Blane’s Story – Chapter One, Part One
Chapter One, Part One
If there was something that made a man leap to his feet faster than having a waitress dump a full glass of ice water in his lap, Blane Kirk didn’t know what it would be. Maybe coffee instead of water? No, a steak knife would probably get the quickest reaction time.
These thoughts flew through Blane’s head as the waitress stood, aghast, her mouth open in a round O of horror, frozen in place. Blane’s tamped down his irritation. It wasn’t as though she’d done it on purpose, and dumping water in the lap of the senior senator from Massachusetts wasn’t something she’d be bragging about. Or hell, maybe she would. Nowadays, you never knew.
The waitress found her tongue. “I’m so sorry, senator!” She snatched a linen napkin from the table and took a hurried step toward Blane, her eyes fixed on Blane’s crotch.
Blane snagged the napkin from her fingers before the unthinkable happened. Being groped by a waitress wasn’t an unwelcome option—especially one as pretty as this—but not in public.
“I’ve got it,” he said, dryly. “Where’s your men’s room?”
“Um, yes, of course,” she stammered, her face a shade whiter than the napkin Blane held. “I’ll show you myself.”
She spun on her heel, but Blane stopped her with a hand clamped to her shoulder. He certainly didn’t need to be led to the bathroom. “Just point the way.”
“Out to the door, turn right, then left down the hallway.”
Blane turned to the two men still sitting at the table. Both had identical grimaces on their faces, no doubt thanking their lucky stars that Blane and not themselves had been the recipient of the impromptu dousing.
“Gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me.” It was hard to pull off sophistication when your trousers looked as though you’d had an unfortunate bladder accident, but he managed.
The men’s room had an attendant who took one look and dug out a blow dryer from underneath the vanity. “If you please, sir. I’ll take care of that for you.” He was older, maybe mid-fifties, and by the way he hadn’t batted an eye, he’d probably seen it all. This being one of the most expensive restaurants in D.C., Blane bet he could write a book on it.
Blane disappeared into one of the cubicles, discarded his now soaked briefs, and handed the pants over the door to the attendant. Cooling your heels in a bathroom stall in socks, shirt, tie, and jacket while naked from the waist down was life’s way of making sure you stayed humble, Blane decided, listening to the hum of the dryer.
Ten minutes later, he was back in dry clothes—albeit going commando—and adjusting his tie in the mirror. He handed the attendant a twenty.
“Thanks for your help.”
The corridor outside the bathroom was empty and quiet, enough so that Blane could hear a hissed conversation as he neared the opening to the dining room.
“…could you be so damn clumsy! He’s a fucking senator, for God’s sake! If someone snapped a photo, it’ll be all over Page Six tomorrow! Do you think a man like that is ever going to come here again if he’s turned into a laughingstock by some sorry excuse for a waitress? You’re fired. Get out now.”
Blane paused, glancing over his shoulder to where the manager was berating the woman who’d dumped water on him. She looked near tears, but held them back. Her jaw was clenched and she stood ramrod straight, her chin tipped up. Her hands were in fists at her side and there were two bright spots of color on her cheeks.
“There you are,” Blane said, turning and heading toward them. His smile came easily, as a politician’s always did. He’d had years of practice.
He clapped a hand on the manager’s shoulder, perhaps a bit too tight. “I wanted to tell you what a fine establishment you have here. And a fantastic staff.”
“Th-thank you,” the man stammered. He had a moustache that looked too tired to be bothered.
“What’s your name?”
“Theodore, sir. Theodore Morgan.”
An arrogant prick’s name. Blane squeezed and Theodore winced slightly, forcing a smile.
“Well, Teddy,” Blane glanced at the girl’s nametag, “Anne gave me a dose of humility today, something more people in this town could use. I’m going to have to insist she’s my server every time I come in.” He raised his eyebrows in question. “Is that all right with you?” he asked her.
Her eyes were wide with surprise and it took her a moment to respond. With a quick glance at her boss, she said, “Of course, senator. It would be my pleasure.”
“Then it’s settled.” He smiled again at the manager. “You don’t mind, do you, Teddy?”
Teddy’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. He looked slightly sick. “Absolutely not, sir. I’ll make sure it happens.”
Blane slapped him on the back and Teddy stumbled forward a half step. “I knew I could count on you, Teddy.” He turned to the girl. “Anne, would you bring our table a bottle of the Cheval-Blanc 2011?”
Anne gave a jerky nod, her ponytail bobbing. “Right away, senator.”
“Perfect.” That ought to shut Teddy up. And also stick it to the lobbyists at his table who’d pick up the tab. They’d spent weeks hounding his office for a meeting. For some reason, they thought he’d be more sympathetic to their cause because he was a former lawyer himself. As if you couldn’t throw a rock in this city without hitting a politician who was a former lawyer.
The two men were patiently waiting when he sat back down at the table. A fresh place had been set for him and he unfolded his napkin. With an elaborate flick of the fabric, he settled it across his lap.
“Just in case she’s still feeling jittery,” he joked. “I’d advise you two to do the same.”
The men laughed, tossing a few jokes at his expense, as he’d known they would. He’d just rather they do it to his face than behind his back, and self-deprecation was always a good tool. Blane laughed along with them as Anne materialized at his side, holding a bottle of wine and a corkscrew.
“Your wine, senator.”
Anne presented the thousand-dollar bottle of wine with a careful grip. If she spilled this, the senator would probably fire her himself.
He looked it over and gave a small nod. Anne began uncorking the bottle. To her relief, she managed the task without incident and poured a taste into the senator’s glass. He took a careless sip and nodded again. She released a breath and filled his glass, then his two companions.
“Are you gentlemen ready to order?”
The two men with the senator rubbed Anne all the wrong way. They each ordered, asking detailed questions about ingredients and preparations of dishes, before deciding on something else entirely. They were giving her a hard time on purpose, she realized. But it took more than two assholes to make her lose her cool. She answered their questions and memorized their orders, with all their modifications and changes.
“Absolutely,” she assured one of them. “I’ll be sure to notify the chef to refrain from adding any garlic to your haricot verts.”
She stiffened as she turned to the senator. If anyone had an excuse to give her trouble, it would be him. But he’d intervened with Teste Teddy—nicknamed such by the staff because of the rumor he’d lost a testicle to an unfortunate salsa dancing accident—to save her job. She needed this job. She was one paycheck away from having to run home to daddy with her tail between her legs and an overdrawn bank account in hand.
“I’ll have the bone-in ribeye, medium-rare. Potatoes au gratin on the side.”
“And for your starter, sir? Soup or salad?”
He grimaced. “Neither. I’m not a rabbit.”
She hid a grin. “May I recommend the beef carpaccio? It’s delicious.”
He nodded. “Yes. I’ll have that.”
She hurried away from the table, repeating the orders inside her head. The senator and his guests had been secluded in a private room—thank goodness—and were her only table.
As Anne put in the order, her mind wandered to when the senator had come to her rescue, like the proverbial knight in shining armor. An imposing height—he had to be six-three or more, though her five-six might skew her impression—he’d made Teste Teddy quake in his squeaky shoes. Teddy had been near deferential to her, albeit reluctantly, ever since. She could only hope it lasted.
He was an imposing man, the senator, she mused as she refilled their wine glasses after serving the first course. Besides his height, he was broad in the shoulders and deep in the chest. The width of his shoulders dwarfed the men dining with him. It wasn’t a physique common to D.C. There were runners aplenty, keeping men lean, but muscles didn’t always look appealing in a suit. And if there was one thing D.C. was big on, it was appearances.
Senator Kirk looked as though he’d been barely tamed, wearing his suit like a second skin, but only a moment away from discarding it to rip someone apart with his bare hands.
The thought gave Anne a shiver and she hurriedly walked away, not wanting to draw any more attention to herself than she had already. Thankfully, they’d moved on to discussing business, barely giving her a second glance as she served them. She caught snatches of their conversation between courses.
“…not going to allow my vote to be swayed by those with a vested economic interest in the outcome,” the senator was saying. His words were steel, but his demeanor was affable and even friendly, inviting you to empathize with his ethics even as you bemoaned the dashing of your hopes. “You gentlemen have made your case and I appreciate your position. However, the majority of my constituents hold a contrary position. I’m beholden to them, my friends. Not to you.”
His fingers lightly toyed with the stem of his wine glass. Anne filled his glass with the second bottle they’d ordered, and their gazes caught. He was leaning back in his chair, one ankle resting on the opposite knee. She’d removed their dinner plates a half hour ago. They were still talking.
His eyes were an undefinable shade—somewhere between gray and green. The color of the ocean before an approaching storm.
Anne didn’t know why, but she paused, her eyes on his. The way he looked at her…as though he could see straight into her—through her—sent a chill down her spine.
Senator Kirk was a more dangerous man than he let on. She knew this deep in her bones. In the place a prey knew when a predator was near.
Shaking herself, she tore her gaze from his and gulped a breath, not realizing she’d been holding it.
“Would anyone care for dessert?” she blurted, interrupting their conversation. Her heart was beating too fast and she avoided the senator’s eyes. “I highly recommend our cheesecake.”
One of the men—one she’d deemed to be the boss over the other one, based solely on body language—set his napkin on the table and stood.
“I believe we’ll call it a night,” he said stiffly. “Thank you for your time, senator.”
His flunky rushed to stand as well, but said nothing.
The senator leisurely tipped his wine glass their way. “Of course. Have a good evening.”
The two men left, the first in an obvious huff. Anne stood, unsure what to do, and looked back at the senator.
His lips curved into a sardonic smile. “Well, I don’t think they were very happy. Not that I care. But it’s a shame to waste the wine.” He gestured to a chair. “Care to join me?”