Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(71) by Susan Mallery
She smiled at him. “I’ve probably wound down for now,” she said. “How are you? How was your day?”
“Fine.” He moved them toward the small desk at the front of the foyer. “We have a reservation.”
She glanced around at the crowded restaurant. It was one of those neighborhood places with great food and plenty of regulars. The food smelled good and Dani liked the mix of clientele. There were families, older couples, several large parties and a group of women laughing in a corner.
“This is nice,” she said. “I’ve never been here.”
“The food is excellent. The menu has a lot of variety and everything is good.”
They followed the hostess to a quiet table in the back.
“How did you find this place?” she asked.
Gary held out her chair, then took the seat opposite hers. “I used to work around here.”
They were in an older part of Seattle. She frowned as she tried to place a college. She couldn’t think of one in the neighborhood. It was mostly residential.
“Where?” she asked. “At a private school?”
He hesitated. “I wasn’t always a teacher.”
It was then she remembered she didn’t know very much about her date. She knew he had a sister, that he was kind and a great listener. Embarrassment flooded her body as heat crawled up her cheeks.
“I’m a horrible person,” she said, with a groan. “Totally disgusting and self-absorbed.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Me. My behavior. How many times have we had coffee together? How many of those conversations have been about my life, my problems, my job search? Me, me, me. It’s awful. Why on earth did you want to have dinner with me?”
“Because I like you.”
He must or he wouldn’t have asked. She pushed aside her menu and leaned forward. “I apologize for my lousy behavior and promise that tonight is just about you. I want to know everything. You can skip the being born part—that’s a little too messy for dinner conversation. But feel free to pick up with your first memory after that.”
He smiled. “You have nothing to apologize for. I enjoy talking about you.”
“Guys like to talk about themselves.”
“I’m more comfortable listening. An old habit.”
Which made him practically perfect boyfriend material. He was smart and funny and kind. A really decent person.
“So why aren’t you married?” she asked. “We’ve established you’re not g*y.”
He grinned. “But I am thinking of upgrading my wardrobe.”
She laughed. “I’m serious, Gary. Are you keeping secrets?”
She’d asked the question lightly, then stiffened when he didn’t chuckle or tease in return.
“Not secrets so much as information,” he said.
She knew that whatever it was, she was going to hate it. The knowledge formed deep in her gut and sat there like a rock.
“You’re married? You killed a man? You used to be a woman? You have a contagious disease and now I have three weeks to live?”
“No.” His expression was kind. “Nothing like that.”
A woman in her forties walked by the table, paused and backed up a couple of steps. She looked at Gary, her eyes widening in surprise.
Dani straightened. A thousand thoughts flooded her brain but just one in bright neon letters flashed: Father Halaran? Father Halaran? As in…
Oh, dear God.
Gary nodded at the woman. “Hello, Wendy. It’s just Gary now. Remember?”
“What? Oh, right.” Wendy looked at Dani, then jerked her gaze back to Gary. “How are you? I haven’t seen you in a while.”
“It’s been a couple of years and I’m doing well.”
“I’m glad. It’s, ah, good to see you, Fa…ah, Gary.”
The woman walked away.
Dani blinked several times as her mind slowly cleared. “So,” she said, trying to sound casual when in truth she was in the mood to scream. “That was interesting.”
“I used to be a priest.”
“I kind of figured that out.”
He smiled. “Good. I left two years ago. That’s when I started teaching. I lived a few blocks from here and always liked this restaurant. I probably should have taken you somewhere else.”
Did he really think that was the biggest problem they had? “No. This is lovely. Really.”
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I’m trying to absorb the whole priest thing.”
“You’re not Catholic,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a big deal.”
“You’d think. But it kind of is.” Although she couldn’t say why.
A priest. As in married to the church. As in celibate. Talk about a springboard to discussion. So had he…been with a woman since? And if he hadn’t, did he want to be? Did she want to deal with that?
“Say something,” he told her. “What are you thinking?”
“No wonder you’re a good listener.”
“Is this going to be a problem?” He picked up the menu, then put it down. “I wanted to tell you, Dani. There just wasn’t a good time. It’s not as if I could introduce myself that way. ‘Hey, I’m Gary. An ex-priest. And you are?’“
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