The next night, Cassie and I went out for drinks. She wanted dirt. Every last granule.
“He is absolutely gorgeous, Ella,” she said for the hundredth time. “Not that I would impose on your territory,” she made quoting motions with her fingers, “but if you don’t want him. . .”
“Cassie.” It was an exhausted warning. I was tired of talking about how hot Dominic was, and how she’d love to have a guy that hot falling all over her. If she made a move on him, it would hurt our friendship. I knew it. So did she. Yet she insisted on drooling over the memory of her brief encounter with him. But who was I to burst her bubble? I was married to another man, and Dominic hadn’t been in my life for over fifteen years. He was not my territory.
The waitress brought us another round. The sixth whiskey went down with fire-edged razors, but the resulting warmth that bloomed in my core was welcome. Allison was at a friend’s house for the night, and Lynnette was staying over to help with Michael. She was very understanding about my much-needed night out.
“I’m sorry, Ella. You know this stuff loosens my tongue,” Cassie said, resting her hand on my arm.
“It loosens everyone’s tongue,” I retorted. “But you’re forgiven. This time.” I pointed a finger at her. “Just don’t let it happen again.”
Her teeth snapped at my finger in a playful ritual we had developed when one of us pointed at the other.
“I will tell you, though,” I said leaning in toward her in a sloppy version of telling a secret. Cassie leaned in toward me to share the secret. “The man can still kiss like the devil,” I said.
The tall stool almost flipped over, Cassie sat up so fast. “You kissed him?” Her drunken state amplified her reaction.
“Shhh. Keep your voice down.” I glanced around, but the bar was too loud for anyone to hear us.
Cassie had the grace to duck her head in embarrassment as she frowned and scanned the crowd, too. “Sorry,” she said. “Why didn’t you tell me that before? That should’ve been one of the first things you told me. What’s wrong with you?”
“I needed a few drinks in me first. Oh, but girl. This man has my system sparking in ways I haven’t felt for years.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “I wanna hear about this kiss. When did it happen?”
“Yesterday. When he was showing me his office. He shut the door and gave me those sexy I’m-gonna-eat-you-alive eyes.” I closed my eyes, remembering. “Then he just walked over and kissed me.”
“Did you kiss him back?”
“That wasn’t really an option. When a man like that kisses you, you kiss back. Your body doesn’t give you a choice.”
The waitress brought us another round then, but we hadn’t ordered it. She placed a shot glass and mixed drink in front of each of us, explaining that the amber liquid was the Jack we’d been drinking. The reddish-orange cocktail was called a Ruby Red Slipper, and consisted of cranberry vodka, orange liqueur, and red grapefruit juice garnished with a lime.
“Who sent these?” I asked her.
“The man in the dark blue button up sitting at the end of the bar to the right,” she said. “Dark hair, goatee.” She glanced over at him and added, “Gorgeous.”
Cassie and I both turned to find this mysterious hunk. He stood out like fully grown man in a room full of toddlers. We held up our shot glasses to him, and he held his up in response. Clinking our glasses together, Cassie and I downed the whiskey and slammed the glasses on the table. After a thank you wave, we turned back to each other.
“Holy cow,” Cassie exclaimed. “I think Dominic’s got some competition.” She giggled in her drunken state, fanning herself and sneaking another peak at our mysterious benefactor.
“You can’t have competition if you’re not in the game,” I retorted.
“Oh bull, Ella. He’s in the game, and you know it.” She waggled her eyebrows. “I think he’s playing hardball, what with that kiss and how he’s got you stumbling all over yourself.”
“I am not stumbling. Besides, maybe that guy is after you.”
“No way. Men prefer blondes to brunettes.” Cassie always started with our hair when she compared us. Next would be my tanned skin versus her paler complexion. Then on to how everyone loves blue eyes so much more than brown.
I decided to stop here there. “He can see you better, Cassie. So you must the object of his fascination. He certainly isn’t buying us drinks because he can see the back of my blonde head.”
Her cheeks turned rosy.