I should’ve asked Kaleb where he planned to take me before I got dressed. I’d thrown on my casual maroon sundress, my black converse, and my favorite jean jacket. I brushed out my hair and touched up my makeup. But I was not dressed up enough for where Kaleb Nixon brought us.
The restaurant was thirty minutes outside of town, so I’d never been there. When we pulled in, my eyes trailed over every expensive car that littered the parking lot. Kaleb pulled his car under an awning and two men in suits came up to us. One helped me open my door and offered his hand to help me out. I was too speechless to say anything. Kaleb spoke to the valet and then popped open his trunk. When I turned to look at him, he was shrugging on a suit jacket.
“Kaleb, I am not dressed for a place like this!” I said under my breath as the valet drove the Mustang away.
Kaleb snickered, “You’re fine. It’s a jacket and dress kind of place. You’re wearing a dress and I have a jacket. Besides, you look beautiful to me.”
“Don’t try to charm me, Nixon.” I snapped, crossing my arms over my chest. “You should’ve told me we were going here. I would’ve shaved my legs or something.”
Kaleb’s smile grows and his eyes flick down to my bare legs. “Would you shut up, Greer? You look beautiful, trust me.”
Kaleb placed a reassuring hand on my lower back and led me into the restaurant. The door was pulled open for us. We stepped into an elegant, small atmosphere. Twinkling lights lined the walls and candles were placed on each table. The restaurant was crowded already and I couldn’t see any open tables. There was a line of well-dressed couples waiting off to our rights as we stepped up to the host stand. A balding man was scribbling something down and his eyes didn’t meet our right away.
“Wait here.” Kaleb leaned down and whispered into my ear. He stepped away from me and addressed the host. They spoke in hushed whispers for a moment before the host disappeared. A few moments later an older man in an elegant suit came up to Kaleb. The man was smiling bright and instantly brought Kaleb into a hug. They dove into a conversation in Italian so I had no hopes of following along.
They didn’t talk long before the man’s eyes snapped to mine. Something Kaleb said made the older man laugh and then pat Kaleb on the back. A moment later, Kaleb walked back to where I was standing, followed by the older man.
“Greer, this is Ric. He owns this place.” Kaleb introduced me. “Ric, this is Greer.”
Ric goes straight in to hug me, and I awkwardly hug back. “Nice to meet you.” He talks with a thick Italian accent. “So, you’re the girl that Kale’s been talking about.”
My eyes snap to Kaleb’s. He stands with his hands in his pockets and a smirk at his lips. He doesn’t even react to Ric’s words, like he doesn’t care that they were said. “Yeah, I guess that’s me.” I laugh.
“Well, it’s nice to meet one of Kale’s girls. He’s never brought one around to meet me.” Ric glares over at Kaleb.
“None of them were that special, Ric.” Kaleb laughs.
My cheeks flush.
“I bet you’re hungry.” Ric turns around and grabs two menus from the host stand. “Follow me, I’ve got a special table for you guys.”
Kaleb intertwines his fingers through mine and we follow Ric. We pass through the dining room and into the kitchen. There’s a small table set up to the left, right in the middle of the action. It’s already set with plates and a candle burns in the center. Kaleb pulls out my chair for me and I sit down. Ric sets our menus in front of us. “Order whatever you want, it’s on me tonight.”
“Thanks, Ric.” Kaleb nods to the man.
“Sure thing, son. Tell Irene hi for me.” Ric nods to me and then disappears.
“Impressed yet?” Kaleb smirks.
I smile, “You know, I’m starting to think I am special.”
Kaleb looks down at his menu, smirk faltering a bit, “What makes you think that?”
“Ric said you’ve never brought someone here.”
“Ric’s getting old, you can’t trust what he says.”
I laugh, my eyes scanning across the menu. I already know what I’m getting, but it gives me something to do. My stomach is in knots and my fingers are shaking. I don’t know why I’m so nervous suddenly.
“How do you know Ric anyway?” I ask suddenly.
Kaleb clears his throat, “He knew my mom.”
I sigh and set my menu down. I look up at Kaleb, who still flicks through the menu. He doesn’t meet my stare. It’s silent for a moment before Kaleb breaks it. “Can we make a deal?”
“Neither of us can get sad or upset when our parents are mentioned, got it?”
The dinner was fantastic. The desert was even better. Ric dropped by a few more times to make small talk and makes sure everything was okay. When I told him his spaghetti was the best I ever had, he gave me another helping of it to-go. I almost told him I loved him right then and there.
Kaleb spoke with Ric for a few minutes in fast Italian before they hugged. Kaleb then led me out of the restaurant and back to his car. Kaleb handed the valet our ticket and we waited patiently for them to bring around the Mustang.
“Thanks for tonight, Kaleb.” I said with a smile.
Kaleb turned to me, hands shoved in his pockets, “You’re welcome.”
“Ric’s really nice.” I commented.
Kaleb nods, “He’s a good guy.”
My eyes scan the parking lot with a smile on my face. Tonight, was nice, being with Kaleb was nice. My eyes stop on something across the street. Standing on the sidewalk across the way is the same hooded figure that I can’t seem to escape from. My heart kicks into overdrive.
“Kaleb!” I gasp, turning to him to get his attention.
“Greer, what is it?” He asks, frantically. I point across the street to the hooded figure. For the first time, someone else sees him besides me. Kaleb takes off running towards the stranger and I lose sight of both in the busy traffic. My heart plummets somewhere near my converse and I feel like I can’t breathe. A second later, Kaleb comes jogging towards me again. My hand goes to where my heart is and I take a deep breathe. “He was gone before I could make it. Who was that, Greer?”
I can’t find the words to speak. My eyes stare at the empty place where the hooded stranger had stood only a moment ago. I wasn’t going crazy, that was for sure. Someone was following me.
Kaleb steps in front of me, blocking my line of view. His hands rub my arms, trying to soothe me. It’s only then that I realize that I’m crying. I sink forward into Kaleb’s chest, my face burrying into his shirt. He grips me tight as I cry, whispering reassurances into my ear.