With a sigh, she pitched the bare stem in the trash can and then scooped up the pile of petals. They were soft, like the lapel of Eric’s jacket—totally unlike what she’d felt underneath that jacket when she’d wrapped her arms around him. Her body heated as she remembered running her fingers over the lean muscles of his back. She closed her eyes and recreated their brief embrace. His hands had been soothing and warm as he rubbed them up and down her spine. And that smell. He smelled fantastic. Soap and starch and dry-cleaned suit. Before she got carried away, she opened her eyes, still clutching the shredded petals. In a white blizzard, she let them flutter into the trash can.
When Eric had walked into her office with that gorgeous floral arrangement and equally gorgeous brown eyes, she’d hoped it was a gift from him. That a guy had noticed her in real life and not hunted for a suitable hookup based on a profile from a dating website. But that wasn’t the case. She brushed her hands together to dislodge a few remaining petals. Didn’t really matter, anyway. He was a lawyer, and besides the firm’s non-fraternization policy, all lawyers were off the table.
Her office phone buzzed and she picked up. “Your appointment is here, Ms. Dixon.”
Ah, yes. Her nine o’clock. Mother of two trying to collect child support from her deadbeat husband who had run off with his best friend’s wife. Followed at ten by a man who was trying to get sole custody of his daughter due to his ex-wife’s tendency to disappear for weeks at a time. Then, her afternoon was full with depositions of a couple trying to nickel and dime each other to death before the division of property could be agreed upon, who were never going to be happy no matter what the outcome was.
She pushed the intercom button on the phone. “Go ahead and send the first appointment back.”
Smoothing her hair, she stood, then buttoned her jacket. Raising her chin, she took a deep breath, mentally hardening her heart and putting up her emotional shield.
Maybe she was lucky. Perhaps never making a second date was a good thing…
No. She refused to let this job get to her. Instead, she decided to focus on the positive. Maybe Eric would set her up with a vet or someone who loved animals like she did. Someone nice, and patient, who would appreciate her for who she was outside of this office.
“You’re shitting me, right?” Alastair, the bartender at Eric’s favorite local pub, slid another Heineken his way. “You want me to go out with some lawyer you know from work? You can’t be serious.”
“Dead serious. I’d really appreciate it.” Eric grabbed a handful of peanuts and popped them into his mouth. Alastair was the perfect choice. Friendly, outgoing, good looking, with a cool Australian accent.
“What’s wrong with her?”
Alastair dried a wine glass he’d just washed. “Not buying it. Gotta be something wrong with her, or else we wouldn’t be having this discussion.” He hung the glass on the rack above the bar.
Eric took a swallow of beer, choosing his words carefully. “She’s beautiful and smart. There’s nothing wrong with her.” He couldn’t believe he was actually having this conversation. Even more unbelievable was the fact he was trying to secure a date for a girl he’d wanted since the first time she’d walked by his office door. “She’s perfect.”
He was either too convincing or not convincing enough, because Alastair’s eyebrows shot up. “Perfect, huh?”
Afraid of giving himself away, he answered with a simple nod.
The bartender pitched his towel over the edge of the bar sink. “Why aren’t you taking her out, then?”
There went the eyebrows again.
“She doesn’t date lawyers.” Eric took another pull on his beer.
“But she is a lawyer.”
“Yeah, ironic, huh? Look, just do me a solid and take her out for dinner tomorrow. You already said you had the night off.”
“Gave up my best shift to watch the rugby match on TV, not go out with some lawyer who can’t find a date for herself.”
Ouch. “Look, Alastair. Record the match. She’s so much better than rugby or anything else you had planned.” He winced at the look of pity thrown his way. Surely, he wasn’t that transparent. He’d promised her a date. He had to deliver. Time for the nuclear option. “How about I pay for dinner?”
The bartender leaned close. “So, let me get this straight. I take a woman you’re hot for out to dinner, and you pay for it?”
“I’m not hot for her.”
“And all along I thought lawyers were supposed to be skilled liars.”
Shit, shit, shit.
Alastair took Eric’s empty beer bottle and pitched it in the trash. “So, my question is no longer what’s wrong with her.” He wiped the area in front of Eric and placed his hands on the edge of the bar. “The real question is, what’s wrong with you?”
If Alastair and Jane hit it off, Eric would have to watch his best friend with a woman he’d wanted since the moment he laid eyes on her. What was wrong with him? Everything.
“Your friend’s accent is amazing,” Jane said from the doorway of Eric’s office the next day. “He asked me out for dinner tonight.”
Eric’s stomach gave a churn as he calmly set his pen down, determined not to let his misgivings show. “That’s fantastic!” At least Alastair had made good on his promise to give her a call.
“Yeah, and he’s taking me to MacLandon’s Steakhouse.”
Figured he’d take her to a ridiculously expensive restaurant. “One of my favorite places.”
Her grin was contagious. “Really? Mine, too.”
“I’m glad it worked out.”
Just when he thought she couldn’t be more attractive in her fitted, navy business suit, she laughed. Not a chuckle, but a full-blown laugh that made her face light up and her eyes sparkle. He’d give anything to see her laugh like that again.
“Oh, don’t speak too soon. I’m sure I’ll mess it up somehow.”
“I expect a full report.” He raised an eyebrow in jest, but inside gave his forehead a slap.
“I’ll spare you none of the gory details.”
There were lots of details from which he’d like to be spared. Like if his friend kissed her…or more. He picked up the pen to give his hands something to do other than clench into fists.