The look on Isabel’s face when we walked into Toriello’s was priceless. The huge restaurant doubled as a club with two upstairs dance floors: one for the smooth types who just desire good music, strong drinks and a grown and sexy atmosphere, and the other for the diehard dancers who needed to sweat out a few issues to the latest Hip Hop and R&B songs. The entrance to the building was grand with a high ceiling, and the restaurant portion of the building had floor to ceiling windows, soft lighting and plenty of well-dressed bodies. The atmosphere reeked of “money.”
It was obvious that this place was different from anything Isabel was used to. I took her through the main dining room, my arm around her waist. By the time we made it to a large tropical aquarium near the center of the room, Isabel was in complete awe of her surroundings. I chuckled. I didn’t mean to laugh in her face, but she was so damn cute with her eyes big like saucers and a child-like look of glee on her face. I just couldn’t keep it in.
She didn’t say a word until after we had been seated. We were in a semi-opened booth in the far back of the dining room near one of the huge windows.
“This place is beautiful, Richie. I didn’t even know it existed!” Isabel said, still taking in the sights of the lavish room.
I smiled at Isabel and touched her hand. She gave me a bright smile and didn’t move away like I thought she might.
“So, do you take all of your friends to places like this or are you laying it on thick for a reason?”
I chuckled. In spite of my efforts to assure this woman that I did not want anything from her but her company, she still refused to believe me. It was cute for now, but I was really hoping she would loosen up.
“Isabel, the only reason I brought you out here is for us to enjoy ourselves. We got dinner, dancing, conversation and anything else your oversized head can think of.”
Isabel gave me a mock shocked gasp and slapped me on my arm. I snatched my hand away in pretense of being wounded. “Damn! We haven’t even ordered yet and you already beating on me. What gives?”
“Serves you right,” she said with a grin. I looked her over again. If I thought she was pretty before, I damn sure knew she was beautiful now. Her long hair (which I discovered was indeed real) fell down her back in loose waves, and her simple black dress clung to all the right curves. Her makeup was uncomplicated. From the looks of it, she only wore lip gloss and some eye stuff. Well, whatever she did, it was working. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.
“You’re staring again.”
I broke my gaze. “Sorry, Isabel, but I can’t help it. You look really nice tonight.
“Thanks, Richie. You look…very nice yourself.”
I had made sure I looked good before stepping out of my house. My crisp black Ralph Lauren suit was bad enough to have walked into the restaurant by and order my meal for me. It felt nice to be complimented.
“I have a question for you, Rich, if you don’t mind me asking,” said Isabel from behind the menu. Only her big brown eyes poked out from the top.
“Lay it on me, lady,” I responded, opening my own menu as I kept my eyes on her.
“Why is it that you call me ‘Isabel’ when everyone else calls me ‘Izzy’?”
I put my menu down, and furrowed my brow. “Is that a problem? I didn’t—”
“Hello. Welcome to Toriello’s. My name is Mikel. I’ll be your server this evening. Could I start the two of you off with our signature chardonnay?”
I turned to the server and gave the okay for the wine. With no hesitation or shame, he began to fire off a list of the house specials and make suggestions for our dinner. He seemed so damn excited about the food, Isabel and I placed an order without looking through the menu. I waited for Mikel to gather up the menus and leave before giving her a little nod to continue her point.
“It’s not a problem that you call me by my whole name at all. It’s just different. People have been calling me Izzy for years. I guess I’m just used to it.”
Relief flooded through me as the tension that was building in my shoulders melted away. The last thing I wanted to do was call this woman by the wrong name. Not too many people would tolerate an offense like that.
I leaned back into my seat. “Well, with a name a beautiful as ‘Isabel’, it’s a shame you’re not called by it more often.”
Isabel’s grin grew broader, and I could easily picture having those juicy lips against mine. Maybe I’d eventually get the chance, but I certainly wasn’t going to hold my breath.
We conversed for a few minutes while we waited for our meal; everything was going great until I saw something from my peripheral vision that made my stomach drop. I contemplated hiding behind my napkin, but Isabel would most likely consider that rude. Try as I might, the horrible vision in my eye took notice of me and sashayed its way over to the booth.
“Richie, is everything alright?” Isabel asked, noticing my sudden unease.
I took a deep breath. Might as well get it over with. “Isabel, first off, I’m sorry for what’s about to happen. Secondly, I didn’t plan this.”
What A Person Wants, the debut novel from author Kris M. Bell is currently available for download and paperback via Amazon.com.