"Sorry." She automatically stepped aside to let the customer enter the restaurant, then realized the person didn't move once she'd retreated. Laurel glanced up to see a warm smile and a pair of dancing green eyes watching her. The face was instantly recognizable, as he looked exactly like his photo.
He laughed as they hugged briefly. Despite its brevity, she could tell the man was in prime physical condition. Hugging him had been like hugging a marble statue, only better.
"Have you been waiting long?" he asked as they entered the restaurant.
"No. Not long."
She discovered that Trent had made reservations. They were quickly seated and left with menus. Without looking at the contents, they both set the menus aside, then realized what they'd done, bringing about more laughter.
"I take it you come here frequently?" Trent asked.
"As frequently as time and my bank account will allow," Laurel said. In the soft glare of the candlelight on the table between them, she was amazed by how handsome the man was. It brought a fresh wave of fear and self-doubt, and she wondered how the date would end. The photo she'd sent him had been done at one of those makeup studios that glamorize the customer before taking pictures. Tonight, she looked nothing like that photo. If anything, after a hard day at work, she probably looked even less like her usual self.
How did Trent feel about dating homely looking women?
He brushed at something on his cheek. There was just the right amount of early evening shadow covering his lower face. It made him appear even more studly, if that was possible. He flashed her an uncomfortable grin. "You were staring at my face like I had something on it."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I was..." She gave an embarrassed giggle. "I was marveling at how much you look just like your picture."
"So do you."
She instantly dismissed it. "No, I don't. That photo was taken last year, and I had three people work on me for an hour in order to look like that. Trust me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime photo shoot."
To her surprise, he reached over and covered her hand that was nervously fingering the stem of her empty wine glass. "Trust me, Laurel. You look exactly like your photo, especially in this light. Your face glows, and you have the most incredible blue eyes I've ever seen. In fact, right this minute, I prefer the way you look now, with your dark hair disheveled and the bright spots of color on your cheek. You look real and natural. Makes me think this is the way you'd appear when you first get up in the morning."
The shock of his statement washed through her, leaving her speechless. His honesty was irrefutable. Before she could respond, they were interrupted by the waiter arriving to take their order. Once he left, Laurel opened her napkin to give herself time to think up a response. Finally, the best one seemed to be the simplest one.
Trent grinned. Or rather, one corner of his mouth turned upward. "I take it you're not accustomed to being complimented."
"N-no. Yelled at, yes. Ordered about, yes. But kind words?" She gave a weak shrug. She started to reach for her water glass when she stopped. The water's surface was quivering. Trent looked down to see what held her attention.
"The water," she told him. "Look. It's moving."
"It's just a small earthquake," he smiled. "We get tremors like this all the time. Are you new to California?"
Laurel shook her head. "No. It's just that something like that is often a precursor to a bigger one."
Trent's smile widened. "Don't worry. I'll make sure nothing happens to you."
The sound of sirens overrode the restaurant's music, and several emergency vehicles sped by. At the same time a beeping noise came from Trent's watch. He glanced at it and frowned.
"Oh, jeez. They would call me in."
"Uhh, my bosses. They probably want me to follow that fire truck and see if I can lend a hand. I told them this was my night off, but does that matter? Excuse me for a moment." He pulled his cell phone from out of his pants pocket and punched a number. "Yes. Uh-huh. Over on the north side, near Blaylock. Got it. Look, I'm tied up at the moment, but I'll get over there as soon as I can. Uh-huh. Okay. Okay. 'Bye."
"Is it serious?" she finally ventured to ask.
"Apparently a gas line ruptured during the tremor. Came up through the street and caused a pile-up. Police are on the scene, and ambulance and fire department are on their way."
"Think The Champion will show up?"
Trent grinned again. "You never know. This is just the sort of thing a superhero like The Champion is good at. Saving the world one person at a time."
Realizing Trent was staying a while longer, Laurel reached over to the basket just delivered onto the table and grabbed a breadstick. "Can you imagine what real life might be like for a person like The Champion?"
"What? You mean private life?"
"Any sort of life outside of fighting crime and all."
"Gee, I never of thought of it, but I'd guess it would be pretty bleak. I mean, you'd have to be like Superman and have a secret identity just so you could have friends and go out on a date." He winced. "A love life would be very dangerous for your partner, which would mean your sex life would pretty much suck."
"Wouldn't you think that after a while, though, the loneliness and emptiness would get to be too unbearable?" she wondered aloud.
"Oh, yeah. I've no doubt it would." He laughed so softly she almost didn't hear it. "Wouldn't it be funny if The Champion turned to a dating service like the one we did?"
"Actually, I think it might be a perfect solution. Using the dating service to find someone who is so much like you that when a call goes out for The Champion to help, the other person understands and waits for you without question or reservation."
"It would be a dream come true, in a way." He continued to stare out the front window.
Laurel noticed how antsy he was quickly becoming. "Trent, listen, if you have to leave to go tend to that accident, I understand."
"No. No, I promised you a nice dinner at a restaurant, and I'm a man of my word. The emergency crews can get along without me." He started to say more, when her own phone went off. Rather than answer it, she took note of the number, then put the cell on vibrate and stuck it back in her purse.
"Aren't you going to answer it?" he asked.
"No. I know who it is, and I can probably guess what he wants. I'll call him back later."
"What was that ring tone? It sounded familiar."
"'Fly Me to the Moon'. It was a Sinatra hit many years ago," she said.
"Ah, right. Now I remember it. Odd that it would be your choice."
"My default ring is 'Come Fly With Me'."
"Really? Why that one?"
"Because I have a love of flying, just like you do."
Laurel smiled as she took a sip of water. She was comfortable with the guy even in person. Their easy banter came so naturally, it was refreshing.
He could be the one. My own personal superhero. My lifesaver. The possibility made her heart speed up, and she could feel the heat building between her legs.