The valet handed Claire her ticket. She turned toward the entrance of Marcel’s to see a doorman exquisitely dressed in a red suit complete with a top hat. He was standing, waiting, looking for her. In a gentle manner, he took her arm and ushered her to the other side of the door. There, he passed her off to a distinguished character dressed in a tuxedo, the maître d’. The handoff from the doorman to the maître d’ felt ceremonial to Claire, she was at one of the finest restaurants in D.C.
Her next escort led her to a table in a back corner of the restaurant where Bill sat patiently with anticipation of her entrance. He had changed into expensive attire that was fitting for this award winning French cuisine.
It had been a delightful call from Bill when he instructed her to meet him at such a fine restaurant. She had been to Marcel’s once before so she knew the dress code. She’d spent the last part of her day changing into a respectable, but mildly alluring dress. She was a poster child, or in her case, woman for the setting.
Bill stood to receive her, “Claire, so nice to see you.”
She greeted him by extending her hands to his. “Senator, you have good taste. But in light of the timing, we might want to discuss SB 1257.”
He shook his head. “Lady, I have no intensions of discussing business tonight. Not after all the anticipation of sitting across the table from you.”
The maître d’ pulled out a chair next to Bill’s for Claire. Instantly, a waiter appeared and opened a bottle of fine Cabernet, handing Bill the cork. He raised it to his nose and nodded his approval.
“I hope you don’t mind that I made the decisions for tonight’s dining, but I did some research this afternoon.” Bill raised his glass and gently rolled it, lifting the claret to show his date the legs on the glass. “This is a good wine. From Napa Valley, this Kathryn Hall Cab has a splash of Merlot that rounds out its texture, it heightens the aromatics.” He added, smiling, “I certainly hope you like a good vintage.”
Claire watched him adoring the wine as he spoke, wondering if he was really who she perceived him to be. She had recently spent time with him on a committee and had been impressed, but she’d never had a personal conversation with him before now. A red flag flashed in her mind, her inner voice cautioning her. If it’s too good to be true, then maybe… “Bill, this is delicious, thank you.”
“You know how to tell a fine wine, Claire?” Without waiting for an answer, she was amused to see him respond to his question. “Swirl, sniff, and use your tongue. The swirl will tell you if she has nice legs, the sniff will tell you if she smells nice, and the tongue… well if the flavors stay on your tongue for some time, you’ve found yourself a winner.”
Claire began to find his chatter uncomfortable, “You are still talking about wine, aren’t you, Senator?”
Bill straightened his body and set his glass on the table. “I could be, but of course, I’d be a fool not to use the same methods when assessing a beautiful lady.”
Claire quickly added, “I believe that exquisite stemware also improves the wine experience. Let’s toast to this pleasant dinner, Senator.”
She could see that Bill got the message when he started talking about some funny stories. In spite of herself, he made her laugh. She soon forgot the prickly warnings she’d felt and found herself adding to the conversation with her own oddities. They both enjoyed themselves immensely for the next two hours. Bill had arranged for them to be served the six course tasting menu. The chef had a reputation for being one of the finest in the city, and by ordering from this menu, they clearly understood the recognition he’d received.
Late into their date, Claire was startled by a loud voice behind her. “Hey, Billy. And am I seeing right? Is this Claire Winslow?” It was Senator Ryan Peters, one of the co-authors of SB 1257.
Claire turned and shook his hand, feeling repulsed at his touch. “Good evening, Senator.”
Bill also seemed agitated at the intrusion, “Ryan, nice to see you. Great place, isn’t it? Listen, if you will excuse us, we were just leaving.” He stood and helped Claire with her chair.
They were on the street within minutes, leaving Claire amazed at the speed he’d used to whisk her away from their beautiful setting, and the Senator from Ohio.
“Claire, I don’t want this night to end, it’s been so enjoyable. How about a walk? It would give us a little more time to get to know each other.”
Feeling somewhat embarrassed, Claire looked at her watch, and replied. “I know how Cinderella felt. I’m beat, Bill. My energy is running down and my car will turn into a pumpkin soon.” She hesitated, “But I have a little time. Yes, I’d like that.”
He took her hand and they walked toward a nearby park. They came to a bench, and he coaxed her to sit with him. She saw it coming, his manner, his movements. Her heart beat picked up several paces, and then she felt his warm lips over hers. They were wet, and lovely. She couldn’t help herself melt into him. It was her that began to play with his tongue, it just happened. Her breathing became short, her body hot. He became more passionate with her and she responded with the same emotion.
Then the old clock tower sounded off, it was 11 o’clock.
She pulled away from him. “My God, Bill. Please forgive me, but I have to go.” She shot up and looked down at him, shaking her head. “I must look crazy to you, but I really need to get back to my car.”
He stood and took her hand. “So be it, but Claire? We need to see each other tomorrow. This is too good to ignore. Brunch?”
“Yes, I’ll meet you at the Belga Café. It’s lovely. Say 11am?”
Bill answered her with another luscious kiss. “Yes, I’ll be there. Maybe I’ll go there now and just wait for you.”
Laughing, Claire thanked him. They walked back to the restaurant where the valet handed her the keys. She left, leaving the handsome man with that wonderful smile pasted on his face. “Ahh.” She hadn’t been with a man for some years, but Bill had woken something up inside her and it felt delicious.
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