Home > The New Boss(8)

The New Boss(8)
Author: Penny Wylder

It’s something that feels almost old-fashioned now with email, but I didn’t want to go the whole weekend without talking to her. And now that we’ve been texting, I don’t want to go the whole weekend without seeing her either.

A response comes through.

 

I think that can probably be arranged.

 

Let me take you to dinner tonight?

 

There are the little typing bubbles, and then they stop. It’s already afternoon, and on a Saturday. She might already have plans. As much as I want to see her, I’m not arrogant enough to assume that she wouldn’t have weekend plans after five days working for me.

 

Well, if I don’t go out, all I’m going to be doing is obsessing over lines and my audition tomorrow, so when and where?

 

I smile at the phone and text her the address of one of my favorite restaurants. If we were a little deeper into this, I’d insist on picking her up. Hopefully I’ll be dropping her off. Or even better, taking her back to my place.

Shaking my head, I put the phone down and decide to take my time getting ready with a nice long shower. I can’t believe that I’m texting—flirting—with someone over text. I haven’t done that since…

I unintentionally wince at the awful memory. That doesn’t have any place getting dragged out right now. Not when Brooke and I are going to have a nice time. Shoving the memory down, I make a promise not to think about her the rest of the night.

Le Outre is a restaurant that I was introduced to when I first moved to L.A., and it’s remained one of my favorites. Not because of the exclusivity or price, but because the food is genuinely delicious, and it’s one of the few restaurants of its kind that’s still family owned. The Otero family owns a few restaurants that I frequent. It doesn’t matter if I have a reservation or not, they’ll make room for me.

Anton was all smiles when I showed up early and asked for a table for two. The bastard knows that I usually dine alone, or I make a point of telling them that it’s a business dinner. This time…he knew without me telling him.

Now I’m waiting outside for Brooke, but each car that pulls up, I don’t see her. Until I do. She’s walking down the sidewalk in a simple blue dress that sets off her skin and hair and God, I almost wish that we weren’t in public about to have dinner so I can show her how much I appreciate the view.

She’s fucking gorgeous. The light breeze off the ocean is blowing her hair back. Her heels are even higher than the ones that she’s been wearing to the office, and she only has eyes for me. I’m seeing visions of her legs over my shoulders while wearing nothing but those heels, and the smirk on her face tells me that she knows exactly that.

I don’t care that we’re in public, and I don’t care that there are people who might know who I am and see us together. As soon as she’s in my orbit, I pull her close and kiss the hell out of her. It’s simply not an option to not be touching this woman. This tornado of a woman who literally crashed into my life and turned it entirely upside down.

“Hello,” I say the words against your lips.

“Hi. Sorry I’m a little late, these shoes are more for looks than they are for walking.”

I look down at the shoes to get a better look. Black heels a mile high, ribbons wrapping around her ankles. Fuck, they’re hot. “Why were you walking?”

She laughs lightly. “Bus stop.”

My stomach drops, and I tighten my arms around her instinctively. “You wore this on the bus?”

“That’s what you do in L.A. if you don’t have a car. There’s a subway, too.” She’s smirking, teasing me because I’m rich. And as much as I love that, I don’t want her riding the bus looking so fucking appealing.

“I’ll be driving you home tonight,” I say. “I don’t want those heels on the bus.”

Brooke laughs. “At least feed me before talking about taking me home.”

“I’ll do more than that.” I keep my arm around her waist as I turn and walk with her into the restaurant.

“Perfection!” Anton exclaims, his Italian accent out in full force. “Your table is ready, Malcolm. And you,” he turns to Brooke. “You know how long we’ve been trying to bring a woman here? All the time, he’s here alone and we ask him when he’s going to settle down with a nice lady. And here you are.”

On my arm, Brooke blushes.

“Don’t give away all my secrets, Anton.”

He smiles as he leads us into the restaurant. “You already know, Malcolm. There are no secrets among Italians.”

I look down, fully expecting Brooke to be smiling, but she’s not. She’s looking around and taking everything in. But more than that, she looks nervous. The only time that I’ve ever seen her look nervous was that first night when we were dancing around each other, and that didn’t last very long.

Her fingers are tight where they’re wrapped around mine. I didn’t notice her grab my hand, but I like the way this feels. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I simply enjoyed something like holding hands.

Anton takes us to a table by the windows that overlooks the beach and the ocean, and I help her sit. I wait until Anton takes his leave before I ask her, “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”

Rolling my eyes, I lean across the table and capture her hand. “Earlier this afternoon I was just thinking about how you’re one of the most vibrantly honest people that I know. It’s what makes you such a brilliant actor. But it also makes it incredibly easy to tell when you’re lying. That, and I deal with people who are trying to lie to me on a daily basis. So what’s wrong?”

Brooke blushes again and pulls her hand away. She looks down at her fingers, fidgeting with the ring that she’s wearing. “I just feel a little out of place. I’ve never been here before, and I’m wearing a dress that cost like twenty dollars at a thrift store.”

“Could have fooled me.”

She smiles, but it fades fast. “I took the bus here. And I don’t mind…I just…I’m not used to this.”

It takes a fraction of a second to make the decision. I raise my hand and a waiter appears. “Get Anton for me?”

Our host appears, immediate concern on my face. “Is everything all right?”

I nod. “We decided we want a little change in scenery. Can you call ahead to Marco?”

“Yes.” The man grins and looks between the two of us. “He’ll have everything ready for you two. I’ll have your car pulled around.”

Brooke looks at me with wide eyes. “We don’t—I didn’t mean that we have to leave.”

“I know.” I take her hand and pull her to standing. “But there’s another place that I like just as much. It’s not far from here, and I think you’ll be more comfortable. Not that I don’t want you to experience the food here—it’s amazing—but for our first date I don’t want you to feel awkward.”

“Feels a little weird to call this our first date, given this week.”

“True. But who cares if we did it backwards? Now we don’t have to spend hours of small talk just to see if we have good chemistry.” I lean close. “We already know that we have plenty of that.”

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