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Of Wishes and Wine

"You look beautiful."

"Thank you."

A tuxedo'd waiter held the door of Zinc Brasserie open to us. Brian was dressed in a white suit that made my mouth dry. His dark shirt and elegantly patterned tie completed an essemble that made him look like a million bucks.

Then I remembered he was actually worth a million bucks. Or more. My nerves started to ache and that annoying armpit sweat began in earnest.

"After you," he said, grinning that boyish grin that made him look sixteen again. His hand just barely brushed the small of my back as I walked past him, causing me to bristle. It had been a long time since I had let a man get that close to me and it set me even more on edge.

"This is lovely," I murmured, trying to dig my thoughts out from their downward spiral. He had wanted to pick me up, but I had insisted on driving my own car. I always needed a quick getaway and I had hoped he understood. He didn't seem to be insulted.

Small, intimate dark wood tables doted the interior of the restaurant. A small, brick fireplace was a lovely focal point of the room, as was a dark wood bar. Brian, ignoring the waiter's look of annoyance, pulled out a chair.

"Ma'lady," he said, giving me a half-bow.

"Thank you," I said, feeling like my vocabulary had been slashed dramatically. I sat down and he pushed me gently in. He took his own seat across from me and let the waiter flourish menus in front of us.

"Wine?" the gentleman asked. He gave Brian a smaller menu, but he didn't even glance at it.

"A bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, Robert Mondavi please," he said with the confidence of a well-traveled, seasoned connoisseur.

"As you wish," the waiter said, the smile on his face getting wider. I could only imagine how much a bottle cost that would make someone smile that big. It was probably, sadly, more than my car payment.

"So," Brian said almost breathlessly the moment the waiter stepped away. "I never thought I'd see you again, Jilly Bean."

It was ridiculous. Here we were, sitting in the best restaurant in Sandusky, and I was still being compared to an Easter treat. I glanced down at the table, fighting to refrain tracing the wood grain. Tears prickled my eyes.

"You've been a little busy," I said, forcing my tone into lightness. I chanced a glance at him.

He. Smelled. So. Good.

"You've followed?"

"I've gotten the jist."

He fidgeted slightly and I felt a foolish sense of retribution. It wasn't just his fault, Jill, my subconscious reminded me.

"When did you move to Sandusky?" he asked, trying to find firmer ground.

"About five years ago," I said.

"Do you like it here?"

I cracked a smile. "It's got its perks."

"Are you a stay at home mom?"

I almost snorted. As if. "No, I'm a dentist."

The look of surprise on his face was amusing. "But you wanted to be a veternarian."

"I traded dog breath for human's," I said.

He laughed and it was a sound so foreign, yet so familiar, that I almost let myself relax. Almost.

"Your wine."

Two beautiful goblets were set down before us and an even more enticing stream of red wine filled the glass.

"Thank you," we said simultaneously. We both took a sip and I let the taste invade my mouth. I had never tasted wine so good.

"I can't believe you're a mom to an almost teenager," Brian jumped back in. He glanced at my bare left hand. "His dad--"

"Cole's dad died in Afghanistan when he was four," I said.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Brian murmured. "I hate all the lives that were lost because of 9-11. Nobody wins in war, but especially not the families of those fighting to protect us.'

A wash of sadness blanketed me. I took another sip of wine. "Paul was a good man."

"Where did you meet?" Brian asked quietly.

"College," I said. "He joined the Peace Corps to get money to help with the school loans and then 9-11 hit and..." I trailed off. "He was called away when Coley was two and we only saw him once more before..." I couldn't finish the sentence.

"Jilly, I'm so sorry." Brian's hand snaked across the table, but I busied myself with my napkin.

"Well," Brian smiled, trying to change the direction the conversation had taken. "Your Tibby is so adorable." I suddenly itched to down the entire glass in front of me, anticipating what was coming. "Her daddy must be putty in her hands."

Instead of grabbing for the glass, I held up the menu. "So what's good here?"

He didn't answer right away. I couldn't see his face but I knew I couldn't look him in the eye. I held my breath.

"I thought we'd start with a cheese plate," Brian said softly. Gently. Concerned. "The filet trio is delicious. I keep coming back because of the red wine sauce and the truffle potato puree."

"More red wine?" I mused. "If I wasn't mistaken, I'd think you were planning on taking advantage of me."

The flirtacious innuendo just floated out of my mouth. I blushed furiously and slowly chanced a peek at him.

Big mistake. His eyes sparkled.

"I'm a perfect gentlemen."

"A perfect gentlemen? If I remember correctly, you weren't very gentlemanly in your parents' hot tub."

Brian tilted his head back and laugh. "Can you blame a guy for trying?"

"You succeeded."

"Can you blame a guy for succeeding?"

I bit my lip and just shook my head. Life was so much simpler back then. The world seemed to revolve only around the two of us. I ran my fingernail along the rim of the goblet.

"Your son looks just like you," I said, changing the subject once more, but changing it to a safer subject. At least for me. Brian lifted the glass to his lips and took a rather long drink.

"He acts just like me too," he said, smirking. I smiled.

"Lord help us all. He must give his mom a run for his money."

The smirk died. "You could say that."

A fading white band of skin still lingered on his hand. I didn't reply, waiting for him to continue if he wanted.

"We separated in January. Divorce was final about six months ago."

"I'm sorry."

"Me too," he said. Before I realized his intent, he reached over and took my hand.

"I'm sorry I let you get away."