Ryan finished shaking Kristen's hand and placed it directly into Chase's. Obviously the two men were very close friends and had been for some time, since Ryan was well versed in the proper etiquette and handling of... Her thoughts were once again cut short when Chase took her hand and "looked" directly at her with the most wonderfully warm smile she'd ever seen. He pulled her slightly closer and leaned into her.
"Chanel," Chase whispered.
"Excuse me?" Kristen stared as he inhaled deeply.
"You're wearing Chanel perfume."
How did he know that?
The cutest, most mischievous grin fell across his lips. "Hello, Kristen." The deep, sexy way he said her name sent goose bumps across her arms. "Margo has told me so much about you over the years. I can't believe we've never met before now."
I can't believe I've barely even heard of you.
Everything about him screamed "sit, tell me about yourself". Chase appeared to be extremely relaxed and sure of himself. Confident. Whatever misgivings Kristen had before arriving instantly disappeared as she took the seat next to Chase. Is it hot in here?
Chase was impeccably dressed in a pale blue oxford, brown slacks, and loafers. He could have been at a photo shoot instead of a casual dinner party. Kristen was glad she'd decided to dress up more than she normally would have for a Friday night out with friends, thankful to have chosen the sexy skirt and somewhat revealing blouse she hoped was more sophisticated than sleazy. Margo had selected it on their last shopping spree. Kristen trusted her friend's fashion sense. Now, she found herself wishing Chase could see her.
"Yes, well...she has said very nice things about you, too." Why had Margo barely mentioned her brother before now? Was she embarrassed about him? She didn't appear to be. In fact, Margo didn't appear to even notice he was with them. She was too busy babbling her greeting to Ryan, whom she obviously was trying to impress.
"So, Kristen. What do you do?" Chase leaned so close to Kristen she could see every detail of his very finely chiseled face and smell the minty breath escaping from his deliciously perfect mouth. A mouth that begged her to kiss it, with full soft lips... Pull it together, Kristen. You just met him. This was not going as Kristen had expected. This was not the average blind date. Why was this guy even available? And how did such a sexy stud become blind? She was feeling way too eager. This is Margo's brother, for Christ's sake. You can't maul him here in the crowded restaurant. And you can't have him in any case. You're not available.
"Oh, sorry. I...um...work with Margo. I mean...not with...Margo...but in the same building..." Was he grinning?
"Do I make you nervous?"
Yes. Your perfect looks, soft brown hair that makes a woman want to run her hands through it... Kristen gave her head a shake to bring herself back to the conversation. What had he just asked her? Oh, yeah. "Well, I don't usually, I mean, I never, go on blind dates." Oh my God, did I just say that? A pregnant pause ensued.
He chuckled. "Don't sweat it." The deep resonating sound drew Kristen in and made her want to hear more of his laughter. A lot more.
"I'm going to shut up now." Before I insert my other foot into my mouth. "What do you do? Tell me about yourself." Maybe if he's talking, I won't be able to say anything stupid.
He looked right at her, as if he stared deep into her soul with the most gorgeous blue eyes she'd ever seen. No. That wasn't true. Margo had the same eyes, but his were male and oh so sexy.
Kristen, pull yourself together. You are making a fool of yourself.
He was, after all, just a guy. Not even just a guy, but more like a brother, Margo had said.
This hunk of man was not brother material. Was that why Margo had never introduced them before? Was she protective of her brother? Had she realized Kristen would fall for him in a heartbeat?
"I work at the Braille Institute. Just a few blocks from here." She fixated on his mouth, wondering what it would feel like to press her lips to his. "I'm a translator and editor," he said.
"Really? Sounds similar to what I do. What do you translate?" Was this guy even real? Brains and looks. He just got better every moment. Perhaps he enjoyed reading as much as she did.
"Hey, do you two want to order something to drink?" Startled by the sound of another voice, Kristen jumped when she realized she was not alone on a deserted island with Chase, but rather sitting at a table with two more human beings. What were their names? Margo and Ryan. Right. And what was the question? Everyone seemed to be looking at her for some reason. A drink, right.
Kristen turned to the waiter standing rather impatiently, waiting for her to gather her wits. "Oh, yes. I'll have a glass of the house merlot. Thank you." Perhaps a glass of wine would settle her nerves and ground her a little.
Chase smoothly inclined his face to the waiter. "I'll have the same."
Without missing a beat, he turned back to Kristen, and continued. "So, you were telling me you're also involved in translations?"
How did he manage to appear to be looking at everyone so directly? It seemed to Kristen most people would never even notice Chase was blind.
Was it possible this amazing, sexy hunk could also carry on a conversation? Kristen couldn't remember the last time she'd gone out with someone who'd actually cared about what she'd had to say, or had even seemed interested in really learning anything about her beyond "when would it be too soon to have sex?" Why now?
A silent giggle tickled her throat. How ironic. The table had turned; she was the one thinking of sex. And it was impossible not to. Every time he leaned into her space, his distinctly masculine scent wafted over to tease her nose. She wanted to close those last few inches and run her lips over his cheek, his neck... Kristen shook her head a fraction in an effort to return to reality. You just met this guy.
Feeling empowered and a bit more relaxed, Kristen responded in the calmest voice she could muster up. "Yes, I actually work for the law office down the hall from Margo. I spend most of my time translating their materials into Spanish, and editing the materials previously translated over the years. Sometimes I travel with my boss to translate directly for him. They have enough work to keep me busy for a thousand years it seems, especially since more and more of the clients coming into the office are from South America." It wasn't a lie exactly. That is what she had done, up until this evening.
"Fascinating. I wish I could speak a foreign language." He leaned forward, clearly interested in what she was saying. Excitement like she'd never felt before skittered across her bare shoulders. Was this man real, she wondered as he continued, "Well, other than Braille, that is. Although some people don't consider Braille to be a foreign language, none of them have ever tried to learn it. It can be rather taxing at times."
She could only imagine how difficult it must be to read, much less translate the spoken word to Braille.
"What do you translate?" Kristen found herself increasingly curious about this "brother" of Margo's. His entire demeanor entranced her. His aura drew her in.
"Everything. Anything. Whatever anyone wants to read. We work on supply and demand. If you think you have enough to translate for a thousand years into Spanish, you should see what I have. Imagine every book ever written. My office works furiously, based on what books most people want to read. There is no way to keep up with it all. But it's rewarding, and I get to read everything under the sun in the meantime."
Read? Something else they had in common. She wanted to hear more. "How do you do it? I mean...translate written work..."
"Audio," he interjected. "Nearly everything ever written is on audio now."
"Oh, right. Of course." Dummy.
The waiter arrived with their drinks. She glanced up and took both her and Chase's glasses from the waiter. Kristen was amazed at how comfortable she was with Chase. At least she didn't dump the wine in anyone's lap. Although the thought of leaning over and wiping spilled wine from Chase's lap was not unappealing...
"Here." Chase held out his hand and Kristen realized he intended for her to place his glass in it.
"Oh. Sorry. I wasn't thinking."
"Relax," the smooth, low, soothing voice addressed her again, "I don't expect you to know everything there is about quote 'dining' with me on the first, um, is this a date?"
Kristen choked on the wine she'd just sipped. "Uh, sure, I mean, I guess... Well, is it?"
Again with the chuckle. He is going to make me cream my panties if he doesn't stop. His voice could have wooed any woman in the restaurant. In fact, Kristen actually found herself looking around as if to make sure no one else was listening. They might decide they should be on a "date" with Mister Sexy Voice, instead of the rambling idiot he was currently with who couldn't seem to articulate a complete sentence.
"Look, I know my sister put you up to this. I have actually met her before."
Kristen glanced over at Margo to find her deep in a conversation with Ryan, who looked thoroughly entranced by her. Not surprising. Margo was stunning and had always managed to quickly lure any man she wanted into her cocoon. Kristen had always admired that about her. She would miss their camaraderie.
"She didn't have to twist my arm too hard." Not entirely true, but he didn't need to know it. "She really wanted to double date with your friend Ryan. Adamantly I would say. They are so enamored with each other already, they don't even know we're here." She chuckled as she glanced over toward Margo and Ryan.
He leaned in to conspiratorially whisper, "She's been after me to set her up with Ryan for several years. The truth is, I've told her several times I'd be glad to set her up with him...as soon as she was willing to set me up with you."
"Huh? What? But... We've never even met. How did you know you wanted to go out with me?" This information literally stunned Kristen. What was he talking about?
Grinning--it seemed to be a habit of his--Chase responded quietly into her ear, "Oh, I've heard enough about you to write a book. I'm not sure whether Margo's goal for the evening has more to do with her and Ryan, or you and me."
What? Kristen was so going to kill Margo when this evening was over. Maybe. And what timing. Shit.
"Really? That's interesting. I didn't realize... But you didn't even know where I worked or what I did for a living? What has she told you about me?" The confusion mounted the more she thought about this situation.
"Oh, I already knew all that stuff about you. I was just being polite." A giant smile took over his face.
The waiter showed up while Kristen turned to glare daggers at her friend. "Can I tell you about this evening's specials?" He continued speaking, but Kristen surmised not a one of them was listening to him, but all were attentively pretending to until he once again walked away, saying something about returning for their orders in a moment.
When the waiter finished, Chase interjected, "May I suggest the chicken parmesan? They have a delicious marinara sauce here you should try...if you like that sort of thing."
"Sounds delicious. I love a good marinara."
The ease with which Kristen found herself in Chase's presence was unprecedented. She couldn't remember having had such a good time in years, or perhaps ever.
Sweet Jesus. Chase may have just hit the lottery. This woman was an angel. Her voice was like silk to his ears. The few times he'd managed to brush against her hand or knock into her knee, the flying sparks electrified him. Her skin was so smooth and soft. She was warm and kind, and unpretentious. And aside from the understandable nervousness on her part, she didn't exude any indication she felt sorry for him, or thought she should take pity on him. A breath of fresh air.
He was usually so confident and poised, rarely caring what other people thought. But tonight was different. He did care what this woman thought. His nerves were taking a beating.
By the time their meals arrived, Kristen seemed so in tune with him she automatically helped Chase get a lay of the land, or plate in this case, like a seasoned pro. No one would know she'd not been dining with him for years. He hoped his perception of her interest in him was on target.
As soon as the waiter set the plate down in front of Chase, Kristen reached for his hands, laid them directly on the edges, then placed the fork in his right hand. How did she know I was right handed? How considerate. How observant.
He never wanted her to let go of him and missed her touch immediately when she did to begin describing the meal. He was so busy thinking about her soft, warm, delicate hands, he hardly heard a word she said. She muttered in a low tone something about the chicken being already cut up, the pasta on the left and vegetables on the right.
Chase ate this same meal here often and the waiter already knew to deliver his food cut up. This was one of his favorite, most accommodating spots to dine. But, of course, she didn't know that. And he was enjoying her voice so much he hated to interrupt her.
"Would you like me to cut you a slice of bread?" she asked.
"That would be great, thanks." Please keep talking. He loved listening to her.
Jolting him into reality, Margo spoke from across the table. "Would you two like some parmesan?"
Kristen responded before he could pull his mind away from his preoccupation with her. "Sure. How's your food?"
Chase could tell by the projection of her voice she directed the question at either Ryan or Margo.
"Fantastic. They have the best lasagna in town." His sister was always so positive. She would have said something wonderful about the meal, even if it was cold and had eyeballs. "Ryan? How is your pasta?" And she was, of course, polite.
Chase felt a smile spread across his face as he listened to his sister interact with her date. Skittering around him, the way most people do when they first meet and want to impress the other person with their best manners.
"I love this place. I don't think I have ever had a bad meal here," his friend replied, also joining the "blind date" dance.
Hmm, why aren't Kristen and I having first date jitters? He noticed the distinct difference between this date and all others he'd previously had. A certain comfort level.
She was so thoughtful and understanding. In the past, Chase had often found himself rather embarrassed to eat in front of people. They weren't always quite as forthcoming with the details of the items on his plate as Kristen was.
The restaurant quieted down some as the meal progressed, making Chase privy to many more noises. Dishes clanking as the bus boys cleared tables. Patrons laughing at other tables. The soft whir of the ceiling fans.
The four of them settled into a conversation about their work, the economy, the cost of living...all while Chase noticed the ease of the evening. Like they were old friends. Especially Kristen and him. He desperately wished he could look at her and see her soul, but as it was, at least he could hear nearly every nuance in her voice, the rustling of her clothing as she shifted in her seat or crossed her legs. He hoped she was as sexy as she sounded. The only way to be sure, however, was to touch her, not a graze, but a full sensual exploration with his hands. And mouth. Of course, unfortunately, it was not possible for such a perusal at the moment. He crossed his fingers that later...
When Chase finished eating, he sat back in his chair with a last swipe of his napkin and hoped to God tonight wouldn't be one of those times when he had food on his face, or in his lap, he was unaware of. Hopefully, his pal Ryan was not so incredibly engrossed in Margo he would forget his duty as a gentleman to make sure Chase was in order. For all the confidence he knew he could outwardly emit in a multitude of situations, this was the first time in a long time he actually felt awkward, nervous, prepubescent. What was she thinking? Where was she looking right this minute? Was she as sexy as her voice sounded? He'd known basically what she looked like, from Ryan and Margo, but Margo had described more about what they had in common. God, make it work out somehow, someway, I get her alone before this night is over.
Chase leaned forward and began to speak. "How was your chicken?" Anything to take his mind off the fact this segment of the evening was about to end, and the transition into what would hopefully ensue was about to begin.
Thank God he had incredible hearing, or he'd have been seriously concerned when she didn't readily answer the question. As it was, he could perceive the soft tinkling of ice in her water glass as she took a drink.
She cleared her throat. "Sorry...delicious. A great choice. Thanks for making the suggestion. How was yours?"
Why couldn't a date just keep moving forward without this stammering lull in conversation always occurring? The uncomfortable point when neither party knew exactly how to proceed. Mostly because they didn't want to make a fool out of themselves by assuming too much.
"Wonderful, as usual. I order this a lot." Was she staring at him? Probably, of course. "Do you need another glass of wine?" They had ordered a second glass with their meal, but he wasn't sure how much she had drunk.
"No, no. I'm fine. If I drink any more I'll be too tipsy to drive." Chase liked her answer. He wasn't a big drinker himself and enjoyed being with a woman who was not falling all over herself, or him for that matter, by the end of the evening. And he, for one, was repeating a silent prayer she would be willing to get to know him better. This might just be the woman of your dreams, Chase.
The dinner was delicious. The company even better. Kristen found herself staring repeatedly at Chase. How much had Margo told him about her? Here she'd spent the last two hours staring glassy eyed at the most handsome man in the restaurant, practically salivating over him, and he didn't even know it.
God, she realized she was depraved. How long had it been since she last slept with a man? Months? Lordy. Was that why Chase's presence affected her so much? Deprivation? Or was it more?
As they stood to leave the restaurant, Margo announced, "Ryan and I were thinking of going dancing. Do you two want to come?"
Color flared up Chase's neck. "No," he said sharply, but then lowered his voice before continuing. "Thanks, but I have to work tomorrow. Even though it's a Saturday, unfortunately I have a deadline to meet. God forbid anyone should spend one more day without being able to read the classics in Braille. But you guys go ahead."
Oh, my, God. Is he ditching me? Am I included in the "you guys go ahead"? Kristen studied Chase's face before deciding how to proceed. Was he making an excuse? Perhaps he just didn't like dancing. Perhaps he can't dance. Chase took one step closer to Kristen, and that decided it for her. Praying she read him correctly, Kristen sucked in all the courage she could muster and proceeded with, "No. No. You guys go on. In fact, I drove. I can take Chase home." She was having such a good time. What could it hurt to finish out the evening with this fantastic "blind" date? After tonight, she knew she'd never see him again, but she couldn't resist relaxing and enjoying herself one last time. Maybe she'd get the opportunity to at least make out with him.
Margo looked awfully pleased. "Great! I mean... Is that okay with you, Chase? Do you mind?"
A round of "no's" and "fines" jumped through the circle as they all proceeded to leave the restaurant. Kristen hoped to God Chase was as interested in her as she was in him.