Excusing himself to the restroom, Bob stood from the table and disappeared.
I pulled in a shallow breath at the momentary reprieve, my hand coming up and sliding across my breast bone as if it would magically release the pressure sitting there, and something caused my eyes to shift. I glanced over at the door, watching as a woman entered the hall.
Could this be? No. No way. She’s too…
What? What the hell was she?
Looking hesitant—her hand clenched around the strap of her purse—she padded over to the registration table. Natalie greeted her in much the same way she’d greeted me, and as she pointed in my direction, my gut somersaulted.
My muscles tensed.
A small, authoritative voice ordered me to look away, but I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
Brown hair, a few shades lighter than black, framed the gentle curves of her face, resting on her shoulders and along her back. Equally dark lashes blinked in what I assumed was nervousness as warm chocolate eyes peered into the distance.
I swallowed the sudden lump of “oh fuck” in my throat as she walked straight toward table number four and forced my gaze away from her.
My heart beat like a drum, my leg and knee twitching as my pulse sped up beneath my skin.
God, please don’t let this be her. Please don’t let this be her.
I focused my attention on my empty plate, concentrating all my thoughts on anything but this girl, this woman, who continued to carefully maneuver her petite frame around the scattered tables. It wasn’t until I smelled the sweet combination of vanilla and sugar that I sensed she was right beside me, and I gingerly turned my head to look at her, eager to catch another glimpse.
Jesus, she was beautiful.
In the direct glow of the light, her fair complexion resembled that of a porcelain doll, and the absence of any heavy makeup confirmed her age wasn’t far from my own. There was something almost delicate about her, as if she were splintered glass on the verge of breaking, and for reasons I couldn’t fathom or explain, I had this unusual urge to be the one to keep her together, to prevent her from falling completely apart.