As Evan approached the entrance of the restaurant, his phone dinged, indicating someone had texted him. He parked and picked up his phone from the center console.
I’m sorry for the late notice, but I can’t make it to dinner tonight. Emma will still be there. Have fun!
Evan’s brows narrowed. Natasha wasn’t coming. He looked at the time on his phone. It was 6:02 PM. Nothing like a late notice, he thought. He turned off the ignition and hesitantly walked toward the entry door of The Coastal View.
Evan opened the door and stepped into the lobby. Directly in front of him stood a woman at the hostess stand with her back to him. At first glance, he noticed her light brown hair sitting softly on her shoulders. A knee-length, yellow sundress complimented her curvy backside. He hoped that the woman standing in front of him was Emma.
“Excuse me. Are you, Emma?”
Her natural beauty immediately floored him.
“Yes, I’m Emma.”
“Oh, hey. I’m Evan.” He reached out with his right hand, and she held up hers to shake it. Her hands were soft, and he couldn’t help but stare attentively into her big, hazel eyes as they touched.
“Hi. Is Natasha behind you?” Emma looked past him. It was apparent that Natasha hadn’t told her she wasn’t coming.
With arched brows, he slowly withdrew his hand. “She didn’t call you?”
“No. Is she okay?” she asked, seemingly concerned.
“Oh, I don’t think anything is wrong. She told me that she couldn’t make it.”
Emma raised an eyebrow. “Oh, no, she didn’t tell me that.”
Feeling his blood pressure rise, he silently wondered if she wanted to continue with their date. “Do you still want to have dinner?”
“Umm, sure, of course.” Emma turned back to the hostess. “Just two.”
Evan caught sight of the hostess, a brunette with long curls and a strong, southern accent. Her name tag read Samantha. She was cute, but in no way did she compare to Emma’s natural beauty. She looked familiar, but Evan couldn’t place her.
“Right this way.” The hostess smiled and gathered two menus from the wall shelf next to the stand. She turned and led them outside to a booth overlooking the river.
Evan let Emma sit down first, and then he took his seat across from her.
“Your server will be right with you.” Samantha turned to leave, but not before brazenly winking at him with a flirtatious smirk.
He looked at Emma to see if she had noticed, but she hadn’t as far as he could tell. “Tell me about yourself, Emma.”
Emma’s grin lit up the room. “Let’s see, I’m from New Hampshire, I work in real estate, I have a cat named Toby, and I like to run.”
I hate cats, Evan thought. “I’ve run three marathons,” he responded, choosing not to mention the fact that he not only hated cats, but he was also allergic to them.
“Wow! Three marathons? I haven’t worked my way up to one of those yet, but I have done a half marathon.”
“Is your family here in Florida?” Evan asked, turning the subject back to Emma.
She shook her head with no further elaboration, which made Evan think she didn’t want to discuss her family. Instead, she spent the next hour telling Evan about her job and why she moved to Florida.
Evan found himself thinking that he could listen to her talk all day.
“Oh my gosh, I have talked for nearly an hour!” she exclaimed, looking at her watch. “I’ve barely touched my dinner.”
“I like hearing you talk.” Evan smiled. “No offense to Natasha, but I’m glad she didn’t come.”
“Me too.” Emma blushed. “Tell me, what do you like to do?”
Evan thought for a moment before responding. “I like to run, and I like to travel. I go out of town a lot for my job, which is a perk.”
“Where do you go?” Emma asked and took a bite of her salad.
“I go to New York a lot. Sometimes my company will send me to the west coast, but usually, I’ll stay on the east coast.” The fact was, Evan hadn’t traveled for his company in a year. However, he did travel out of town occasionally to meet someone from dontaskdonttell.com.
“That sounds fun. I don’t travel much. It seems that whenever I take a vacation, that’s when my phone starts ringing off the hook. That’s the downfall of working in real estate, I guess.”
“Well,” Evan said while laughing, “we’ll have to change that. I see a mini-vacation in the future.”
“That would be nice.” Emma smiled and took another bite of her grilled chicken salad.
After dinner, the waiter laid the check on the table. Evan quickly grabbed it and fished for his wallet in his pants pocket.
“Can I chip in?” Emma asked.
“No, absolutely not,” he declared, shaking his head. “It was my pleasure having dinner with you tonight. Please allow me.” Evan laid enough cash on the table to cover the bill and tip. “Shall we?” He stood and held his hand out for Emma, helping her out of her seat.
Emma took his hand and slid out of the booth, smiling up at him. “Thank you,” she barely whispered.
The two walked to the front door of the restaurant, hand in hand.
“Enjoy your evening,” The hostess stridently announced from behind the stand.
“We certainly will,” Emma responded coldly.
Evan didn’t turn back to see the hostess, but from the sound of Emma’s response, there was tension between the two of them. He assumed that Emma had seen her wink at him, and she didn’t like it one bit.
Evan couldn’t shake the thought that the hostess looked familiar. Indeed, he would have remembered her by her accent, but he didn’t.
“Where are you parked?” Evan asked, opening the restaurant door for Emma.
“Over here,” she responded and pointed to the direction of her vehicle.
When they got to her car, they stopped, and Emma turned to him. “I honestly didn’t want to come tonight, but I’m happy that I did.” She spoke softly.
Evan could tell she was nervous. He chuckled, trying to ease her nerves. “Natasha was hell-bent on setting us up, and I honestly thought something might be wrong with you because she sounded so desperate.” That was not entirely true, but he certainly didn’t want Emma to think he was desperate for a date, and he thought teasing her might make her less anxious.
“What?!” She softly punched his shoulder. “So? Was she right?”
Evan stopped smiling. “You talk a lot, but I like that.”
Before Emma could respond, Evan leaned in to kiss her. Her lips were soft and warm, and it was apparent to him she had just applied lip gloss. “Is that strawberry lip gloss?” he asked after pulling away.
“You need to learn your lip glosses. It’s cherry.” Emma’s tension seemed to fade. “Do you want to come back to my place?”
Holy shit. Don’t sound desperate, he thought. “Absolutely! Where do you live?”
“I just moved off of Regal, near the beach.”
Right by me, he thought. “I only live a block south of you.”
“Perfect! You won’t get lost.”
After getting into his car, he turned on the ignition and watched Emma from his driver’s side window. She was in her car, looking down at her phone, undoubtedly texting Natasha about their evening. He was hoping she was saying good things. Surely she would be; otherwise, she wouldn’t have invited him back to her house.
Emma pulled out of the parking lot. With a much-needed inflated ego, he eagerly followed closely behind to continue his evening with Emma.