“Dinner?” he asks again. “Or lunch? I can even do breakfast, if you’d rather.”
My face flushes, and I move around in my seat. I’m about to give in, to say yes to dinner, when my gaze lands on the tiny tattoo on my wrist. The delicate lotus flower reminds me every day that beautiful things can come from the dirtiest waters. I just have to keep growing.
“Thank you,” I say, forcing a swallow. “But no.”
His brows shoot to the ceiling. “No?”
I shrug. “No.”
“There’s a word I don’t hear often.”
Instead of it coming across as cocky, it borders on self-deprecating. It’s surprisingly adorable.
“Fish is never going to let me live this down,” he says, his words teasing.
“My friend that’s sitting back there.”
I glance over my shoulder at a large blond man sitting near the window. Also handsome.
“Who cares?” I say, turning back to Cole. “He shares his name with an aquatic vertebrate.”
He laughs. “He’s a big deal, you know.”
I bite my lip to keep my grin from growing too wide. “Ooh. I love that.”
“I love when a man can admit that he’s not the biggest deal in the room.”
He stills, pulling his bottom lip in between his teeth. “I didn’t say that, sweetheart.”
Nice try, Mr. Baseball.
“Maybe since he’s such a big deal, he’ll let you keep your hundred bucks,” I say, hoping my cheeks aren’t as pink as I think they are.
“You don’t know Fish. He’ll have me forking it over before we get out of here.”
My lips part, but no words come out.
I struggle to breathe from the brightness of his blue eyes. The warmth in his irises is so comfortable that I fail to object to the way his gaze holds mine. It’s not until he starts to smirk that I shake out of my reverie.
Val slips my tab from the past week under my glass. I groan, having forgotten that it was due today.
“I guess I’ll go pay Fish and get it over with,” he says with a sigh. There’s an opening embedded in the words, a last chance to take him up on his offer.
I glance down at my bill and gulp. “Or you could give me seventy-five dollars.”
His brows rise to the ceiling. “What?”
It’s a wild idea and not well thought out, but I’m too far in to back out now.
“Give me seventy-five dollars of the hundred you’ll win. Sounds fair to me, considering it’s my number,” I say.
He wasn’t expecting my offer. Hell, I wasn’t expecting it, either, but here we are. And it’s not a terrible idea. It’ll give me twenty dollars after I pay this week’s tab, and twenty bucks never goes astray as a single mom. Besides, I’ll never have to answer his call.
Cole’s features twist into amusement, and then, much to my surprise, he pulls out his wallet.
“You have money?” I ask.
He lifts his head just high enough for me to see his smirk. “Yes. I have money. Quite a lot of it, actually.”
“No,” I say, my cheeks flushing again. “I mean cash. You have cash. No one ever has cash anymore.”
He hands me three crisp twenty-dollar bills, along with a ten and a five. “I do pride myself on being prepared for all occasions.”
“I see you also brought your humility with you.” I shove the money in my pocket. “Thanks for that.”
“No problem.” He lifts his chin expectantly. “Your number?”
“Yeah. My number.”
I pull my attention away from his eyes as they try to pierce mine. I study his leather boots instead.
How am I going to swing this? Just as I’m about to hand his money back to him, Val laughs. Bingo!