By the time 7pm rolls around I am in a black pinstripe romper. The top fits like a vest, high in the back with a deep ‘V’ in the front.  The pants are comfortable, but not too baggy.  I am going to have to recruit Bandon and Anton together more often.  My light brown hair looks soft in big waves like a 1950’s pin-up model.  Anton even got my hair into one of those fun victory rolls. My make-up was light and classic, with just enough to highlight my caramel eyes and a soft pink lipstick.  The jewelry was just as simple.  Little silver teardrop earrings and a delicate chain necklace with a matching teardrop charm that went well passed my cleavage into the romper.  To finish the look I had on bright blue heels with one thick strap across the toes and a strap around my ankle. I know I’m not ugly, but this outfit and the hair and make-up actually make me feel pretty.

I walk outside to meet James.  He gives me a smile. “You look lovely, Miss Carter.”

“James, how many times do I have to tell you to call me Lindsey?” I ask as he opens the door for me.

“Every time, Miss Carter.  At least until I start calling you Mrs. Raines.” He winks at me as he closes the door.

My eyes go wide as the realization sets in.  This is really happening. “James, where exactly are you taking me?” Probably something I should have asked Brandon when he gave me instructions earlier.

“You and Mr. Raines are going to meet this evening miss. That is all that I am allowed to say at the moment.” He looks at me through the rear view mirror and smiles.

“Can you tell me anything about him? We haven’t really had any significant conversations.”

“I do not know him personally, miss, but he has been good to me as an employer. I’m not sure what you want to know.”

“What kind of employer is he?”

“He is stern, but fair.  He likes things the way he likes things, but he also gives everyone a chance to learn and grow.  He can be ruthless in negotiations, from what I understand.”

“Do you know why he needs to get married? My brother didn’t really give me many details, but I’m sure he has plenty of ladies vying for his attention. Why would he choose to marry an eighteen year old who he has never met.  I can’t believe he would want someone like me.”  I am starting to panic a little bit now.  I really don’t know what I am doing and I don’t want to disappoint anyone.

“Don’t doubt yourself miss.  If it makes you feel any better, I’ve never seen him put this much effort into any of his other relationships.”

“What do you mean?  I have only talked to him twice and you are taking me wherever you are taking me to meet him for the second time.”

“He has never planned a date for any other woman, that I know of, and definitely never sent anyone flowers or shopping with his personal credit card. Something Brandon has been trying to get him to do for years.  There have always been ladies throwing themselves his way, he has just gone with whatever they wanted to do.  This whole trying to please a woman thing is new to him, but you didn’t hear that from me.” He says chuckling. “We’re here.”

I look up to see the tropical garden building that is inside the zoo.  How did we even get in here? I must have really been lost in my thoughts.

James opens the door and I step out.  I rub my palms on my pants, I don’t know why I am nervous, it’s not like this is our first meeting.

“How do I look?” I ask James, stalling for time a bit.

“You look wonderful Miss Carter.  I hope you enjoy yourself.  I won’t be far if you need me for anything.” His phone pings in his pocket. He checks it quickly and then looks at me with an amused look on his face. “Apparently Mr. Raines thinks I am monopolizing your time and keeping you out here for too long. Head on in, first door on your left. Give him just a little bit of a hard time for me.  I am rather enjoying this.”

I chuckle as I walk in. At least Reese’s staff seems to be pleasant so far.  I hope everyone else I have to work with is this pleasant. 

I walk inside and head to the door on the left like James told me. And what I saw was breathtaking.  The domed glass roof glittered with fairy lights that gave off just enough light to see, but felt very cozy.  The warm air felt amazing on my skin and the greens from the plants were so vivid and bright with little pops of bright pinks, oranges and purples from the flowering plants.  I continue walking through the garden, completely amazed by the beauty, taking in deep calming breaths.  I feel at peace here in the quiet warmth, then I hear someone clear their throat behind me.  I jump, startled as I turn around and see the most handsome person I have ever seen.

I don’t know if I will ever get used to the sight of him.  His large, bodybuilder sized frame in a Dark gray three piece suit that was clearly cut to fit in a way that every muscle was defined. His light brown hair was combed back in a way that looks put together, but also like he’s run his fingers through it many times today. His blue tie matched my shoes.  Brandon really was very good at whatever his job was.

“You look amazing Lindsey.” He breathes out. He reaches a hand out to me. “Come on, let’s take a walk.”

I smile at him letting his very large hand engulf mine and lead me down a path. “Where are we going?” I ask, very curious as to what he was up to.

“You got me thinking last night, there is a lot I need to know about you and so much more I want to know after our conversation.  I thought maybe we could talk a bit more over dinner.” He says as we walk through an ivy covered arch into a little clearing set with a bistro table and a couple chairs. More fairy lights gave the clearing a dim warm glow.  Off to the side was another table with assorted foods, a bottle of red wine with glasses and a pitcher of water.  

He looks back at me like he’s looking for approval.  I think James was right, he’s never done anything like this before.



I am so nervous, I feel like I am going to throw up.  I have done business deals with the worst sharks in our industry and none of them have made me feel like this.

I am pacing in the little clearing I have had set up for dinner. I had the staff leave everything.  I don’t want to be interrupted at all tonight.

I’ve been waiting for five minutes. I’m starting to get antsy now, I know they are here. I watched the GPS on James’ phone the whole drive, getting more and more nervous the closer they got.

I shoot James a message, trying to figure out if she is hesitating or changing her mind.  Maybe she’s rethinking this whole thing.  I wouldn’t blame her at all, her brother basically sold her to me without a second thought.

James sends me a message back letting me know she’s all mine with a wink emoji. What the hell? What is he up to?  

A moment later I hear the door open then close.  She’s here.  My heart starts racing.  It is pounding so hard, I’m sure she’ll be able to hear it from the other side of the greenhouse.  She doesn’t call out to me though, there is just silence. Does she not want to meet me?  Why is she hesitating?

I finally walk out to see where she’s at.  I find her walking along one of the paths looking at the flowers and I am stopped in my tracks. She is gorgeous with her hair in soft curls and a figure hugging outfit that I can’t wait to get my hands on.  Every wonderful curve of her body was on display.  

I cleared my throat to get her attention, I didn’t want to startle her by coming up too close into her personal space. It didn’t help, she still jumped as she turned around to face me and I forgot how to breathe for a moment. Her make-up was done so her caramel colored eyes were the main feature.  Her top had a low ‘V’ that went almost down to her belly button where the chain of her necklace disappeared and I found myself wanting to discover how far it went.

The only words I can get out are “You look amazing, Lindsey.” Then my brain kind of shuts down and I go on autopilot for a few minutes. I finally realized that I need to start this conversation, I asked her here.  I don’t remember the last time I was on a proper date and this is already really awkward.  I cleared my throat again, “Are you hungry?” I mentally slap myself, but it’s all I’ve got for starters.

“Yes! Anton wouldn’t let me eat after he finished my make-up. Oh, wait.”

“What? What is it?”

“I promised Anton I would get a picture of the two of us before I inevitably ruined his masterpiece.” She giggles at me.

“Are you serious?”

“Yep, Brandon made me swear to get pics too. Apparently Anton told him about my aversion to dressing up, so they made me promise to get a couple shots as soon as I got here.” She rolled her eyes.

“I thought you said you wore dresses sometimes.”

“I do when the occasion calls for it, but I don’t have many occasions for dressing up and really I’d rather be comfortable.” She shrugs her shoulders like it’s no big deal.

“Ok, we can take a few pictures.” I smile at her.

She looks around like she’s analyzing the area, she makes some kind of decision, nods to herself and walks to the table to set up her phone.

“I have it set up to take several pictures at once, so hopefully we don’t have to take a whole bunch.” She says scrunching up her nose, and I find myself smiling again.  She reaches out to me to beckon me over. The closer I get to her the more the butterflies in my stomach flutter and my heart races.

She tucks herself under my arm and wraps her arm around my back and mine finds her waist like it’s the most natural thing.  She fits perfectly against me, like she was made to fit by my side.  I start the photo burst looking at the camera, but I can’t help looking down at this tiny amazing woman next to me.  She must sense my gaze, because she looks back at me and I get lost in her eyes.  I tighten my grip on her waist and I really want to pull her in for a kiss.  But, I stop myself, she needs time. As much as we are rushing all of this, there are things I can’t rush with her. I have to let her take the lead in the intimacy department.  Including kissing and just holding her.  I blink a few times and clear my throat letting her go.

What is happening to me?

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