It was only supposed to be a wedding date.
In Choose Me, the first book in my new Silver Fox Romance series, Rick and Eve have known each other for over twenty-five years. Their families had lived next door to each other all that time but now they both find themselves single. Who else would Eve ask to be her date to her daughter’s wedding but a friend who understood it was just a one-time thing?
But things don’t always work out the way they’re planned.
The Best Bar and Grill was a quick walk down Main from Eve’s building. Rick had never understood how women could walk in those high-heeled shoes, but as they walked together down the sidewalk, he couldn’t help but appreciate how fantastic they made Eve’s long legs look. She wore a classy yellow dress that skimmed her body and matched the color of her strappy sandals. His hand kept wanting to reach out and take hers as they strolled down the block.
The BB&G was owned by Rick’s cousin Jimmy. He waved from behind the bar as Rick and Eve headed for the dining room. “Hey, Ricky!” Jimmy called out. “Two drafts?”
Rick sent him a thumbs-up after Eve nodded, then led her over to a small table in the middle of the dining room. The place was a comfortable mix of homespun diner and sports bar. Sports memorabilia and photographs of local sights shared space on the dark-stained shiplap walls. He shoved the clipboard under his chair and grabbed the menu. Not that he needed it.
He’d felt like an eavesdropper back at Eve’s apartment. He could understand Amy’s confusion and surprise, though. Eve had moved quickly with big changes. But then, her marriage had been over for a while and those thoughts of change might have been hanging around the fringes of her mind since then.
“Hey, guys.” Diane, a long-time waitress, set the chilled mugs in front of them. Her curious gaze bounced back and forth between him and Eve. “You know what you want?” she asked. They ordered the BB&G’s signature burgers and fries to go with the beer.
Anyone who didn’t know Eve would take one look at the elegant persona and assume she only ate lobster and drank champagne. But Eve had sat at a picnic table in their back yard plenty of times. Had downed pitchers of beer with the best of them and polished off burgers and ribs and hot dogs.
He loved how many layers she had. Only her friends knew that the classy woman who sold expensive china and crystal, silver candlesticks and elegant stationary, loved to shop yard sales and flea markets. That the woman who enjoyed entertaining the upper crust when her husband wanted to network, was just as happy cooking marshmallows in the living room fireplace to make s’mores.
But even her friends might be surprised to know that after living in a five-bedroom, four-bath home with landscaped grounds, Eve would be happy moving to a one-bedroom walk-up above her business in the heart of the village.
Of course, she still wanted her steam shower. Rick chuckled at her excitement when he told her he could make it work.
Eve looked up from the menu. “What?”
“Nothing. Sorry. Just thinking about the changes you asked for.”
“Not what you expected?”
He shrugged. “You knew what you wanted. Most people don’t.”
“Do you know this apartment will be the first place I’ve lived on my own? Ever. In my whole life.”
“I moved from home where my dad ruled with an iron fist to a college dormitory with roommates and then married Don as soon as I graduated.” She flashed Rick a cocky grin. It was sexy as hell. “I’m independent for the first time in my life. So yeah, I’m going to ask for what I want this time.”
“Nothing wrong with that.”
She nodded and glanced around the dining room. Most of the tables were occupied and more than a few pairs of eyes were trained on them. There was an awkward tension in the air between them and Rick realized he should have thought twice about inviting her to eat in a busy restaurant filled with nosy neighbors.
“The rumors will be starting,” she murmured.
He shrugged, surprised he didn’t care. “I could pick up my clipboard and wave it in the air. We could talk about windows and showers at the top of our lungs.”
She laughed. “Not necessary.” She dropped her voice. “Um…I’ve been wanting to ask you something and now’s as good a time as any.”
“That sounds serious.”
“No. Awkward. Embarrassing.”
She’d made him curious, but at least she hadn’t lost her smile. “Okay? What is it?”
Eve took a deep breath. “The wedding. Amy’s wedding. Do you have a date? Because I don’t. And Don’s going to be there with his cute young wife and—”
She broke off as the door to the restaurant opened and a familiar booming laugh proceeded a fifty-something lawyer and his new twenty-something wife into the place. Eve’s eyes met Rick’s and her hand tightened on her beer mug. Speak of the devil. And of course, Don Corcoran headed straight for their table as soon as he spotted them.
“And I was having such a good time,” Eve murmured. Seeing her ex-husband made her lose the smile and that pissed off Rick more than anything.
He plastered a big grin on his face and grabbed her hand as Don and Tiffany approached. Eve’s eyes widened, but she didn’t say a word. When her ex stopped at their table, Rick looked up, acting surprised. “Oh, hi, Don. How are you?”
Don frowned as his eyes bounced from Eve’s face to her hand in Rick’s. “I never pictured you two as a couple.” His voice was one of those that carried across a crowded room. Probably good for a lawyer in a courtroom, not so good for a jerk in the middle of a restaurant.
Rick shrugged. “Probably some people thought the same about you and Tiff.”
Don’s expression darkened. Tiffany hung back, her hands twisting the strap of her tiny pink purse.
“Did you want something, Don?” Eve asked.
“We need to talk about the wedding.” As if it was obvious.
“Of course, Amy’s wedding.” Don narrowed his eyes. “Is there another wedding I don’t know about?”
Eve’s mouth quirked. She glanced at Rick before she looked back at her ex-husband. “What do we need to talk about?”
“Things,” Donald said dryly.
“Okay, but not now, for heaven’s sake. Call me later and I’ll see when I can fit you in.”
Rick felt her trembling. He squeezed her hand. Diane was heading their way. “Here’s our food.”
Tiffany’s eyes bounced back and forth between them. Her expression looked almost apologetic. “Donny, I’m hungry. Let’s get a table.”
Diane came up with a plate in each hand. “There’s a table free over there by the wall,” she told Tiffany, nodding to the other side of the room. “We’re filling up fast. You might want to grab it.”
Don huffed. “I’ll talk to you later,” he said to Eve. He turned away when Tiffany tugged at his arm.
“Good to see you,” Rick tossed off.
He watched them cross the room, then looked up at Diane. “Thanks.”
Diane smiled as she set down the plates in front of them. “You need anything else?”
Eve shook her head. “Thanks.”
“You guys look good together,” Diane said with a wink. Her silver ponytail bounced as she nodded.
“Oh, we’re not—”
Rick cut Eve off by lifting their still-entwined hands and kissing her knuckles. “Thanks, Di, but this is all still very new. We didn’t expect to get all this attention.”
She rolled her eyes as if to say he should have known better. “Let me know if you need anything.”
Eve tugged her hand free. “Why did you let her think we’re a couple?”
“Eve, everyone in here thinks we’re a couple now. Especially after Don announced it to the world. And you didn’t tell him any different.”
“I know.” She doused her fries with ketchup and vinegar. “What are we going to do now?”
“Nothing unless you want to. I did get the impression you wanted me to ask you to be my date for Amy’s wedding, though.”
And there was that smile again. “I thought I asked you to be my date.”
“That worked out then, didn’t it?” Rick hadn’t expected that rush of…pleasure?...when he thought about it.
“Yeah. I guess.”
“So we’ll just play it casually until the wedding. It’s only a few weeks away, right?” Rick hadn’t realized until now how much he liked the idea of dating Eve. “Then afterward we can say we broke up, if that’s what you want.”
“Of course, we’ll have to break up. We’re not really together.” Her voice had dropped to a loud whisper. “I just got my independence for the first time in my life, Rick. I’m not going to get wrapped up with another guy.”
Rick signaled to Diane to bring him another beer. Maybe he should have gone for the whiskey. “Glad to know I’m just another guy to you.”
“That didn’t come out right, but you know what I mean. This isn’t a real date. We’re not really a couple.”
He downed the rest of his first beer. “Pity.”