Twisted Roses

Page 21

As our tapas arrive and we fill up on more wine, I find myself wanting to see him again. My luck with romance has been few and far between. Most men seek to tame me into some kind of trophy wife, or only wish to form a contractual-like power coupling. The conversations are always hollow, rarely stimulating, with little to no connection.
Theyboreme. Agitate me when they’re condescending.
Few men have held my attention other than Salvatore…
Cade feels easy. He speaks to me like he’ll pay attention to what I have to say, and he hasn’t come on too strong while still making it clear he’s attracted. He’s the kind of guy you’d introduce to your parents, knowing they’d approve.
We dig into our food as live music starts up.
The mood in the air is fun and festive. Some patrons get up to dance while others sit in their seats and sway along to the music. Cade and I decide to be part of the latter group. We enjoy ourselves no less, still sampling our tapas and sipping our wine.
It’s startling how sudden an atmosphere can change. One second, I’m enjoying my first date with another man in years. The next second my phone is buzzing and I’m glancing down at the name lighting up my screen.
My carefree mood darkens. The whole tapas bar darkens.
Salvatore’s presence is like a total eclipse of the sun. The tension in the air thickens and my heart begins hammering in my chest. I shift in my stool, no longer able to sit still.
Meet me in the hall. You have five minutes.
Or else what?
I bite on the inside of my cheek to hold off my indignation. Who the fuck does he think he is, giving me a deadline to meet him anywhere? I’m in the middle of a date!
He’s watching.
I glance around the crowded tapas bar, trying to spot him. Salvatore’s reach is far. He doesn’t need to physically be here in order to be watching—any person surrounding me could be hired help of his.
But the fact that he gave me a deadline tells me he’s here somewhere.
It’s a threat. He wants me to know he has no issues approaching me in public. Out in the open. In front of everyone in this restaurant.
I’m the one in desperate need of secrecy.
“Something wrong?” Cade asks, tearing his gaze away from the stage.
My smile is forced. “I need to make a call. I’m so sorry. This will be quick.”
Cade nods, though the expression on his face reads as confused. I slowly ease away from our table, then, when I’m certain he’s no longer paying attention—and everyone else in the bar is oblivious—I rush for the hall.
The tapas bar isn’t especially large. The dining area takes up the most space with the kitchen on the side and the bathrooms and office in the back.
Salvatore’s nowhere in sight when I show up. I pause halfway down the hall and consider brushing him off.
He’s fast coming up from behind, gripping me by the upper arm, and pulling me into the women’s restroom. The door slams shut and he promptly slides the latch in place.
It’s just the two of us.
I back away, putting distance between us.
Salvatore islivid.
His jawline is razor-sharp, his blue-green eyes shrunken into slits. The rest of his face is empty of emotion, a blank slate that’s more intimidating than if he wore his feelings out in the open. He stalks toward me with unblinking intensity.
“Your date is over,” he says. “Text him and tell him you’re leaving.”
I laugh. “No.”