Charlie plopped down in her chair and the overstuffed folder landed on her desk with a thud. She laid her head back and closed her tired eyes.
They had just gotten out of a two hour-long session about tending to their clients. Newly hired Jessica asked a million questions, prolonging the best part of it—the end. She was all for giving clients what they want, but she had been working with the company for almost two years now and she was damn good at it.
Charlie had trained under president and boss, April, something that doesn’t happen anymore with the company growing and all. Whenever they had a major client, she shadowed April. And if she were too busy to take on a small-scale project, Charlie was the one who’d take over.
Her phone buzzed from inside her purse, stopping her from dozing off. It was from James.
Images of last night came flooding back. Though it wasn’t anything grand, just making out like teenagers, it was still big for Charlie.
No dating, no relationships, and no hook ups—she hadn’t been with anyone in almost a year. It took a while for her to recover from the disaster left behind by the last guy she was with.
There was something about James though, something that made her want to try again.
Charlie opened her phone and read his text.
Have you grabbed lunch yet?
Nope. What did you have in mind?
Meet you outside Girasole in 15?
On my way!
She threw her phone in her purse and turned around to grab her coat from the hook in the corner. She was startled when she turned around to see April standing there.
“Where are you going?”
“To lunch?” she said slowly, like she wasn’t sure it was the right answer.
“Just give me a second, I’ll go grab my things,”
“Uh, but uh,” Charlie stuttered. She sure as hell didn’t want April tagging along, but she didn’t want to tell her why or about James—not yet at least.
“I’m actually meeting somebody,” she blurted out.
April studied her, her eyes boring into Charlie. Charlie couldn’t help but feel nervous, checking her watch and playing with her hair, tucking it behind her ears.
Her boss crossed her arms and stood on her hip for emphasis, “Who’s the guy?”
“Guy? What guy? There’s no guy,” she slid her coat on and shuffled past April. “Gotta go, see you in an hour!”
Charlie practically ran through the hallways—either because she was running from her boss, or running to James, she wasn’t sure.
James stood outside the restaurant in the November cold all bundled up. The wind ripped through Pittsburgh reminding everyone that winter was fast approaching.
He pulled his beanie down over his ears before shoving his hands back into the pockets of his pea coat.
“It’s not that cold,”
James grinned at Charlie as she walked up to him, standing on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek.
“I thought you were from Canada,” she teased. He held the door open for her, shooing her into the warm restaurant.
He stared subtly as Charlie shed her winter wear, revealing a tan long sleeved sweater dress. A skinny belt accentuated her curvy waist and the dark brown flat-heeled boots kept it casual.
It took him a second to realize that she was talking to him, “James?”
“Hmm? What?” She pointed towards the hostess.
“Oh, sorry,” he mumbled.
She just smiled and asked him again, “Mr. Neal would you like a table in the back as usual?”
James nodded and gestured Charlie to go ahead and follow the hostess, any opportunity to stare at her figure again.
When they were seated and left alone in the back corner of the restaurant, James leaned across the table and kissed Charlie gently on the lips.
“I forgot to do that,” he smiled.
Her eyes fluttered and she licked her lips before hiding her blushing cheeks behind the lunch menu. James didn’t need to look at the menu, he got the same thing every time he came, so instead he just ogled her.
Their waiter was quick to greet them and just as quick to fill their drink order.
Charlie cleared her throat and played with the straw in her water. “So uh, do you take all your dates here?” she laughed nervously. “I mean they seem to know you pretty well,”
James couldn’t help but smile at her worry. “I come here with my teammates sometimes, good food,” he slid his leg between hers comfortingly.
The conversation flowed easily after that. He asked about her day at work and let her vent about some long meeting she had to attend for no reason. When their food arrived it was quieter as both enjoyed their dishes.
He was picking at her dish when he noticed someone walking up to the table.
“Well ‘allo there James,”
Oh dear God no.
“Hey Tanger,” he anxiously greeted his teammate.
Kris stood there bouncing on the balls of his feet, glancing between James and Charlie.
“James, are you going to introduce me to this beautiful lady?” he eyed him.
No. Now go away.
“Yes, right. Kris this is Charlotte, Charlotte meet Kris,”
Kris surprised her by grabbing the hand she held out to shake his, taking it and kissing the back of her hand, “Bonjour Charlotte,”
James couldn’t help but noticed the blush on Charlie’s cheeks as she smiled shyly.
God damn him and that French accent!
“It’s so nice to finally meet you. James here has told me so much about you,”
“Well I mean, I,” he stuttered.
Charlie winked at him, “Good things I hope,”
“What else would there be?” Kris pretended to be shocked, holding a hand to his heart.
She giggled, “I like him,”
James forced a small laugh.
“So are you joining us for a night out on Friday?”
Charlie looked across the table cocking an eyebrow.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d be up for it, I was going to—”
“James, it’s ok,” she reassured him with a smile.
“We have a game on Friday. A bunch of the guys were thinking of heading out to the club afterwards,” he explained quickly.
Kris smiled merrily as James mad an ass out of himself. “I’m sad to say that my teammate here is a fool,” he snickered. “However I am happy to hear that you’re not taken! I would love for you to be my date on Friday,” he laid it on thick and put a hand softly on her shoulder, letting it linger.
James’ fists clenched underneath the table, “Kris,” he growled.
Tanger through his hands up in defense, “Alright, alright. But I will have to claim you for a dance, I’m a great dancer,” he grinned, kissing her hand once more.
“See you Nealer,” he winked at him, giving him a punch in the arm.
James sat there for a minute, his body rigid and mind elsewhere. Charlie just rested her elbows on the table and waited.
Charlie sat there patiently—sort of—until James snapped out of whatever daze he was in.
“I’m, I’m sorry about him. Kris is,” he paused to think of the word.
“Playful?” she winked.
James laughed. “I really was going to ask,” he reassured her.
She reached for his hand to give it a squeeze, and pulled it back so they could finish their meal.
Charlie was quick to grab the bill when it came, James had been so gracious before and she thought it was her turn to pay.
James helped her into her jacket and followed her out of the restaurant.
“I’m this way,” she pointed over her shoulder towards her building.
He gestured in the opposite direction, “I’m this way,”
She pulled on the lapel of his jacket, running it through her fingers.
“Come with me on Friday?” James asked a bit pleadingly.
Charlie toyed with him, “Hmmm, that depends,”
“If you’re as good as a dancer as Kris claims to be,” she giggled.
James rolled his eyes. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her into him.
“Oh, I’m very good on the dance floor,” he said softly.
Charlie leaned in and kissed him, “I’ll be the judge of that.” She gave him one more kiss before leaving the warm embrace of his arms to walk back to her office.