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Dan watched until Colleen had walked out the diner door. She just looked awfully cute in that light blue shirtdress with a blue velvet band holding her hair back. It brought out the color of her eyes and contrasted nicely with her blush. Over the years he’d dated a lot of girls he really liked and he’d even been pretty crazy about one or two of them, but Colleen already had all of them beat hands down. He could listen to her laugh all day long. Even when she was freaking out over imagined danger, she was beautiful. He was absolutely over his head this time and he really liked it.
He sat down and noticed Scott watching him. “What are you looking at?”
Scott shook his head.
Dan frowned, but decided not to dig himself in any deeper. He was in for the harassment of a lifetime already if things worked out the way he wanted them too.
Colleen pushed through the doors of the store. She knew from the feeling between her shoulder blades that she’d been watched all the way across the street. She had hoped the other night that Dan had understood when she told him she wanted to date casually for a while, but he seemed intent on just waiting her out. She went to her desk and put her purse away while dialing the espresso bar.
“I’m back, Sonya.”
“Great, I’m blowin’ this Popsicle stand.”
Colleen picked up the rock she’d brought back from her last date with Mike. It was a piece of reddish sandstone she’d picked up on the cliff they’d climbed. On the way home they had stopped at a little diner run entirely by Mexicans. On their first date he’d taken her for Korean food and a walk on the beach. When he dropped her off, he’d said something about next time trying some tie place. She wasn’t sure what a tie place was, but it wasn’t likely to serve meatloaf. Mike had also asked her on the drive home about snorkeling and wondered if she might like to go climbing again. Whatever Mike came up with, it wouldn’t be meatloaf and a movie.
And Mike didn’t challenge her. He didn’t ask questions or push her to finish statements she’d cut off in the middle. He didn’t pay such close attention to her every word that he could give a report on her background. Mike just wanted to have fun. It was casual and silly and going no where.
But Mike didn’t make her blood simmer. He didn’t make her feel sweaty and needy and wholly desirable just for breathing.
“Are you staring at that rock again?” Sonya demanded.
“What’s it to you?”
“I just don’t understand why you think you need to pick one. Free love, baby. Enjoy your singletude.” Sonya leaned against the divider next to Colleen’s desk. “Relax and enjoy the ride.”
“First of all, there will be no free love-”
“Of course not. Always at least make him pay for dinner.”
Colleen flushed recalling that Dan had just paid for her dinner. “No and no. No free love. I need some kind of commitment beyond dinner before I go there.”
Sonya nodded. “Fair enough until you factor in that you’re the one who doesn’t want to commit.”
“Second,” Colleen continued, ignoring Sonya’s very true statement. “I feel like a creep dating two guys at once. It’s like I’m hogging all the eligible men in Los Angeles.”
“Hogging? Who’s hogging?” Grace leaned on the wall. “Please. How many gorgeous and sane women are there in LA who don’t want to be an actress and aren’t chasing Paul Newman?”
“I think Paul Newman is taken and what are you doing here on Saturday night?” Sonya demanded.
“Warren Beatty then, Robert Redford, fill in your fav movie star here and I needed Monday off so I volunteered to work tonight instead. It all gets done. Look, if they both want to go out with you then you go out with both of them. It gives you better odds of not spending Friday night with the cat.”
“She’s been suffering over this since the moment she met them,” Sonya said. “On one hand we have the fun paramedic and on the other we have the cop who makes her warm and fuzzy. She just can’t decide what she wants more.”
Colleen scowled. It just sounded so crass when Sonya said it that way.
“Hmmm happy fun or warm fuzzy. I see the dilemma.” Grace nodded.
“Thanks for your support.” Colleen tossed the rock back on her desk. It left grains of sand as it bounced. “I see the need to get back to work.”
“I see the need to go home. You aren’t the only one with men, you know.” Sonya turned on one heel and marched out of the office.
“What is she talking about?” Grace asked.
“There’s a Bond movie on tonight.”
“Sean Connery, oh yeah.”
“She even bought Neapolitan ice cream to celebrate.” Grace laughed and headed back to the warehouse. Colleen went to the register to see the lay of the land. Gary was ringing up a thin, dark haired man who couldn’t seem to shut up. While Gary appeared to be listening, Colleen could see his eyes scanning the credit card hot sheet taped to his register. Gary had a cottage business in spotting hot cards and, with a twenty buck reward, it kept him in beer and pretzels. If Dan and Scott were still across the street, it might give them a good collar on a bad night. She picked up the phone and dialed the first six numbers of Edie’s.
“I’m sorry, that impression didn’t come out.” Gary ripped the credit slip in half and held out his hand for the card. “Can I see your card again?”
Colleen dialed the last number. She caught Gary’s eye trying to telepathically warn him to stall.
Jeannie picked up the phone. “Edie’s.”
“Jeannie, are those cops still there?”
“Sure I was just-”
“Can you tell them it’s Colleen and I have trouble now?”
“There,” Gary said loudly. “I can actually see this impression. Can I see your driver’s license?”
“Trouble?” Jeannie said. “Oh.”
The phone clicked in Colleen’s ear. There was a line forming behind the credit card guy so Colleen paged for back up to the registers. Then she hung up the phone and positioned herself between the guy and the door.
“What do you need my license for?”
“It’s a new company policy,” Gary deadpanned. “I have to record an ID number on the credit slip.”
“It’s company policy.” Gary shrugged. “I don’t make up the rules.”
The guy scowled. “What if I don’t have an license?”
“Forget it. I don’t want the stuff.” He reached across the counter and grabbed the card from where Gary had left it on the register.
Colleen looked out the window. How long did it take to cross the damn street? When she looked back the customer was headed toward her at a rapid clip. In a few seconds he would be out the door and gone. Gary looked unhappy.
“Excuse me sir, can I speak to you?” Colleen blurted out.
“No. Get out of my way.” He tried to dodge left, but she followed him. He went right and she followed him again. He waltzed her backward until she bumped into the door. He lunged for the other door, but a customer coming in stymied him before he could get through the second set of doors.
Colleen’s feet tangled and she stumbled outside. “But sir, wait!” she wailed. Her heart was pounding in her ears. They went through the outside doors together. Colleen reached for his arm as if she needed to steady herself, but the guy grabbed her shoulders and shoved.