|:|PART 2|:| Bad Gentleman For A Bad Lady |
Sebastian Quinn wasn’t sure why he was here, on some date that his daughter had set up. He didn’t even like the woman, but Abigail had insisted and he figured he owed her that much with his rash of recent parenting fails. He took a sip of dark liquid before flagging the bartender over to fill up his cup. He recalled the conversation with his daughter:
“What the hell was that, Abby?!”
“That was you agreeing to go on a date.” She crossed her arms over her chest and pursed her lips.
Sebastian crossed his arms too and took a strong stance. The little girl had a lot of things from her mother, but her stubbornness, he couldn’t deny, was a direct descendant of his own. “I’m not going on some date with, with… her!”
The tween rolled her eyes. “And you call me dramatic. You’re going and that’s final.” She stormed off up the stairs and he followed, trying to keep his temper under control.
“Excuse you? I’m the adult here. I say what fin--”
She stopped halfway up the stairs and turned on him. “Adult? That so? Could have fooled me. Stumbling in at crazy times of the night, forgetting to get up and take me to school, forgetting to pick me up from school. That’s why I had to call uncle Sam. That lady that you were an ass to just now? She was doing your job and that’s why you’re going on this date.” She turned and stomped up the rest of the stairs to her room.
Sebastian winced then bit his tongue, trying and failing to come up with a good rebuttal. One that didn’t involve him pulling the parent trump card, because no matter how much he hated it, the girl was on to something.
He exhaled and continued up the stairs to his daughter’s room.
“Abby,” he pleaded, feeling much like a puppy who’d gotten a good scolding. To say he’d been a terrible father was an understatement. It had started off as him missing Abby’s mom. He had taken her death especially hard, but that’d been years before and now he was so used to being miserable he wasn’t sure how else to be. “I’m just not ready to date yet.”
Abby looked up from her phone and found his eyes. “I miss Mom too, you know. I wish she was still here.” The little girl sniffled. “But it’s been over three years. We have to move on.”
He took a seat on the edge of her bed. “We all have a different time of mourning.”
“You’re not mourning any more!” she snapped. “You’re just destroying yourself, wallowing in self-pity, drowning yourself in liquor.” How old was she again?
“I need you--” She broke off, wiping tears from her flushed cheeks. “I need you to--to--” She smashed her face in her palms, her shoulders shaking with sorrow. He folded his daughter in his arms. His chest tightened seeing her in pain that he had a part in causing.
“Oh sweets, don’t cry. I-- I don’t know how to do what you’re asking.”
She pulled away, but her lithe arms were still wrapped around his waist. He sighed, gazing down at her. He pulled her hair behind her ear and cupped her face before placing a kiss on her forehead. She looked so much like her mother it hurt sometimes. “Start with this date, please.”
He took another moment to look her over before he nodded in agreement.
How the hell could he say no to her?
He snapped back to reality when he heard the subtle undertones of the woman, Tabetha’s, voice. He watched her walk through the restaurant, the back of her head a mass of tight, dark-brown curls. Her smooth brown shoulder was exposed in the asymmetrical dress. He rubbed away the tightening in his chest. She took a seat at their reserved table and immediately ordered some kind of wine from the list.
He sipped his scotch and watched her from his vantage point. He had lied when he said he didn’t like her. He didn’t like that, for the first time in three years, despite all the women that he’d been with, this woman got to him. She seemed to know precisely what to say to get a reaction, to make him-- make him feel something. He hated to admit it, but he enjoyed the banter almost as much as he enjoyed the sparkle in her eyes when she got his blood pressure up.
The gods had spared no expense when they created her. She was gorgeous, all gold and bronzed, smooth skin, those big brown eyes that taunted him with a good argument, and her lips, where to begin?
She checked the watch on her slender wrist, then looked at her phone. He glanced at his own watch. He was late, he knew it, but he hadn’t decided if he wanted to go over there just yet. Maybe this whole thing was a mistake after all. He drained the rest of his drink, his mind drifting back to the puffy, red, tear-laden eyes of his dear Abby.
He started from his thoughts when his phone buzzed.
“You’re late,” the text read.
The corner of his mouth pulled up. He could imagine the rage in the woman’s dark brown orbs.
He laid money on the bar and pushed himself up. If nothing else, this-- he cleared his throat. This date could be entertaining. He walked over.
“Sorry I’m late.” He placed the bouquet of flowers, which had been Abby’s idea, on the table next to Tabetha and took the seat across from her. He saw her eyebrows crease with confusion and then a smile spread across her full lips once recognition hit.
“Well, okay. I see how you clean up.” She took a quick sip of her wine. “The only reason I’m not crushing your balls under my heel for being late is that I like your daughter. Girl knows what she wants and she’s got the will to make it come to fruition. I can respect that.”
He winced at the visual of her heel exacting revenge on his favorite appendage but smiled when he found humor in her eyes.
“Honestly,” she continued, “I’m surprised you made the effort.” She clasped the bottom of her wine glass and swirled the blend before smelling it. Her fingernails were long and well maintained even though they weren’t painted. “Why are you here? I thought our encounter on your front porch was evidence enough how well we get on.”
“A twelve-year-old girl is why I’m here. I assume she’s why you’re here too.”
The pretty woman nodded. “She’s a stubborn lot.”
“Ah, yes. She got that from her mother.” He smiled at his own lie.
“Hardly fair the woman’s not here to defend herself.” They both chuckled, holding each other’s eyes for a moment before looking elsewhere. “So, where is Abby’s mother?”
He sighed and looked down toward the table. The mention of Beth was still jarring. It didn’t cause pain like it had when she was first ripped from his life but it still brought vack painful memories.
“Ah, I’m sorry.” He looked at his hand where hers was covering it. He found her sincere brown eyes gazing at him.
He nodded. “Thank you.” It was refreshing how clearly he could read the pretty woman sitting across from him. He didn’t know it was something he’d find appealing.
“So,” she said, retracting her hand to clasp the glass again. “How are we going to play this?”
He frowned. “What do you mean?”
“This date thing. I mean what are we going to tell Abby?”
He raised an eyebrow. “I’m lost.”
“We made it clear at the beginning of all of this that we don’t really get on, which will make this whole thing a bit awkward, right? Forcing yourself through two or more hours of small talk with someone you could care less about?”
He laughed at her expressive eyebrows and the mischievous set of her full lips. “Maybe, but we’re both here so--” He shrugged. “Besides, who said anything about there having to be small talk?”
The corner of her mouth slowly pulled up. “Well, if not small talk, then what? Discuss all the deep things like religion, politics and the sanctity of marriage?”
He laughed, a real laugh that he was sure he hadn’t felt in years. “Who said anything about talking at all?” He opened his menu and started looking, when she took his meaning exactly how he intended it. “Do you know what you want?” He looked up from the menu, mustering the most innocent look he could achieve.
When there was no reply, he peeked over the top of the menu. “What?” His insides warmed at her steady gaze, which took him in over the rim of the wine glass. She shrugged, diverting her eyes to the wine for a moment before looking back to his face.
“Nothing at all.” She set back in the chair. “Yes, I know what I want.” She pulled money out of her purse and set it on the table, stood up, and covered his hand.
He swallowed the saliva that flooded his mouth when he smelled her enticing collaborations of fragrance. His eyes traced her figure all the way up to her face.
His lips parted when he saw the intent in her eyes.
She leaned over. Her warm breath sent a shiver down his back when she whispered in his ear, “I know exactly what I want.”
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