She hesitated. Beer was probably the cheapest thing on the menu, but it didn’t go with the aura she was trying to project.
“A glass of house white and one of water, please.”
Just then a group of four came up to the bar, two couples. There were three seats together and the single between her and her sandy-haired target. Sliding off her stool, she moved to take the free one beside her mark, smiling apologetically as the bartender placed both glasses in front of her.
He smiled back and said, “Do you come here often?” Then he flushed bright red. “I’m sorry. That was a really corny line. I’ve wanted to say something since I saw you come in, but you were over there and I was over here. Now you are over here too, and I’ll shut up now!”
He took a quick sip of beer, choked slightly, coughed, and took a deep breath. Then he took another sip before sitting back and looking at her with a wry grin. “Yup, that’s me. Mr. Smooth. I’ll leave now before I trip and fall on my face or spill my drink on you or something even more embarrassing.”
“Please don’t leave. I hate to drink alone.”
He paused and looked at her, hesitating.
“I mean, I’d love some company. And no, I don’t come here often. I’m Lida.” Damn. She meant to use a false name. She really sucked at this. How was she going to make fifteen hundred bucks if she couldn’t even get past the introductions?
“I’m…Dave!” He reached toward her, and they shook hands solemnly. “Dave McKenna.”
“And what are you doing here in Chicago, Dave McKenna?”
“I’m a sales rep making my regular monthly visit to the Windy City.”
“Staying over the weekend?”
“A salesman’s work is never done. I’ve got a big meeting on Monday. I thought it would be better to stay here and spend the weekend preparing. If I go home…well, there would be distractions. What about you Lida? What are you doing in the Carrington? Business? Pleasure?”
“Oh, I’m not staying here. I live here in Chicago. I just didn’t feel like going home to my empty apartment just yet. Where’s home for you, Dave?”
“A small town outside of Duluth. You won’t have heard of it.”
“Must be lonely travelling, being away from your family.”
“You get used to it. So do they, I guess. My wife got so used to me being away that she decided she’d be better off without me permanently. No kids, luckily. You?”
“I’m sorry, Dave. I wasn’t married, but I was in a long term relationship that ended recently and badly.” She sighed. “Would you like some company, Dave?”
Turning in the stool slightly, Lida deliberate bumped her knee against his thigh. He didn’t move away. She took that as a good sign. “And by company, I mean…”
She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t say it. She paused, preparing to leave, but then she felt a warm hand on her knee.