Mindful of the fact that I was in a dress, I carefully swung my feet out onto the ground and moved to stand. Max’s hand felt warm and reassuring in my own and I took a step, intending to follow him into the restaurant. But I couldn’t.
What the . . . I almost gasped when I realized that I was stuck. Or to be more accurate, that my dress was. The subtle beading on my skirt had snagged on the inside door latch of Max’s BMW.
“I’m just . . .” I started, letting go of Max in an attempt to get a better look. “My dress seems to be caught.”
Max kneeled next to me but I waved him off.
“No, just one second, let me.”
By now the attendant with Max’s keys had realized something was wrong, and so had a few of the others. “Maybe if you try and slip that piece right there through the latch,” one of them said.
“No, that will make it worse. See those little beads? They’ll get stuck. I’ve got some scissors. I can go grab them,” said another.
“Man, it is really in there,” said their supervisor. “How did you even do that?”
Four pairs of hands all tried to help me untangle myself, but I batted them away.
“No,” I said. “Please. This skirt is vintage.” There was a grimace in my voice as I pulled on a tiny thread, careful not to snag it further. Damn, it did not want to give and I was practically sweating. “A gift from my mom,” I added. “Just let me—”
“Oh,” they all said in unison, along with a “Fucking hell,” from Max.
I’d ripped it, like, really ripped it. And now, instead of a small, easily concealable snag, there was a slit that began at the bottom of my skirt and moved up, stopping at the top of my thigh.
“No way that just happened,” Max said.
“It happened,” I told him.
“I’m sorry, Petal. We can go back and you can change into something else?”
“This is nothing,” I said, and straightened, pushing up on the balls of my feet to press a kiss to his neck. “This is just karma’s way of proving a point because I said this was too easy. Of course something would go wrong after that.”
“I’d be lying if I said that I disliked this slight alteration,” he said, eyes moving up and down my thigh.
“It’s not too obscene?” I asked, a little thrill passing through my stomach at his wide eyes as he shook his head.
“Absolutely not.” He ran his hand down over my hip, and touched the bare skin of my thigh, right in front of everyone outside the restaurant.
Warmth slid into my veins. Was he going to play a little tonight? Would he touch me beneath the table?
“Listen,” he said, kissing my neck, “why don’t I check us in and you can run to the ladies, fix anything that needs fixing and maybe check in on George?”
I wilted immediately. “Sounds perfect,” I said, squeezing his hand.
I didn’t call George, opting to text instead of running the risk of waking Anna.
I know I don’t need to check in so just saying hi. Hi, I typed.
His reply came less than a minute later. If you two aren’t naked yet I’m going to be so disappointed.
I laughed dryly as I typed back, Nope, definitely not naked. How’s my baby?
Perfect. Just waking up so I’m heating her bottle. Then tummy time and a movie.
You’re a lifesaver, I typed.
Tell me something I don’t know.
I looked at the full-length mirror in the ladies’ room and Max was right, it didn’t look bad at all. Satisfied, I left to go find my husband, typing out a response on the way. How will I ever repay you, George?
Bring me back something shiny.
I smiled. Done.
By shiny, you know I mean chorus boys wrapped in sparkling swim trunks, right?
His response appeared only a second later. This is why we’re friends.
We were led to our seats shortly after. With the way Max was looking at me from across the table—like nothing would please him more than to spread me out in front of all these people and have me for dinner—I hoped I’d be able to make it through the next two hours.
I opted for clam risotto with bacon and chives, and Max ordered a creamy fettuccine with asparagus. The waiter brought a bottle of pinot noir and held it out for Max’s inspection. Max smiled and then motioned for him to show it to me—which was ridiculous considering I barely drank—but my eyes widened in recognition. It was the same wine we’d had at the quiet dinner after our wedding at city hall. My husband was so getting laid tonight.
“Perfect,” I told him.
The waiter smiled and began to remove the cork. “It’s an amazing choice,” he said, wedging the bottle between his knees to get a better grip. He laughed nervously and jostled the opener, but it didn’t seem to want to budge. “Wow, it’s really stuck in there.”
“Maybe if I—” Max started to say, but the cork came out with a wet suction and both the waiter and Max eyed it dubiously. It was black with sludge.
“Oh,” both the waiter and I said in unison. Max looked like someone had just popped his balloon.
“This is a pretty bleak metaphor,” I joked, but Max’s expression told me he didn’t think it was remotely funny.
“I’m so sorry,” the waiter said, and looked around as if someone would be standing there to help him. “This bottle is clearly off. I’ll just go get you another.” He paused, and I knew right away that it wasn’t a good sign. “I just remembered, that was the last one.”
“No worries, mate,” Max said, glancing through the wine menu. “Happens to all of us. We’ll just have a bottle of the MacRostie instead.”
The wine had been poured, and I tore off a small piece of warm bread while we waited for our meal. “So how was Anna today?” I asked.
Max looked at me over the rim of his glass, mouth turned up in a teasing smirk. “I believe there was to be no baby discussion tonight, Mrs. Stella,” he said. “But since I relish the chance to talk about our daughter, I’ll tell you that she was perfect, as usual. Mum quite enjoys having her there. Not to mention Will, even if he does nothing more than sit and make ridiculous faces at her from across the table.”
As if on cue, my phone vibrated next to my plate and I glanced over as the screen lit up.
Your daughter is not impressed with Ryan Gosling. This is clearly your husband’s DNA. Attached was a photo of the two of them on the couch, Anna making a hilariously frowny face at the camera.