The Gargoyle Gets His Girl

Page 20

“Tough having your own business, huh?”

“It is, but I love it. They say if you make your passion your work, you never really work a day in your life.”

He nodded. “I like that.”

“So, Guillermo’s. I take it that’s Italian?”

“It is. You cool with that?”

“Absolutely. Love it.” She gave him a once over. “You’re awfully brave, though.”

He made a curious face. “Why’s that?”

“We’re going to eat red sauce and you’re wearing a white shirt. Just saying.”

He groaned. “I didn’t think about that. I guess I’ll wear a bib.”

She snorted, clapping a hand over her mouth. “Yeah, bibs are super sexy.”

He laughed. “Now is probably the right time to tell you I don’t date much. I might be a little rusty at this.”

As if she couldn’t like him more. “Don’t worry about it. With all the working I do, I’m sure you can guess what my social life looks like.”

He shook his head. “We’re a sad pair.”

“Really. We should start a support group.”

“Sounds like a good idea.”

“We could talk about how pathetic we are.”

He shot her a sly, sideways glance. “I’d rather talk about how sexy the other members are.”

“How what? Sexy?” What was he talking about? Her? A shiver of pleasure danced through her as he directed them down a side street.

“Mm-hmm. Sexy.” A rather self-satisfied spark shot through his eyes. “Also, I think we should limit enrollment to just the charter members.”

He was smooth, she’d give him that. “So just you and me then.”

He nodded and stared ahead, but the subtle grin on his face was telling. “Yep.”

“And how often should we meet?”

“At least twice a week.” He glanced at her. “Maybe more.” She grinned, but before she could reply, he said, “We’re here.”

Guillermo’s was a quaint little place with red awnings and a few sidewalk tables behind a wrought-iron fence. It sat about two blocks off Main, which meant it was protected from some of the noise usually surrounding the main drag.

He opened the door for her and they went inside, the delicious aromas of an Italian kitchen in full swing greeting them.

The hostess welcomed them as they walked up.

“I have a reservation,” Nick said. “Under Hardwin for two.”

The girl checked her book, then grabbed two menus and smiled brightly at them. “Right this way.”

Nick gestured for Willa to go first. She followed the girl through the restaurant and out a back door to a brick patio. An ivy-covered trellised ceiling provided cool shade, and paddle fans moved the air just enough to make it comfortable. Red-checkered tablecloths and flickering votives in glass holders adorned each table. Overhead, fairy lights interwoven amongst the ivy in the trellises sparkled like stars. In the center of the patio stood a three-tiered fountain gently bubbling away.

“It’s so pretty,” Willa said. And now she knew why she’d never eaten here before. This wasn’t the kind of place someone would come alone.

The hostess took them to a small table in a corner and placed the menus in front of the chairs. “Here you are.”

Nick pulled Willa’s chair out for her. “You like it?”

“Very much.”

He smiled and took his seat across from her. “Good.”

The hostess let them know their server would be with them and left.

Willa picked up her menu, but looked around a little more before she paid it any attention. “Have you been here before?”

“No, but I heard it was a nice place.”

Willa looked over the menu at him. “It’s very romantic.”

“Too much for the first official meeting of the SSS?”

“What’s the SSS?”

“Sad Single Shut-ins.”

She laughed louder than she meant to. “Ah, yes, our two-person support group.”

“I’ll check into having T-shirts made.” Still smiling, he cast his gaze on the menu. “I hope you’re hungry. Everything on this menu looks good to me.”

“So are you going with bib or no bib?”

“If I get the Steak Italiano, no bib. If it’s the Sunday Supper platter with the spaghetti Bolognese, lasagna and chicken cacciatore, then bib, definitely. How about you? Any ideas yet?”

“I already know what I want.”

He glanced up. “You do?”

“Caprese salad to start, then spaghetti Bolognese. No bib, because I’m crazy like that. And possibly a slice of that limoncello cake for dessert.”

He nodded. “Good choices. I like a woman who knows what she wants.”

Willa shrugged one shoulder as she admired the man across from her. “I like what I like.”

And right now, she liked him.

After they ordered, Nick leaned back in his seat and looked at her with the kind of expression that said he had questions. She wasn’t wrong.

“So who do you normally hang out with when you have free time?”

“You mean do I have a boyfriend?”

He grinned. “Maybe. It’s a valid question.”

“No boyfriend. Not for a long time.” And not for lack of wanting one. “Which is fine. When it happens, it happens, right?”

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