This is not the contract lawyer I was expecting. I glare at Hugh.
“What?” He hasn’t seen Maggie and the ‘attorney’ yet.
I nod over his shoulder. Hugh turns and claps his hands together. “Jade! You made it.” He moves toward the tiny woman in the smallest black dress I’ve ever seen. I follow the line down to her shoes and see she’s wearing heels that do nothing to add to her height next to Maggie.
Hugh is going to die later. I know his plan. And he lied to me. This is an obvious fix up, and not just to get me a new contract lawyer.
“Jade Tsang, I’d like you to meet my younger brother Gil Montgomery. Gil, meet Jade.” Hugh spans the distance between us with his arms out wide. I can’t be rude so all I’m left with is the required handshake.
“Nice to meet you, Jade.”
“Nice to meet you, Gil.”
Her hand is soft and smooth. And very tiny in my hand. I feel as though if I squeeze with just the right pressure I will crush all those delicate bones.
Hugh clears his throat and I realize we’re still holding hands. I quickly release her and she does the same. “Well, now that you’re here we can get everything to the table.” Hugh claps his hands together again. He always does that when he’s nervous. He should be nervous.
“Ladies, you take care of the drinks and we men will get the food to the table. Gil, what would you like to drink, you’re usual?”
“Sweet tea it is,” Maggie says, getting glasses from a cabinet. “Jade, why don’t you do the honors with the wine. That’ll be for Hugh and me. Would you like some tea as well?”
I move in close to Hugh by the oven. “You are a liar, dear brother.”
“I am not. How am I a liar?”
“You said this was not a fix up. But look at her. If that’s not a fix up dress then you’re not a fan of Tom Jones.”
Hugh’s mouth falls open and a gasp escapes. “How dare you bring Tom into this. Jade is a contract lawyer and it wasn’t my idea. This is all Maggie’s doing. So, I never lied. I had nothing to do with it but the cooking.”
“You are such a lawyer.”
“Take that back.”
“No.” I take the carving knife and fork and begin to carve the chicken. My eyes keep jumping to where Jade stands. Can I work with a woman that looks like that? I would rarely see her but I can’t deny she’s attractive. I’m not so vain I think she would be interested in me but dressed like that she must have expected something was going to happen tonight. That’s not a normal outfit for a simple dinner with friends.
“Why didn’t you tell me there would be another person here tonight?”
“Jade, lovely lady of mine, he’s Hugh’s brother. He’s family. And he needs a contract lawyer. He had to fire his last one for making contracts that made him money off of Gil’s books. Someone at the publishing company finally noticed how odd it was and told Gil and was he ever mad. And it takes a lot to get that particular Southern gentleman mad.” Maggie puts ice in two glasses and takes a pitcher of tea from the refrigerator.
“You could have told me. Are you sure this isn’t a blind date set up?”
I clamp the cork screw handles down and pull. The beautiful pop sounds as the cork releases. I let the bottle sit a moment.
Maggie puts an arm around my shoulders and squeezes. “If I had told you then you would have thought this was a date and not come. Gil really needs a good attorney. Someone he can trust. He’s a good guy and I don’t like him being taken advantage of. Hugh is preparing a case against the former attorney as we speak.”
“Wait a minute. Gil Montgomery? You mean Hugh’s brother is the Gil Montgomery that writes those romance novels.”
“Among other genres, yes.”
“That big man over there. The rugged looking guy writes romance novels?”
“Again. I say yes. Is that a problem?”
I close my eyes for a moment and shake my head. “Maggie, I want to believe you but you tricked me into wearing this dress tonight and I can only think you have ulterior motives for that.” I look up at her.
Her smile tells me the whole truth. “If something happens, it happens, darling. Just imagine a man that writes all those love scenes that looks like that and what he can do to a real woman. A woman who hasn’t dated anyone for the past 14 months.”
“You’ve been counting?”
“There’s a betting pool at work about when you will finally give it up.”
“Well I don’t plan to ‘give it up’ to anyone anytime soon.”
“Calm down, calm down. I don’t mean give that up. I mean give up your self-imposed dry spell of dating.”
I pour two glasses of wine and follow Maggie to the dining room. “The wine goes at either end of the table. You and Gil will sit opposite each other.” Maggie smiles and winks.
“Maggie, I swear, I am not liking this. I don’t mind the contract part of this but any ideas you have about dating him is not happening.”
“I agree.” The voice comes from behind me. I set the glass down a little hard and turn.
I don’t want to date her any more than she wants to date me. I don’t care how hot she is. Yes, she’s hot, I said it. Maggie knows I like Asian women in the movies. She knows what she’s doing but she has bad timing and a bad game plan. Surprise attacks don’t work well with me.
“You agree?” Jade looks at me.
“Yeah. I’m not really looking to date right now either. But I do need a good contract lawyer.”
I set the chicken on the table near Hugh’s plate and step back. Jade is staring at me. I’m not sure if she’s mad or just surprised at my frankness.
“Well,” she says as she walks around to the far side of the table, “I’m a good contract lawyer. It’s all I do.”
“Good then. Maggie, it looks like you’re plan worked. You fixed us up. Just not the way you really wanted to.”
“Darling, the night is still young.”
I just shake my head at her as she strokes my jaw with her long nails. “Maggie, you know the only woman I want is you. So, I’m destined to die a lonely old man, if I last that long.”
We all take our seats and plates are filled with excellent Hugh cuisine. For a time, all is quiet as we enjoy the food.
“I have to ask something.” Jade sets her fork down and places the tips of her hand along her jaw line.
Hugh raises his wine glass to her. “Go ahead. Ask away.”
“So, Gil, um, were your parents fans of fish when they named you?”
I see Hugh almost choke on his wine and Maggie gives her biggest smile.
“No, Buck Rogers.”
“My mother was a fan of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The lead was played by this hunky guy named Gil Gerard. I was either going to be Gil or Gerard. I’m not certain which would have been worse. But I’ve heard all the fish jokes. Kids aren’t the nicest people.”
“Ah. Never heard of it.”
“Your parents fans of jewelry?”
We trade raises of our tea glasses and smiles.
Dinner continues with less tension and more discussion about what Jade does and I need. She sounds like she’s what I need. And Maggie vouches for her so that’s a plus.
“Why don’t we meet next week to formalize things and you can take a look at the latest contract that’s come in? I also would like you to review all my previous contracts that are still in play. I want to know what I’m really working with. Hugh’s had someone do it for his case already but I want my person to do it for me and explain it all so I understand.”
“Sounds good to me.” Jade rubs the back of her neck with her hand and her eyes close to slits. For some reason that looks sexy to me. I have an image of my hand on her neck, pulling her in for a kiss. I rub my hand on my pants to get my blood flowing and my attention back to where it needs to be. Maybe Maggie put something in my drink.
We move to the living room and continue to chat about anything and everything with Maggie leading the way. As the time moves closer to 11 Maggie stands and puts her hands on her hips. “Well, gentlemen, I’m going to walk Jade to her car since it’s so late.”
I rise. “I’ll do it. I need to be going as well.”
Jade looks at me as though she’s surprised I’ve offered.
“That is if it’s okay with Jade.”
The thought of being alone with Gil is a bit discomforting in a comfortable way. I can’t imagine standing next to his big body. In her heels, Maggie is taller than Gil but not by much, but his body is a lot bigger. There is a lot more muscle covering his body than Maggie’s.
It finally dawns on me that everyone is looking at me waiting for me to respond to Gil. “Oh, of course it’s okay. It’s an obvious solution. Maggie is over protective anyway. She never worries about herself this late at night.”
“Everyone around here thinks I’m a drag queen anyway, so they think I’m crazy and ready to mess up their worlds if they try anything. They just can’t understand how something this gorgeous can be all woman.”
Gil and Hugh laugh and I join in. “I do suppose I am not as imposing.”
“Just so you know,” Gil begins, “I would escort Maggie as well. I don’t think any lady should go out at night alone in a city.”
We make our way to the front of the apartment with Gil opening the door for me. “We have to do this again soon you two.” Maggie waves.
Gil and I exchange a look. He rolls his eyes and I smile. “Maggie just wants everyone to be as happy as she is. She doesn’t realize she’s that happy being all alone.”
I smile at his observation. “You’re right. I hadn’t thought of that.” As the elevator door opens, Gil puts his hand to my back to lead me in. It’s a light touch but I can feel the warmth of it through the material of my dress.
Standing next to Gil I can smell his cologne. There is something spicy about it that seems so masculine. It’s a perfect match for the impression I have of him. Even with Maggie I sometimes feel anxious walking to the car in the parking deck of their building. With Gil I am at ease. He doesn’t give the idea that he’s a fighter but I imagine he can handle things if he needed to.
I pull out my key fob and press the button as we get to the car.
“This is yours?”
“Yes. I know, it’s a little flashy but it’s also small and perfect for my size.”
He takes in the red Jaguar. “I haven’t seen these new models up close before. Only once or twice while out riding.”
“You have a motorcycle?”
“No, a bike. I cycle the roads around Athens and come into the city sometimes for a coffee. Downtown is a good halfway point for a ride. I make it there, revitalize with a coffee and maybe a pastry and then ride back. No guilt for eating the pastry because it’ll be burned off by the time the ride is through.”
“Where do you like to go?”
“I like Jittery Joes on the corner of Jackson and Broad. They have a bike rack outside that’s convenient. The only thing missing is a table outside to sit at. I like to people watch. Therefore, I’ll take my coffee and bike and go across the street to the UGA campus steps at the arch.”
“Don’t people step all over you there?”
“I normally only do the steps on the weekends. There’s not so many people then. Lot of parents with their kids who are about to graduate and want to see what the university is like.”
“I go downtown all the time to get lunch. My office is near there, but you know that since I work with Maggie. Also, my apartment is not far from there either. I rarely have to drive.”
“Great. Lucky you.” Standing next to my car emphasizes our difference in size. Where I am practically in my car with the door open, Gil is leaning with his big hand resting on the edge of the top. A car drives around and its lights flash over us. We both turn and watch it move along. Then there is silence.
An awkward silence. This wasn’t a date. We are new friends leaving at the same time.
“Well, I should be getting home. Another parking lot to traverse at night before getting in my apartment.”
“Oh, do you want me to follow you and make sure you get in okay? I don’t have a problem with it. I’m parked right there.” He nods to a big blue truck that match his eyes.
“No. I’ll be fine. We have assigned parking and mine is near the doors. Plus, I carry a taser.” I pull the two-pronged object from my clutch.
“Well I feel better about your safety now. I would still like to escort you home, but I know that’s a bit overkill. I just don’t like the idea of women being in unsafe situations.”
“That’s admirable of you but I really will be fine. Maybe I’ll see you downtown sometime soon. We can have a coffee and people watch together.”
“Okay, sounds good. Well, it was nice meeting you and I’m glad we got that blind date thing cleared up. Maggie and her good intentions.” He smiles and starts walking toward his truck.
“It was nice meeting you as well. Good night.”
I quickly get into my car, click my seatbelt, and start the engine. Backing out I see Gil standing next to his truck watching, apparently making sure my car starts and I am safely on my way. He waves as I pass and I return the same.
I definitely need to get some coffee soon.