“Let’s weigh my sins against yours.”
Intriguing, Wayne thought. And certainly not the words he expected a woman to say after ordering drinks on a first date—but Nayantara was nothing if not bold. Wayne respected that. Heck, he respected any woman who had the audacity to challenge him to a blind date.
It could never be anything less than a challenge. He knew what he had going for him: an easy-on-the-eyes, white-collar marketing professional living in Washington, DC—a popular city teeming with transient women, most of whom were either bright-eyed grads venturing out on their first careers or bleary-eyed, estranged singles making sincere but clumsy attempts to start their lives over . . .
Hell, he’d have his pick of the fruit even if he hadn’t been kid-free, disease-free, and wife-free—the Big Three desirables of would-be sweeties looking to get themselves attached.
A popular assumption was that fit and reasonably attractive folks in their early twenties had it made. Most women probably did. But men who could maintain their looks and physique up through their late thirties without accumulating any baggage-with-handles were the real golden targets. Some professional women liked their men older; some liked them younger. Wayne was at just the right age to have his pick from the patch of those in their twenties and early thirties and the orchard of those in their forties and early fifties. Every now and then, he’d pluck something intriguingly mysterious that would turn out to have no more potential than black licorice—the generic, dollar-store kind. But he could already see there was nothing generic about Nayantara. She’d do for tonight. All he had to do was get her onto his field.
She’d extended the hand. He’d extend his in turn, and pull.
“My only sin,” he said with a smirk, “is that I’m too generous. I too freely give of myself.”
“So you want me to pick up the tab?” She gave him a sly smile. “I wouldn’t want you to find yourself outspent before dessert.”
He contorted his smirk into a slier smile and leaned forward. “Depends on what you plan on ordering.”
“Meat. And more meat.”
“A hefty ambition to devour for such a petite woman.”
She shook her head. “I don’t plan to keep it inside me all that long.”
He straightened in his chair. Where the hell’s the waiter? Wayne needed his drink—badly. He’d pulled the girl onto his field without realizing he hadn’t yet been ready to play; not with one of this caliber, at least. This wasn’t some naïve college girl. One false move, one slip of the tongue that showed her he wasn’t up to her level, and the date was over.
His male friends—the blunt ones—called it jerk-twerking, but Wayne refused to accept any label for his verbal style of pitching woo and taking his dues. He wasn’t so audacious to consider himself a poet—not one on the level of a Willie Shakespeare anyway. But he knew how to lay those glistening earworms. He could guide the flow of his words and body language while studying the disposition of the recipient and adjusting tones and movements as necessary. A master of interpretation, he could utter the same sweet nothings to three different women and know—while speaking—whether one took it as a sly sexual come-on, an aw-shucks deprecation, or a devastating insult.
Nayantara had him at a disadvantage. She seemed to be doing much better at interpreting him than the other way around. Part of the problem was that he wasn’t yet certain of his endgame, and that was usually decided shortly after first sight. Did he want to bed her, outright dump her, or keep her at arm’s length as an occasional nightclub and dinner partner?
“All quiet on the western side of the table?” Nayantara asked. “I hope I didn’t offend you—BigW.”
He managed a grin. “You know, ‘BigW’ was just a username. You really can call me Wayne.”
“Oh?” she said. “And what if I still plan on using you?”