Friday, February 10, 2012
Valentine Blog Fest: First Date
Ahh, the first date - the meet and greet of the relationship, so to speak. There are so many ways this can go, as many as there are people. Here's how it went for the characters in another of my WIPs, Pieces of Mind:
(Note: Presley hates blind dates, but her recently married friend Lori is very persistent in her attempts to get Presley happily paired off. To humor her friend, Presley finally caves in, but with a caveat: if the date goes bad and/or she doesn't enjoy herself, Lori will never try to set her up on a blind date again. To make sure this happens, Presley dresses in a suggestive micro mini dress with the full intention of turning her date off - anyway she can.)
“You must be Presley,” he said, extending a hand toward her.
“You must be Caleb.”
“Only my mother calls me Caleb,” he confided, giving her hand a little squeeze before he released it. “When she wants to be stern with me.” He favored her with a crooked smile as they settled down at the table. “You can call me Cal.”
“Oh, I think I’d rather call you Caleb,” she decided as she draped her bag and sweater across the back of her curved chair.
“Are we really going to be this formal? With a dress like that, you passed formal a long time ago.”
Presley smiled despite herself. The man had charm; she had to give him that. But it didn’t dissuade her from her purpose. Schooling her features to reflect her serious tone, she said, “Let’s get this straight right now so there are no misconceptions later.” She leaned forward over the table. “I hate blind dates. The only reason I’m here now is out of respect for my friend who desperately wants to match me up because she’s so happy.”
“Okay. Good.” She sat back against her chair with an inelegant slouch. “I’m a this-close-to-thirty –” she pinched her fingers together in emphasis “ – slightly well-adjusted single woman. The only thing that keeps me from being fully well-adjusted is my somewhat neurotic family.”
Caleb regarded her with a bland expression as he allowed her free rein to rant.
“My parents came together in true romantic fashion. She got knocked up, they got married. They had my brother Sam. He’s the only one in the family with the good sense to stay away from the rest of us. He lives in Seattle.
“The marriage wasn’t working so my mother tried to patch it up – twice - with more babies. That would be me and my sister Lynn, who likes to mess with the happiness of everyone around her. When that didn’t work, my parents decided to ‘take a break’ for awhile. They got along better then than they ever had, so they decided to get back together. To celebrate, they had my sister Merry, who’s the only one of us that they had for all of the right reasons. So they fawned all over her, which sent Lynn over the edge. She’s been making Merry – and everyone else, for that matter – suffer for it ever since.
“And there I am, stuck in the middle of all that craziness, trying to smooth everything out so everyone will love me and we’ll all just get along.” She paused to take a sip of water from the glass set before her, then added, as if it had just come to her, “Oh! And did I mention that my father is prone to psychotic breaks that constantly land him in the hospital? Not the sort of thing you want to bring a new guy home to.”
“Okay.” Caleb leaned forward over the table with a slight twist to his lips. “My turn.”
With a nod, Presley waved a hand in his direction, as if to present him with the soapbox on which to give his speech.
Caleb returned the nod with one of acknowledgement.
“In case Lori failed to mention it to you, I’m a psychologist,” he admitted. “A prospect which usually sends all of my dates running to the hills, fearful that I’m going to analyze everything they say, every gesture they make, and declare them certifiable or something.
“I usually don’t tell them what I do until the second date so I can get to know them before I drive them into the hills when I question why they made that particular comment about their mother.” His smile, and his tone, was self-deprecating. “Even my closest friends sometimes wonder if I’m secretly analyzing things they tell me in confidence. How do I know this? Because they ask me. A lot. Which is probably why Lori set me up with you.”
Something in the way he delivered that last statement pricked a nerve just under Presley’s skin. “Why did you say it like that?” she demanded. “What’d you mean by that?”
“You see?” he said, self-satisfied, as he relaxed back against his seat. “You’ve just proven my point.”
“My chosen profession tends to put a damper on my prospects,” he stated. “Even with someone like you.”
“Someone like me?” she repeated, dumbfounded. For all of a second before the truth of it materialized in her mind. “I don’t believe it! You think I’m a hooker?”
“There’s a lot of skin showing between your heels and your hemline. What am I supposed to think?”
“Not that I’m a hooker!”
“Would you please stop saying it that loud?” he asked. “You’re drawing attention from the others.”
“Oh, are you sure it’s my tone? Maybe it’s my hooker dress.” She deliberately said the offensive word louder than the rest.
“Tell me,” he encouraged, maintaining a calm air as he glanced over the menu before him. “What impression did you intend to make with that dress?”
“Certainly not that I was for hire.”
“That didn’t really answer my question.”
“Well, that’s all you’re going to get.”
Caleb didn’t respond directly. He just toyed with his menu, drawing a fingertip over its laminated surface in an aimless pattern that was slightly erotic, and let the seconds pile up into a minute. Then another. Finally, he said, “Look, I think we both know that you really don’t want to be here. Lori warned me that you might do something – outrageous – to put me off. But when I saw that dress, I have to admit that I thought she said that just so she could put me off.” He glanced up at her then, his tone reflecting genuine sincerity. “I’m sorry that I thought you were a hooker – but you might want to think better of it the next time you decide to pair up that dress with those shoes.”
“Okay! So I dressed like this to put you off, I admit it. But if you knew why, you’d understand.”
“I’m a good listener,” he stated with a crooked smile.
Presley chuckled at that despite herself, and tried not to melt under the sensual glow of his smile. She almost succeeded. “Yeah,” she allowed in a deprecating manner. “I don’t think so.”
“Why not? There seems to be a lot going on under there.” He waved a hand vertically to indicate her general person.
“You never mind what’s going on – under here.”
“Oh, come on. Wouldn’t you rather turn this date into a therapy session?” he coaxed. “I could use the money fro a down-payment on my next car.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. With my family, you could put a down-payment on your new house!”
They enjoyed a good laugh before Caleb turned serious once again. “So, what’s it to be?” he asked at length. “Therapy session – or date?”
“Well, I’m hungry. So, unless you provide a salad bar with your sessions, this is a date.”
A smile lengthened Caleb’s lips as he opened his menu. “Good.”
“Who knows?” she pondered, also opening her menu. “By the end of this date, you might decide I need therapy.” She glanced up at Caleb to gauge his reaction to her words. “Lots of therapy.”
Caleb didn’t look up from his menu as he responded. “And by the end of this date, I might decide that you need more dates. Lots more dates.”
“Why, Dr. Dean. Are you flirting with me?”
Placing his menu back on the table with careful, deliberate motions, Caleb impaled her with a glance. “Oh, Miss Gordon, when I flirt with you,” he began without a trace of mockery or humor in his voice, “there’ll be no need to ask that question.”
A lightning bolt of raw, sensual awareness sizzled down her spine, firing up all of her senses, in response to his statement. Not just to the words themselves, but to the promise in them, the confidence in his abilities, delivered without a hint of arrogance. Oh, no, Caleb Dean was no braggart, she decided; he was just a man who knew what he was capable of achieving. Oh, man, she thought then as she dipped her head toward her menu to hide her smile, I’m in trouble.