Heart to Heart. Kayla Perrin
A beat passed, then Deanna pushed her chair back and said, “All right. Tomorrow, then.”
“Actually,” Eric began. “What are you doing right now?”
“Now?” Deanna repeated. “I was just going to head back home. Though since I’m here, I figured I’d watch Kwame at his basketball practice, then drop him home.”
“So, no plans for the evening?” Eric pressed on.
“Nothing in particular, no.”
“Then perhaps I can persuade you to join me for dinner after you’ve dropped Kwame off?” Eric smiled, a warm and charming smile that brightened his whole demeanor. “I was going to head to a restaurant for dinner tonight—something I’d much prefer to do with company.”
“You’re inviting me out to dinner?” Deanna asked in a playful tone.
“Why not? We can catch up on old times.”
“Nearly nine years,” Deanna commented wistfully. “A lot has happened for both of us since then.”
“That’s for sure, superstar.”
“Oh, stop,” Deanna told him.
“Seriously, though. I want to hear about everything. How you made your career happen. Everything.”
And then there was something about the way Eric’s gaze held hers that made her think that “everything” included hearing about her love life.
Or was it just Deanna who was interested in his? Because when she’d looked around his office, she hadn’t seen pictures of him and a special female. Which surprised her, given that Eric was certainly an eligible bachelor. He was gorgeous, amiable, inspiring and easy to talk to. And he didn’t have a phone full of female contacts he could call to join him for dinner? How come a woman hadn’t already swept him off his feet?
“So, what do you say?” Eric asked. “Are you going to leave me to eat dinner by myself?”
It had been eight years since she had seen Eric, almost nine. And she had always enjoyed their conversations. His friendship was one she’d cherished, one she shouldn’t have let slide when she left town.
“Dinner with an old friend?” Deanna began. “How can I say no to that?”
* * *
Dinner with an old friend.
Eric felt an odd sensation in his stomach at her words. He had been an old friend…and yet he felt the term didn’t adequately sum up the nature of their past relationship.
All those times he had held Deanna as she had cried. Held her and treasured the feeling of her in his arms.
Held her and hoped…
Marvin, Marvin. Deanna had been so obsessed with his lying, cheating brother that she hadn’t been able to see a life beyond him. Eric had tried, as gently as he could, to tell her that she could do a heck of a lot better than Marvin, if only she would open her eyes.
Well, she’d opened them all right. Opened them and run clear to California.
He had hoped that she would—
Eric promptly cut the thought off. Why was he letting himself get distracted by thoughts of the past? The only thing that mattered right now was that he was truly happy to see Deanna. He had missed her all of these years. She’d left and cut her ties to Marvin, as well as to him. He’d been able to know she was alive and relatively how she had been doing by following her career in the media. There hadn’t been news of her dating this actor or that musician, which he’d always been happy about, though he suspected that she’d simply kept her love life out of the news.
His eyes took in her features now. Nine years had aged her face in only the most positive ways. She looked more mature, more womanly. And even more striking than she had when he had last seen her in person. Some stars were always touched up when they were in photos and on television to the point where they almost looked like different people without makeup. But Deanna’s caramel skin was blemish-free, and with only minimal makeup on, she was a knockout. Her beautiful smile exposed a set of perfect, white teeth, and her long lashes framed wide, expressive eyes. The kind of eyes that seemed to reach right through the screen and touch a person’s soul. It had been no surprise to Eric that she had done well in the music industry. She had the look of a star.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Deanna asked, glancing away uncomfortably.
“Your hair,” Eric quickly said, clearing his throat. “It’s shorter than it used to be.”
Deanna fingered the short hair at her nape. “You like it?”
“Yes, it’s very nice,” he replied.
She offered him a small smile. “So, as for dinner, did you have a particular place in mind?”
“Yeah, I did. Unless there’s a particular place you want to go.”
“I wouldn’t mind going to A Taste of Soul,” Deanna told him.
“Ah, Michael Jones’s restaurant,” Eric said.
“Yeah. The food is great. Have you been?”
“A few times.”
“And you like it?”
“It’s a great restaurant. Let’s go.”
“Good. Here’s some news. Michael Jones and my sister are dating.”
“Really?” Eric asked, surprised. “Natalie?”
“Yeah. I don’t know if you heard on the news about her divorce from Vance Cooper, the one who plays for the NBA?”
Eric nodded. “Definitely. I was sorry to hear about it. So many of these men out there get a good woman and don’t know what to do with her.”
Deanna nodded, looking at him with a curious expression in her eyes. Eric wondered what she was thinking, but she didn’t say.
“Anyway,” Deanna continued, “I’ve been there once, and the food is fantastic. Whether my sister was dating Michael or not, I’d go there again.”
“Of course. The food is great, the atmosphere is lively. What’s not to like?”
Finally, Deanna stood. Eric did as well. “I’ll drop Kwame home, then get ready. When should I meet you there? Is six o’clock good?”
“Sure. That’s great.”
Eric spoke casually, but he was all too aware of the familiar flush spreading over his body. The one he’d had every time he had held her close in the past, and when he’d watched her on TV.
He had waited nearly nine years for this moment, this opportunity to see Deanna without the shadow of his brother hanging over their heads.
And in just over two hours, he was going to make the most of it.
Though Deanna had been more than appropriately dressed for dinner—wearing boot-cut jeans, a white blouse and a black velvet blazer—she went back to Uncle Dave’s place and changed. Her outfit now was decidedly more upscale. She was used to dressing up and going out to fancy dinners in L.A., and she relished the opportunity to put something on now that was a little fancy.
Though, as she looked at her reflection in the mirror, she couldn’t help wondering if she had gone a little overboard.
She was wearing a black sheath dress and low-heeled black sling-backs encrusted with colorful jewels. Her hair was short, so she didn’t have to worry about fussing over that. She slicked it back, added some mousse so it would stay in place and concentrated on the features that she liked to accentuate. She added mascara to her lashes, eyeliner and a burgundy shade of lipstick.
Uncle Dave’s wide eyes and low