by Veronica Forand
Daniel wanted only one seat in the dining room. The seat next to the pretty woman in the green dress. Damn, her blue eyes could knock the socks off every guy within a ten-mile vicinity. Probably the rest of their clothes as well. He’d finally worked up enough pluck to sit with her.
He tried to meander up to her with the debonair style of a man about town, but his actions resembled more of a stop and go action. Not smooth, but he made it to the table without falling and breaking a hip.
He slid into the chair next to her and her eyes flashed in his direction. “Hello. I’m Alice.” Could a smile be soft, sweet, and sexy? Absolutely. Her pink lips proved it.
“Nice to meet you, Alice.” He rocked his chair a little closer toward her.
In response, she leaned slightly toward him. “Nice night.”
He nodded. “A little chilly, but manageable.” The nerves tightening his stomach relaxed and he eased into the comfort zone he’d known most of his life.
The waiter came over and served them each a turkey dinner, mashed potatoes, and broccoli. Daniel sent him away to get them both some coffee.
“Do you mind me sitting with you?” Daniel asked, after taking a few bites of his meal.
She laughed with a low throaty sound that curled his toes and sent shivers up his spine. “Mind? I was hoping you had the nerve to come over and keep me company.”
The waiter returned with their coffee. Daniel preferred black. Alice liked cream and sugar in hers. Smooth and sweet.
She took a tentative sip of her drink, and then placed the mug on the table. She tilted her head, perhaps contemplating her next words. They came out in a breathy invitation. “I don’t understand why my heart skips past my arrhythmia and almost into a full blown coronary when you’re nearby, but your companionship feels as comfortable as my favorite sweater.”
“You sure say the sweetest things.” He reached for her hand and enjoyed the warmth of her skin against his.
She squeezed his hand. “It’s true. And you’re also the best dressed man here.”
“How else to attract your attention?”
“It succeeded. An argyle sweater and a beige turtleneck? You could be Cary Grant.”
“Only if you’d be my Ingrid Bergman.”
They both laughed. Their hands never parted. Their eyes remained fixed on each other, highlighting the familiarity of each other’s face among the thousands they’d seen in their lives.
The evening carried on like a dream. They laughed about their first cars, their first kisses, and the first time they’d struck out on their own. She’d lived a life of adventure and he was a willing audience to hear her stories.
An hour later, the dream dissipated like fog in the sun. A woman dressed like Gumby arrived and reached toward Daniel’s dinner companion.
“Mrs. McClare, it’s time to go back to your room.”
Alice held up her hand to the woman, halting her steps. “Just a minute, dear.” She turned back to Daniel. “Agree to have breakfast with me tomorrow.”
Daniel smiled. Not a crazy teenager in love smile, but a smile that told the woman to his left that he appreciated her flirtations and reciprocated the interest. “Same table. Eight o’clock. I’ll be waiting.”
Gumby pulled Alice’s chair away from the table and from Daniel.
“Until breakfast, my sweet.” He touched her chair before it rolled completely out of reach.
“I can’t wait.” She waved and departed with her nurse.
Daniel beckoned over his orderly.
“Mike, I need some help out of my chair.”
“No problem, Mr. McClare.” He grasped Daniel’s arm and lifted him, moving his walker over within arm’s length. “There you go. Did you have a nice dinner?”
“The prettiest girl in the place just agreed to have breakfast with me. I had a perfect dinner.”
Mike’s booming laugh followed Daniel out of the room, but Daniel ignored it. He needed to get back to his room and pick out an outfit. He had a date first thing in the morning.