Out of the mouths of babes . . . came the sweetest love opportunity of a lifetime!
I remembered being thirteen and giggling with my best friend, just like my daughter, Violet, and her friend, Andie, did all the time. Usually, I didn’t bother them while they enjoyed their “girl time” together. But this time, I couldn’t help it.
“What are you two plotting?” I finally asked the conspiring duo.
My daughter looked up at me, considering me seriously.
“We’ve decided that you and Andie’s great-uncle, Grant, should get together.”
“Like on a date,” Andie clarified.
“I don’t need a date.” I smiled at their concern for my social life, or lack thereof.
“Yes, you do, Mom. It’s been six months since you went out with that Roy guy.”
I groaned and covered my face. “Please, don’t remind me. That disaster made me give up on dating for good.” Roy had spent the entire evening talking about his ex-wives, child support payments, and golf.
The girls joined me on the couch. “Leave it to us, Mrs. Spencer,” Andie insisted. “We’ll set it up with my great-uncle. You don’t even have to talk to him until you meet—we’ll do all the work.”
“A blind date?” I blanched. I’d had plenty of those in my ten years as a widow, but nothing ever seemed to work out. Maybe I’d set my standards too high. I’d married my high school sweetheart, Don, right after graduation and we’d had a wonderful marriage.
“Well, yeah,” Violet admitted. “But it’ll be fine—you’ll see. You don’t have to do anything except show up. Sounds perfect, right?” When I hesitated, Violet flung her arms around my shoulders. “Pleeease?” she begged, drawing the word out. “It’ll be fun.”
“I’ll think it over, but you still have to talk poor Great-uncle Grant into it.”
I did some quick calculation in my head. Andie’s parents were at least ten years older than I was. That meant that one of their uncles would be in his late sixties. I didn’t feel comfortable dating someone thirty years older. But then, he couldn’t be as bad as Roy or some of the other dates that I’d had over the years.
I thought about calling Andie’s mother to ask about Grant, but I didn’t want to burst the girls’ bubble. They were having such a good time with this dating arrangement.
My busy job as a junior accountant kept my mind off the date, and I’d forgotten all about it until the girls cornered me on Thursday evening. “It’s all set,” Violet said excitedly.
I gave her a blank look. “What is?”
Andie sighed. “Your date with my great-uncle Grant.”
Before I could lodge a protest, Violet went on, “Seven-thirty tomorrow night at Pasquali’s. We know how much you love that place.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose and wondered if I really wanted to go through with this.
“My great-uncle’s a lawyer,” Andie added as possible enticement.
“He still works?” I stopped myself from adding, “At his age?”
“Of course,” Andie said. “He works long hours and doesn’t have time for lots of dates. I think that’s why he’s still single.”
Poor guy, I thought, a night out might do us both some good. “Pasquali’s is perfect for a blind date.” I gave both girls a big hug and found myself looking forward to meeting him.
The next evening, dressed in my favorite turquoise silk blouse, beige slacks, and low heels, I frantically hailed a cab. I’d parked my car at the edge of the heavy traffic section of the city where parking spaces were extremely hard to come by. The workday had been a disaster and I’d had to put in some overtime. Because of that, I was running more than half an hour late. By the time the cab driver pulled in front of the restaurant, it had started drizzling. I fumbled for my purse, paid the driver, and scurried inside.
I quickly surveyed the room and spotted a white-haired gentleman sitting alone at a table near the center of the restaurant. He seemed to be having a heated conversation on his cell phone.
“I see the party I’m meeting,” I told the hostess, and then made my way past the other diners.
Great-uncle Grant slammed the cell phone on the table, and muttered a four-letter word under his breath. Then he abruptly stood up and bumped into me. “I’m sorry I’m late,” I said, noting the annoyed look on his face. He must be a stickler for promptness, I thought.
He looked puzzled. “You’re welcome to the table, young lady,” he said, hurrying past me and out the front door.
I stood staring after him. “Nice to meet you, too, Grant.” He hadn’t even given me a chance to explain. Embarrassed, I slowly headed for the door. I only had enough money for cab fare back to my car—definitely not enough for a consolation dinner at Pasquali’s. I figured after I got home, I’d snack on leftovers, and drown my sorrows in a large helping of fudge ripple ice cream.
Outside, the drizzle had turned into a downpour. A cab roared to the curb, and quickly deposited its passenger. As I ran toward the open door, my hair and clothing got soaked. The tall gentleman who’d left the cab held the door for me. His handsome face flashed a dimpled smile as I slid inside and our eyes met and held. I felt a surge of heat spread across my damp cheeks.
“The watered-down version of my usual self,” I told the gorgeous guy, trying for a light ending to the blind date fiasco. My lame joke made him laugh before he shut the door and the throaty, deep sound sent tingles up and down my spine. I sighed and settled into the seat.
My thoughts turned to Don. Even on his worst day, he’s still always managed to be polite and considerate of those around him—something that Grant needed lessons on.
I was glad the girls were spending the night at Andie’s because that meant that I wouldn’t have to report on my disastrous evening until the next day. I was tempted to call Andie’s mother and give her an earful about Great-uncle Grant’s behavior, but I decided against it.
“That sure doesn’t sound like my great-uncle,” Andie said after hearing my version of the story.
I didn’t tell her how irritated I was with the man. It’s true that first impressions can be way off base, but I didn’t think that was the case this time. Great-uncle Grant’s bachelor status probably had more to do with his intense personality than the long hours he put in at the law firm.
“We’ll set up another date,” Violet said. The two conspirators then disappeared into the kitchen.
Let them have their fun, I thought, but I’m not going along for another round. “Count me out,” I shouted to them. I liked people who had manners and patience, and the sour expression on Grant’s face the night before suggested that he didn’t have much of a sense of humor, either.
Besides, I was happy with my life. I had some good female friends—although that didn’t truly make up for being alone. I’d been scared those first years without Don, but I was proud of how I’d stood on my own. I took night classes and got better jobs that added to my confidence and security.
I spent the day running errands and cleaning house. I’d already decided on an early spaghetti dinner when the girls raced into the kitchen.
“Blind Dates, Inc. is back in business!” Violet shouted.
I pulled a pound of sausage from the refrigerator. “What in the world does that mean?”
Andie smiled and glanced at the kitchen clock. “It means that Great-uncle Grant is on his way over!”
“What?” I shrieked. My hand flew to the disheveled ponytail I’d tied my hair in hours earlier. I was also wearing my rattiest jeans and a faded Bon Jovi T-shirt. But then I stopped worrying because I didn’t owe it to Grant to look nice after the way he’d treated me the night before.
The doorbell chimed. “I’ll get it,” Andie said, bolting for the door.
“We’ll get it,” Violet corrected, leaving me holding the makings for our dinner.
I could hear a deep voice coming from the living room. Tossing the meat into the sink, I quickly wiped my hands on a dishtowel. Before I’d had much chance to compose myself, the girls burst back into the kitchen with a dark-haired stranger in tow. Well, he wasn’t exactly a stranger—it was the same gorgeous man who’d held the cab door for me in the rain!
“You’re Great-uncle Grant?” I asked, my thoughts whirling. He was taller than I remembered. “But you’re not old enough.” Heat rushed to my face as soon as the impolite comment slipped out. How did I miscalculate his age? This man can’t be more than a couple of years older than I am.
Andie piped in, “He’s my uncle, and he’s great, so he’s my great uncle. Get it?”
Grant extended his hand to me. “I’m Grant Peters, Andie’s mom’s baby brother. I’m really sorry that I was late last night,” he continued sincerely. “I was held up in a meeting, but I called the restaurant and left a message. Anyway, I’m sorry that you got drenched.”
I laughed. “I was late myself. I didn’t get the message because I rushed to the wrong table and was promptly brushed off by an irritated older gentleman whom I thought was you.”
Grant smiled, his blue eyes filled with humor. “If you’ll let me make up for last night, we can go anywhere you’d like right now.”
“How about something home-cooked?” I asked. “I’ve got the makings for spaghetti.” If we had any chance at a lasting relationship, he’d have to accept my ratty jeans and marinara sauce.
“That sounds great,” he answered, removing his jacket. “But only if you’ll let me help. I’m not helpless in the kitchen.”
“We told you he was great!” Violet beamed.
I smiled just as broadly. “You certainly know your clients.”
“I’m great at putting a salad together,” Grant said as the giggling teenagers vanished. “Or maybe you’d prefer that I try not to use the word “great” since it seems to have already caused a lot of confusion.”
I chuckled. “You don’t know the half of it.” I told him then about my experience in the restaurant. He laughed in that deep way again, a sound I was already learning to take pleasure in.
I handed him a head of lettuce and the rest of the salad fixings. He looked right at home as he searched the drawers for just the right knife, and he chopped the vegetables with ease.
“Andie and Violet make quite a team,” Grant said, as he tore leaves of lettuce into bite-sized pieces.
“They’ve been best friends for a long time,” I said as I stirred the sausage, carefully adding the marinara sauce. “This isn’t their first business venture, either. They’ve sold lemonade and oversized zucchini that I grew in my tiny backyard garden. Once, they even made perfume from your sister’s rose petals.” I laughed. “They’re nothing if not hardworking.”
“That they are.” Grant draped his arm around my shoulders. “It took a lot of convincing to get me to agree to this blind date business, but they were right on the money.”
I couldn’t have agreed more.