I checked my messages as I entered the bar.
Nothing from Will yet, but I was early. Tiff would have scolded me for not being fashionably late, but I’d never been late to anything in thirty-one years, and I was hardly going to start now.
The bar was cute, or it might have been if I could have seen anything past my own hands. Tiff had said dim, but this was more like an 1820’s Victorian cellar. The low, two-seater tables flickered with the ambient light of a few battery-operated candles, and the best I could say about the rest of the decor was that it was black. Or looked black in the darkness.
As I waited, I fiddled with my phone. At least scrolling Instagram distracted me from being nervous. I cursed my dress choice as the hem rode up my thighs, and no amount of pulling would keep it in place. My legs looked amazing, though, so that was a plus.
I’d chosen a seat where I could watch the door and threw a glance in that direction whenever I thought Will might have arrived.
I was liking a photo of a pug in a onesie when movement caught my eye. I looked up in time to see a tall man in a dark leather jacket. Maybe it was the confidence that was emanating off him or how the jacket showed off his broad shoulders and strong biceps, but I found myself wishing that it was him I was waiting for.
I shivered as he approached, flattered and a little nervous.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
“I was about to ask you the same thing.” The darkness masked his face, but there was no disguising the suggestive tone in his voice.
“Is this where you tell me you can make my dreams come true?”
His voice was velvet smooth, amused by my skeptical response. “I thought we could start with a drink, but it really depends on the type of dreams you’ve been having. Do you often imagine yourself in an uptight bar surrounded by a dozen strangers?”
Damn, he was kind of funny. Ok.
“Sometimes. Usually, the lighting is better.”
His laugh was a shot of warmth in the dark.
There was no way to get a read on his features in this light, not while he was towering above me, but I still felt myself flush under his gaze.
Then, a body slid into the seat next to me. “So sorry I’m late. Traffic was crazy,” Will said, leaning in to kiss my cheek.
Strange, traffic had been pretty quiet for me, but I shrugged off his excuse. Hardly enough to be a red flag.
I turned back to where Mr. Tall and Sexy had been only to find he’d already left. Probably off to try that line on someone else. I hid my disappointment.
Will and I made small talk until a server arrived, and Will went ahead and ordered for the both of us. A protest stirred on my tongue, but I bit it back. He was hopefully trying to be chivalrous. It wasn’t his fault he didn’t know that this was the exact kind of thing Brad used to do.
Talk for me. Speak over me.
The drinks arrived, followed swiftly by a few small plates, and I was pleased to find that the conversation flowed easier tonight than it had at coffee a few days ago.
So far, it was going much better than I had expected. He was the right amount of chatty and flirty. Cute, too. Shaved head, which wasn’t normally what I liked since I preferred something I could run my hands through, but it suited him.
After a drink and an amusing story about the time Will went on a road trip with his brother only to be stranded with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere for an afternoon, Will paid the bill, and we wandered out to the street, walking with no particular destination in mind.
It was a balmy night, the summer humidity clinging to my skin, typical for Chicago in July. But it was nice to be out enjoying the night air and the company.
As we rounded a second block, I’d begun to wonder what came next. Was he waiting for me to make a move?
Sure, we’d been flirting tonight, but I was so out of practice.
We continued along in silence before I bit the bullet. “Where do you want to go now?”
He shrugged. “I’m open. What do you want to do?”
Shit. Well, that backfired. “Uh, I could go another drink. Did you want to find another bar or …?” I wanted him to make it easier on me. Just take the next step so I could know where this was heading.
“My place is close. We can have a drink there. No pressure.”
I considered it. I was having a fun time and wasn’t ready to go home yet.
“That sounds nice.”
He led me up to his studio apartment. The tiny space was decorated so dully that I found it hard to believe it wasn’t a show home. Everything was white, from the walls to the cabinets to the couch. At first glance, there didn’t appear to be anything personal.
Finally, I spotted a series of six black and white photographs hanging in matching frames on one wall. One appeared to be a historical image of his building. “This is a cool picture. Where did you find it?”
“Oh, that just came with the apartment. Whole place came furnished when I moved in.” He handed me a glass of wine and sat on the far end of the couch, leaving me with a decision to make.
Based on how well the evening had gone so far, I felt good about taking a small leap of faith, and so I took the closest spot on the couch to Will, allowing our bodies to touch knee to hip. His arm came to rest naturally behind my shoulders.
Ok, this was good.
“So …” he said.
“I’ve had a really good time tonight. Most of the people I’ve met through the app haven’t turned out so well.”
“Oh really? I only just joined recently, so I don’t have anything to compare to.”
A finger lightly traced a line on my shoulder, sparking goosebumps along my skin. He leant closer. “You know, I’m a bit surprised that you’re single, if I’m completely honest. What made you join the app?”
Oh, God, do I tell him? I didn’t want to lie. Firstly, because that’s no way to start a potential relationship, and who the hell knew where this would go? Secondly, I was terrible at it. I couldn’t maintain eye contact and ended up feeling sick.
Guess it was now or never. “Well, about a year ago, I got out of a long-term relationship that ended pretty badly. Only recently have I been ready to get out there again, so here I am.”
“How long were you together for?”
“Almost ten years. We met in college and moved in after we graduated.”
He looked shocked, and I couldn’t blame him. “Wow, that’s a long time. I’m surprised you didn’t get married.”
Immediately I broke eye contact, and his reaction was physical as he leaned back and moved his arm away from me. “Are you still together?”
Understanding what I’d accidentally suggested, I rushed to reassure him. “No! No, we … got divorced a year ago.” It didn’t seem to reassure him at all. Instead, he moved farther away, shifting on the couch even though there wasn’t enough space for it. The message was clear; this date had officially gone south.
“Who left who?” His voice was as distant and cold as the rest of him, and I found myself staring at my hands, now awkwardly twisted in my lap. Why would that even matter?
“He left me.”
One thing was for sure, I wasn’t interested in going over the details, and as Will stood up and crossed the room, it seemed he wasn’t either.
“You know, I’m actually pretty tired. Maybe you should …” Wow. Talk about getting the cold shoulder.
So, after gathering what was left of my self-esteem and my bag, I stood and walked out.