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Bentley (Hawthorne Brothers Book One)(6)

By:M.L. Young

“Certainly, sir. I’ll get those for you, and please feel free to look over the menu. Let me know if you have any questions,” Gregory said before walking away.

“Everything just looks so good,” he said, looking over the menu.

“I’m liking the New York strip, myself,” I said.

“A steak girl, huh?” he asked with a little smile.

“Of course,” I replied.

Gregory soon came back with a bottle of wine in a stainless steel bucket of ice. He set down the glasses and uncorked the bottle before pouring them for us and then set the bottle down in the bucket to chill.

“Have you made a selection? May I be of any assistance with menu selections?” he asked.

“I believe we know what we want,” Bentley said.

“Certainly. Please order when ready,” he said.

“I’ll have the surf and turf special, with the steak medium. I’ll also have the roasted red rosemary potatoes as a side,” Bentley said.

“Excellent choice. And for you?” Gregory asked, looking at me.

“I’ll do the same. It sounds great,” I said, handing him my menu.

“I’ll get that order in for you right away and bring out your glasses of water and some house-made bread,” he said before walking away.

“Ordering the same thing as me, huh? Quite ballsy for our first real date,” he said.

“What’s the matter, don’t want to share?” I asked playfully.

“I’m just kidding, I think it’s great. So, how was your day?” he asked.

“Fairly uneventful. I went to class, I only have one on Mondays, and then came home and studied before getting ready for tonight,” I said.

“What class did you have?” he asked, taking a sip of wine.

“It’s an international business one. Required if I want to graduate,” I said.

“Do you like it at least?” he asked.

“It’s okay. It’s not boring, but it isn’t exactly an excitement fest, either. What about you? How was work?” I asked.

“We had a full day, if there ever was an understatement. They seem to be becoming more and more frequent,” he said.

“That’s good, no?” I asked.

“It is, but it’s also a lot to handle. A second shop would fulfill those services and more, but that’s a lot of work and management to take care of. We can’t be in two places at once, and we don’t trust many people with the business,” he said.

“But isn’t that a part of expansion? You aren’t a superhero. You can’t be everywhere at once,” I said.

“Who says I’m not a superhero?” he asked with a laugh. “But no, I get what you’re saying. Maybe someday soon. Still have to talk it over more with Dad, and then there’s the looking for locations and hiring more people and all that jazz. Not quite something you can just open on a whim.”

Gregory came soon after and set down two small plates, as well as a loaf of sliced house-made bread with a few small cups of whipped butter. Famished, I ripped off a piece as Bentley did the same before slathering on some of the butter. It glided effortlessly across the warm, soft bread. My eyes closed as I took the first bite and my mouth and soul were transported to a place I’d rarely ever been. It was that good.

“This is great,” Bentley said.

“I’m really struggling right now,” I said as I finished my piece.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I really want to have more, but I don’t want to look like a slob on our first real date,” I said.

“I grew up around plenty of hearty women who could eat a horse under the table. There’s nothing better to me than a girl with an appetite. You have no idea how many dates I’ve been on with girls who only pick like birds at a few pieces of lettuce in a salad. Please, eat, and have as much as you want,” Bentley said.

Smiling, I picked off another piece of bread as a busboy came by and topped off our glasses of ice water. I took a sip, washing down the bread, as I looked across at Bentley, who was doing the same thing. I knew this guy was pretty great, but this great? Had I hit the jackpot? A guy who wanted me to eat a ton and didn’t get grossed out? My last boyfriend hated when I ate a lot or really at all. I guess the universe had rewarded my pain and suffering.

The great thing about a date with Bentley Hawthorne, at least for me, was the conversation. It was so easy, not like a first date at all. He told me more about his family, his mother in particular, and I could see the way he loved her just by the words he had to say about her. It was sweet, and also a little telling about the kind of man he was. I know that people sometimes talk badly about mama’s boys, but I think they’re the ones to try to catch. You know they’ll treat you right.

Gregory checked on us a few times before bringing out our entrees, which were plated perfectly and almost worthy of a museum exhibit. The lobster, which was bursting out of the tail, was puffy and white, while the steak had sear marks that made a perfect lattice. I licked my lips slyly as I picked up my fork and knife, my stomach growling, while I tried to remain a bit ladylike and not like I would with Nina and Maggie.

“Bon appétit,” Bentley said.

The first bite was luscious and the second bite was even more decadent than the first. It was no wonder fancy places like this did so well and stayed in business. The food was better than anything I’d ever gotten in any restaurant ever. It almost made me want to go out and buy a lottery ticket so that I could get rich and eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was just a shame that I couldn’t afford it on my own.

“How is it?” he asked, after I’d taken a few bites.

“Amazing. And yours?” I replied.

“Pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. Just a shame I can’t have it more often,” he said.

“Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s kind of sad, though, knowing that you likely won’t have this kind of food again. I wish I had it more often,” I said.

“Why wouldn’t you have it again?” he asked.

“I can’t afford stuff like this. This is way out of my earnings zone,” I replied.

“I’m sure we’ll come back someday,” he said.

“Yeah? You think so?” I asked.

I couldn’t tell if Bentley was just being brazen with his assumption, or if he did think that this date was going that well that we were going to end up seeing one another. I had to admit it was kind of a ballsy thing to say, but I kind of liked it. I’d never had a man be so open and forward with me before. It kind of turned me on.

“Yeah, I do. Don’t you?” he asked.

I took a sip of the ice water that was on the table as I looked him in the eyes. I could see him waiting for a response as I tried to think of how I was going to answer him. I didn’t want to give it all up on the first date, but then again, sometimes you do have to go all in with your chips if you want to win the hand.

“There’s a chance. I have to see more of you tonight to know for sure,” I replied.

“That can be arranged,” he said, putting a piece of lobster in his mouth.

The night continued with laughter and conversation as we talked about sports, his car, and even the TV show Grimm, which we were both huge fans of. There was so much to him that wasn’t on the surface, like it was guarded deep within behind twelve vaults so it would never get out. I didn’t know if he was normally like this, or if he was like this with me, mainly because of the first date thing, but I wanted to dial in the combination and unlock them all. The man in there was different than the others. I was going to find out why.

We sat and sipped the remainder of the bottle of wine after dinner as Gregory brought us a molten chocolate cake to share. Warm, gooey chocolate dripped down the sides as a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top melted slowly and melded with the chocolate on the plate below.

It was so rich, the warm chocolate sauce coating my tongue and making me close my eyes in pleasure. I opened my eyes to Bentley looking at me as I slowly pulled the spoon out of my mouth. There was an undeniable tension; that I knew for sure.

Bentley paid the check, obscuring the total so that I couldn’t see, though I was more than a little curious. He closed the black folder it came in and handed it back to Gregory before asking me if I was ready to go. Bentley helped me put my coat back on, and the two of us walked outside, where I was beginning to question if the evening was about to end.

“I had a wonderful time tonight,” I said as a cold breeze hit my legs.

“Me, too. I almost don’t want it to end,” he said.

“Well, I don’t have anything else to do,” I said, hoping he’d say the same.

“Do you want to come over? Maybe have some coffee?” he asked.

I felt a flutter of nerves inside me as I looked at him. I did feel a little tipsy, but I was in full control of everything. Besides, he just wanted to have coffee and continue our conversation. It wasn’t like he asked me to stay the night or something.

“That could be arranged,” I said.

“Great. I live pretty close by, about five minutes or so. Would you like me to drive?” he asked.

“No, that’s okay. I don’t want to leave my car in their parking lot,” I replied.