She swore, dabbing at the sauce sliding down the front of her blouse.
Her brand-new, on-clearance-at-Neiman-Marcus, blindingly white blouse.
Casting a quick glance at her date and blurting out an apology, she darted for the ladies’ room.
“Damn, damn, damn!” She looked at herself in the mirror. Tomato sauce made an orangey-red oval alongside her left breast. She thought of her date, waiting at their table by the window, his perfectly steamed lobster cooling.
She grabbed a handful of paper towels, dampened them, and began to scrub furiously. Another woman exited a stall behind her, threw a pitying glance her way as she washed her hands, and smiled weakly before leaving.
The stain was getting worse. She flung the paper towels into the sink and stomped her foot, her Louboutin knock-offs clacking against the tile.
The bathroom door opened, and a man walked in.
She glared at him. “Um, not the men’s room.”
He smiled, lifting a bottle. “Seltzer water.”
He came closer, holding the bottle out to her. “Seltzer water’ll take out the stain.”
She cocked her head. “Seriously?”
“Yeah. My grandma swore by it.”
She nodded. “Good enough for me. What do I do?”
He folded another paper towel into quarters, then opened the water and soaked it. He reached for her, then stopped. “You, uh, you need to blot it. You won’t get it all out here, but it should help.”
She smiled, taking the wet towel from him and resuming her efforts to save her blouse. “Who are you?”
He smiled back. “David. I’m the bartender.”
She lifted a hand in a small wave. “Nice to meet you, David. I’m Sophie.”
“Sophie.” He cracked a grin. “That’s a lot better than what I was calling you.”
She smirked at his reflection in the mirror. “God help me, I have to ask. Pasta Girl?”
“Chocolate Martini at Table Seven. But Pasta Girl has a nice ring to it.”
She eyeballed her top. The stain wasn’t gone, but it was much better than before. Aside from the huge wet spot. “I can’t go out there.”
He looked pointedly at her chest. “It is a little transparent, isn’t it?”
“Look…wait here another minute, okay?” He waited for her nod, then left.
She looked at herself. Her hair was escaping its clasps, her lipstick was wearing off, and her blouse was showing the world that she’d worn the lacy bra to dinner. She sighed. Not her best night.
The door bounced open, and David reappeared. He stopped short, glancing around. “Anyone else come in?”
She shook her head.
“Good. I’d rather not lose my job for being in here.” He held out some black cloth. “I borrowed a vest from one of the girls. It’ll keep you covered until Scotch Neat can give you his jacket.”
She slipped the vest on. “Thank you. Really. You didn’t have to do all this.”
He grinned, showing dimples. “My pleasure.” The smile shifted, and his look gave her butterflies. “Anything you need, I’m happy to help.”
She couldn’t hold back her own smile.
He held the door open, and she slipped out ahead of him, heading back to her table. Her meal was gone, a take-out box sitting in its place. She looked at her date. “Mike?”
“Oh, I had the waitress pack it up for you. I was already done–didn’t see a need to sit around while you finished half a plate of ravioli.”
She saw the little folder by his elbow, the edge of a receipt peeking out. He’d already paid. “No dessert, then?”
“I wasn’t in the mood, actually.” He stood. “You ready?”
She thumbed the vest. “I need to return this. Can I borrow your jacket?”
He grabbed her leftovers. “Don’t worry about it. I’m here all the time for lunch–I’ll drop it off, later.”
She hesitated. “Actually, Mike…you go on without me.”
He glanced at the tables nearby. “Sophie?”
“No, really. Go on. I’ll get a cab home.”
His voice lowered. “Sophie. What are you doing?”
She smiled, aware of the couple behind her desperately trying to listen in. “I’m dumping your ass.”
His face reddened. “Fine.” He dropped the container on the table and walked out.
She watched him until his car pulled away from the curb, then carried her ravioli to the bar and perched on one of the stools.
A pretty redhead smiled at her. “What can I get for you, ma’am?”
The redhead’s forehead wrinkled. “Excuse me?”
“He loaned me this.” She pointed at the vest she was still wearing. “I need to give it back.”
“Sure thing.” The redhead disappeared through a pair of swinging doors at the far end of the bar.
David burst through the doors a few moments later. “…Sophie? Something wrong?”
“He ate without me. He skipped dessert. He wouldn’t loan me his jacket.”
She continued. “And now I need to call a cab.”
He looked hard at her.
She blushed, smiling and keeping on a brave face.
He relaxed. “What do you say to another chocolate martini, and skip the cab?”
Her smile widened. “I say I’m all yours.”
He sat an icy-cold glass on the bar, his thumb- and fingertips leaving ovals in the frost. “And I say I like the sound of that.”