Catch up here.
Chase waits outside the gallery in a tailored charcoal grey three-piece suit and pink shirt with the top two buttons undone. He smiles as I join him and presses his lips to mine. “You look gorgeous as always, but the shoes are throwing me off.”
I am wearing a jade green halter dress with black leather flats. “I knew we’d be walking the four blocks to Basil. And thank you,” I add with a shy smile.
We spend dinner discussing the last few days. Both of us were busy since dinner Tuesday and barely had time to text hello to each other. Afterwards, we head into the bar area and wait for Robin at the end of the bar.
Chase keeps an arm around my waist and an eye out on the door.
I move to face him and lay a hand over his heart. I let a small sigh escape.
“What’s wrong?” he asks with his brow furrowed in unease.
I shake my head. “Nothing.”
He uses his free hand to tip my head up and pierces me with his bright eyes. “Tell me.”
“Nothing is wrong,” I insist. “Unless you being devastatingly handsome is wrong.”
A smile spreads wide across his face. “Only if you being incredibly gorgeous is wrong.”
My temperature rises and I rest my forehead on his shoulder to hide the blushing. Chase kisses my head and caresses my back.
Part of me wishes we were anywhere but here. This moment has me yearning for time alone with Chase instead of waiting for Robin to show up.
“He’s here,” Chase whispers.
I lift my head and turn around. Robin makes his way through the crowded bar in black jeans and a short-sleeve blue henley hanging loose on his torso.
Chase drops his arm from my waist and I hug Robin then he and Chase shake hands. Robin leans into the bar and orders a beer from the bartender.
I notice his shiny boots. “Hey, did you get new Docs?”
He twists his head back, still leaning on the bar. “I polished them.”
“You polished your boots? Is the world ending?” I joke.
“Ha ha.” He rolls his eyes with a little sparkle in the grey irises.
“I see a table opening up. I’m going to grab it,” Chase says, pointing across the bar.
“Okay,” I reply and check where he is pointing. “We’ll be there in a minute.”
He takes our drinks with him. I watch as he crosses the room through the throng, remove his jacket and hang it over the back of the chair before sitting down. If I thought he was devastatingly handsome before, he was even more so now. There is something about a man in a tailored vest that makes him look even better.
Robin snaps his fingers in my face. “Earth to Lara.”
I blink hard. “Sorry.”
“What are you guys drinking?”
“I have a dirty martini, he’s drinking Basil Hayden, neat.”
The bartender sets Robin’s beer in front of him and Robin orders fresh drinks for me and Chase. We join Chase a few minutes later.
“I hear you’re a great cook,” Robin says to Chase after the initial small talk ends.
“It’s my fun time after work,” he says, shrugging his shoulders.
“What else do you do for fun?”
“I run a few mornings a week and check out local artists when I can.”
“Right. Lara said you like art.” Robin takes a swig of his beer without taking his eyes off Chase.
“I do.” Chase takes my hand under the table. “What about you? Lara mentioned you’re in a band.”
I spin my martini glass by the stem between my fingers with my free hand.
“Yep.” He nods. “Punk band. Lara comes to most of our gigs in town. You should join her for one.” I could hear a hint of Robin trying to egg on Chase in his statement.
I shift slightly in my chair.
“I would love to.” Chase releases my hand then drapes his arm on the back of my chair and massages his thumb into my the back of my shoulder.
“We play tomorrow at The Dive.”
Chase looks to me. “Shall we?”
“If you’d like,” I answer and put on a smile.
“We’ll be there,” Chase tells Robin.
“Great,” Robin says a little less than thrilled.
I narrow my eyes at Robin.
“Pardon me,” Chase says standing, his eyes on the bar. “I’ll be right back.”
I wait for Chase to shake another man’s hand at the bar then I lean across the table. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Getting to know Chase,” he says feigning innocence.
“I know you better.” I narrow my eyes at him. “You’re setting him up for something.”
Robin leans in. “He’s obviously likes you, but he’s so…proper.”
“Proper? Just because he likes to cook, supports local artists like Trevor, and takes me to the opera?”
“And his clothes!”
“Dammit, Robin. He’s an investment banker! What’s the difference between how he dresses for work and how I dress for work?”
Robin presses his lips together to form a line. I had him and he knew it.
“We can’t all dress down like you do for the record store,” I remind him.
He averts his eyes and looks past me.
“Yes, Chase is much different than you, but he’s just as attentive and caring. If you can’t see that past your own feelings then maybe this was all a mistake.” I push my chair back quickly and it scrapes against the wood floor.
Robin reaches over and grabs my wrist. “I’m sorry.”
“Damage is done.” I state tartly. “I think you need more time.”
I stand and he looks up at me with sad eyes, pleading for me to stay. He releases my wrist and I pull my purse onto my shoulder then carefully remove Chase’s jacket from his chair.
“He’s buying your affection to get you into bed,” he says flatly, staring at my empty chair.
“Fuck you!” I grab the rest of my martini and throw it in his face.
Chase rushes back, pulling me to him by my waist. I shove his jacket into his chest, still glaring at Robin. He swipes his hand over his face then wipes his hand on his leg.
I bend down close to his ear. “He hasn’t bought me a damned thing and I haven’t slept with him, you ass.”
He turns his head to me with steely eyes. “Maybe you can’t get him into bed because he’s still in the closet,” he returns acidly.
I douse him with his beer then march off with Chase following as Robin jumps up from his seat. Chase folds his jacket in half and gently lays it over his forearm then twines his fingers into mine once we’re outside.
“What were you two whispering about?” he asks as we walk towards my apartment.
I tell him then tears well up and overflow.
He untwines our fingers and pulls me into him by the waist. “I’m sorry, Lara.” He rests his head on mine. “I had hoped we could be friends.”
“Maybe in time,” I say wishfully, then more seriously, “We’ve never fought like this before.”
“I never wanted this to happen,” he says soberly.
“You didn’t do anything,” I remind him. “It’s not your fault he decided to declare his love for me after he found out about you.”
“You know what this night needs?” he asks, looking at me with a glint of mischief in his eyes.
“Chocolate cake.” A grin forms.
“Chocolate cake sounds divine right now.” I smile in return. “Cuppa Joe?”
“Unless there is somewhere else nearby with good chocolate cake you haven’t told me about.”
Half an hour later we’re at my door wrapped up in each other’s arms engaged in a chocolate-y goodnight kiss.
“Thank you,” I say breathily as I slide my hands down from his neck to rest on his biceps.
He touches his forehead to mine. “For what?”
“For being supportive and understanding with all this.” Then add with a grin, “And for the chocolate cake.”
He beams. “I know how you love your chocolate cake.” A long sigh escapes him. “If I could make this better for you, I would.”
I give his biceps a squeeze. “You are making it better. You’re making me want to trust you. That hasn’t happened in a long time.”
One of us has to trust the other first.
A smile returns to his lips and he closes in on my mouth, brushing his lips against mine. I open up and let him in for another chocolate-y kiss.
©Debi Smith, 2014