“Want to go on a date?” Those were the words that tumbled out of Cal when he saw the young lady on the bridge. The one about to throw herself into rushing river below. It was the strangest thing he’d ever uttered and not just because it was so wildly inappropriate. A victim of chronic shyness, Cal found it impossible to talk to women, let alone date them. The black-haired beauty on the bridge, however, brought something out of him he didn’t even know existed: an intense need to share himself, all of himself, with someone.
“Want to go on a date?”
What followed was a typical date that was anything but typical. During it, two closed souls, one secretive, one introverted, would find in each other what they never imagined they’d find in this life. There was one stipulation to the date, however: come morning it would be over. Meaning Cal had till dawn to change her mind. Could he give her enough of himself to do that? (F/M)
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“You don’t get to ask,” she said suddenly.
“If you ask me why I was about to do what I was about to do, I’ll leave.”
“I won’t ask then,” Cal promised, but inside he quavered. The dates he’d gone on had sunk because he was never able to maintain his end of the conversation. This one was going right to the bottom if all they had to discuss was him. He never knew what to say about himself.
She scanned the menu again and sighed.
“Nothing looks good?” he asked anxiously.
“Well…” He thought about it. “What would you never order on a date? Go for that.”
The waitress came back. Cal requested a Caesar salad for them to split and a carafe of the house wine.
“I’ll have the spaghetti with olive oil and garlic,” the girl said, which surprised Cal. When he’d told her to order something she’d never order on a date, he’d been obliquely urging her to indulge. He’d expected her to ask for the veal or lobster. Her going in the opposite direction seemed counter-intuitive—unless she usually went for the luxury items?
“Lasagna,” Cal decided for himself. After the waitress left he asked, “Why the garlic pasta?”
“I’d never have that on a date,” she explained, pushing up the sleeves of her turtleneck. “You don’t want to reek of garlic when you French kiss later on.”
We’re going to French kiss? Cal almost blurted, then blushed. Stupid question. Of course they weren’t.
“No halitosis,” he heard himself saying, “is so bad that I’d object to a kiss of any kind from my date.”
The girl cocked her head. “Really?”
Cal winced and almost sunk his face into his hands. “I’m sorry, that sounded—”
“Desperate? You don’t have to pretend with me.”
Right. He’d asked a would-be suicide out on a date. She could hardly have missed the fact that he was desperate. He might as well have signaled it with semaphores. Cal felt himself hit muddy bottom. And the date had only just started.
“Do you have a name?” the girl asked as the mortified silence lengthened.
“Oh.” Suave, lover boy, very suave. “I’m Cal. Short for Calvin. Um…is there something I can call you? Or shall I just keep to Miss?”
She smirked. “Why don’t we call me Dawn?”
“Dawn,” he agreed.
The waitress brought the wine and pushed forward a cart with salad ingredients. She made up their Caesar there at the table in a wooden bowl.
After the dressed romaine had been divided onto two chilled plates and they’d been wished Buon Appetito, Dawn leaned in. “You said you’d tell me the real reason you wanted to go on a date.”
“It’s going to sound awful,” Cal confessed.
She shrugged. “My opinion of you, good or bad, is not long for this world.”
He flinched at that. He couldn’t help it. She might as well have slapped his face.
Dawn blinked. “I’m sorry, that was harsh. I promise, I won’t think badly of you. It’s not like I’m in a position to judge anyone.”
Just what did that mean? Cal downed a gulp of wine. “The reason I asked you out is because I knew I could handle the rejection if you said no.”
Dawn’s expressive brows shot up, and she took a sip of her own wine. “Well, that is unexpected. Though I guess, if a girl half over the side of a bridge tells you she has better things to do that night, you’re likely to believe her.”
He snorted and started to laugh but quickly brought up his hand to his mouth to stop it.
“You don’t have to stifle yourself,” she urged. “That was funny.”
“It seems wrong. I mean, given how you must be feeling—”
“No talking about me,” she flatly reminded him.