Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: October 27, 2017
Nestled right on the Hudson River with a breathtaking view of the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan, The Riverview Steakhouse explodes with romance. A quick sweep of the area showcased an array of expensive, luxury automobiles lining the parking lot. Understanding for my lavish gift settled over me.
The valet opened my door and I stepped out into the warm and windy evening. Tom strolled along the front of the car and signaled for me to join him. As I walked up to him, he grabbed my hand, and he threaded his fingers through mine. The gesture caught me off guard. He sensed my tension and looked at me with the kindling embers of his eyes. A tender smile crept to the corners of his mouth as he gave my hand a gentle squeeze, untangling the knot in my stomach.
Hand in hand, we walked, enjoying the evening twilight panorama over the river. The blue hour covered us in all her splendor. The last of the sun’s rebel rays scattered in the sky, illuminating the water and casting a hypnotic ambiance to the atmosphere.
The formal host greeted us at the entrance and shook Tom’s hand. “Good evening, Mr. Wright.” Then he nodded toward me. “Madam. Your table is ready.”
“Thank you, Dom,” Tom uttered, patting the host on the shoulder.
Dom escorted us to our table in the main dining room. Piano music hung in the air as we were seated at a cozy table in front of the glass wall of windows facing the New York City skyline. The Brooklyn Bridge and an early moon loomed over us.
“This place is magical,” I whispered as the waiter pulled out my chair.
Tom sat back in his seat, unbuttoned his jacket, and leaned forward, his gaze never leaving mine. “Well, it’s the perfect setting for dinner with a spellbinding woman like you.”
His flattery made me uneasy. As our waiter gave us each a menu and another man filled our water goblets, I glanced to my lap where my fingers twirled restlessly. When the servers left, I peered up at Tom and he tilted his head to the side, his eyes narrowed in confusion. “You seem uncomfortable,” he noted.
“What do you mean?”
“This dress, the shoes, this place, Tuesday.”
He frowned. “Something wrong with Tuesdays?”
“Tom, why all this?”
“I thought you liked it.”
“It’s mesmerizing. Romantic. Any girl’s dream. But that’s just it, why pull all the stops out for me? You don’t even know me.”
He glanced away before answering, his jaw muscles clenching as he took a deep breath. Finally, he locked eyes with me. “Truthfully?”
“I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you. Last Friday, at the coffee shop, I couldn’t keep my eyes off you…flustered and trying to wipe down the coffee stain from your blouse. You looked adorable mumbling to yourself. If I hadn’t been running late for my leadership meeting, I would have asked you to breakfast.”
The air inside my chest crystalized at the mention of the serendipitous moment. “I had no idea you actually noticed me.”
He rubbed a trembling hand through his hair. “Who wouldn’t?” He smirked. “It’s crazy, you know, this thing you’ve done to me. I can’t explain it, but when I’m with you, the world stops spinning and all there is…well, you and me.”
The blood iced in my veins.
He did experience it.
Tom looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to say something. And there was so much I wanted to tell him, but I struggled to make sense of the words sitting at the tip of my tongue.
The space between his eyebrows twisted into a tight knot and his shoulders slacked as he leaned back on his chair. “You don’t feel the same.” His voice rang with disappointment.
I reached over to grab his hand. “No, it’s not like that at all. It’s just—” But I couldn’t finish my sentence. I couldn’t tell him how my world wasn’t the same anymore or that the battle inside my chest raged with savagery. A part of me wanted to give into the magic of something we could not explain, and the other part of me quivered in a cold, damp corner, afraid to come out—timorous to embrace the warmth of a promise of love.
He squeezed my hand gently. “I know it sounds crazy, but for a guy like me, this sort of thing doesn’t happen. And now, I can’t ignore this unrelenting pounding in my chest.”
He put his hand over his heart and peered at me, perhaps wanting to find confirmation in my eyes of my feelings for him. I was attempting equally hard to hide them. When I said nothing, he let out a rankled breath, running his hands through his hair. “I tried. I really did—to not be bothered by this twist-of-fate mumbo-jumbo, but can you seriously look me in the eyes and tell me it didn’t happen to you, too?”
I stared in silence.
“I tried to deny it, but after I saw you again last night, I had to accept maybe something else is at work here.”
It did sound crazy, but I had entertained the idea for days. To hear it from his lips, though? I couldn’t believe it. I’d sworn never to allow myself to be swooped off my feet ever again. So how the hell did I permit myself to be drawn to this man?
The erratic thumps of my heart bruised the insides of my chest. If I could reach inside, I would have ripped its beating flesh right out of my body. The signs were there. It was happening again. I was losing control of my emotions and it made my gut twist and my stomach churn with acid.
“What are you thinking?” he asked, his eyes glowing with hope.
“Nothing,” I blurted out, afraid to reveal the thoughts swirling inside my head and ripping through my sanity.
He blinked at my response, then he leaned back on his chair and folded his arms across his chest. His face was a mesh of confusion and dismay.
I didn’t mean for my reply to sound so harsh. I wanted to protect myself, but I hurt him in the process. “I’m sorry. That came out wrong.”
But my apology was too late.
He clenched his jaw. “If this is too much, we can leave.” His voice was gravel as he pushed off his seat and stood.
My callous response was an iced bucket of water thrown at his face, when he was a warm summer breeze brushing through my wintery heart. Without thought, I reached out and wrapped my hand around his wrist. “I don’t want to go.”
He stared at my quaking fingers as they pleaded with him to not give up on me yet. Then he peered up and found my tearful gaze. “Sara?”
“Tom…” My voice choked as I tried to speak. I thought about urging him to leave me to my miserable self, but my eyes would not be able to hide the fear gripping my spirit. My soul was vulnerable and visible to him. I prayed he’d see something else, too—the hope of love I’d banished from my life.
His chest heaved as he sucked in a deep breath and sat down. I unclenched my fingers from his wrist, but he reached over and took my hand and encased it in his, rubbing his thumb over my palm. Without saying a word, the gesture gave me the reassurance I needed.
After regarding the river through the windows for a brief moment, he turned to me, and with a deep gulp of air, he confessed, “It unnerves me, too.”
My heart throbbed harder and tears threatened to roll down my face when I saw the disquietude claiming his eyes. I reached up to cup his cheek, hoping to pacify the uncertainty hovering over him. I wanted to tell him I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about him. At home, at work, in my sleep—he saturated my mind. I wanted him to know his scent enthralled me, his masculinity disarmed me, his lips enticed me, and his touch undid me to the core.
Most importantly, I wanted him to understand my body raked with agony at the thought of never seeing him again. My insides twisted and writhed when we were apart because my attraction to him went beyond the earthly world. It was monumentally seeded to his soul on an ethereal plane where I had no control.
I didn’t need to utter a single word. He saw it all in my eyes—the feelings growing for this stranger I barely knew.
“Thank you for bringing me here.” There was no need to say more.
He took my hand and kissed the center of my palm. “How about some food? I’m starving.”
Suddenly, the heaviness settled over my soul lifted. “I thought you’d never ask,” I chimed in, relieved to end the melodrama of our temperamental hearts.
At least for the moment.
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About Olivia Boothe
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