The following morning, Evelyn waited outside the national park entrance waiting for Preston. She’d come a little early, all morning she’d been a nervous wreck. First dates were always nerve wracking for her. Yes, she and Preston talked at the Mate Me event, but today would be a different environment. Now they were on their own and couldn’t talk to someone else should the date go wrong. She’d decided on a pair of leggings and a tunic. It was cute, but easy to walk in for a trek around the park. She heard a mustang and saw a bright orange one pull into the parking spot next to her car. Preston stepped out and her breath caught. He was wearing a tight fitting exercise shirt of deep blue and basketball shorts. His hair had been left unstyled, which she found rather attractive. Yesterday, he cut a nice figure in his dress clothes, but dressed down she could see his build. Shaking her head, she smiled when he pulled out a backpack.
“Good morning Evelyn,” he called,
“Good morning Preston. How are you today?”
“I’m wonderful now that I am with you,” he replied and leaned over to give her a kiss on the cheek.
“You are sweet. I thought we’d go for a walk until we got hungry and then find a cafe to eat at,” she offered and he smiled.
“What if I’m already hungry for you?” he asked, wrapping an arm around her waist and holding her close. She felt his tiger purr and her body tingled in response. Maybe Roxie was right and she needed to just go with the flow of the date and not think about Anderson anymore.
“Well if you play your cards right, you just might,” she flirted back and slipped out of his grip to head down one of the trails. His rich baritone laugh followed her and they walked along the trails in the national park.
“Tell me about working at the gallery,” Preston probed, he was holding her hand and helping her over a fallen log.
“It is rewarding and challenging. We recently had an artist name Christoff Turgenev show at our gallery. The man was a brilliant artist, but had a large list of demands before he would show any of his work,” she explained wiping a drop of sweat off her forehead.
“What kind of demands?”
“Well he needed vodka laced tea and spent the entire time he was here slightly tipsy. I had to have Xander speak with him once about hitting on me. He kept trying to get sexual favors from me. He told me that was how his artist process worked.” She took a sip of the water bottle she’d brought with her. Preston’s tiger growled and she looked up in shock.
“Sorry. I dislike men you think they can use their position to get sex from people. That was very low of him,” Preston explained, he took her water bottle and took a sip. She stared in surprise that he felt comfortable enough to drink from her water bottle.
“Xander let him know that. He said if he didn’t show his work by Friday of that week, he would be asked to leave and we’d replace him with Roxie,” she shared and Preston laughed.
“Xander would too. I have one of Roxie’s landscapes in my office right now. I love looking at the waterfall she painted. Do you know when she will have another show?”
“Not for a while. She is painting less these days with two month old twins at home,” she explained and he nodded.
“Who is coming next?”
“Evan Matthews, he makes fantasy paintings. I have a print of his in my apartment,” she shared and took a seat on a moss covered rock.
“I’m not familiar with his work.” Preston settled next to her and she took a minute to admire his physic. His arms were muscular and strong looking, his legs sleek. He had his brown hair pushed out of his face and his blue eyes were staring right at her.
“I enjoy his work. He is my favorite beside Roxie. Their work is very different. Roxie does realistic landscapes and Evan paints dragons, griffins, mermaids and other mythical creatures,” she answered.
“I would like to see his work. It sounds like something I’d like to put up in my offices,” he replied and took her hand. She smiled and looking up into his eyes, she let him place a soft kiss to her lips. She was enjoying her walk with him and his kiss was pleasant, but her brain wandered to Anderson and how he made her burn with a simple peck. The kiss stayed soft and sweet until she heard his stomach grumble. Laughing, she looked up in surprise to see him blushing.
“Sorry, I think my stomach is ready for lunch. Do you have a cafe you like to eat at around here?” he asked.
“What kind of food do you like?” she asked giving it some thought.
“I’m up for anything except Mexican food. It gives me major heartburn,” he explained, and she chuckled.
“So no Mexican, I think we can find something. Come on, we need to walk back to the cars.” She stood, and he took her hand walking her back down the rocky trail. They made it back to the cars in fifteen minutes, the entire walk they talked about Preston and how he helped Caroline Jefferson fix up the Clover Leaf Inn. Evelyn hadn’t thought she’d find renovations interesting, but the passion she saw in Preston’s eyes made her intrigued.
“So where should we go? I can drive us over and then bring you back to your car,” he offered.
“How about we go to Mike’s Deli? They make a good deli sandwich and their sweet tea is to die for,” she suggested.
“I like Mike’s,” he replied and opened the passenger door to his sports car. Evelyn sunk into the leather seat and worried about her sweat staining the seat. Anderson’s truck was much more her speed when it came to cars.
“Mike’s it is then,” she replied and buckled in. Preston pulled out of the parking spot at a speed where she had to hold on to the seat or slam into the door.
“Sorry, I should have warned you. I like to go fast. It comes from being a tiger,” he explained and patted her leg. Anderson was a tiger, and he didn’t speed, she thought.
“I’ve only ever spent time with Anderson, so I don’t know much about tiger shifters.”
“We are all different, I remember Anderson from high school. He was fast and spent a lot of time chasing after the cheerleaders,” he said laughing. She gave a strained smile and asked,
“What about you in high school?”
“I was the same. I like to think I have matured and slowed down a bit since then,” he replied and she nodded.
“I think we all have,” she added, and they pulled into the parking lot of Mike’s. What she hadn’t expected was to see Anderson walking out of the deli. Their eyes connected and he stopped short looking between her and Preston and their joined hands.
“Jones! Nice to see you in town for once,” Preston called out and held out his free hand. Anderson nodded and shook his hand.
“Evvy, nice to see you moving on,” he replied with a strained smile.
“Good to see you looking well Anderson,” she replied and let Preston guide her into the deli not looking back. Her heart was pounding a mile a minute as she and Preston ordered their food and settled to wait for it to be ready.
“Is that the first time you two have seen each other?”
“In a few weeks, yes. We broke up in November, but were still physically intimate until just recently. I decided to move on and find someone who wants kids and marriage,” she replied.
“I’d be happy to help you move on. I am enjoying my time with you and would like to see you again if you are agreeable,” he replied.
“I’ve enjoyed talking with you. My next few weeks are going to be crazy busy with my new artist coming in and my older brother got engaged. I have to drive up to Philadelphia for his engagement party to Alexis. She is from a family with lots of money and my mother is panicking about making sure our side of the family doesn’t embarrass her,” she shared and took a sip of her sweet tea.
“Congratulations,” he replied, and she shook her head.
“I am not looking forward to a long weekend of engagement party plans. I can’t even imagine what their wedding it going to be like.”
“Well, Luke and Alexis have only been together for six months and last time I saw them they were all over each other. I know my brother Victor has his own girlfriend Jeanie who he has been dating for almost three years and I will be the only one without a date,” she explained.
“If you want, I can come with you,” he offered, and she looked up in surprise.
“Sure. I want to spend more time getting to know you. I know meeting the family is a big step, but I’d be happy to help.” He reached over and took one of her hands in his.
“Thanks, I’ll think about it and let you know. Maybe we can find a few nights to go out for drinks to get to know each other better,” she suggested, and he smiled, kissing her knuckles.
“I look forward to it,” he replied, and they settled to eat their sandwiches and talk about the upcoming engagement party and their similar movie interests.
Her date with Preston, what do you think?