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Pen Your Pride

Chapter Three

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"You're kidding!" Larry shot her a sideways glance, his eyebrows hovering near his hairline.

"Nope. I've never been to Pink's." Sarah grinned at him from the passenger seat. "And I don't want you to pass out or anything, but I've never even heard of them."

"Seriously? How long have you lived in L.A.?"

"Not long." Sarah glanced out the window, suddenly fascinated by the minivan next to them. Larry cocked his head at the vague answer but didn't press her.

"You've been missing out. Pink's is a Los Angeles institution and you can't call yourself a true Angeleno until you've had a hot dog there."

"Well, we can't have that. Let's go get some dawgs."

"How about Langer's pastrami? Kogi tacos? Tommy's chili burger?" She pressed her lips together solemnly and shook her head no. Larry couldn't believe it. "That settles it. We'll start with Tommy's tomorrow and work our way through the list."

Even as the words came out of his mouth, he wanted to snatch them back. They were on their first date and he was already planning their next three dates. She probably thought he was arrogant for assuming she'd want to see him again. Or worse – needy.

"I can't tomorrow, but I'm free Friday night."

"That sounds great." Her face held no hint of wariness or distaste, and Larry exhaled with relief. He was thirty-two and he'd been on plenty of dates, but he had never been as self-conscious and unsure as he was with her.

Note to self: Try not to become a basket case every time she was near.

"We're here."

They lucked out and snagged a parking spot right outside the hot dog stand. He'd deliberately chosen the least romantic restaurant he knew –he needed help to keep himself in check – but he didn't want to make Sarah walk for miles in her heels.

"Oh, wow! Is that the line?" Sarah's jaw dropped when she saw people lined up the street and around the corner. "Must be some hot dog."

Larry grinned at her wide-eyed wonder, proud he was responsible for it.

"Two Planet Hollywood dogs, onion rings and a medium Orange Crush." He turned to her and raised his brows. She was ready. She'd studied the menu for forty-five minutes on the monumental decision.

"A Martha Stewart dog and a small root beer."

"Good choice." Larry grinned at her. He pulled out his wallet from the back pocket of his jeans. But when she fumbled through her purse for her own, he gave her an expression of such affront that she wordlessly put her wallet back.

They sat down at one of the white plastic tables with aluminum fold up chairs and waited for their order. Her mouth watered watching the other patrons devouring their dinner. It was an elbows-on-the-table, talk-with-your-mouth-full kind of place. In other words, it was awesome. She couldn't wait to indulge in some processed meat and sugary soda.

"So?" Larry waited expectantly for her response.

She'd just taken an enormous bite and could only nod enthusiastically. Besides, she didn't want to waste time talking when she could be chowing down the masterpiece in her hands. It was an explosion of flavor and texture. Sausage, sauerkraut, bacon and sour cream all nestled together in a soft, doughy bun. Nuff said.

After neatly tucking away the enormous hot dog, Sarah grinned dreamily at Larry. "Oh, my gosh. The last twenty-three years of my life have been a total waste. What was I doing when there was food like this to inhale?"

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