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Page 27


“It smells good in here,” Danny said, drawing her attention back up to him.

“It really does,” she murmured with a frown as she watched the hostess run across the diner, around tables and finally slam through the kitchen’s swinging double doors.

“Is something going on?” she asked, returning her attention to Danny to find him gazing around the diner, looking innocent……a little too innocent.

“He’s one of them!” somebody suddenly shouted.

“I’m not going out there!”

“Neither am I!”

“Oh my God!” another scream came from the vicinity of the kitchen. “You promised us that they were never coming back!”

“He’s a Bradford!”

“Oh….shit,” the softly muttered oath drew her attention back to Danny to find him shaking his head in disgust as he pulled out his phone.

“What is going on?” she asked, ending on a gasp when Danny suddenly yanked her back and out of the way as several women wearing matching uniforms suddenly came charging towards them. The panicked staff kept as far away from them as possible as they shoved each other out of the way in attempt to get through the door first.

“I’m not serving him!” a short elderly woman with curly gray hair yelled, grabbing a redhead by her ponytail and yanking her out of the way.

“Why don’t we go somewhere else? This place looks busy,” Danny said as she watched several more women and two men join the group desperately trying to escape the otherwise peaceful diner.

“How about the burger joint across the street,” she suggested absently, unable to look away as the little old lady reached up and grabbed another woman by the back of shirt and yanked her out of the way.

Danny cleared his throat. “That might not be a good idea.”

“What might be a bad idea?” she asked, wincing in sympathy when the old lady kicked out one of the waitress’s legs.

“Going to the burger joint across the street.”

“Why’s that?” she asked, watching as the little old lady managed to slam an elbow into the cook’s stomach and shoved her way to freedom.

Sighing heavily, he said, “Because I’m banned.”

Chapter 17

“You don’t need to do this,” Danny said, handing her the pot she’d asked for.

“It’s fine,” she said as she took the pot from him with a smile.

No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t even close to being fine, but thanks to his asshole cousins and uncles, he’d discovered the extent of the damage those bastards had done over the years. Every restaurant they’d tried to go to had either turned them away, run screaming for the fire exits or had a mental breakdown when he came walking through the door. When he’d tried to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation by calling ahead, it had ended with some hysterical manager sobbing as they threw around the words police, restraining order and “Please, God, no!”

After coming to the conclusion that his asshole relatives had gotten the family banned from every restaurant within a ten-mile radius of the movie theatre, he’d given up and headed to the movies. He’d planned on ordering a few ten-dollar hot dogs, and fifteen-dollar bags of popcorn from the concession stand to hold them over until later, but his little Tinkerbelle had taken one look at the prices and professed up and down that she wasn’t hungry.

When he’d told her not to worry about it, she’d offered to make him dinner instead. He’d tried talking her out of it, but the stubborn woman had simply shook her head, grabbed his hand and yanked him towards the exit, leaving him with no choice but to accept the fact that he’d failed in his first attempt to woo her.

Now, as he stood in her kitchen watching her throw together a quick dinner, he decided that he was going to have to reevaluate his game plan. Originally he’d planned on wooing her with casual dates, a romantic meal here and there and his natural charm, but so far, none of that was working for him.

Well, at least the romantic meal portion of his plan wasn’t working. The next time he took her out, and there would be a next time, he was going to have to do a little research in advance. He’d show up at her door with roses, chocolates and take her out to the most romantic restaurant that he could find. For now, he’d have to work with what he had, which admittedly wasn’t a hell of lot, but he’d make it work.

“Do you need any help?” he asked, running several possibilities through his head.

“No,” Tinkerbelle said with a shy little smile that had him rethinking his plans to take this slowly.

But, he had a plan and he was going to stick with it even if it killed him.

“How long before it’s done?” he asked offhandedly.

“About an hour,” she said, shooting him another small smile over her shoulder as she filled a large pot with water.

Perfect.

“I’ll be back in time,” he promised with a satisfied sigh as he walked out of her apartment, quickly making plans to salvage this date.

*-*-*-*

“I’m an idiot,” she muttered, watching the steam rise off the homemade macaroni and cheese casserole that she’d cooked for Danny, who had apparently ditched her at the first opportunity.

She’d been ditched before, but wow, did this hurt.

It was foolish, but she’d actually been enjoying herself. This was the first date that she’d ever had where she could honestly have said that she’d had fun. Her usual first dates consisted of drinks, coffee, food and maybe a movie. Even dating Jerry had been incredibly dull and boring. They’d dated for almost two years, two very boring years with boring unimaginative dates that ended with really boring, uncomfortable, unsatisfying sex.

Well, sometimes. Most of the time Jerry wasn’t in the mood, which had been okay with her, mostly. She’d been a virgin before she’d met him, a very frustrated virgin and once she’d given herself to him………

She’d become even more frustrated.

The first time he’d taken her to bed she’d been excited and eager to take that step, but barely a minute after he’d started, he’d rolled off her, covered in sweat, panting heavily and she’d laid there, disappointed and trying not to cry. She’d barely felt anything besides a tiny pinch of pain, some jostling and his large stomach crushing her. It had been one of the most depressing moments of her life and unfortunately, it only got worse after that.

When he’d broken things off she should have been relieved, but instead it had depressed her that someone like Jerry didn’t want her. It also scared her. She couldn’t hold out much hope that a nice guy would want her when she couldn’t even manage to keep the interest of a man like Jerry. It had also confirmed her previous belief that men were incapable of seeing her as anything more than a little sister. Apparently Danny had come to his senses an hour and a half ago and had cut his losses.

She should have expected it, had expected it, but she’d hoped that things could be different. It had been foolish to let herself hope for anything more with Danny, but she hadn’t been able to help herself. She liked the way that he looked at her, the way he touched her and even though he still annoyed the crap out of her, he had the ability to make her smile.

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