Blane’s Story – Chapter One, Part Two
Chapter One, Part Two
Anne glanced over her shoulder but didn’t see Theodore—Teddy as he’d now forever be known inside her head—anywhere around. Technically, she wasn’t supposed to sit with a customer. But not everyone was a senator…or a man quite as breathtaking as this one.
“I only have a few minutes,” she said, sliding into the chair next to him. He filled a glass with too much wine and set it in front of her. “I should thank you for what you did earlier. Saving my job.”
“It was my pleasure,” he said. “Things happen. You shouldn’t lose your job over it.” He took a sip of the wine and Anne’s gaze lingered on his mouth until she tore her gaze away. He was tall—tall enough to tower over her when he’d stood next to her—and filled out the tailored suit he wore to perfection. His shoulders were wide and his chest deep, with narrow hips and an ass that looked like you could bounce quarters off it. Not that he’d let you.
“Theodore is very conscious of who comes into his restaurant,” she said, just to say something. She took a long draw of the wine. It had been a while since she’d had a good bottle of wine and she savored the taste, letting the warm liquid flow over her tongue and down her throat, warming her insides. It was a very good vintage.
“And I’m ‘someone’, I suppose,” he said, a note of bitterness in his voice.
“You knew that already.”
His lips twisted. “I suppose so.”
They were quiet, each taking a drink of the wine. It was nice, and Anne felt her body relax every so slightly. It was dangerous, relaxing with a man like Kirk. But it had been too long since a man looked at her the way he was doing now.
“Who were those men?” she asked, hoping to divert her thoughts from the path they were traveling.
He shrugged. “Lobbyists. Overpaid suits on a mission. The usual.”
“You must have a lot of that.”
“It comes with the job.”
With hair a shade darker than blond, an even, white smile complete with a dimple in one cheek, the senator had the kind of All-American-Quarterback kind of looks that could grace the silver screen or a magazine cover. It was only in person that you caught the aura of an edge to him. An edge kept in tight check, but she could feel it there nonetheless. Anne guessed that those lobbyists had thought they’d be able to manipulate and maneuver him. She thought Blane Kirk was about as maneuverable as a boulder.
His gaze traveled from her face, down her chest, and back up. Her uniform was relatively modest, but the heat in his eyes made her face flush. A man shouldn’t have the power to make her blush, not at her age. Twenty-six was too old to embarrass, and too young for a man like him. She wasn’t stupid. He was a one-way ticket to a one-night-stand.
No thank you.
She stood. “Thank you for the wine, senator. I hope your dinner was satisfactory.”
The look in his eyes said he knew exactly what she wasn’t saying. He got to his feet as well.
“It was delicious, thank you for asking. I plan on having lunch here tomorrow. I trust you’ll be here?”
Ah, yes. His requirements for her employment. “Absolutely,” she said.
“Excellent. Have a good evening, Anne.”
The way he said her name should be a sin.
“You, too, senator.”
“Please, call me Blane.” His smile was friendly and you-can-totally-trust-me. His eyes said he was a hungry tiger who’d just spotted a solitary antelope meandering across the savannah.
Anne didn’t bat an eye. This wasn’t her first rodeo. “Goodnight, Blane.”
She took the glasses and empty wine bottle, gave him one more bland smile, and headed for the back. By the time she’d returned, he was gone and she could breathe again.
The lobbyists had paid the check but when she opened the folder to retrieve the receipt, she noticed the senator had added an additional cash tip.
A three-hundred-dollar cash tip.
# # #
Blane unlocked the door to his Georgetown townhouse and walked inside. The security detail was discreet, keeping to the shadows. It wasn’t something he had acquiesced to lightly. Being guarded instead of being the one doing the guarding wasn’t something he enjoyed. It grated on his nerves and his sensibilities.
The house was dark and still, which bothered him. By this time of his life, he’d imagined a lit house with the riotous sound of children’s voices and laughter. A woman in the kitchen with a sweet smile and welcoming arms. Home and hearth, full of love and warmth.
Life didn’t always turn out how you planned.
For some reason, the waitress’s face flickered inside his head. It wasn’t just that she was pretty. Pretty girls were common enough. She had an air of innocence about her. Unspoiled and sweet. It wasn’t a common thing. As a matter of fact, she reminded him of someone.
He searched his memory as he shed his coat and tie, reaching for the decanter of scotch on the sideboard. It didn’t strike him until he’d poured two fingers of the amber liquid and replaced the stopper.
That’s who she reminded him of. She had the same aura of a guppy swimming with sharks that Kathleen had had, years ago. Once, the woman he’d loved and wanted to marry. Now, his sister-in-law and mother of his nephews.
That gave him pause.
Kathleen had been a turning point in his life. There was before her, and after her. He wasn’t the same man afterwards. He liked to think he was better than he used to be, but first he’d had to work through the heartache and bitterness. Not as much towards her as towards himself.
It had taken time—and distance—but things were good between them now. He was her sister-in-law and friend. That was all. And it felt right.
A few women since Kathleen. Branna—the female version of Kade who’d used him to assuage her own hurt and bitterness as much as Blane had used her. He didn’t want to examine too closely how much she reminded him of Kade. That made it weird.
They’d both moved on after a time and Blane had seen a handful of other women. Wealthy, accomplished, successful women groomed to be a politician’s wife.
None of them lasted more than a few months.
The days of taking a woman home for the night were out, too. Voters didn’t like to think of their senator as a love-them-and-leave-them kind of guy. The last thing he needed was to be the recipient of the “manwhore” appellation, which the media would be all too ready to fling his way.
Carrying his drink upstairs, he stripped and climbed into bed, forgoing the lights. The sheets were smooth and cool against his skin. Folding his arms underneath his head, he stared at the darkened ceiling. The empty spot next to him felt ten times larger than it was. He’d tried for years to sleep in the middle, but inevitably he’d gravitated to one side by morning. As though making room for the ghost of someone.
It was long past time he faced facts: that spot may never be filled.
It was a long time before he slept.