This was, Carlos thought, the worst first date he’d ever been on. He picked up his fork and speared a cucumber from his salad. If the look on Sami’s face was any indication, she agreed.
He wasn’t sure where it had started to go wrong. He’d knocked on her door right on time. She’d answered and, in the brightly colored light of the Christmas tree in her living room, had taken his breath away. Her eyes had been brighter. She’d done something magical to her lips that made them look pouty and utterly kissable. He’d glanced up, hoping to find mistletoe, disappointed when it wasn’t conveniently there. She’d smiled. He’d smiled. He’d thought it was going to be a magical night.
He was wrong.
He’d held the car door for her and then closed it when she slid into the seat. Walking around the hood, he hadn’t been able to make his grin disappear. He’d gotten in the car, the scent of citrus and flowers filling the air. It had been intoxicating.
“You look amazing,” he’d said, starting the engine.
The compliment didn’t land easily. “Thanks,” she’d said, plucking at her dress. Their conversation on the way to the restaurant had been stilted, nothing like the usual easy flow between the two of them. His attempts at flirtation had fallen flat. Her answers to his questions had been monosyllabic.
Now, they sat like strangers rather than friends, each of them picking at the food on their plates. He glanced up and caught her eyes flitting around the room, as if looking for an escape. He grimaced. “This isn’t going very well, is it.” He kept it a statement of fact rather than a question.
Her face turned pink. “I’m sorry. I’m out of practice.”
“Me too.” His answer surprised a direct look from her. He shrugged. “It’s been a while.” He pushed his salad plate away as the main course arrived at their table. He eyed the plate with a professional eye and then, finding it as good a dish as he would put out, picked up his silverware.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to date,” she told her plate of lobster ravioli. Carlos’s hands froze, the knife and fork poised over his steak. She pushed a plump pocket to the side, leaving a trail in the cream sauce. “It’s only been two years.”
Carlos set his utensils down. “Hey.” Sami glanced up. “It’s me, here. I know.” The corner of her lips quirked in a sad smile. “I know, Sami. You don’t have to explain anything to me.” He reached across the table and covered her hand with his. “This was probably a bad idea right now. How about we call this date officially over and just have dinner. You and me. Just friends.”
A genuine smile split her face and her shoulders relaxed. “That’s a great idea. I’m sorry, Carlos.”
He shrugged again and picked up his silverware, slicing into the medium rare steak. His timing was off. He could be patient. He checked himself when he realized he was sawing at the meat a little roughly. He may not like it, but this woman was worth the wait.