Gabe decided he needed to call a Time Out on this miserable dinner to regroup. Since he wasn't talking to anyone anyways, he simply got up from the table and left the dining room. Gabe made his way to the front of Duke's; it had a bar area separate from the rest of the restaurant.
The bar was pretty full but he managed to find a seat directly in front of a cute little bartender, figuring that vodka and a blonde with nice tits would help to lift his spirits.
"I'm Chloe. Can I get you a dinner menu?" the cheerful bartender asked.
"No, that's alright Chloe. I'm with a group in the dining room. I'm just here for a quick drink."
Chloe looked at him curiously. "Is it that bad out there that you had to escape?" She asked sympathetically.
"Worse." Gabe admitted.
"What can I get you?"
"Vodka on the rocks."
"I'll make it a double. On me." She said with a wink.
Chloe made quick work on the drink and had it in front of him within moments. Instead of leaving, as Gabe had expected given how busy the bar was, she stood there while he took his first life-saving sip from the drink.
"Better?" She asked.
"Much." Gabe said.
"So tell me, what's so terrible about this dinner that you had to take a hiatus from it?"
"I don't even know where to start." Gabe sighed. "Bottom line, it's a fish out of water situation. I'm stuck a dinner with a bunch of suits and I have no idea how to talk to them."
"That's all?" Chloe laughed. "Welcome to my life. I make conversation with suits for a living. The better I get at it, the better the tips."
"Teach me oh Wise One." Gabe said jokingly, although he desperately wished she would.
Chloe smiled. "I'll be right back." She said before rushing off to serve a couple of neighbouring patrons their drinks.
Drinks served, Chloe came back to where Gabe was seated. She rested her elbows on the counter in front of him, giving him an eyeful of her rack. "You've got a couple of options. I'd say your best bet is trying to talk to the women you're with. They're not really going to care about what you have to say."
"They're not?" Gabe asked, confused.
"Not when you look like you do." Chloe said through her eyelashes. "And if you have to talk to the men, for the love of God, don't get them started on their jobs. They'll talk your ear off and you'll have no idea what they're talking about. It's better to focus on something else."
"Well if I knew what else to bring up I wouldn't be sitting here." Gabe said. He took gulp of his vodka hoping it would start to kick in and ease his nerves.
"I have a feeling you're making this harder than it has to be. When they're out of the office they do the same things you do."
"Such as..." Gabe prompted.
"Pretty much anything. Talk about what you just saw on Netflix, or beer, or sports... If you really want to get them talking then ask for advice. You could ask for recommendations on places to travel or restaurants to bring a date."
Hearing her list of potential topics of conversation made Gabe feel like an idiot. Chloe was right; he was making this way harder than it had to be. He had to get his nerves under control before he embarrassed himself and his woman any further.
Where the hell had Gabe gone to? Claire wondered as she feigned interest in what Dave was telling her about his job as a derivatives risk analyst. Gabe had left the table ten minutes before and there was still no sign of him. Claire excused herself and made her way to the bathrooms thinking that maybe Gabe was just taking a dump. Gross.
Claire began to wonder if Gabe had ditched her once she realized he wasn't in the bathroom. Not knowing where else to look, Claire went to ask the hostess at the front of the restaurant if she'd seen him leave.
"Hi there. So strange question..." Claire said, getting the pretty Asian woman's attention. "I've lost my date, have you seen him?"
"The big guy?" the hostess asked.
"Yup. That's him."
"He's in the bar."
"Really? Ok, thanks."
Claire walked over to the bar and sure enough, Gabe was sitting there with a drink in front of him, deep in conversation with Chloe, her favorite bartender at Duke's. Even from a distance it was obvious to Claire that Chloe was getting her flirt on with her man.
Claire walked over to the bar. "There you are!" Claire's voice sounded shrill to her own ears, even though she had tried to hide her annoyance with Gabe.
Gabe turned away from Chloe's décolletage and gave Claire a look that made him look like a kid who was caught playing hookey from school.
"I was wondering where you went off to. We could have ordered you a vodka at the table." Claire said, noticing the almost empty drink in front of him.
"Hey Claire." Chloe said, giving Claire her signature megawatt smile. "Does this hunk belong to you?"
"You two know each other?" Gabe asked confused.
"Of course. Claire and her girls come to me for martinis every Monday." Chloe answered.
"Oh nice. Well yes, I do belong to Claire." Gabe said slipping his arms around Claire's waist. Gabe's comments made Claire's heart flutter. She loved the idea of him being hers. Even if he did skip out on important dinners.
"Figures, all the good ones are taken." Chloe said with a sigh.
"Were you planning on coming back to the party babe?" Claire asked, turning her attention back onto Gabe. She didn't want to force him to do something he didn't want to do, but she hoped he'd come back with her. It would be embarrassing to have to explain to the group that her date rather sit alone in the bar than with them.
To Claire's relief, Gabe drained his vodka, put some money down on the bar and stood up. "Of course I'm coming back." He said with a smile. "What could be better than an evening beside my woman?"
Claire didn't buy his eagerness to get back to dinner for a second, but was grateful he wasn't leaving.
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Love Like a Man - CHECK OUT THE REVISED VERSIONRomance
**This story was a top 55 SYTYCW15 Finalist!** Claire Warren felt like she had her life under control; she kicked ass at her job as an investment banker, had her own condo overlooking the City and spent her personal time knocking back G&T's at some...