“Are you busy?”
“Have dinner with me. There’s this great Mediterranean restaurant about half hour from here.”
“Stuart, are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
“We broke up.”
She gawked at him. “What?”
“She dumped me because she was convinced that I was cheating on her. It wasn’t any use trying to deny it because no matter what I said, she wouldn’t have believed me. So, after she cussed me and threw things at me, she packed her belongings and left.”
“Wow. I didn’t see that coming. I thought you would be the one to end the relationship.”
“I came very close to doing that many times. Well, it’s better this way, I guess.”
“I guess so.”
“I’m sorry about how things turned out, though.”
“I wonder what she’s going to do now.”
“I hope she will get help.”
“She had taken to drinking.”
“She blamed me for it.”
“Maybe now that you two are no longer together, she will stop.”
“I hope so. I have no idea what happened to turn her into the insecure and jealous woman she has become. I’ve never given her reason to doubt my love and fidelity to her.”
“Do you still love her?”
“No. I think my love started dying when she changed and now it’s completely dead. Still, I hope that she will be all right.”
“So, will you have dinner with me?”
“Yes. Let’s go.”
On the drive over to the restaurant he told her about his trip to Hollywood and about his meetings with the director and screenwriter.”
“What about the cast? Did you meet them too?”
“Can you tell me who’s going to play Yvette?”
“Really? That’s great! What about Agent Villegas?”
“Oh. He’s gorgeous.”
Stuart pursed his lips. “Stop drooling,” he muttered.
She laughed. “I’m not drooling. Who’s the director?”
“Wow. He’s top notch.”
“Did you miss me while I was away?”
“I missed you too.”
“Sure, you did.”
“I did. I thought about you a lot, especially when I was alone.”
She thought about him a lot too and not just when he was out of town. She thought about him everyday, especially at nights when she was alone. “I’m glad you’re back,” she said. The three and a half weeks he was gone seemed more like three and a half years.
Just then, he turned off the road and into the parking lot. She dragged her eyes away from him and looked out of the window. He parked the car and they got out. When they walked to the restaurant. “Is this it?” she asked in surprise.
“I know it’s not much to look at but the food is amazing.”
They went inside and she loved the warm ambience. Their table was in a corner. Everything on the menu looked very appetizing. As they ate, he told her more about his trip to Hollywood. When they left the restaurant, the sun was just setting. Instead of getting into the car, he leaned against it.
“It’s a lovely evening,” she said.
“Yes,” he agreed, looking at her. A guarded expression was on his face.
She went over to him. “Your hair has grown a lot since the last time we saw each other,” she remarked. She ran her fingers through it, thinking how soft and silky it felt.
“Yvette ran her fingers through Agent Villegas’s hair the way you are running yours through mine,” he said quietly. “Do you remember what happened afterwards?”
She withdrew her hand at once, her heart pounding. “Yes. They made love.”
“Do you know that when I wrote that scene, I was imagining us–you and me?”
“I know I said that I wouldn’t have had relations with a sixteen year old girl but I was tempted.”
“Yes, many times when you and I were together I was tempted to make love to you.”
She swallowed hard. “I wish you had.”
“So do I.” A muscle pulsated alongside his jawline as he stood up and walked around the passenger-side of the car to open the door for her. Their eyes met briefly as she passed him to get into the car.
She turned to him when he got behind the wheel. “If you and I had slept together would Natalia have still been in the picture?”
“When did you and she split up?” she asked as they pulled out of the parking lot.
“The same day I came back from Hollywood. She was packing when I got home.”
“She told me that she was through with me and that she never wanted to see me again. Then, she stormed past me and out of the house.”
“I guess the house feels strange without her.”
“Yes, it does. It will take a while to adjust to living alone again. The morning after she left, I noticed that a bottle of Hope sat on the shelf in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. She must have forgotten it.”
“Hope, as in the new fragrance by Jérémy Dior?”
“Yes. She bought it last month.”
“What did you do with it?”
“Nothing. It’s still there in the bathroom.”
“Well, at least you didn’t throw it out.”
“Do you want it?”
“Sure, why not?”
“All right. Come over one evening and I’ll give it to you.”
“I will. Thanks.”
When they got to her building, he walked her to her door. After she unlocked it, they stood facing each other. “Thanks for a great evening,” she said.
“Would you like to come in for a while?”
“Maybe another time. Good night, Shandra.” He hugged her briefly and then, walked away.
“Goodnight, Stuart.” Disappointed, she watched him go.