Heart to Heart. Kayla Perrin
“He’s an old friend,” Deanna stressed. “You remember the guy Natalie and I were fighting over all those years ago?”
Uncle Dave frowned. “Tell me you’re not going out with Marvin!”
“No. Definitely not. His brother, Eric, is the principal at Kwame’s school. I saw him today. And we’re going out now to catch up on old times.”
“Hmm.” Uncle Dave gave her a curious look. “Dressed like that?”
“I’ve got a suitcase full of nice clothes I haven’t had a chance to wear,” Deanna told him. Then she started for the door. “See you in a couple of hours.”
A short while later, when Deanna got out of her car and walked toward Eric where he stood waiting outside of the restaurant, the first thing she noticed was the way his eyes widened as he took in her appearance.
“You changed,” he said, his voice laden with approval.
“I figured I may as well get dressed up for the occasion. It’s not every day you run into an old friend and get the opportunity to get reacquainted.”
Deanna wasn’t sure if Eric even heard her reply, because his eyes drank in her appearance from head to toe, as though he was transfixed. “Wow. Seriously, wow. You are ravishing.”
For some reason, Deanna felt a tingling sensation in her belly. “Thank you.”
Eric made a sweeping hand gesture, indicating his outfit and frowning slightly. “I didn’t get to change.”
“You look great,” she told him. And he did. His black slacks, beige shirt and black blazer looked good on him. He had taken off the tie he’d been wearing at school earlier, which now made his professional look more GQ sexy.
“All the same, I wish I’d been able to vamp it up a notch to truly complement you.”
“Now you’re making me wish I hadn’t changed,” Deanna said.
“Nonsense,” Eric told her. “I’m glad you went to the effort to get dressed up for me.”
“I’m glad you approve.”
His eyebrows wriggled as he offered her his elbow, and Deanna cocked her head as she slipped her arm through his.
What were they doing? Flirting?
The question fled her mind as Eric opened the door and led them into A Taste of Soul. They were immediately greeted with a bright smile from a pretty young woman behind the hostess stand.
“Table for two?” the woman asked.
“Yes,” Eric and Deanna said at the same time.
The woman picked up two menus and then began to lead them into the restaurant. Eric commented, “I wonder if we’ll see Michael Jones.”
“The owner, Michael Jones?” the hostess asked, looking over her shoulder at them. “He’s not here.”
“He’s headed out of town for an away game,” Deanna explained. “My sister went with him.”
The hostess stopped at a four-top table near the window and set the menus down on it. Then she placed her hands on her hips as she looked at Deanna. “Your sister’s— Of course, you’re Deanna Hart.”
“I’m Sandra.” She extended her hand, and Deanna shook it. “Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you as well, Sandra. This is Eric, a friend of mine.”
“I’ve never seen Michael so smitten,” Sandra commented. “He’s really into your sister.”
“That’s good to hear, because she’s really into him.”
“Vivian will be your server tonight,” Sandra told them. “She’ll be out shortly.”
“Sounds like it’s going really well between your sister and Michael Jones,” Eric commented once Sandra walked away. He pulled Deanna’s chair out for her.
“It is,” Deanna said, sitting. “It’s almost like they were destined to meet.” Eric helped push her chair back under the table, and Deanna grinned up at him. “Why, thank you. You are certainly a gentleman.”
Eric sat opposite her. And even though Deanna had lifted the menu and was perusing it, she could sense his eyes on her.
“What?” she asked, looking at him and finding that, yes, he was staring. She touched her hair self-consciously.
“Just thinking about how odd it is that we’re both here, about to have dinner. Given that I thought I’d never see or talk to you again.”
“I know. When I woke up this morning, I never dreamed I’d be here with you this evening.” Deanna paused. “Sometimes life offers you nice surprises.”
“You remember all those talks we used to have?” Eric asked.
“Are you kidding?” Now Deanna made a slight groaning sound. “But most of them, I would rather forget.”
“Why?” Deanna repeated, bulging her eyes. “The way I cried over Marvin like a fool? What you must have thought of me.”
“I thought you were a beautiful woman who’d fallen for the wrong man. It happens. A lot.”
Deanna shrugged and again looked at the menu. But she knew what she was going to have. The last time she’d been here, she had contemplated the Cajun catfish with collard greens but passed it over for the gumbo. “I’m having the catfish,” she announced.
“That’s a great choice,” Eric said. “I’m going to have the same.” He closed his menu. “You want wine?”
“White?” Deanna asked.
“White’s good. Sauvignon blanc?”
Vivian, the waitress, arrived with a basket of warm corn bread, which Deanna dug into as Eric placed their orders. She then promised to be back with the wine momentarily.
Deanna looked toward the stage area, where an attractive young man had just appeared. He looked stylish in a fedora, cream-colored dress shirt with tie, dark jeans and black loafers. A few people cheered as he sat behind the keyboard, which led Deanna to believe that they were already acquainted with this musician.
“So, what have you been up to for the past nine years?” Deanna asked.
“Other than dedicating myself to work?”
“Certainly it couldn’t have been all work, no play,” Deanna said. “You’re not wearing a wedding ring, but that doesn’t mean you’re not married.”
“Why?” Eric asked, giving her a playful look. “You interested?”
“Just wondering,” Deanna said. “A lot can happen in nine years.”
The musician hit a few keys on the keyboard and then paused. “Evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Trey Martinez.”
There were more hoots and whistles. Then Trey began to play. Moments later, he began to sing. He had a sultry, smooth sound and reminded her of Brian McKnight.
Deanna turned back to Eric. “So?” she prompted. “Are you going to answer my question?”
Eric swallowed the piece of corn bread he’d bitten before answering. “Actually, I was married. But it didn’t last long. Not quite two years.”
Deanna looked at him, into his handsome face and bright eyes. Maybe it was the love ballad that Trey was singing, and the romantic atmosphere with two lit candles on the table. But it struck her just how totally sexy Eric was. She