I kept on peering at the corner of my computer, which was unlike me. Last night, I barely agreed to have dinner with Dean. But after talking with Zoey, I understood what she meant.
“Are you ready?”
I jolted slightly.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to surprise you.” He apologized.
“Ah, yes. But give me few minutes to settle this one thing, and then we’ll go.” I said and started piling papers and clearing out my desk.
“Do you need a hand, again?” He coyly offered.
I rolled my eyes and waved him away. “I’m fine. Just make sure you know where we’re going? You did offer to cut down our waiting time by calling in a reservation.”
He laughed, which caught Albert and Greg’s attention. They were huddled by the security booth, so they didn’t notice Dean and me chatting by the reception desk.
“Yes. I do remember. And I already called for a reservation earlier while you were away.” He smugly replied.
I arched my eyebrow but didn’t question further. “So lunch is set, then?”
He held a thumbs up and winked. “We’re good.”
I looked away bashfully, and grabbed my purse. Then I stood up and cleared my throat. “Good. Then, let’s go.” I gestured towards the elevator.
“Are you ready to go now?” He looked surprised and confused.
“Yes. Why do you look surprised?”
“Well, that was quick unlike last night…” he muttered and excused himself. “Let me tell Albert and Greg I’m taking my lunch break with you.”
“I thought you were ready, Mr. Garcia. That’s disappointing and not a good impression on you, considering you’ve insisted on having lunch with me.” I said amusingly.
He snorted and smirked. “Don’t be cheeky with me, Ms. Nolan. I thought you’d take another ten minutes to finish up these…” he paused and gestured on the pile of papers on my desk.
“I’m not always like that.” I bashfully pointed out, since he was right. “Maybe.” I added in a whisper, mostly to myself.
“Then I apologize for thinking you were that kind of woman.” He winked and signaled to give him a moment.
I walked around the reception desk as Dean approached Albert and Greg, who was glancing between us.
“What’s up you two?” Greg asked as Dean approached them.
I stopped in the middle of the room, giving them a space to talk.
“May I take my lunch break with Amy today, Albert?” Dean asked Albert instead of answering Greg.
Albert stared at Dean for a second before peered around him towards me. I caught his eyes and I understood his silence. I nodded. He arched his eyebrow in reply. With a subtle grin, he nodded.
“You may go, Dean. Take care of Amy for us.” Albert said.
Greg looked confused for a moment. It wasn’t until Dean turned around and held out his hand to me he understood what was happening.
“Wait! Are you two…”
We didn’t hear his complete reaction and spontaneous outburst as Dean and I got in the elevator. The handful of people with us were as confused to hear a muffled cheer as we descended down the lobby. Beside me, Dean was coughing to hide his amusement. I had to bit my lips to hold it in as well.
Dean took the lead once we walked of the lobby. Without much thought, he took my hand and guided me towards the slightly crowded street of busy metropolitan Chicago. I didn’t react fast enough. If I pulled away, it would send a different meaning, and I did like it a bit. Though, my attention was quick averted when I started inquired about where we were going. Yet Dean wasn’t willing to give up the location too soon. Since we were walking, I guessed the restaurant we’re dining was close.
Nearly five minutes later, and in near five inch heels, I had enough of walking.
“Are we close?” I asked impatiently. And maybe, my exasperation might have been rooted on the fact I didn’t know where we were going.
Dean looked at me and smiled. “It’s just around the corner.”
I grunted. “I sure hope so.”
He might have overheard my muttered response since he started chuckling. But as promised, it was just around the corner. It was a five block walk from the office. He gestured towards the restaurant, which was packed with customers inside and outside waiting to be seated. It was then my stress disappeared.
“I hope you’re fond of all day breakfast meals.” He stated.
I grinned. “I am. You guessed that right, thankfully.”
He sighed in relief. And playfully wiped off the sweat on his forehead. “Great. I’m glad.” He smirked. “Then, shall we?”
We didn’t join the line by the door and walked up to the maître d’. Upon seeing Dean, the man’s face lit up and head out his hand for what seemed to be a personal signature handshake. “Dean, I’m glad to see you’re back in town.” The maître d’ said.
“I’m glad to be back, Josh. But I’m afraid I’ve been back for quite some time now.” He shyly admitted.
“Yeah, yeah. I heard from the boys. But you’ve been bustling and helping out the old man.”
“Yes, I am. I’m handling the business while he’s recuperating.”
“And how’s he? Is he good?” Josh sound worried.
“He’s been better.” Dean said sincerely.
“Great!” It was then Josh noticed me. “Oh, is this why you’ve reserved a seat today?” He whispered to Dean. But I was close enough to eavesdrop on what he said.
Dean glanced back and smiled at me. “Do you have our table?” He asked as he turned back to him.
Josh beamed. He couldn’t avert his judging eyes. “This way, please.”
On the way to our table, I noticed he kept on between Dean and me. When I caught his gaze, he smiled like a mischievous child. I tried not to read too much on it. But as we sat down on a corner seat, a bit private from the packed room, Josh dropped his innocent act.
He lightly patted Dean’s shoulder after handing us the menu. “Have fun on the date, Dean.”
Without waiting for his response, Josh walked back to his station by the door. Dean looked baffled. I hid my expression behind the huge menu. But Dean noticed that.
“I didn’t tell him this was a date.” He said defensively, and a bit ashamed by his friend’s teasing.
“Of course.” I tried to pass it off calmly before adding fuel to the fire. “Do you always bring your date to this place? Seeing as your wingman can hook you up a good seat.”
“I’m…I don’t bring my dates… I mean, it’s not like I haven’t before… but I don’t always…” As he started stuttering, he stopped talking altogether.
This was the first time I saw Dean looked speechless. He intelligible reply on most of topics I brought up. So this was a treat.
“I’m so sorry for putting you on the spotlight like that. It was there. And I feel like I had too.” I chuckled teasingly.
He sighed and nodded. “It was. And I’ll let you get one pass on that.”
“Thank you. That’s sweet of you.”
He peered up at me and grinned. “I’m glad I’m amusing you.”
I rolled my eyes and put down the menu. “So, tell me, what’s good to eat here? Since you come here often.” I teased again.
I laughed and shook his head. He let that go as well and give me a couple of meal to choose from that he taught I might like.
The lunch date ended up even more interesting than the office dinner date last night. Dean and I talked about everything that comes to mind. I asked him about something personal. And vice versa, I told him my story as well.
“The truth is had no educational goals in college. I took economics because I had a friend in college that talked me into it. It wasn’t after working a couple of odd jobs after graduation that I landed my first secretarial job. It was an internship at first. But then I got hooked. I liked filing papers, answering call, and just meeting people.” I said and smiled at the memory. “Though it contradictory of my personal life. I liked being at home on my day-off.”
“And you never wanted to try anything else? At least once?” He asked in interest.
“No. I liked what I do.” I admitted.
“Not many people can say they liked what they do for a living.”
“True.” I nodded. “And how about you? Why do you do what you do?” I asked.
He was quiet for a moment. Like he was collecting his thought. “Well, I think I choose this path because I’ve always admired my uncle. He serviced in the Chicago police department for three decades. Then, he retired to help his old friend with his private security business, which they both own now.”
“And from that, how did you end up working for the bureau?”
I looked surprised. “You remembered that?”
“I did.” I shyly replied.
He paused again and considered for a moment whether to reply. In the end, he did. “Well, I was recruited by them.”
“And how do you get recruited by people like that?” I pressed further, though from his expression, he didn’t want to talk more on that matter.
“At twenty-six, I became a crime scene investigator for the state of Michigan. After couple of years of services, I led a couple of high profile cases.” He smugly grinned.
“Wow. Your parents must be proud.” I remarked.
“They are. Though they’re more proud when I got offered a job by the bureau at the age of thirty, and I just finished my master in psychology.” He cheekily added.
“Hearing all of this, I should be weary or scared, but I’m not. I don’t get that vibe from you. I thought people who worked in law enforcement would be more intimidating.” I said.
He laughed. “We are. On the job, I am.”
“How does being an FBI agent got you in a bartending job and a store clerk?” I inquired, remembering our other meetings.
“I told you. I was never either of those. I was only helping out a friend on that birthday night of yours. And I help out my aunt whenever I can.” He said. “That’s all in the past. I’ve resigned from the Bureau after my uncle’s diagnosis, so I’m just a bodyguard now.” His shoulder slumped in resignation.
So I had to ask. “Do you miss it, working for the bureau?”
He looked startled, but regained his composure. “I do. A bit.”
“Then why…?” he held up his hand, stopping me from finishing the question.
“However, I don’t regret resigning. Since I started my job at the police department in Michigan, I’ve been home at least five times. Mind you, I graduated at the academy in my early twenties.” He paused but I didn’t interrupt him. I knew he still had more to say.
“Also after I graduated high school, I haven’t seen my parents.” His voice was so low and soft, I nearly missed what he said. Then he shared his shoulder and smiled. “Even if it’s not the same work environment, I actually got a good bargain by leaving that prestigious job. And of course,” he paused and gestured at me. “I met you, which is a bonus for me.” He winked flirtatiously.
I held back my desire to ask for more. This was, technically, our second date. But I didn’t care. Whatever rule that applied on what to do on date I’ve thrown out of my mind. In fact, I had a pressing matter to bring up. After my conversation with Zoey this morning, I wanted an answer as well.
“Dean, can I be frank with you?” I asked when we were ready to bill out.
He nodded. “Sure. It’s all I wanted from the start.”
I smiled. Yet my heart was racing in fear what I had to say. “What we have here, can it be casual? Or at least… uhm… can we start in friendly terms?”
Dean kept a steady gaze on me. His poker face was unchanging. Then without beat, he nodded. “Sure, of course. I’m not in a rush. And I’m here because I do like your company.”
I felt like a weight lifted out of my chest. In the back of my head, there was a slight disappointment on his response that I wasn’t aware at the moment.
“Oh… thank you. And I’m also here for the company too.” I playfully quipped.
“Is that what you were worried about to ask me?” He chuckled. “I felt bad for having you feel uncomfortable all this time, Amy.”
“No. I wasn’t uncomfortable at all. It’s just that…” I tried to right words to say it. “…I didn’t know whether we were seeing eye to eye about… uhm,” I paused and gestured between us. “… about this between us.”
He laughed. “Amy, we’re adults. If you want to say something, just say it, or else there will be miscommunication.”
“Right.” I smirked. “And how about you? Do you have anything you want to say to me?” I asked.
“Well, I’m okay with being friends as long as I still get to take you out for lunch or dinner. And talk to you like this,” he replied.
“But do you have…?” I trailed off, not wanting to make any assumptions.
He shook his head and called the waiter for our bill. “I just want to get to know you, Amy. That’s all.”
My face felt flushed how he understood what I meant. “Good. And I do want to get to know you too, Dean.”
“That’s good enough for me.” He winked.
We left the restaurant after paying the bill. Dean insisted on footing the bill again, to my dismay. It didn’t bother me for long when Dean sneakily grabbed hold of my hand as we walked back to the company building. The moment he reached out, I didn’t know what to do. Thankfully, he was walking a step ahead, which gave me the advantage to hide my stunned expression. At the same time, I couldn’t see the expression on his face. Although, I faintly saw his ears turning a bit red.
There was hardly any words exchange as we’ve arrived at the lobby. By then, I expected Dean to let go. He didn’t. Not even when we entered the elevator, and also when we descended up towards the office floor. I didn’t have the guts to let go first too. Suddenly, a moment too close, he squeezed my hand and let go as elevator doors opened to our floor.
“Ladies first.” He gestured for me to go ahead.
I had little confidence to peer up in his direction. From the feeling of stares inside and outside the elevator as I walked out, I had to pretend to keep my cool. It was unsettling. I didn’t understand why I was reacting this way. A couple of minutes ago I was sure of what I intended for this relationship. The walk back here with our hands intertwined made me reconsider for a moment. I started to feel more, to want more than I hoped.
Once I was back on my desk, with Dean closely beside me as he took the empty seat on my right, I grew more conscious of him. This was bad. This was not what I thought it was when I decided to be just friends. This aren’t feelings you should be having towards your new friends at all. What now?
Thank you for reading. I apologize if this has a lot of grammar mistakes. I'm currently on vacation and have little time to do edits.