Chase sat at the bar in Pappy's and sipped on a cold mug of beer. A George Strait love ballad floated softly from the jukebox. The place was nearly empty, but he didn't mind because he didn't want all the noise and chatter. He accepted that would change in the next few hours as more people got off from work and made their way to the bar for a drink or two before heading home for the night.
He felt a gentle tap on his shoulder and turned around. Hannah stood behind him smiling
"Mind if I join you?" she asked. "You look like you could use some company."
Chase grinned and kissed her on the cheek as she eased on to the bar stool. She slightly shook her head to stir her long brunette hair off her slender neck.
"Would you like to sit at a booth?" Chase asked.
"No, this is fine," she said. The bartender came over and she ordered a margarita.
"So how was your day?" he asked.
"Very uneventful. I placed a lot of orders for companies. It was rather quiet in the office as well. How about you?"
"Much the same." He shrugged.
"Is something bothering you? You look like something very serious is on your mind," Hannah said, resting a hand on top of his.
"I've got a few things going on at work but I can handle it." Chase turned his hand over and gently squeezed hers as a taut smile crossed his face.
"If you need to bounce something off someone, you know I'm available."
"I know that and I appreciate it," he said. "It's just too early to talk about it. I hope it all passes over soon. It may not amount to anything. It has more to do with a friend than the newspaper."
Hannah patted him on the knee, and then leaned over and kissed him softly on the cheek.
Chase smiled and took another swallow of beer. He felt fortunate to have someone like Hannah because she never pressured him into disclosing things. Although a private person, Chase knew he'd eventually open up to her about personal problems but only when he felt the time was right to do so. And he knew he could always count on her for support.
"So you don't have a ball game this evening?" Hannah asked.
"No, but I've got one tomorrow night."
"Why don't you come over to my place for dinner?"
"Yes," she said coyly. "I can pick up some Chinese carryout. Would you like that?"
"Are you sure it won't be any trouble?"
"Of course not, silly. You're never any trouble for me."
"Okay then," Chase said as he took a credit card from his wallet to pay for their drinks. "Are you sure I can't pick up the food?"
"I can do it. There's a good restaurant on the way home. Just give me time to get the table set."
"Sounds like a plan," he said. "I'll leave about ten minutes after you."
Hannah slipped off the bar stool, kissed him again on the cheek and left. She turned and smiled before walking out the door. Chase couldn't help notice that several other men in the bar glanced at her shapely figure as she left.
"Who was that lovely lady?"
Chase turned to his right as Conner Rhodes from the newspaper's photo department took Hannah's bar stool and sat down. He was wearing his oversized green photographer's vest that looked more like a hunter's jacket.
"Hi, Conner," Chase said. "She's a woman I've been dating for a while."
"Nice looking gal," Conner said with an approving grin. "Not bad. Not bad at all."
"She's a wonderful woman." Chase said, unable to suppress a smile.
"I'd be careful because some guy may come along and snatch her up," Conner said with a chuckle.
"I'll keep that in mind."
The bartender wiped off the counter in front of Conner and placed a frosty mug of draft beer on a coaster. Conner picked it up and took a long swallow.
"Hmm. That tastes good."
"So you don't work tonight either?"
"Hell no. I've got a game tomorrow evening."
"Have you heard about the latest office romance?"
"Maybe," Chase said. "Who's involved this time?"
"Well, I've heard that Angela Cook may be giving her lover boy some problems."
"Someone told me she may go down to personnel and talk to them about possible sexual harassment."
"Damn. Where did you hear that?"
"She apparently said something to one of the gals in our department. You know how girls talk."
Chase glanced at the clock on the wall and noticed that ten minutes had passed since Hannah left.
"I need to be going," Chase said.
"I have a dinner date with a friend."
"The lady that just left?"
"Have fun now," Conner said with a devious wink. "If you know what I mean."
"I'll see you," Chase said as he shook his head and smiled before sliding off the bar stool and heading out the front door.
Fifteen minutes later Chase pulled his SUV into Hannah's driveway. He walked to the front door of the two-story white Victorian house and knocked twice. He could see Hannah's image through the beveled glass on the door.
"Come on in," Hannah shouted. "The door's unlocked."
He stepped inside the front foyer and wandered to the dining room. Hannah was setting the plates and silverware on the table.
"Can I do anything?" he asked.
"I think I have everything ready," she said with a smile. "Just have a seat. What do you want to drink? Wine? Beer? Soft drink? Tea?"
"I believe I'll just have water," he said.
She returned to the table with two glasses of ice water and sat down next to him. They passed the small boxes of white rice, vegetables and noodles to each other and filled their plates.
"This looks good," Chase said. "Thanks for inviting me."
"You're welcome. It's nice to have someone to have dinner with."
They took their time eating while discussing world and national events of the day. Afterward, they cleared off the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher. Hannah took his hand and led him to the den and they sat down on a thick, fluffy white sofa. She reached to the coffee table and picked up the TV remote.
"Is there anything you'd like to watch?" she asked.
Chase took the remote from her hand and put it back on the coffee table.
"I'd just like to watch you," he said as he cupped her face in his hands and gently kissed her on the mouth.
Hannah smiled and snuggled close as he put his left arm around her and kissed her again, this time longer and with more passion. One hand on her waist pulled her closer. He ran his other hand over the back of her head, inhaling her intoxicating sweet scent.
"Can you spend the night?" she asked softly.
"I don't think that would be a problem," he said with a gentle smile. "You won't have to twist my arm."
"I need to get the bedroom ready," Hannah said as she sat on the edge of the sofa. "Give me a few minutes."
As she walked away, he picked up the TV remote. He held it for a few seconds, thinking twice about turning on the TV, and put it back on the coffee table. Instead he sat quietly on the sofa as the light from her bedroom filtered into the room with a faint glow.