Once inside, Carly saw how busy the Inn really was, especially on this Saturday night. The noise from the live band in the restaurant/bar was hardly muffled by the intervening doors and walls and it looked as if the overflow had settled in the coffee shop. Even her favorite spot, the booth in the far corner, was taken by someone reading a paper. How rude, she thought, taking up a whole booth on a busy night just to read a paper! Well, there were other places to eat in town, she would just . . .
What do a computer geek, a burned out government agent and an eight year old orphan have in common? An arms dealer who wants to kill them all!
The woman standing in front of the ‘Please wait to be seated” sign touched her lightly on the arm. “Miss, I think that man is trying to get your attention.” Carly’s gaze followed the woman’s pointing finger directly to the rude man in ‘her’ booth. He was standing now, smiling, waving her over.
Carly took quick stock of the stranger. He was tall, dark, and handsome in a rugged way, and his smile seemed to light up the room. He was indeed beckoning to her but she froze in a moment of indecision. She was already involved with Templeton and not in the market for another relationship, especially a one-night stand with a complete stranger, no matter how handsome he appeared. It wasn’t that important that she get a meal here, as there was plenty of food at home. The safe thing to do, the way she lived her life, was to politely decline and leave. If this was the guy’s pathetic way of picking up a woman, he certainly wouldn’t follow her, but wait for the next un-attached female to come along. Yet, despite her misgivings, Carly found herself wending her way through the crowd to his table. What am I doing? She thought.
When Carly arrived at the booth the stranger stuck out his hand and said, in a rich baritone that seemed to vibrate within her, “Hello, my name is Walker Bass, and since I’m occupying your favorite table, the very least I can do is offer to share it with you.”
Carly’s offered hand paused for a moment at the shock of that statement. Is he a mind reader, a mentalist? Is that why she walked over here against her will? Had she been hypnotized? She recovered and touched his hand in the universal greeting. There was a shock, not like static electricity, more like nervous energy, and as his hand closed gently over hers this energy seemed to flow into her. His hand was warm, and while not calloused, it was hard, almost sensuous in its gentleness. She released his hand quickly, afraid of his phantom power.
A bemused look came to the smile in his eyes. They were almost golden, and Carly would later swear that they flashed, like the hero’s eyes in some old Tony Curtis movie. In fact, Curtis was a good analogy. Mr. Bass was taller, and not as pretty, but he had the grace and manners for which the actor was famous. Carly discovered that her heart was beating rapidly and she hoped that he had not noticed, but there was apparently little that this man missed; his eyes smiled even more, as at the thought of something pleasant.
Carly sat in the booth opposite him, and as Bass seated himself, he said, with mirth, “No, I can’t read minds, but I can read people’s actions, a consequence, I suppose, of reading too much Sherlock Holmes as a kid. I happened to notice when you walked in that your eyes went immediately to this table before anywhere else, ergo, this is your favorite place.”
When explained that way some of the mystery disappeared and Carly relaxed a little. I didn’t explain all of the other phenomena associated with this man, but it was a start. “I’m Carly Carson,” she simply said.
“Well, Ms. Carson, I don’t know that I’ve done you any favor. I’ve been sitting here for over twenty minutes myself and have successfully managed to escape the notice of the staff.”
Yeah, like every woman in this room didn’t notice Walker Bass, she thought. “Please, call me Carly.” She glanced around the room as if looking for a waitress, noticing instead that at least half the women were looking at her with envy. The other half was looking at Walker. Carly got a strange satisfaction over that.
“Then please call me Walker,” he said. His eyes suddenly shifted from hers to the aisle beside her, and with a softly muttered “Oh, oh” he rose quickly to his feet.