She’s a feisty, sly marketing exec intent on hiding her small-town roots. He’s a laid-back engineer with a shaggy mutt and a pushy ex.
When Joshua asks Melina out, she asks what kind of car he drives. She’ll do drinks, not dinner. She’s always in control. But with Joshua’s easy confidence and sharp wit, Melina is soon breaking the dating rules she made for herself.
Opposites attract—but friends think Melina and Joshua can’t possibly last. When crisis throws their world off its axis, Melina must confront her childhood family, the people she’s come to care about, and the destruction of her pristine image.
Setup: When Joshua asks Melina out on a date, she asks what kind of car he drives. She wants to pick the place. She’ll do drinks, not dinner. These are a few of the many rules she has about dating. Now, she’s waiting for Joshua to show up for their first date.
Melina perched on a barstool, sipping a pale pink cocktail. She angled her hips to show off her legs and her sleek blonde hair fell in a curtain to her shoulder blades.
Melina knew she could turn heads; it was one of the reasons she always showed up early to a first date. It gave her a chance to scope out the restaurant or bar, make it her turf, and flirt with the bartender to ensure better service.
Often, a man would approach her, and Melina liked that. She liked the excuse, “I’m waiting for someone”—a legitimate way to put off all but the best suitors—and she didn’t mind the possibility that her date might see her chatting with another man at the bar.
It tells them they have competition.
The Belltown restaurant just north of downtown felt like a space age cave, with glossy black surfaces punctuated by sparks from multicolored pendant lights. The bar surface was an expansive, freeform curve, lit from beneath by an orange glow.
Joshua entered the bar and peered through the dim light. Melina turned quickly, her hair sliding across an emerald green silk top.
“So, did you come straight from work?” Melina sized him up, curious about what he did all day. It was nearing the end of happy hour and the bar buzzed with conversation.
“Not exactly—I had to swing by my place for a bit,” Joshua said. Melina wondered if his smart casual shirt and slacks meant he had dressed down from a business suit or simply showed up in what he wore to work. His lean frame was an inch or two shy of six feet, Melina guessed, and he moved with easy grace.
“I live downtown, so it’s not much of a detour,” Joshua explained. “I actually parked in my building and walked here. So, would you like to get a drink?” Seeing her near-finished cocktail, he corrected himself, “Or should I say, another drink?”
Joshua steered Melina toward the hostess, his hand briefly brushing her lower back. Melina felt a shot of electricity from that touch and her head swiveled to look at him more closely. There was some energy, some intensity that she hadn’t immediately seen.
The hostess seated them in the restaurant section and Joshua glanced at the wine list suspiciously fast—either he’s an expert, or he lied and he’s been here before, Melina thought. He asked whether she would like wine or another cocktail.
“White,” she said, automatically.
“What kinds of flavors do you like?”
“You mean, like chardonnay or riesling?”
“No, I mean, do you like sweet or tart? Are your favorite foods usually bitter, like coffee, or salty, like French fries?”
“I’m not sure what that has to do with what I’ll be drinking,” Melina said, a snap creeping into her voice. “I’m not ordering coffee or French fries, but thanks.”
“Sorry, that’s not what I mean,” Joshua’s brow knitted. “I was just going to help you choose a white wine you’d like. A couple on the menu are great, and they’re both local. Do you prefer the flavor of green apples or caramel?”
Melina relaxed. “How about caramel apples?”
Joshua smiled at her small joke.
“I’ll go for the first one, the one with green apples.”
Joshua ordered for both of them and asked for an appetizer. When the waitress returned to take their dinner orders, Melina shook her head no. She was already breaking several rules.
Heidi Joy lives in Happy Valley off Sunnyside Road. She swears she did not make that up.
Heidi’s obsessed with storytelling. Her career includes marketing, journalism, and a delicious few years as a food columnist. Media passes took her backstage with several rock bands, where she learned that sometimes a wardrobe malfunction is exactly what the rock star intends.
You’ll most often find Heidi Joy with her husband and two small kids cooking, fishing, exploring the Northwest, and building epic forts in their living room.
She loves to hear from readers via messages at facebook.com/author.heidi.
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