“So…I see you changed your relationship status on Simbook…”
“You stalk my page?”
“Ha! It’s my job to know what goes on in social media.”
Aubrey snorted. “So you get paid to be a Simbook stalker.”
“I get paid to create relationships! Are you gonna tell me about your date or not?”
“All right, all right. We went to this place called Solar Flare in Oasis Springs. Maya! This place was soooo nice! Like, it really looked like it was on fire! It was so fancy and so extravagant…like places you only see in movies! Anyway, we talked and we danced…we had the whole place to ourselves! It was so romantic.”
Maya’s eyes shot open. “Romantic? That’s a word I’ve never heard come from your mouth before. Am I rubbing off on you?”
Aubrey rolled her eyes. “You’re so annoying.”
Maya laughed as she stood. “Being the oldest is such a burden. There are always young people trying to be like me.”
“No one is trying to be like you! Romantic is a perfectly good adjective! Where are you going anyway?”
“I have a…Ranveer is taking me to dinner.”
Aubrey gasped and clapped like a happy toddler. “Yaaay! I knew you two would keep in touch. Are you dating now?”
“No. We’re just…hanging out. We had a little wager last week. I won, so he has to take me to a nice place for dinner.”
Aubrey was practically squealing. “That’s so romantic!”
“Okaaaay, this new Aubrey is kinda weird. I gotta get dressed.”
She went upstairs and put on her newest dress. It was a long maxi with spaghetti straps modest enough for a nice evening out but with enough opportunities for drooling. Not that she was trying to rush things, but she was a woman with options and wanted to know very quickly if he wanted her.
The restaurant looked great from the outside, and she gave him points before she even walked in. Inside was just as nice. It was chic enough to be a fancy restaurant, but not stuffy and pretentious like Chez Llama and other bougie places. She liked it, and it felt warm and inviting.
Maya spotted Ranveer waiting for her at the bar. “Hey, loser.”
She sashayed toward him, donning her best smile. His smile wasn’t bad either. Actually, it was amazing. His eyes twinkled as he gazed at her as if he were admiring a magnificent work of art. At least they were attending the drool fest together. It had been a while since a man made her drool. Who was she kidding? She drooled every time she saw him.
He chuckled in response to her greeting. “So it’s gonna be like that, huh?”
She shrugged coyly. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“I see. You’re a troublemaker, eh?”
“Ok, ok. I’ll have to keep my eye on you, I see.” He motioned toward the back of the restaurant. “I got us a table.”
He showed her to their seats, and she tried to peruse the menu but couldn’t get over how hot he looked with his hair slicked back like that and was distracted from making a decision.
“I like your hair.”
“I mean…I really like it. Like, I thought it was perfect before, but it’s really…nice like that.” It took everything she had not to say hot.
He nodded respectfully. “I like it like this too, but I don’t like having a bunch of product in my hair all the time, so I usually only wear it like this with my ‘I’m cool’ outfits.”
A loud belt of laughter escaped from her mouth. She wanted to say, “Like you need outfits to prove your coolness,” but she had to save her flirts for the perfect moments.
Ranveer went back to looking over the menu and asked what she was going to get.
“I don’t know,” she said, finally looking at her choice. “My dad makes all this stuff all the time.”
He snorted. “I’m not seeing how that’s a problem. Your dad is an amazing chef.”
“I know! It’s not that. I don’t like having the same things over and over. I want something new.”
He nodded. “I get that. I mean, I could eat at Viviana’s every day, but maybe not my entire life.”
“I get it, I get it.” He had a soft smile on his gorgeous face like he wanted to say something.
“Well…I was just thinking…we have an awesome friendship brewing here, Ms. Pruett.”
She got nervous. Whatever he was going to say, she’d go with it, but what would it be? “Oh?”
“Oh yes. You want to try new foods, I love to cook and make all kinds of foods. Should you ever be privileged to visit me at my home, I’d love to take you on a tour of the world…with food.”
Her eyes widened. “You cook?? Can I, like, get a FastPass to this elevated level of friendship?”
He chuckled. “Perhaps. I’ll be monitoring your behavior tonight as well as watching my back, troublemaker.”
She laughed. “I must say, you are the most gracious loser I’ve ever met. I thought you’d be all mopey and stuff about your team losing. Then again, I suppose you’re used to it being a Plumnuggets fan and all.” She tickled herself and couldn’t stop laughing.
He shook his head. “Tsk tsk. That is no way to get the FastPass.”
“I’m just saying!”
He shrugged. “Well, what can I say? How can I be anything but graceful in the presence of such beautiful company?”
Maya was in need of a beverage. Or, maybe a cold shower.
The server came, finally, and quelled the rising tension at the table. “Good evening. Are you ready to order?”
Ranveer nodded for her to go first. He was such a gentleman.
“Ummm…” She quickly scanned the menu looking for something she never had. “Can I have this sour clover brisket thing with a Granny Smash?”
“Of course. And for you, sir?”
“I’ll take the lamb chops and a Sea of Fire.”
“Excellent choices. I’ll take those menus and return shortly.”
“My dad loves that drink.”
He seemed pleased–and maybe a little star struck–to learn he had something else in common with the famous Jonathan Pruett. “Seems like me and your dad are kindred spirits.”
She grinned. “I suppose.” She never considered she could end up with someone like her father…not that they were dating or whatever. Although that’s what the experts said happens, she simply never considered it. Most women seemed to be disgusted by the idea, but Maya adored her father. Any dude who had qualities like him was bound to be an amazing partner.
“I take it you don’t like it.”
“I don’t mind it, but I prefer sweet drinks.”
Ranveer groaned. “Those sweet drinks leave you with mean hangovers too when you overdo it.”
“Oh, boy do I know! It took me a while to figure that out.”
He grinned devilishly. “Went a lil’ crazy after your young adult birthday, eh?”
“Dude…I got soo smashed the first time.”
“What did your parents say?”
“They were cool about it. My dad kept telling me to eat something. My mom low-key laughed at me.”
He threw his head back and howled. “Gotta love it when they laugh at you!”
The server returned with their food, and they paused the conversation for a bit to taste everything.
“So…how’s your sour clover brisket thing?”
“Are you making fun of me?”
He smiled innocently. “I don’t know what you mean.”
She punched him in the arm. “You are!”
He laughed. “There’s only one graceful loser at this table I see.”
She gasped and pushed him.
He was laughing so hard he could hardly talk. “You’re definitely not getting a FastPass to premium friendship now!”
They made it through dinner without any bodily injuries or denouncements of friendship. She never had so much fun with a man that didn’t involve making out or hypnotizing him with her dance moves. A friendship with Ranveer was indeed something new, and she loved it. They talked and joked for another hour after they’d finished their meals. He paid the bill, and as they headed toward the door, he stopped in front of the bar again to say goodnight.
“I’m not sure if being friends with you is good for my health, but I’ll risk it.”
She grinned. “You’re a brave soul.”
“I’d like to take you out again.”
“Need a second round of punishment?”
“No.” He stepped toward her, causing her heart to skip a beat. “I just want to see you again…if that’s ok.”
Part of the goal for the night was to get another date. She knew he’d be keen, but to hear him ask with no prompting or hinting from her, oh-em-gee. She couldn’t stop smiling. “Of course.”
Neither could he. “Well, until next time…stay out of trouble.”
She laughed and fell into his arms.