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Come Here Often?

Charlie Hudson

It was the sound of his voice that Megan noticed. A pleasant, full voice, a baritone if he sang, an easy laugh as the man next to him said something she couldn’t distinguish.

She casually leaned forward for a fresh bar napkin to get a better look without actually staring at the two men. When they arrived and sat around the curve of the shiny ebony bar she’d given them a glance to verify they met basic acceptability criteria.

Good, the one with the voice was angled toward her as he replied to his companion. Better than general acceptability now that she was paying attention. Decent posture, right at six feet, she assessed. Good shoulders, not quite a football build. Tanned without being leathery, more color than the techno whizzes that worked in the office suite next door to her. Full head of brown hair with a decent cut even if a bit shorter than she liked. Couldn’t see the eye color – probably brown, might be green, not likely to be blue. He laughed again and motioned for another round. Nothing fussy – a black and tan, straight draft for the man with him. He waved his left hand toward the television screen mounted above the bar. No glint of a wedding band. Not married or divorced? Early thirties, so could be either. She liked men a few years older although not the silver headed preference of her best friend Crystal. Guys that old had way too many complications with ex or current wives.

Megan settled against the teal leather backrest and sipped her rum and tonic. He was in office casual attire of standard fare of khaki slacks and a navy blue polo shirt. Not a lawyer then, couldn’t be investment or banking; if they relaxed their dress code, it was on Fridays. There were half a dozen office buildings on the block with a mix of less structured businesses or perhaps he was visiting. Mr. Not-As-Cute as Mr. Nice Voice looked familiar. Lyle? Kyle? Dale? Yeah, Dale Summers from the architect firm across the street. Okay, she had an in if she wanted to say hello.

“Is this a two-drink afternoon?” Jack asked as he replaced a partially eaten bowl of snack mix.

“Could even be three – I’m off tomorrow.” Megan drained the last swallow, leaned forward and handed the glass to Jack.

He grinned, his angular face softened by the gesture. “I wondered why you were here on a Thursday. Got big plans?”

Megan gave a tiny shrug. “Mostly personal business I need to take care of.” Ah, was that an inquiry look sent her way from the other end?

She turned slightly when she took the glass from Jack, but the guy had tilted his head to Dale again. Had he been checking her out? She crunched a sesame stick. All the stools between them were occupied, so she had good cover for observation and the bathrooms were on that end. She could saunter past ignoring them and stop on the way back to say hello to Dale. Without an open spot nearby, she could plead an excuse not to join them if the up-close perspective wasn’t as appealing as from afar.

On the other hand, if he was both interested and a gentleman, he would offer her his seat. A table was an option, although that could be too difficult to extricate from. No, a single drink at the bar, if they got that far, was the right introduction. She was past the meet-someone-get-wasted-have-a-one-night-stand phase of her life – most were much too disappointing when daylight came.

Another tiny sip. It was important to time her passage. They needed to be two-thirds of the way through a drink, her almost empty. She wouldn’t linger before she reappeared, so he could be debating what to do when she joined them; a perfect opening for another drink.

“Oh, well, I guess I can have one more. Rum and tonic – I got hooked on them last spring when I was on St Croix.” No, no, that sounded pretentious.

Don’t specify. “The regular, Jack.” Hmmm, did that hint she was too frequent a customer? Not really and besides, Dale had seen her in here before. It was a simple segue to work.

“Yes, that’s right, I’m with SYTEX, Inc – human resources office. Two buildings over, fourth floor. And you’re with….?

What was she hoping for? An architect like Dale? That would be okay. Builder, possibly. He had a little of an outdoor air about him. But from a profession or hobby? Wait, could be a combination – a coach, perhaps – lots of schools in the area as well as the college.

Ugh, what if he was a hardcore jock, one of those all-sports-all-the-time guys? Hardly ever able to carry on decent conversations and always throwing sports metaphors around. Megan shuddered as she remembered the soccer coach her sister had set her up with. What an arrogant ass he’d been. Jesus, they’d barely gotten through the appetizer before he made it clear he was expecting plenty of action later. And he was too gawky for her taste anyway.

“You’re too damn picky,” her sister huffed when Megan swore off blind dates for what really was absolutely the last time.

“I don’t see why I should settle for less than I want.” A phrase she repeated routinely to her sister, her mother, her married friends who were becoming concerned about her unattached state as if she’d slid beyond some warning age threshold. Twenty-eight was hardly cause for worry.

Not that she had anything against marriage. She’d thought Henry was going to work out and Blake had seemed to have potential. Granted Niles had been a mistake, but he’d been so considerate in the beginning and was simply gorgeous.

Jack was serving martinis to the couple near her and the timing was right to stroll past Dale and Mr. Broad Shoulders.

She gracefully slid off the stool and checked the front of her sage green skirt for clinging crumbs. All clear and she knew the fit was perfect; skirt just at the top of the knee, unbuttoned jacket opened to show the tailored, yet feminine cream silk blouse. She smiled vaguely at the martini drinkers and walked a wide enough path to where Dale would register it was her, but not be able to stop her without raising his voice or flagging her down. Perfect, she would be facing him as she returned.

“Hey, the girl who went by – that’s Megan – works up the street.”

“She’s cut. Is she single?”

“Yeah and nice. I’ll say hi when she comes out and introduce you.”

The conversation ought to be along those lines except perhaps a crude phrase used instead of cute. She felt appreciative stares at her ass and pushed through the ladies room door without a hint that she knew.

Okay, five or six minutes in the bathroom – a couple of minutes for them to have exchanged comments, a minute or two to peak the interest, another pause to heighten the suspense.

A quick inventory in the mirror. She needed a touch of powder across the nose and on the forehead. Green eyes clear, no mascara smudges. Megan loved the new, no-bangs cut her stylist talked her into. It set her oval face off better than the pageboy she’d worn for years and the coppery highlights enhanced her chestnut color. Might as well freshen the lipstick. She was ready, a little smile in place.

Shit! A barrel-chested, balding man was wedged between the men, one hand clutching a short glass, the other gesturing in broad sweeps – a raspy tone driving home a point. Dale and Mr. Wonder-What-He’s-Like radiated unenthused body language. What now? It’s not as if she could break in for a rescue – hell, the intruder had a boss sort of air about him.

The crowd had swelled even if it wasn’t to the cacophonous Friday night level. Megan slipped through and resumed her perch, barely missing the shoulder of a fleshy, round-faced man who had taken the seat to her right. He smiled at identifying the absent occupant. Oh God, the Hi-there, come-here-often expression she had no use for.

She grabbed her glass as he turned his head to respond to the slender Indian man who was pointing to a handheld computer.

Well, damn. It looked as if Mr. Butt-Right-In was going to be long-winded and neither Dale nor Mr. Why-Don’t-You-Tell-Him-To-Shut Up was trying to escape. What kind of deal was that? Maybe he wasn’t assertive after all; maybe he was one of these guys who looked like he could hold his own and then let people walk all over him. Or worse, what if he was a suck-up and would encourage the motor-mouth in order to score points? Maybe that why he wasn’t wearing a ring. Maybe he was either divorced or never married because getting ahead at work was his priority. Oh God, not the kind that took extra tasks to get attention, who would break a date at the last minute or leave a wife alone for dinner if the boss needed something. What if his outdoors look came from being the kind of guy who golfed with the big boys – always willing to miss a putt so the top dogs could win? Or tennis, easy to throw a match and grin ruefully. Well, she certainly didn’t need a man like that.

Jack held up a clean glass. “Megan, you want another one or you calling it quits?”

She hesitated. The threesome around the corner was nodding in unison.

“I’m sure she will and let me get that for you,” said Mr. Who-The-Hell-Asked-You-To, as he broadcast a silly grin.

Megan covered a snap with a half-smile. “No thanks, I’ve got to run,” she said quickly, finished her drink and set it on the bar before her hopeful neighbor could try to convince her to stay.

“See you later, Jack,” and a polite, but not encouraging nod to the rejected offerer.

She slung her purse over her shoulder, strode across the thick carpet to the atrium- entrance and exited into the twilight. There was a milder breeze now that the sun had set behind the skyline. Oh, the hell with it. He probably wouldn’t have been worth the trouble after all. Superficially attractive, yet probably ultimately disappointing in some way or another.

Dale Summers exhaled a long breath when his boss’s cell phone rang and he stepped away from them with a wave of his pudgy hand.

“Sorry about that,” he said with a grin to Justin. “I had to fill him in before the meeting tomorrow morning and he runs on when he gets on a roll.”

“No big deal,” his cousin said and twisted toward the spot vacated by Megan. “Oh, I think she’s gone. The hot brunette who walked by before, the one you said you knew.”

Dale craned his neck and motioned for another round. “Megan? Yeah, you’re right. I guess we must have missed her. She’s pretty cool from what I know about her and she might be your type.”

Justin shrugged. “Too bad, but I may be in town again in the fall. I don’t know what my schedule will be.”

“What a life,” Dale laughed. “Design boats, test run them all over the place, and get to be your own boss. No wonder you’ve never gotten married.”

“Just haven’t met the right one yet,” he said and grinned. “My timing always seems to be off.”

The End