“Are you busy tonight?”
Ted’s tanned face was shaded by the large umbrella covering the café table. Janie and I came here regularly to drink iced lattes and catch up on all things gossipy; it was only by chance that today we’d run into Ted and invited him to join us.
He watched me now with hopeful eyes. Every cell in my body vibrated in exultation, but I forced myself to pause before speaking.
“Ow!” Ted rubbed his shin.
“Sorry,” Janie said. “Cramp.”
I decided to speak before Janie’s poorly aimed kicks could cause further damage.
“Well…” My eyes flicked over Janie’s face, begging release from my promised commitment.
“She has plans with me,” Janie said, sending my blood pressure into a nose dive, “but I have to cancel.” My pulse skittered as my heart resumed beating. “I forgot to tell you, Amanda – I have family visitors coming in later today. Sorry for the short notice – they sort of sprung this on me.” She smiled in fake apology.
“Oh, too bad!” I lied. I beamed at Ted. “Looks like I’m free after all.”
“Great!” Ted leaned back, lacing his fingers behind his head. “I have high hopes for tonight, Amanda.”
My hand trembled as I reached for my drink. “You do?”
“Yes,” he said. “This date could change everything.”
His words rendered me breathless, and I inhaled my latte instead of sipping, sending me into a coughing fit. Janie patted me on the back.
“You okay?” Ted asked.
“I’m fine,” I wheezed, dizzy from the combined effects of romantic elation and a lack of oxygen.
“I think you should arrive around seven,” Ted said. “I want to leave by eight, and that will give Brad a chance to meet you first.”
I’d heard Ted talk proudly of his four-year-old son, and I knew he worried how his recent divorce was affecting him. Still…including Brad on our first date seemed inappropriate.
“Would you rather watch him at your place?” Ted asked.
I opened my mouth, but speech eluded me.
“I’m fine either way,” Ted said, grinning. “If this goes the way I think it will, you’re responsible for the end of a long dry streak for me.” His smile morphed into a leer. “Know what I mean?”
“Yes,” I replied through wooden lips. “I’m afraid I do.”