“Oh, Penny, Penny, why are you such a people pleaser?” I huff out loud while I sit in a crowded restaurant in the middle of London. Every now and then I have to look up and off the waiter a fake smile, pretending that it’s perfectly normal to be left waiting for one’s date to arrive. Not humiliating at all. I bet he wanders out back to give the other waiting staff updates about the poor cow who’s been stood up, the poor love.
Glancing at my phone again, just to check on the time, I consider texting Effie to give her hell for suggesting this ridiculous person who not only agreed to such a date in less than five minutes, but who also text me just this morning to check I was still up for it. I screw my face up when I see that it’s been nearly half an hour since I arrived here. I begin texting Jez instead, blaming him for guilting me into going on a blind date in the first place. He’s also been very down this week, he could do with this laugh to try and perk him up.
“He’s a damn fool, whoever he is,” some kindly old gentleman says as he passes by my table for one. I look up and offer him a shy, embarrassed smile. He grins back at me, reminding me of my own grandfather before he died three years ago. He’s physically frail, hunched in stature, but obviously has all of his wits about him.
“If I was half so lucky as to be having dinner with a girl like you, I would have been here at least half an hour early!” he says and I inwardly melt over his words. Why can’t men be like this nowadays?
“Ah, well, not all men can be honourable, I suppose,” I reply with a sigh, checking my phone screen one more time. Nothing. “I think I might give up, go home and watch something ridiculous on TV!”
“You are more than welcome to come and join my wife and I,” he offers and I almost want to cry.
“That’s so kind of you, but-“
“Penny?” a deep, out of breath says, causing both the old man and I to look towards who I can only assume is my missing date.
Dressed in a business suit, still panting and looking every bit as gorgeous as Effie had described, Daryl, my blind date, puts up his hand in a surrendering gesture. My anger begins to ebb away slightly for he’s obviously been rushing to get here. The old gentleman is not so forgiving, tutting and shaking his head at him before offering me a warm smile.
“Make sure he pays for your meal,” he whispers to me with a wink, and proceeds to walk away.
Daryl winces, having just heard the old man, and begins to move around the table so he can offer my a kiss on the cheek. The act has me dying to know what’s kept him, for he certainly sounds and acts like the perfect gentleman. I hold my tongue while he removes his jacket and takes a seat opposite me. My eyes trace his every move, the way he moves his cutlery into the correct position before he grabs hold of his tie and loosens it a little from around his neck. He then offers me a wide smile of perfect teeth.
“Penny, please accept my sincere apologies, a business meeting ran much later than I anticipated. I would have left but this particular meeting could mean a massive boost for our company and…” He pauses, looks at me and laughs ashamedly. “And I am sure you could care less. What I mean to say is I apologise. I am not normally this rude, particularly on a first date.”
“Could you not have text me?” I cannot help but ask with the sound of judgement in my voice.
“Would you believe me if I told you I let my phone run dry?” he says with a wince, for this excuse is the modern day equivalent to ‘my dog ate my homework’.
“Well, I don’t know,” I reply teasingly, “can you prove it?”
He laughs as he retrieves his phone from his pocket to show me that he has, in fact, completely run out of battery. I smile and nod, to which he appears to sigh with relief. He gulps back a mouthful of water and relaxes a little.
“Would you like to order a bottle of wine?” he asks as he grabs hold of the menu. “I could certainly do with a glass or two.”
“Careless and a possible heavy drinker?” I tease, flashing my teeth to let him know I’m joking. It works when he laughs heartily, then covers his face with his hands.
“What can I say? I’m quite the catch,” he eventually says with a shrug of his shoulders. After we laugh for a few more moments, he reaches for my hand and turns serious. “All jokes aside, I am genuinely sorry for making you wait for me, but I am so very glad you did.”
“You say that now, but you are yet to discover some of my flaws,” I tease, if only to feel less awkward over his compliment. What can I say? Some girls revel in a man boosting their ego, others were brought up not to be vain or boastful. I obviously fall into the latter of those scenarios.
“Our flaws are what make us interesting, don’t you think?” he says as he withdraws his hand from mine and begins to peruse the menu with interest. “Are you a red, white or rose drinker?”
“Rose, but I’m also happy with whatever you decide. Effie usually picks for me; she always seems to pick the right bottle.”
“Oh, the pressure,” he smiles, “let’s try the chardonnay. If you hate it, I’ll get you something else, it’s the least I can do.”
“I’m really not that fussy, but thank you,” I reply, beginning to relax. He seems incredibly nice, even if he did keep me waiting like a sad sap for the best part of half an hour. I easily forgive, which is one of those flaws I am yet to unveil to him.
“So, how do you know Effie?” he asks after ordering the bottle of wine. “I must admit, I only met her this week. I have a feeling she only came to veto me.”
“Well, you obviously passed,” I tell him and he smiles, “and lucky for you, you arrived just before I text her to say you had stood me up. But in answer to your question, we’ve known each other since university. Besties for the best part of a decade now.”
“And, if I may, why did you agree to a blind date?”
I wait for the waiter to open the bottle of wine and pour before answering that question, the whole time watching him watching me with such intensity behind his eyes, I feel butterflies beginning to dance inside of me. The waiter eventually leaves and I take a healthy gulp of a wine so delicious, I think he’s outdone Effie.
“I guess there’re two answers to that question,” I finally reply, “our friend, Jeremy, has just had his heart broken by some cretin who decided he didn’t want to be in a committed relationship just before Jez’ thirtieth. Of course, I wanted to do something to cheer me up, so when he said he wanted me to go on a date and regale him with how it went, I had to agree.”
“Oh dear,” he laughs, “I’m not going to come out very well am I?”
“That depends,” I smile teasingly, “you have the rest of the date to make up for your tardiness.”
“Oh, I intend to,” he says with seduction in his voice. His hand covers mine again, and the way he looks at me forces me to take in an extra large breath to try and steady my nerves.
“The second answer is that I am painfully shy,” I reply with a shrug, “I rarely ask a man out. How about you? Why did you agree to a blind date?”
“Because I’m single,” he replies bluntly, “so, why not? Besides, ++++ has a picture of you and Effie in his front room. When he pointed you out, there was no way I was going to refuse.”
“Jesus, you’re charming,” I reply on a nervous breath, right before I take a gulp of white wine. He watches me, the whole time giving me a smile so sexy, I feel like he’s stripping me naked with just his eyes. “I fear I will be putty in your hands by the end of the night.”
“Oh, let’s hope so,” he says, lifting my hand to press his lips to the back of it.
“Are you ready to or-“
“Yes, ah-huh, right away!” I cut the waiter off just to stop myself from inwardly exploding over this ridiculously lusty and intoxicating man. Said man is now smirking my way while his forefinger runs back and forth across his bottom lip.
Christ, I’m in trouble with this one. Even my lady parts are screaming at me to just give in to his every whim, and I bet he more than knows it.
Find out how the night pans out for Penny and Daryl next month!
Book 1 of ‘The Mayfield Trilogy’ is on offer from August 7th to August 13th on Amazon. Download a copy for less than £1/$1!