I’ve officially lost my appetite. At least, the little appetite I had.
The buzz of chatter around me was the only thing reminding me to keep things cute.
I was on a date. Possibly one from hell. And what’s worse? It was the first date I’d been on in two years.
What a welcome back this was.
This is something I do not miss.
“I believe in a woman’s independence,” my date, Darryl, claimed as he chewed an item off his $50 surf and turf plate with his mouth opened. “I love what y’all single ladies have been on lately. It’s right up my alley.”
I had to inhale deeply to keep from rolling my eyes. Not only at what he said, but at how pompous and uncouth he’d been since I took my seat at the table.
It was a Friday night in New York City, which meant half the city was out and about. The ice chill outside was standard for February. The recent snowfall did nothing to keep everyone indoors. I was regretting my decision to be there that night. I’m one of the select few New Yorkers who prefer a Friday night in and alone with a bowl of popcorn and a movie I’ve watched at least twenty times streaming on my TV for the twenty-first time.
“I like you, Apryl.” He cheesed like cameras were around. “You make your own money, very good money at that.”
“You have your own house,” he added. “A woman with her own won’t ever want a thing from me. I love this for us.”
Darryl Rockwell, the clown.
Every time I thought he couldn’t say anything worse than what he said before, he proved me wrong.
According to our match on HeartMates, he and I were compatible.
And I could see why.
He checked all the boxes I had on my list. Didn’t have any kids, didn’t work a dead end 9-5, didn’t have rotten teeth.
He was perfect… for someone else.
I should delete the app.
“So…” He forked another piece of grilled lobster tail into his already full mouth. “Tell me about your last relationship. How’d that end?”
The app is definitely getting deleted.
I gritted my teeth. “I’d rather not.” I looked away as I lifted my glass of spring water to my lips to sip.
What am I even doing here?
Trying to get my feet wet in the dating pool again after wringing myself dry from a nasty breakup that had me crying myself to sleep for one entire year was what.
I focused my attention on my Cobb salad, pushing around the hard-boiled egg bits with the prongs of my fork.
My sister begged me to go on this date. It was my first in two years and, according to her; I needed to get out.
“Aren’t you tired of working every hour of every day and not having time to go on dates?” she asked one afternoon in her kitchen when it was only us two. “Don’t you miss the company of men?”
No, I don’t miss it.
Especially not going out on dates with the Darryl Rockwells of the world.
“Bad breakup, huh?” He mocked. “His loss. You are a catch.”
I forced a smile.
My previous relationship lasted an entire eleven years. When we met and fell in love, I was sure I wouldn’t be back here, on a date, playing nice with a man I would’ve never entertained on any other night. I pictured a life unlike this one with my ex. One where we were living out a black romance film even after the credits rolled. We made so many promises to each other and I ended up being the only one keeping them.
Now I was sitting in a business casual restaurant wanting to be anywhere but there because my date reminded me why I didn’t want to end a relationship that had ended itself.
“Did he try to stifle your independence?” Darryl queried.
“No.” One-word answers were the only thing keeping me from being rude.
“You should really taste this wine.”
“Darryl.” I took a breath to remain levelheaded. “I’ve told you several times already I don’t drink.”
Despite that, he insisted on ordering an entire bottle of Merlot. He was on his third glass and getting on my last nerve.
“Is that like an Alcoholics Anonymous thing?”
“It’s a choice thing.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who had the space and opportunity to drink casually but chose not to.”
“I can say I’ve never met a person like you, either.” I forced another smile. “There’s always a first time for everything.”
“Can I get you two anything else?”
A life vest, please.
Our leggy server honed her focus on me. She’d been very attentive through the night, addressing me more than Darryl, who was extremely dumb or completely oblivious to how disinterested I was in him.
I peeked down at my salad and my almost empty glass of spring water, then smiled up at her. “No, I think we’re all good—”
“Actually.” Darryl lifted a finger. “I think I’m going to test out your crème brûlée.”
The server and I shared a glance.
“How is it, anyway?” He asked her. “Any good?”
I had to tighten my lips to keep my jaw from dropping. I watched this man devour a twelve-ounce filet mignon, a two-ounce lobster – claws and tail included – two ounces of shrimp, and a one ounce crab. He swallowed over half a bottle of red wine and still he had room for dessert.
The server was less discreet with her reaction. “You have quite the appetite.”
“Oh, of course.” He grinned and winked at me. “Especially when I’m being treated.”
I narrowed my eyes at him.
“Oh… kay.” She tucked a lock of her black bob behind her ear, then slid her notepad into her apron’s pocket. “I will be right back with your dessert, sir.” She looked at me. “And the check.”
Did I miss something? Why did she look at me when she said that?
“Treated?” I questioned once we were alone at our table again.
“Well yeah.” He shrugged. “I figured you got this.”
I blinked hard. “Got what, exactly?”
“Our meal,” he replied matter-of-factly. “The bill.”
“And how’d you figure that?!” My voice climbed an octave.
“You’re a celebrity fitness trainer,” he stated, gesturing at me. “I Googled you and got hit with hundreds of web articles about you and the celebrities you’ve trained. I can’t believe you trained Chloe Rae. She’s fione.”
I almost bit my tongue, clenching my jaw.
“Aside from that, you’ve modeled for Nike, endorsed brands like Gatorade and Vitamin Water. You’re paid, paid.”
“I’m paid, paid.” I mocked. “Wow.”
“That’s why I left my wallet at home,” he informed.
What the fuck did he just say?!
“It’s like I explained,” he continued, leaning back in his seat to get more comfortable, I presume, “I fully support a woman’s desire to be independent. Women want to be equal? Cool. I believe we, as a collective, should expect women to do everything a man is supposed to do, too.”
I scoffed again.
“That’s the reason I didn’t bother planning this date and why I have no intention of covering the bill.”
I inhaled the surrounding air, wanting to punch it.
“You ladies want to earn more? Do it. Be the breadwinner? I insist. I’ll accept for my meal to be paid for. I can be a stay-at-home boyfriend and even a dad.”
“So, a kept man?”
“Yeah.” Darryl adjusted his black leather belt around his waist. “That sounds like a glorious life.”
“Oh, my God,” I whispered, pinching the bridge of my nose.
Throw the whole man away.
The buzz of chatter in the restaurant grew in volume as silence settled between us. On an exhale, I felt like saying something I’d regret. So, I did the next best thing.
“I’m going to run to the bathroom.” I pushed my chair back. “I’ll be right back.”
“And I’ll be right here.” He smiled.
The moment I stood to my feet and turned away from him at the table, my fake smile was no more. I scanned the room quickly, searching for the leggy server. I spotted her standing a few feet away near a dip in the wall in one corner of the room.
“Hey, excuse me,” I called when I neared her.
She peeked up from pecking at the computer touchscreen with her finger long enough to see me headed her way. “I was just about to make my way over to you with the check.”
“Let me save you the trip.” I wedged my clutch between my arm and rib. “We’re going to need to alter this bill a little.”
Her threaded brows wrinkled.
“See that brother you’ve seen me with all night? He’s lost his damn mind and I’m gonna help him find it.”
“He thinks I’m going to cover his expensive ass meal, but he’s about to have humble pie with his crème brûlée. Here’s what’s gonna happen.”
“Oh, I’m listening.”
I giggled while peeling apart my clutch to retrieve my platinum Amex. “I’m going to cover the cost of my salad, my spring water, and your tip. Then you’re going to send him the bill for his meal with his crème brûlée, of course, and he’s gonna cover that himself because I’ve had more than enough of his shit and I’m leaving.”
END OF SNEAK PEEK.
Gluttony, book 5 in the Love is Cure, Vol. 1 – Vices & Virtues series is available now on Amazon.