Business or Pleasure

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Thankfully, due to the positioning of our guide, there was no chance for Jordan to pull out a chair for me. I wasn't sure I could keep up the fight if he made another chivalrous gesture. I was starting to think I wanted him to win the game and claim me as his prize.

As we sat down with menus unopened and candlelight flickering between us, silence settled over our table. Sometimes one of us would start to say something, but it would just end in an awkward smile and an averted gaze. The confidence Jordan had exuded the entire ride over had suddenly diminished now that he sat with me face to face in the quiet corner of a restaurant bursting with happy families and smiling couples. I couldn't tell what was going through his head, but every time I attempted to bring up the decorations, the doubt of my reason for being here halted my tongue. I wanted him to start, I wanted him to indicate his intentions clearly, either by jumping right into business or...I didn't even know. If he didn't start business immediately, what was I to assume?

"First date?"

The sudden question snapped both of us out of our stillness and we breathed in as if it was the first breath we'd taken since we walked through the door.

"No," said Jordan, before he cleared his throat and shifted his position to get a better look at our waitress. "No, not a first date. Not any date...just a business meeting."

"You sure?" she asked, waving her pen around, gesturing to the two of us. "It looks kind of like a date. Though if it is," she said, turning to face me, "you should know that Jordan hasn't been on a date in a long time so he might screw it up. Don't hold it against him." The woman, a tall, bottled redhead with a few wrinkles peeking through her artfully applied makeup, gave me a wink before turning to face the both of us again. I tried to stifle my laughter, but it just came out as a choking cough that made Jordan's face burn with embarrassment.

"It's not a date," he said more firmly. "This is Lyn Creeke, she's the new owner of the Hound and Sparrow. So like I said, we're here on business."

"Oh?" she asked, her eyes narrowing and her lips pinching as she cast her gaze over at me from the side of her eye. "I thought you were selling the place."

"She'll find the inn a good owner," replied Jordan with a stern clip to his voice.

For a moment a tense silence blanketed us and I darted my eyes between the two, uncertain if I should apologize or call a cab to head home before the town brought out their torches and pitchforks. Then the tension shattered when the waitress let out a dramatic sigh and sent her eyes to the ceiling.

"Oh, why do I even hope? Here I thought we may have had an actual chance for you Jordan. Lord knows you're not going to ever find a woman unless you're working with her. You don't got time for anyone except that house." She shook her head then looked to me again and continued on in a conspiratorial whisper, "for the best dear, the man's married to his work."

My second attempt to stifle my laugh went worse than the first.

"Okay, thank you Aunt Bernice. I think we'll need a few more minutes with the menus."

"Sure thing Jordan," she said spinning on her heel and giving us both a wave before heading over to a different table.

"Aunt Bernice? She's your aunt?"

"The benefits of living in a small town," he groaned.

I openly laughed and soon his embarrassment shifted into a toothy grin. After that, conversation came more easily. He made a few suggestions from the menu and by the time Bernice came around for our orders we were well into our discussion about the tree decorations.

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