“She was certain her father hadn’t meant a stranger, but had more in mind one of the respectable, eligible bachelors in town—none of which appealed to Grace.
Taking a deep breath filled with the sensual, delicious scent of roses filling her office, Grace made the spontaneous decision to do something for herself, without her father’s approval, and without worrying about what other people might think.
She turned to Darcy with a smile that wiped away any lingering uncertainties. “I’m going to meet my mystery man and find out exactly who he is.”
“Great!” Darcy’s enthusiasm was infectious. “Now we just need to find something for you to wear other than one of your conservative dresses or button-up business suits.”
Before Grace could take offense to that, Darcy eyed her with a sly smile of a woman confident in her ability in attracting men. “I saw the perfect dress for you in the window of Shalimar’s. I’m going to call Andrea right now and let her know that we’ll be there as soon as we close up shop for the day.”
As Darcy exited the small office, Grace was overwhelmed with the notion that for the first time in a very long time she was actually excited about something other than the joy her business brought her.
She was excited about seeing a man.
N ervous butterflies fluttered in Grace’s belly as she entered the Whitaker Country Club at precisely 7 PM and walked up to the maître d’s podium. Alfred, the astute man who’d served as host to the country club for as long as Grace could remember, smiled amicably when he saw her.
“Good evening, Ms. Holbrook,” he greeted, his tone as warm and polite as his kind blue eyes. “You look positively lovely tonight.”
The enthusiastic compliment caused her cheeks to warm, especially since the deep purple fitted dress, complete with black hued stockings and black heels, was a far cry from the more conservative outfits she wore while dining at the country club with her father. Though the sleeves were long, the soft velvet material hugged her curves to her knees.
“Thank you, Alfred.” Feeling a bit self-conscious, she refrained from tugging at the hem of her dress, or touching the soft curls cascading from the clip securing her thick hair atop her head. The few strands that had escaped her attempt at a sophisticated style tickled the side of her neck.
She clutched her little black purse tighter in her hand. “I’m meeting with someone at seven. Has he arrived?”
Alfred acknowledged her question with a curt nod. “Yes, right this way, Ms. Holbrook.”
Instead of heading toward the main dining room, he guided her down a wide corridor that led to a wing of small, private rooms normally reserved for intimate gatherings, which rented out at an additional fee.
Realizing she would be completely alone with this stranger, instead of surrounded by familiar faces in the main dining room as she’d originally thought, she caught Alfred’s jacketed arm when he reached for the door knob of the “Crystal Room”.
He lifted a bushy, salt and pepper brow in inquiry.
“Did the gentleman give you his name?” she asked quietly.
That earned her an odd look from Alfred, as if she should have known who she was meeting. “No, Ms. Holbrook, and he reserved the room under your name. Would you like me to find out his name for you?”
Feeling foolish under Alfred’s concerned scrutiny, she quickly shook her head. “No, I’ll be fine.”
“Very well.” He opened the door and waited until she stepped into the room, which she did, very tentatively. “If you need anything you can use the intercom on the wall, or the one on your table. Enjoy your evening.” He executed a curt bow, then was gone, closing the door behind him.
Standing at the back of the room, Grace waited for her eyes to adjust to the dim lighting of the overhead chandelier. Gradually, the furnishings came into focus, revealing a small, intimate room. A dining table sat in the middle of the area, just beneath the chandelier, set for two with linen, crystal, gold-rimmed china, gleaming silverware, and one of her floral arrangements. Two tapered candles glowed cozily in the middle of the table, adding to the romantic atmosphere. Moonlight shimmered from outside the open sliding glass door, which led to a balcony overlooking the golf course.”