Tugging her flowing paisley mini skirt down -damn island breeze- and cursing herself for the outfit choice, Rosie entered the courtyard of the brewery. She took a deep breath and assured herself she could do the whole dating thing. She inhaled the fragrances from the garden landscaping and allowed it to calm her. This just might be her new favorite place. It reminded her of visiting the Chicago Botanical Garden with her mother as a little girl. But this garden mixed with the ocean scent to make it even more beautiful.
Groups of people gathered around benches and she wondered if there was a wait. Rosie recognized a few locals but it seemed there were vacationers too. Then she noticed the full patio on the waterside of the building with its hundreds of twinkle lights and boisterous crowd. The brewery was packed.
Before she could pull the door open, it swung out and Erik was in front of her smiling. "Rosie. Come on in." He motioned for her to walk in.
When she entered the brewery, Erik took her elbow and walked her to a table tucked into a corner near the kitchen entrance. "I saved us a small table in the back corner." It didn't seem like much but then she noticed the view. They were sitting in front of sliding doors that were open to the outside. There was undeveloped land on this side of the barn and it was quiet, a dichotomy from the rest of the brewery.
"This is amazing. What a great spot for a table."
Erik held out her chair for her. "We'll be setting this up for special occasions and upon request. Tonight seemed appropriate."
"Oh yeah? Why is that?" Rosie asked coyly as Erik took his seat next to her. They sat shoulder to shoulder, both looking out the doorway to the water beyond.
"You agreed to a date with me." He paused and then in a more sullen tone, he added, "And then I brought you to my work. It was not very chivalrous of me."
Rosie laughed. "I don't mind, especially with this treatment." She swept her hand to encompass the table and the view outside. "It beats my usual dinner view."
"And what's that like?"
"The back lot behind my store, and the shops over on the next street," Rosie shrugged. "I live above my shop."
"No front view onto the island harbor?"
"That would be from my bedroom. I can lie on my bed and watch the boats." Three. Two. One. Yep, there was an awkward pause. It definitely wasn't just her. Why did she mention her bedroom? And then add in the part about her bed, and lying on it?
She grabbed for her water and took an overly long drink. Her cheeks had to be flaming if the heat she felt was any indication. Then the most unexpected thing happened.
Erik laughed. And Rosie couldn't help but laugh too. Then their eyes locked and neither was laughing anymore. Rosie watched Erik's eyes transform from a warm walnut brown to a smoldering mocha. His jaw clenched and she could swear she saw a slight flaring of his nostrils before he shook his head ever so slightly.
Breaking their stare, Erik placed his glass down. He picked up the two menus and handed one to Rosie. Once she was looking down, she could've sworn she heard him mumble, "I wouldn't mind seeing the boats from your bed."
Certain her cheeks were still flaming red, she held the menu in front of her face and took far too long selecting a meal. The trouble was that she didn't want to think about food. She couldn't get the idea of Erik lying on her bed out of her head. Just the thought of it stirred up crazy tingling in very important places on her body.
Erik poked his head around the menu and winked. "I'm going to grab us drinks. Light beer?"
"Yes please." He remembered. Another point for the man.
Rosie appreciated this informal atmosphere. She'd spent too much time at fundraisers and cocktail parties. Any dates she'd had in Chicago were typically arranged by her parents and were with men who would make a strong partnership, as her mother would explain even as she attempted to select Rosie's outfit for the date. If her mother could see her now with her bohemian skirts and peasant tops, she'd likely have a stroke. Here, on this island, Rosemary had transformed herself into Rosie. And she was loving it.
Erik set her beer down and rejoined her at the table. "I ordered us a sampling from the menu. I hope that's okay with you. I thought it'd be nice to see what the chef selects."
"Perfect. I couldn't decide what to order so that solves my dilemma." Rosie took a sip from her beer and hummed in appreciation. "You have a wide selection for a pub."
Erik nodded. "We want to be able to serve people a full meal at dinner time since there isn't much else open for the dinner crowd on the island. Our lunch offering is smaller."
"Do you plan to do tours or tastings?"
"That's the next step. Next week, the back will be ready for tours. And Holly is training our tour staff on the varieties of plants and herbs in the gardens. There'll even be someone to talk about the architecture and history of the building."
"I'd like to take a tour. It sounds interesting, more than just about how to make the beer."
Erik grinned that amazing full-cheeked smile. "Don't let Bran hear you talk like that. He doesn't understand why anyone would be interested in more than the brewing process."
"Well, I'll give him that the actual brewing is most important." Rosie acknowledged. "Still, there will be some tourists that might not care for beer so much but will be taken in by the history."
"I don't understand. There are people who dislike beer?" His stoic shocked expression mocked her. Then he laughed. "I know. I said the same thing to Brandon."
"How'd he take it?"
"Not so well."
Rosie laughed along with Erik even as she admired the solid structure of his jaw with its closely trimmed beard. His eyes shone, tiny crinkles lining the outside as his grin lit up his entire face. This man was gorgeous. She hoped to hear him laugh often because it was infectious. Rosie couldn't remember the last time she'd laughed so much with a man, if ever. Honestly, she couldn't remember ever having so much fun with a man.
"Your meals, Erik." A young man dressed in the brewery's uniform stepped up to the table with more food than Rosie imagined they could eat. "Rowan created minis of each dish so you could sample."
"Thanks, Oliver." Erik helped arrange the table with all of the plates and the server left with a quick glance in her direction. "Chef Rowan was training under the chef in my family's brewery back home. He jumped at the chance to have his own kitchen and he's still trying to show off."
"His idea of showing off looks delicious to me." Rosie picked up a stuffed mushroom and popped it into her mouth. Moaning, she added, "Tastes delicious too."
Those smoldering eyes were back again when Rosie looked at Erik. He was staring at her, watching her chew... oh, shit, and listening to her moan.
She covered her mouth with her napkin. "I'm so sorry. That was just unexpectedly amazing. I mean, that's better than any pub food I'd imagined."
"No apologies. I enjoyed knowing you appreciated it." Erik's eyes twinkled. "Always good to vocalize."
YOU ARE READING
Ring Around RosieRomance
This weekly serial introduces some of the characters from the ISLAND REFUGE series. The first full book in the series will be published in Winter 2016. Born and bred to become the perfect princess in the Chicago socialite scene, Rosemary's dream of...