Elizabeth walked toward the coffee house, nervously biting her lip and wondering if she was making an enormous mistake.
When she left the interview the day before, she immediately called Richard Fitzwilliam. To her surprise, she was connected to the man himself right away and she had an interview scheduled for the next day. Was having coffee with his friend a bad idea? What if it went badly? What if he didn’t like her and told his friend? Or what if he did like her and told his friend and then Fitzwilliam didn’t hire her because he thought it would be too messy?
No, this was a bad idea. She should turn around right now and go home. She could call him and postpone until next week. She might know about her chances with the other job by then and have a clearer idea of where to go. But she didn’t have his number.
She supposed he had her number, it was on her resume and he had a copy. Was going on a date with someone who had a copy of your resume a good idea?
She told herself to stop being stupid and just go on the date. Maybe it wasn’t even a date. Maybe he just thought she was amusing and wanted to be friends.
Yeah, right, because wealthy CEOs ask complete strangers to coffee all the time to look for golf buddies.
Finally, the coffee shop was in sight. She paused and took a deep breath, pulled her shoulders back, and walked in as confidently as she could.
She saw Darcy stand and signal her from a table in the back by the window.
“Good morning,” he said pleasantly. He smiled and pulled out her chair, then moved to his side of the table and was seated and comfortable before she had her bag settled at her feet.
“Good morning.” She smiled and looked around, searching for a topic of conversation. “I’ve walked by this place several times but I’ve never been in.”
“It’s quite good. I’ve been coming here regularly for years.” A bored-looking waitress ambled over to their table and he looked at Elizabeth expectantly. “Do you want something to drink?”
“Oh, yes, I’ll have a spiced chai please, easy on the sugar.”
“Another green tea for me.” He leaned back and the waitress left, looking even more bored than before. “So, I hear you’ve got an interview with Fitzwilliam tomorrow.”
“He told you that?” she asked, her voice higher than she would have liked.
“So, you two are close?” she asked hesitantly. Four minutes in and she was already bombing their date.
“You could say that.” He smiled in that way he had in her interview. His eyes sparkled and his lips quirked up higher on one side than the other, like he had a secret he wasn’t about to tell her, but he knew it was something she’d want to know.
Well, she wasn’t interested in playing mouse to his cat. This was a date after all, not an interview. He might have the upper hand in a business negotiation, but this was her playground.
She leaned back and settled her hands on her middle, her elbows resting on the chair arms.
“So, William Darcy, tell me, are you in the habit of asking out the women you interview for your company?”
He smiled. “No, not at all. I’m actually not in the habit of interviewing, but something came up and I covered for the VP that was supposed to speak with you.”
She nodded. “I see.” But she didn’t. Not really.
“Don’t worry, I don’t use my company as a dating service.” There was that smile again.
She flushed a little, feeling embarrassed and flattered though she couldn’t say why, and tried again to get the upper hand. One look at his expensive suit, ridiculously close shave, and confident demeanor, and she knew it was a lost cause. She was hopelessly out of her depth. She didn’t have the slightest idea how to get the upper hand back, if she had ever had it, and she wasn’t entirely sure she even wanted it. How would she handle a guy like that? Maybe it was smarter to let him have the reins and see where he led her.
“Can I be honest, William?”
“Usually, when I go on a date with a guy, we’ve had a conversation before or have mutual friends or something. I’d like to get to know you, but I don’t want to just play twenty questions.”
“Was there a question in there somewhere?”
She smiled to herself. “I guess not. I’m just wondering why you asked me out.”
“Ah.” He leaned forward and spoke quietly. “I think you’re cute. And smart. And spunky.” He leaned back with a tiny grin. “I like spunky.”
He nodded. “I do. So your sister is a tailor?”
She shook her head clear for a second and answered. “Yes. She just got a job at Zegna.”
His brows shot up. “Impressive.”
“She was a pattern maker at another design house for a few years before that, and an apprentice to an old-school bespoke tailor downtown.”
“You must be proud.”
“Is she older or younger?”
“She’s a couple years older than me.”
He nodded. “Any other family in the city?”
And before she knew it she was telling him everything. About her little sisters in college and her stepbrother who was a total jerk but she loved anyway. She told him about her childhood dog, Daisy, and her parents’ divorce when she was twelve. How she double-majored in fine arts and marketing because she wasn’t into the idea of being a starving artist but she couldn’t completely walk away from her dream.
He listened attentively, asking thoughtful questions and making little comments here or there that let her know she wasn’t boring him. After half an hour of doing most of the talking, she sipped her second cup of tea and looked at him over the rim.
“What about you? Big family? Annoying little sisters?”
He chuckled. “Not too big. My parents retired to Spain a few years ago—they say they’re too old to put up with winter anymore. I have two sisters, one is married and doing the whole mom thing, she’s pregnant with her third right now, and the other is at Vassar studying music.”
“Are you the oldest or the dreaded middle child?” she teased.
“Middle child, I’m afraid.”
“Aw, poor you! Must have been terrible.”
He chuckled. “You have no idea.”
She stretched her hand across the table a bit and he met her halfway, grabbing her hand tightly in his.
“I like you, Elizabeth.”
“You do?” she asked, surprised.
“Yes. Does that surprise you?”
He gave her a look she couldn’t decipher and tilted his head. “I’d like to see you again. Are you free Friday night?”
“That’s tomorrow.” He continued looking at her expectantly and she answered, “I have plans. But I’m free Saturday.”
“Dinner and a movie?”
“Sounds good. Let me know when and where?”
“I can pick you up.”
She thought for a second, wondering if she wanted to let him know where she lived. She barely knew him, after all.
“I can drive.”
He smiled and she got the feeling he knew exactly what she had been thinking.
“I’ll make a reservation and send you the details.” He looked at his watch and back to her. “I’ve got a meeting in fifteen minutes. Thank you for meeting me today. I’ve enjoyed it.”
“You’re welcome,” she said haltingly.
He made sure he had her number then looked at her with gentle eyes, kissed her cheek, and left. She stared after him for a moment, wondering about his straightforward wooing tactics and his ridiculously cute smile when her phone dinged. She had a new text message from an unfamiliar number.
It’s William. Save this number. You’re going to need it.
She suppressed the urge to squeal and saved his number, then stepped outside, wondering what she would wear Saturday night and where he was going to take her and if he would kiss her.
This letting her mind go thing was kind of fun.