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Safeword_ Davenport(6)

By´╝ÜCandace Blevins

He grinned. “I like you and I want to get to know you better. Will you go out with me? I won't ask you to submit, and I promise you if we decide to have sex, there'll be nothing vanilla about it."

She already knew she enjoyed his company. What could it hurt? “What did you have in mind for our first date?"

"Tomorrow night, dinner at The Mansion Inn. I also have tickets for the symphony Friday evening, if you'd like to join me and a few friends to eat at the Southside before the show?"

"I didn't think The Mansion was doing public reservations anymore?"

"They aren't."

Dana had eaten there once and it'd been the best food she'd ever had. “Yes, to both. Assuming we don't crash and burn tomorrow evening."

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Chapter Three

* * * *

Dana slid the chain over her neck and paused, fingering the two wedding rings. She'd stopped wearing hers a few months back, allowing it to join Garnet's on the necklace.

Tonight she'd opted for a sexier look—a simple light green dress with clean lines, and her hair in a loose bun at the crown of her head, curls spilling out. She'd known when she picked the outfit that the chain would have to stay home, but habit had taken over. Sighing, she pulled it over her head, bringing the rings to her lips before gently placing them in her jewelry box.

It wouldn't do for him to know she still wore something so sentimental, anyway. She'd be hesitant about a widower who still wore his dead wife's ring around his neck, and she wondered if she were truly ready to date again, since she hadn't been able to put Garnet's away for good.

The buzzer pulled her from her reverie and she walked to the foyer to unlock the elevator before taking one last look in the mirror, her stomach queasy with nerves.

She opened the door to Zach in a hip charcoal suit, crisp black shirt, and a fresh haircut; and her pulse skipped a few beats as their eyes met. Her body was certainly eager to date again, even if her heart wasn't. “Come in while I grab my purse. If we have time I can give you the grand tour."

"Please do—I'd like to see what a superb designer does with her own place. I love your view."

Her gaze followed his to the panorama of the river with the aquarium and art museum across the way, and the four bridges, each echoing a distinct era. “Thanks, it was one of the biggest selling points. My balcony is a primo spot during the Riverbend Festival and the concerts in the park. This is the living and dining room, kitchen is in there.” She gave him a few seconds before heading towards the private areas. “I've turned the spare room into a combination office and workout space."

He looked over her drafting table before walking to her computer station. “I believe you may be as much of a tech person as I. How long have you lived here?"

"A little over a year and a half. I put our house on the market three months after he passed away, and moved before the six-month mark. My sister is using some of my old furniture with the understanding I may or may not want it back, eventually. I sold or gave most of it away."

She walked out of her office and into her bedroom with him on her heels. She'd used simple lines in the rest of the condo, evoking a feel of modern city living. However, for her private space, she'd gone over the top with fabrics and color reflecting the Victorian era. The contradiction was striking, giving the sensation of traveling through a time machine.

"Wow. After all your talk of finding a style and keeping it consistent, why the difference?"

"Interior decorators are allowed to break the rules, especially while they're in the process of recreating themselves as an individual.” She turned away, looking at the room instead of into his eyes. She felt as if he saw too far into her soul sometimes. “My former home was a combination of my style and Garnet's—mostly Mediterranean, leaning heavily towards Italian Baroque. When deciding on a design approach for the condo, I opted for clean lines with lots of glass to give the illusion of a bigger area. But for my personal space I needed warm and comforting."

She shrugged and faced him. “The room was big enough to handle it, so I indulged myself."

He stepped to the French doors and opened them onto the balcony, whistling a surprised note that gradually faded off to nothing. “I hadn't imagined you'd be able to get a hot tub up here."

She laughed. “It wasn't easy. Play your cards right and I'll invite you to join me on a night the Lookouts shoot fireworks after a home game."

The butler looking fellow at the front desk of The Mansion seated them and left, closing the door on his way out, and she raised her eyebrows. “Considering we aren't staying here and shouldn't have reservations at all, how'd you manage a private room? Not that I'm complaining, just curious."