Vinho Verde

Catinca sat at the bar, jabbing a toothpick into a crust of bread. It was a waste of sodding time. By now, she should have realised the chances of her meeting a nice guy on the Internet were as slim as the toothpick. She asked herself why she bothered raising her hopes, getting dressed up and then stomping home three hours later in a foul mood.

It wasn’t their fault. Most of them were nice, some interesting, a few made her laugh and she even seen one bloke for a second date. The problem was her. She had no patience and could not be bothered with the whole ‘getting to know you’ routine. Unless they blew her away with the force of the personalities in the first half an hour, all she could think about was how soon she could leave.

How was it possible in a city of eight million people that not one of them was right for her? No one could say she hadn’t tried. She dated a graffiti artist, a motorcycle courier, a junior barrister and had a long-distance thing going on with a security guard from Bordeaux. It was time for something more, a soul mate to share her adventures.

“I think it’s dead.”

Scowling, she looked up at the face of Theo Wolfe. “What’s dead?”

“That bit of baguette you’ve been stabbing for the last five minutes. Another glass of rose?”

She dropped her gaze and shook her head. “Nah, mate, I gotta go. Say hi to Adrian I’ll see you tomorrow, I expect.”

“Just can’t keep away from me, can you?” He picked up her plate and empty glass, and sauntered away to the dishwasher. She watched him laughing with the other barman and wiping his hands on his apron.

Theo. Drop dead gorgeous, sexy as hell and a really decent guy. She had fancied him forever. While they both worked at Dionysus, she was his boss and a romantic liaison would have been unprofessional. But things were different now. He was leaving next month to take up a position she had arranged for him. She was a businesswoman in her own right, selling her own designs through shops and on her website.

Why not Theo? No need to go through the rigmarole of dating to find out if they liked each other. Half the battle was won.

As if he had overheard all thoughts, he lifted his head from stacking the dishwasher and looked directly at her. His little plaits fell in a curtain behind his head and his black skin gleamed beneath the sunken spot lights. He lifted his eyebrows and gave her a suggestive smile, his white teeth just visible.

With his louche walk, he came over to lean on the bar in front of her. “Changed your mind about the wine?”

“Changed my mind about Tinder. Why go swiping for Mr Right when Mr Gorgeous is standing right in front of me? You’re single, straight and as far as I can tell, not a weirdo.”

He widened his eyes. “You propositioning me?”

“I’m asking you on a date. If nothing happens, we could still have a good laugh.”

Theo tilted his head to one side and looked into her face. His beautiful long lashes batted several times as he blinked.

“One day, I might be good enough for Catinca Radu. Right now, you’re too strong for me and I’d only disappoint you. Mate, we can have a drink anytime but in terms of anything else, I got some growing up to do. Sod’s Law, when I feel brave enough for someone like you, it’ll probably be too late.”

Catinca put her left hand on her hip. “You turning me down? That’s a No?”

He reached out, took her toothpick and placed it on the plate. Then he clasped her right hand in both of his and met her eyes.

“It’s a Not Yet. This vintage needs time to mature.”

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