“Come on, Cheyenne, please? This table is fine.” Ryan tried to whisper the words, incredibly embarrassed the waiter stood right behind him with an anxious frown, basically wringing his hands. He hadn’t had the time or the courage to search and find Jansen Branwyth. All he knew was Jansen did not grace any of the tables closest to this one and so this was the best table in the house as far as he was concerned.
“No! I want one closer to the windows.” She huffed, stomping her small foot and pointing farther into the large space.
“But, Cheyenne, you’ve made it clear you don’t even like Lake Superior. Why do you suddenly have to sit near a window?” Although Ryan would not have minded in the least. But as he glanced in the direction she’d been pointing, his heart began to race. Great. There he sat—at a table totally alone and watching them. Well, watching Cheyenne, which had to be the reason she wanted to sit over there.
And then again, maybe not. The man had actually been flirting with him earlier. Fucking bastard.
And now Cheyenne was making them a spectacle, a show. Damn it.
“I am sorry, ma’am”—the waiter fidgeted nervously—“but this is the table assigned to you and your guest. Please accept my sincere apologies if this table is not to your expectations.”
“No,” Ryan pleaded. “This table is fine. Thank you.” He turned again to Cheyenne. “Please, Cheyenne. Let’s just get through this night, okay?” He took the chair the waiter held for her and told her as best he could with his eyes to sit down.
She stood for a moment glaring at him, then walked to a chair on the other side of the table, most likely so she would face Jansen, and waited for Ryan to come around to seat her. Ryan let out a breath, simply grateful she gave in. Besides, better she face Jansen, because he sure as hell didn’t want to. His stomach was still doing little flips every time he thought about the man. He had a very real longing to talk with Jansen some more, to hear his voice, have his attention, and those strong emotions were extremely confusing and frightening. In the man’s presence, he could handle them. However, outside that direct influence he was more inclined to have a melt down.
He walked shakily over to the chair and pulled it out for Cheyenne. She deliberately and artfully sat, pulling on her too-tight dress and making a show of placing the napkin in her lap.
She glared up at Ryan with murder in her eyes. “Fine,” she said under her breath, “but you owe me.”
Oh dear God, he owed her? As if. Ryan tried to smile, failed, but made his way to the chair he’d originally held for her, sat. Glancing up at the waiter he asked, “Scotch and soda—easy on the soda—please?”
The waiter’s expression was warm and grateful. “Of course, sir.” Then he turned toward Cheyenne, the smile disappearing, returning to nervousness again. “And for the ma’am?”
Cheyenne shot the waiter a glare. “Quit hovering! Bring me a cosmo.”
Ryan touched the waiter’s arm when he turned back to Ryan. “Thank you.”
The waiter beamed. “Please, sir, call me James.” He bowed slightly and left.
“What now, Ryan? You flirting with the wait staff?” She snickered.
Ryan blushed hard yet again. Flirting? Maybe, but not with the wait staff. She had no clue how close to the truth she had come, but it still made him dizzy… and pissed. His drink could not get there soon enough. He had tossed back only that one—well one and a half—before he made his way down to the dining room doors to wait for Cheyenne. Of course, she wasn’t there on time, no big surprise. He’d finally found her upstairs on the other side of the boat, near the back bar.
“What are you doing?” he had asked her. “Why didn’t you meet me at the dining room doors? We’re going to be late.”
She had sniffed, obviously angry for some reason, but it was something she didn’t seem to think Ryan needed to know. And he sure as hell wasn’t going to argue that point. She pasted on her dazzling Cheyenne smile, put her arm through Ryan’s, and tugged him in the direction of the stairs.
“I was just chatting with Jansen. He is such a flirt. It’s a good thing you and I aren’t together any longer because you would have been livid. He asked me to accompany him to the dining room, but I told him I was going to sit with you. However, we will be getting together later for a drink and… well, whatever should follow, I guess.” She giggled. “He is just such a charming man.”
So, he was charming to her too? Flirting with her, as well? Asshole! He asked her to sit with him, and then he asked her on a date? Damn it. Why did it hurt so badly? This had been expected, which was the exact reason he had trained his mind and body not to feel anything. Instead, it felt like a fucking heart attack, a bag of rocks in his stomach, a thunderstorm in his head. Of course, he would pick the girl. Especially the amazing Jansen would pick the gorgeous girl.
I am nowhere near drunk enough for this night.
Cheyenne leaned over the table with an expression of pure disgust. “No kidding? Are you seriously flirting with that male waiter?”
He had been getting those vibes all along. She hated many things but “other than heterosexual” was something to be scorned. So were taxis but that was a totally different story. And even though the battle he waged by himself in the middle of his own mind whether or not he was “other than” would continue, he would no longer support her ridiculous ideals. “The truth is no, even though there would be nothing at all wrong with it. But I really do wish you would stop drooling all over Mr. Branwyth.” And by that he meant himself.
“Really, Ryan?” she murmured, having leaned back again, digging into her small pocket purse for her compact mirror. “Are you jealous? It’s so not like you.” She fussed with her hair, rubbing a finger across her lips. Why did women think primping at a dinner table was ever appropriate?
Suddenly two hands appeared on the table on either side of Ryan and a very hot presence loomed over his head. The heat of the tall body immediately permeated the fabric of his shirt and even before the man spoke, he knew who crowded into his personal space.
“Who is drooling all over me? This beautiful young lady… or this intriguing young man?” The last part Jansen said directly into Ryan’s ear when the man leaned over farther yet, his long hair enveloping them for a moment, making Ryan’s heart skip several beats and his finally cooled-off “demeanor” jump back to attention.
“Jansen!” Cheyenne probably would have clapped her hands if they had been free. She quickly threw her mirror back into her clutch. “How lovely to see you again so soon.”
Ryan was more than shocked and even embarrassed when Cheyenne all but batted her eyelashes at the man. Could she be more obvious? Of course, Cheyenne believed in beating the hell out of the bush as opposed to anywhere around it. Subtle as a November gale, she went full-out after everything she ever wanted. At one point, she had wanted Ryan. Now it was obvious she wanted Jansen.
It was becoming increasingly clear Ryan did as well.
What a fucking turn of events.