Chapter Two

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Three months earlier

"All dressed up and drinking alone?"

Emily took a slow sip from her glass of sauvignon blanc before setting it down on the dark wooden countertop in front of her. She gave the bartender a small smile in response and tried to ignore his sympathetic glance.

A hint of evening breeze made its way through the open door at the entrance to Koi, where she stood at the bar waiting for Jesse. As usual, he was running a few minutes behind schedule, or so his last text message to her had said. Considering he often claimed it took him ten minutes to get dressed, groomed, and ready for any occasion, his chronic habit of being fashionably late was a little mystifying.

Knowing Jesse as well as she did, she had made their dinner reservation for fifteen minutes later than she'd told him it was for, hoping he would get there before they were bumped from their table. Her own habit of arriving a few minutes early was something she really needed to work on, especially when her plans involved meeting up with him.

She picked up her glass again and stepped away from the bar. Taking another sip of her wine, she looked out into the dining room. The last time she'd been here, the star of her favorite TV show had been sitting only a few tables away from her, although it was doubtful she would have noticed if Jesse hadn't pointed him out.

"Are you looking for another date?" Jesse's voice came from behind her.

She brushed aside a lock of her hair and turned around to look at him. "Nah, I was going to give you about thirty more seconds. After that, you might have been history."

This is going to be trouble, she thought, taking him in, and she had little doubt he knew it, too. Dressed in a black button-down shirt, casually distressed jeans, and black leather boots, his dark hair perfectly in place, he exuded confidence and charm.

"I would have been crushed if someone had stolen you away." He flashed her the easy grin that always made her smile and reached for her hand. Together, they walked the few steps over to where the hostess stood, near the restaurant's entrance.

They were seated at a quiet corner table, given a cozy feel by the glow of white tea lights. Emily always looked forward to having dinner here with Jesse during the few times a year he made it out to L.A. She knew she was silly to think of it as their place, but sitting across from him at the table, studying his face in the flickering candlelight, she liked the idea that any outside observer might think they were a couple enjoying a romantic dinner for two.

"So what do you think?" he asked her, scanning the dinner menu he held in his hands.

"Hmm?" She blinked and tried to pull her thoughts into the present moment. "About what?"

"Dinner." He looked up at her and grinned. "Or you could just keep staring at me like that. It's kind of hot."

She flushed. "I wasn't staring at you. I was just..." She paused for a moment, searching for a word. "Thinking," she finished.

He raised his eyebrows. "I'd do a lot of things to hear those thoughts."

Same old Jesse, she thought. He probably practiced being seductive even while talking in his sleep.

"Hey now," she protested. "I'm a girl, if you've forgotten. I'm sure my thoughts are pretty much never what you think they are."

"Well, that's a shame." The slightest hint of a smirk appeared on his lips. "So what were they, then?"

She ignored his question and picked up her menu. "Are you up for sushi rolls tonight?" she asked, positioning the menu to conceal her face.

"Absolutely," he said. "Which ones do you feel like?"

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