Want to start at the beginning?
“So are you free for dinner tomorrow?” Mike asked.
Colleen felt the breath sucked out of her. They had been talking and laughing for about an hour now. He was easy to talk to. He listened. But for some reason she hadn’t thought he would ask her out. “Dinner?” she repeated.
“Unless you’re busy.”
Colleen looked at his eyes. He was very sweet. He didn’t seem to expect her to say ‘oh sure, anytime you’ll deign to pay attention to me, I’m ready.’ That was a nice change. “Well, I’m supposed to be at my cousin’s house for lunch tomorrow, but I should be free for dinner.”
“Would you like to have dinner with me?”
She smiled, surprised to find that, yes, for the first time since October, she wanted to have an intimate dinner with a man. She spread her fingers on the table. There had been a dent around her ring finger for the longest time after she took off her engagement ring, but it was gone now. “Yes. I would like that very much.”
He grinned. “Great. When and where can I pick you up?”
Colleen was still doing her laundry when Sonya got home at twelve thirty that night.
“Well? You and that guy sure talked for a long time and then you disappeared and didn’t tell me anything.” Sonya dropped onto the couch.
Colleen folded her socks. “He’s taking me to dinner.”
Sonya squealed and clapped her hands. “Does he have a brother?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask. I’ll be sure to find out tomorrow.” Colleen focused on the socks. She’d been thinking about the dinner since she came home. What if he expected something? What if she said something stupid?
“What time is he picking you up?”
“Six.” She was known to say stupid things or nothing at all. She never had decided which was worse.
“Damn. I won’t be home yet.” Sonya slouched against the back of the couch.
“You have swing tomorrow?” Why did it matter if she said something stupid? What was the Dragnet line? Six million people in the big city? If only a third of them were male she still had lots of chances. And he was cute.
“Yeah. You better bet I’m gonna wait up.”
Colleen shrugged, smiling. “Go right ahead.”
Dan knocked on the door and Scott opened it almost instantly. “Hey, glad you could make it.”
“Yeah, I’m here. Where is this perfect woman?”
“Uncle Dan!” Jimmy ran out of the dining room and threw himself at Dan.
Dan picked him up and tossed him in the air. “Hi there, Sport.”
“Did you bring me anything?”
“Jimmy!” Laura scolded from the doorway.
Jimmy looked back at her, contrite, but Dan was fishing in his pocket. By the time Jimmy turned back, Dan was holding up a toy car. “Alright.” Jimmy grabbed the car. “Thanks, Uncle Dan.” He wiggled loose and started driving the car across the back of the couch.
“I hope you have stock in Hot Wheels,” Scott remarked.
“Dan, you’re going to spoil him,” Laura scolded, watching her son.
Dan shrugged. “It’ll be okay. A toy car here and there won’t kill him.” He glanced around the room. Laura’s perfect cousin didn’t seem to be in evidence. Maybe she was late.
“Hey guys.” Colleen leaned around the door.
“Colleen! Right on time.” Laura came forward.
“Auntie Colleen!” Jimmy ran across the couch, clutching the car in his hand and threw himself at Colleen.
She grabbed him, swinging him around. “How’s my hero?”
“I can read that whole book you gave me, Aunt Colleen.”
“Well that’s good, you know why?”
She positioned Jimmy on her hip. “Because I have something for you in my bag.” She tried to open her huge purse with one hand.
“Colleen, you’re going to spoil him, too,” Laura protested.
“It’s my job. Grab that, Jimmy.”
Jimmy transferred the car to his other hand and reached inside Colleen’s bag for the picture book she’d brought. “Look Mom. It’s Dr. Suess.”
“Oh, thanks Colleen,” Scott said sourly. “You know how hard those are to read aloud.”
“Yes, yes I do.” She grinned. “But I don’t have to read them every night for a month.”
“Will you read it to me?” Jimmy asked as soon as there was a pause.
“In a minute. Why don’t you look at the pictures and see if you can read any of it yourself first?” Colleen kissed his cheek.
“Okay.” Jimmy wiggled down and settled on the couch with the book in his lap, using the car as a pointer.
“Well?” Colleen asked Laura.
“Colleen Duncan, this is Dan O’Neill, Scott’s partner,” Laura said.
“Scott’s partner,” Colleen repeated staring at Laura pointedly before she turned to Dan. “It’s nice to meet you. I’ve heard a little bit about you in passing.” She shook his hand.
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” Dan grumbled, shooting a look at Scott. “It’s nice to meet you too.” He checked her out. Dark blue eyes. Thin. Attractive smile. Long chestnut hair. She seemed to be all legs in the short yellow dress she wore. And so far she had an interesting personality. She was actually better than advertised.
Colleen wiped tears of laughter from her eyes.
“We weren’t that bad when we were kids,” Laura protested.
“We were worse.” Colleen giggled. “I swear your father moved all the way out here to separate us. I think it was the frogs in the bathtub that did it.”
“Where did you get all those frogs?” Dan asked.
Colleen threw her head back and laughed. “That’s the best part. We were raising them in buckets in the garage at her house.”
“Oh yeah. We decided the buckets weren’t big enough any more.” Laura put both hands over her mouth.
“That’s right. I knew there was a reason we put them in the bath tub. I said they needed more space to swim and you suggested the bathtub.”
“I didn’t suggest the bathtub, you did,” Laura protested.
“Oh no. It was your idea to protect the pollywogs in the first place. We couldn’t let the big bad fish eat them.” Colleen gasped suddenly alarmed. “What time is it?”
“Quarter to five.”
Colleen jumped up. “I’m going to be late. I’ve got someplace to be tonight. Sorry to run off.”
Dan stood up. “I should get going too. I’ll walk you to your car.” He wanted a minute with her away from the ears of Scott and Laura. Bad enough letting Laura fix him up, worse letting her know she’d been successful.
She paused for a moment watching him. “Alright.” She turned to Laura smiling. “Thanks for inviting me. Give Jimmy a kiss for me when he wakes up.”
“I will.” Laura hugged her cousin. “And I’m glad you’re living out here now. This is so much fun.”
Laura and Scott followed them as far as the front door.
Dan accompanied her down the driveway to her car and opened her car door for her. She was still better than advertised. Funnier, prettier, nicer. “It was really good meeting you, Colleen.”
“It was good meeting you too, Dan.”
Dan glanced back at the house. “Laura keeps trying to fix me up with her friends.”
“I know. You don’t have to feel obligated or anything. Laura was always pretty bad that way. She used to write me letters telling me how great these guys were that she knew and that I should move out here. I think you were one of them.” Colleen flushed and Dan wondered how often he’d been mentioned in those letters.
Dan looked at the ground. “Yeah, well. She means well. And I don’t feel obligated. Would you mind if I called you?”
Colleen licked her lips. “I wouldn’t mind,” she said. “Do you have something to write the number down on?”
“I’ll remember it.” No way was he going to forget this number.
Colleen rattled it off.
Dan nodded. Then he took her hand in his. “I’ll call you. Tomorrow. Are you free?”
“Good. Tomorrow then.” He stepped back while she settled into the driver’s seat. “Don’t forget your seatbelt.”
“Of course not.” She pulled the belt across her lap. “I guess I’ll talk to you tomorrow then.”
He nodded and stepped away from the car. Tomorrow.