A Wonderful Kind of Love(9)

By: Krista Lakes

“So, this is the infamous Sandy's?” he asked when the car came to a stop. He tipped his head and peered at it through the window of her car. He didn't sound impressed.

“It doesn't look like much, but it really does have the best food in town,” she told him. She wasn't sure why she was defending the restaurant to him. It wasn't her request that had them here. She still couldn't believe Mia had duped her into this.

“Let's go on in,” he said, putting on a charming smile before opening his door and getting out. Laura wondered just how many women had fallen for that smile. She knew she was certainly one of them.

Laura took a deep breath in to steady herself. She considered just putting the car in reverse and driving off without him. It would feel so good to just put him in her rearview mirror once and for all.

Except Mia would kill her. So, instead, she sighed and got out of the car.

Sandy's was built in a rustic style with a large wooden porch that wrapped around to the back. Inside, there was a big bar with TV screens positioned strategically around it. Wooden tables and chairs, all with rustic charm, decorated the rest of the space.

Ethan held the door open for her as if he were a gentleman. She tried not to laugh at the irony of that.

“Have a seat anywhere, Laura,” the bartender called from behind the bar. Elena was working today. They'd known each other since high school. Laura was going to have to answer questions about her date later. “I'll be right with you.”

“We're just here to get Mia her cheese,” Laura announced, heading up to the bar. However, Elena was gone, and Ethan was already settling into a booth. He smiled and motioned her over.

“Okay. I guess this is what we're doing,” she said under her breath as she walked toward him. “Because this won't be awkward at all.”

Laura took the seat across from him and crossed her arms.

“What can I get you two?” Elena asked, popping up next to the table. She smiled wide like it wasn't her fault no one was manning the bar and Laura was now stuck at this stupid booth.

“I'll have a jack and coke,” Ethan replied. They both turned and smiled at Laura, waiting for her drink order.

“Um, I guess I'll have the same,” she said with a shrug. She didn't want drinks. She wanted to get Mia's stupid cheese and get out of here. The last thing in the entire world that she wanted was to have a conversation with Ethan. He hated her guts and didn't want anything to do with her. She still remembered the conversation that she had with his secretary, and the mean things that the secretary had relayed to her. Why he wanted anything different now was a total mystery to her, one that she didn't really want to find the answers to.

Elena waited for a second to see if they wanted anything else before thanking them and heading off to the bar. Mia crossed her arms and waited for her drink.

Ethan cleared his throat, breaking the silence between them. “I figure I'll just get this out of the way now,” he told her. “I'm going to be in town for a few weeks while Carter is busy with the baby. I'm setting up the R&D department in Denver, so I'll be here for awhile.”

“Okay,” she said with a shrug. “Why does that matter to me?”

His pale green eyes met hers, and she felt their electric pull in. She wanted to resist, but to resist him was to resist the tide or the need to breathe.

“I want to see you.”

She blinked twice. “What?”

“I'd like to see you,” he repeated. “I know you said that you weren't interested after the party, but given what happened at the fundraiser...”

“Wait, what? What do you mean I said I wasn't interested?” she asked, suddenly confused for more reasons than one. She had certainly never said that after the party. “You were the one who told your secretary to let me down easy.”

He frowned and shook his head. “No. You had your boyfriend tell me off when I called you.”

“Uh, no.” She shook her head hard enough that hair went across her face. “You never even called me. You never talked to me after the party. I didn't have a boyfriend, and you never called.”

“Here's your drinks,” Elena said setting the drinks down on the table. She pulled out her pad to take their order, but as she looked at the two of them staring across the table like two cats in a territory fight, she quickly pocketed it and went back to the bar.

“What do you think happened after the party?” Ethan asked once Elena was gone. His voice was calm, but there was a small tick at the base of his jaw that drew Laura's attention.

She reached for her drink and swirled the thin red straw through the dark liquid without drinking it. Slowly, she raised her eyes back to his. There was a hurt there that she hadn't seen before, or at least she had recognized.