Chapter Eight

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Natalie took several steps back, examining herself on all sides. Her bedroom was now littered with an assortment of clothes and she struggled to make a decision. She'd spent a half hour twirling around in front of the mirror, but still hadn't gained Noah's approval.

"I'm just not feeling it." He shook his head, arms folded tightly across his chest. "Let's go back to the cigarette pants, only this time, let's add the camel jacket and the suede ankle boots."

"You add the jacket and the boots, Noah, because I'm done." She pulled a scarf from around her neck and dropped it on the floor. "I'm going with my original outfit."

"You are not wearing jeans!" He stated firmly.

"It's not a formal dinner, Noah. It's just drinks."

"Yes, at Twenty-one. You're not having wings at Hooters."

"There's nothing wrong with black denim. I'll glam it up a little. Think Anna Wintour."

"More like Ellie Mae Clampett." He muttered.

She disappeared into her closet. "The last thing I want to do is show up looking like I tried too hard."

"There's a very good chance the man is running for Congress next year. Could you at least make some degree of effort? For me?"

She didn't answer. Noah pushed a mountain of discarded skirts and sweaters aside and sat down on her bed, clearly frustrated. He'd spent two weeks orchestrating the blind date between his boss and an old family acquaintance. On paper, Natalie and Blaine Sheridan were perfect for one another. The list of commonalities they shared was impressive. Southern roots. East coast educations. Ties to publishing. Both drop dead gorgeous. Noah felt really good about the match-up and prayed their chemistry would be instant. It worried him, her reluctance to let go of her London mystery man. It was definitely time for a fresh start.

"I just want tonight to be perfect." He said after a long silence.

"For me," Natalie walked back in the room. "Or for you?"

Noah looked up and immediately smiled. Natalie looked amazing, doing more for a pair of skinny jeans than women in a much younger demographic. They fit her like a second skin and he had to admit -- they were the right choice. She'd paired a black tuxedo jacket with an edgy, unstructured white silk blouse. She'd kept her jewelry simple, opting for one stunning statement piece--an over-sized gold tassel pendant--around her neck. She stepped into a pair of leopard print sling-back heels and tucked a quilted, red leather clutch bag under her arm.

"Well?" She cocked her head to one side, prepared for his veto.

"One part Katharine Hepburn. One part Kate Moss. And one part Coco Chanel. Shake well and serve."

"So this meets with your approval?" She made one last turn.

"It meets with every man's approval." He confirmed with a wink.

She checked herself in the full-length mirror again, pleased with the final ensemble. Classy, yet with a hint of big city moxie, she nodded confidently at her reflection. Noah stole up behind her and rested his chin on her shoulder.

"Blaine Sheridan is gonna date you so hard, then marry the hell out of you." He whispered.

"One thing at a time, Noah. Let's meet first, okay?"

"I'm telling you, Nat, this guy--"

"Is perfect for me, yes, you've mentioned that." She smiled at his reflection. "About a thousand times." She rolled her eyes.

"I just want you to be happy." His eyes grew serious as he wrapped his arms around her waist. "Thomas Crown happy."

*****

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