Chapter 15: First Dates

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After her time at the senior center, Emma rushed back to the city, took a quick shower, and got to work. She wanted to get a couple of hours of BI business out of the way, so that she could enjoy Andrew's company and not have to worry about emails, calls, and anything else that may have popped up in the past twenty-four hours. Then, she had Richie pull her artificial Christmas tree and trimmings from storage for the first time in years. Richie's minions set up the tree in front of the window, and the box of decorations next to it. She figured if things got awkward, or if she bored Andrew out of his mind, at least they could decorate the tree.

When Andrew texted that he was on his way, Emma rummaged through her closet for something to wear. He'd said he wanted to stay in, to cook for her, so she thought casual was the way to go. But her current outfit of fleece sweatpants and a hoodie probably could be replaced with something a little more alluring.

She pulled out a pair of jeans, her loose, button-down black shirt, and a lacy black bra for underneath. Twisting her hair up, she clipped it to the back of her head and chose simple hoop earrings. A touch of makeup, and she was ready.

Back in the living room, she uncorked a bottle of wine, placed two glasses on the island in the kitchen, and streamed her classical holiday music playlist. While they watched Snickerdoodles and Snowflakes the night before, Emma had baked a pound cake for dessert. She put it on the kitchen island too.

Richie finally buzzed her that Andrew had arrived, and she asked him to send him up, fighting the butterflies in her stomach and pacing while she waited in the foyer for the elevator. When the elevator dinged, she bit her bottom lip, watching the doors slide open.

Emma was excited. She could admit it. And it had been a long time since she'd been excited for any man's presence.

His smile spread over his entire face, the crinkles next to his eyes deep and playful. He carried a giant insulated bag in one hand, and hugged a planted poinsettia in the other.

Emma jumped up and down and clapped with excitement, not caring that it made her look like a lonely, pathetic woman. "I'm so happy you're here!"

He handed her the plant. "Me too!" His enthusiasm matched hers.

As she took the plant from him, their hands touched and she noticed that he wasn't wearing his wedding ring. With a deep breath, she looked to the ground, unsure how to feel about that, and then back up to his face. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. You don't have cats so I figured it was okay. Bella told me that cats get sick from poinsettias? I had no idea. Those girls seem to know more about life than I do."

He thought she was thanking him for the plant, when really, she was thanking him for listening to her. For respecting what she'd said on his front porch the weekend before. But instead of making a big deal out of it, she decided to let it go. Tonight was about the present, not hashing up the past. "No cats yet. I think I'm supposed to wait until I'm at least forty to be a cat lady."

"Forty? Hey," he squinted at her, "how old are you?"

She led him into the living room, and then the kitchen. "You haven't Google stalked me yet? I'm a little offended."

Andrew placed the bag on the kitchen island. "I have, but mostly to see the Athletes Illustrated spread I've been hearing so much about in the office."

"Ew. You all talk about your boss like that?" she joked, pouring two glasses of wine.

He laughed. "Are you offended?"

"No way. I looked awesome in those pictures."

"Agreed." He winked at her as he unzipped the bag, the smells from the food inside filling the kitchen. "You looked amazing. Hottie Boss Lady, um-hmm."

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