They drove to one of the better restaurants in town. It was one Katrina had heard about from people at the office, but felt she couldn’t even walk in the door because their prices and her budget were each in a separate universe.
They entered the restaurant and Gavin gave his name to the Maître d'. They were shown to a table in a secluded corner. The wine list and menus were left with them and Gavin pored over it. Finally, he broke the silence hanging between them by asking her which of two particular wines she would prefer.
She lightly blushed. "I, ah, don't drink wine, Mr. Browning. Please, feel free to have something yourself, though."
Gavin looked at her with an inscrutable expression for a long moment.
Katrina squirmed uncomfortably.
"So, we're back to formalities, are we?"
Caught off-balance by his question, her discomfort left and puzzlement took its place. Then, she realized to what he was referring and blushed furiously. "Oh. Sorry, Mr….er…Gavin." Her eyes dropped to the table, her nerveless fingers toying beneath its edge with the hem of the sparkling white linen tablecloth.
"You really don't drink wine, or are you afraid if you drink with me tonight you’ll lose a few inhibitions?"
There was a bit of sarcasm to his voice, but there was also a twinkle in his eyes as she glanced up at him. Katrina truly didn't know how to take this man. She was definitely out of her depth. Feeling breathless from his intense scrutiny, she took a deep breath and tried to slow her heart rate by mentally telling it to relax and beat normally, and dropped her eyes back to her lap. The constriction in her chest was still there. She was afraid she wouldn’t be able to eat and then he would twit her for that, as well.
"Well, Katrina? I'm waiting for an answer."
"What?" She lifted her eyes and caught his solemn regard. She blushed once again and finished her answer. "Oh. No, I truly don't drink wine, or any alcohol at all. I don't mind if you do, though. Go ahead. I...maybe I could have some mineral water…" Katrina's voice trailed away uncertainly and her eyes dropped back to her hands. She took a deep breath. "Please, Mr…Gavin, go ahead and have something if you would like."
"Thank you." This time his voice was really sarcastic.
Katrina turned questioning eyes to his, wondering if she had committed some terrible social blunder. She felt so hopelessly out of her league. She really had no experience in this sort of thing. Charleston had always been quick to point out her faults, especially in this area.
As she watched Gavin, his eyes softened and he said, "My word, you're completely serious, aren't you?" The surprise was evident on his face and in his voice.
"Yes. Did…did I say something wrong?" Katrina was truly vexed with her inexperience in his presence. Why did she have to be so limited in her worldly knowledge? She felt she had learned a lot since being married to Charleston, but when she looked at this handsome male across from her, she knew she was still woefully ignorant.
The wine steward came for their order and Gavin said they both would just have mineral water. The gratuity Gavin surreptitiously handed him smoothed over any ruffled feathers the steward may have had. He gave them a tiny bow and a sincere smile, then left with a promise to send the waiter momentarily.
Katrina looked at the menu. She gasped as she saw the exotic prices for the dinners which were proffered. They were even higher than she’d heard. She peeped over the top of the menu at Gavin to assess his reaction to the prices she termed 'exorbitant' in her mind. He had not even raised an eyebrow as he suggested an entree.
She looked back at the menu, noticing the price of his suggestion was in the higher of the brackets of the offered fare. She chose a dinner less in price, remembering with a twinge the statement she’d made to her mirror. He might be paying for dinner for her, but she could not make him pay such a ridiculous amount for food for one meal and enjoy eating. She felt guilty, knowing that for what he would spend tonight for this dinner, she could eat for a full week.
The waiter came and Katrina marveled at how easily Gavin ordered their dinner. As the waiter left, Gavin looked at her. He must have sensed some of the trepidation she was feeling regarding the prices. "Don't worry about it, Katrina. I won't go broke for this meal."
"But, Gavin, it's so expensive here."
"If it will make you feel better, I'm on an expense account. Okay?" A half-smile appeared on his face, making him look a bit devilish.
"That doesn't make it right to spend so much money on a single dinner, Gavin. In fact, you should be more careful with someone else's money than you are with your own. Doesn't your employer watch those things and question you about it? That's a great deal of money we're costing someone tonight!"
Gavin looked at Katrina and amusement lit his face. He smiled at her fully, and she caught her breath. What a dazzling smile! His dimples were entrancing. She felt her bones turn to mush.
"Katrina Lee McSwayne, you are truly unique. What an uncomplicated person you are. It’s refreshing to find someone who isn’t out for everything they can get!" He scooped her hand up in his. He patted it, then held it firmly, rubbing the underside of her wrist with his thumb as he did so. The shock that went careening through her was enough to turn her blood to liquid fire. She tried to snatch her hand away, but Gavin held it fast.
"Katrina." His voice broke into her thoughts.
"What?" Katrina tried again to get free of his hold on her.
"Please. Don't worry so much about money. I am not here to ask you for any. I have no idea where you got the notion, but it’s wrong. This dinner is not going to cause me any problems either with money or with my employer. I have," he grinned wolfishly at her, "spent a great deal more for clients' dinners."
"Clients? Am I your client?" Her face became pensive.
"In a way, but not exactly." He was fully amused at the audible gasp she let out. "Let me set your mind at ease just a little. I am a lawyer on an assignment. I think the word you would probably use is 'case'."
Then it registered in her befuddled brain what he had said. He was a lawyer.
"I…I…you…you…." She floundered to a stop, going cold all over.
"That doesn't make much sense. I, I, you, you. You're going to have to be just a little more specific. Why exactly does it frighten you that I’m a lawyer? I told you I wasn't after you for any money, and I mean that." His face was kind, his smile reassuring. It didn't help much.
"La...lawyers usually...mean that...that..." she stopped to swallow, her throat working hard to accomplish the simple task of speaking a few words.
"That what?" He held his face serious, his eyes full of something Katrina could only guess at...and she didn't like her guesses. Her eyes lowered, her head bowed.
"That people...are in trouble...getting sued...and going to jail…and things."
He used his other hand to lift her chin until her eyes came up to meet his, his face serious.
"Katrina, I'm a contract lawyer, not a criminal lawyer. I don’t send people to jail, or keep them out of it. I deal with contracts and other legal paperwork for people. And although,” he said quietly, “I do occasionally find myself in court over broken contracts, I’m not in the habit of taking people I'm currently suing to dinner."
He looked deeply into her face, once again rubbing his thumb across the inner portion of her wrist, then smiled softly.
"In this instance, however, if it were the case," he added with a wicked grin, "I might just have had to make an exception!"
Great amusement danced in his eyes, and Katrina could feel the hot blood rushing to her cheeks. She berated herself for blushing yet again.
The waiter came then, bringing a welcomed interruption and the soup course of their dinner. Katrina didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed that Gavin had let go of her hand at the intrusion, but it was definitely easier to breathe without his touch.