Chapter 8

I pull the chair out for Buffy, and she settles onto the edge perfectly. She smiles up at me in thanks, and my heart soars. How can one person's reaction have such an effect on me? The waiter attempts to hold my chair for me, but I nudge out of the way and take a seat, never removing my eyes from her, even when the waiter hands us our menus.

The waiter runs through the specials, but I don't hear anything he says. Neither, apparently, does Buffy. When the noise ceases, I finally glance up at him.

He stares back at me. Finally, he reiterates, "Do you need a few minutes to decide, sir?"

I hesitate, "Um. Do you know what you want, Buffy?"

Buffy's dreamy smile transforms into a grin. "Yep." Her green eyes not wavering off of mine, she orders, "I'd like the grilled chicken with mixed vegetables and rice. Spinach salad to start and a glass of blush wine with an extra glass of water, please."

My mouth falls open in shock at her flawless utterance.

"And you, sir?" The waiter visibly turns to me. "What would you like this evening?"

"Um." I don't know quite what to order. "I've actually never been here before. What do you recommend, Buffy?" Phew, good save, Spike. Don't want to look like you don't know what you're doing in front of the lady.

"Never been?" The waiter is incredulous that I'd admit such a thing. Apparently, most people who enter this facility know exactly what they want before they even sit at the table.

Buffy merely winks at me and addresses the waiter, "Well, Perry, he'll have the petite filet, medium well with a baked potato and a spinach salad." Briefly, she faces me again. "The spinach salad is excellent. It's got little almonds sprinkled in. Trust me." She readdresses the waiter, "He'll have the same wine and extra water as well. May as well bring us the bottle to drink. Make it extra chilled, if you don't mind."

By the time the waiter walks away, I'm grinning back at Buffy. "Thanks."

"No problem." She sweeps aside her utensils and unfolds her napkin, placing it in her lap. "So, you must be quite the recluse if you've never been here before."

I imitate her napkin rearrangement and take a sip of water. "What? Well, I'm, um, new in town." Gosh, I sound like such a dork. Xander would be rolling his eyes at my stuttering about now. . . me, the thorn in other gangs' side, nervous as a canary cornered by a cat.

"Well, at least you can admit to never having been to 'Sultan's.'" She sighs heavily. "You wouldn't believe how many guys have claimed to be experts on the restaurant. I knew more about the place than they will ever dream of knowing with Dad owning it and all."

Oh, bugger. I didn't even pay attention to what restaurant we entered. Got to pay more attention to the little details, Spike. "Oh, um, yeah. Never been. Don't worry, I won't be pretending to know something I don't."

"Good. Me either. One thing I can't stand is a fake." She nods thanks to the waiter as he arranges the bottle of wine, pours Buffy and I a glass, and sets down a basket of dinner rolls.

"Me, too." My stomach plunges a little as I realize that I'm busily deceiving her about who I am. I try to reassure myself that I'm not really a liar. I am, after all, rich now. I break a piece of bread in half and apply some butter to the steaming insides. "So, you found anyone you like yet?"

Buffy chooses a dinner roll and allows me to add some butter. "What do you mean?" she asks, nonchalantly.

"I mean, you mentioned that your father's forcing you to go out with various guys. Of all the dates your father's set you up with, you found anyone you like?"

She blushes at my question. "Maybe."

"Maybe?" I sip my wine.

Her eyes sparkle at me. "I'll have to wait and see how it goes, but yeah, maybe."

My eyes widen as I realize that she means me! I grin. "So, what do you like to do for fun?"

* * *

Chapter 9

Dinner was hugely successful. The salad was deliciously green and full of almond crunch. The steak and potato melted in my mouth, and the banana dessert cooked in front of us by the chef was fabulous. The food was probably the best I've ever tasted.

However, by far the best element of the entire meal was Buffy herself. I found that we had a lot in common, but Buffy was different enough from me to keep me intrigued, to hold my interest.

The check arrives all too soon for me. Buffy lays her hand over the black folder before I have a chance to snatch up the bill.

"I've got it," I insist, sliding the folder out from under her hand. "I want to."

Buffy shakes her head. "You don't understand. Father pays for all the meals I eat here. I just have to hand over my card to remove the payment."

"Not tonight, you're not." I pull a wad of cash out of my wallet. "I'm paying. Even if it is your father's restaurant."

"But. . ."

Stopping Buffy's protest with a smile, I count out the bills to make sure I cover the proper amount with a generous tip. "Okay. Let's get going." I grab her hand and help her up from the table.

"Where are we going?" she asks, a bit bewildered, but not letting go of my hand.

"Back to the limo for a ride to my house. And then, you'll see what. . ."

Whoa. What are all those people doing out in front of the restaurant with lights and cameras and other equipment? What are they so eager about?

"Oh, damn it," Buffy curses, a scowl marring her earlier happy face.

I'm surprised by her flash of anger and pleased that she feels comfortable enough around me to curse aloud. "What?"

"Reporters. Welcome to my world. Dad's made a mess of things; I've never had to deal with it this bad before. Usually it's pretty quiet. I just don't understand why he does these things to me. Sometimes I think he has it out for me. But then, I remind myself that he loves me." She's babbling. "What'll I do? This is the only way to the limo." She looks up at me with big, frightened eyes, making me want to do anything for her.

Using my skills at getting out of sticky gang situations, I take a firmer grasp on her hand and begin hurrying her to the back of the restaurant while maintaining an outer composure that doesn't arouse suspicion with the wait staff or the patrons.

"Where are we going?" she wonders aloud.

I pause and gaze into her meadow-green eyes. "Do you trust me, Buffy?"

"Yes, I do. . . Spike."

My heart thrills at her first use of my name. "Then, follow me."


Buffy draws on my energy and is soon following me under her own momentum as I drop her hand and lead her through the kitchen and into the back alley. The dumpster stench makes her wrinkle her nose.

Welcome to my world. "Ready?"

"Ready for what?" She stands with her legs spread and a breathless expression.

"To make a run for it."

She glances doubtfully down at her leather skirt and heels. "Run?"

I return her wink from earlier. "Okay, walk real fast."

She nods, accepting the challenge, and we rush through the alleyways and between buildings that are as familiar to me as the back of my hand. A few minutes later, we emerge onto a fairly busy side street just as a taxicab is driving past.

Placing two fingers to my lips, I whistle, and the cab graciously comes to a stop. I sweep open the door for Buffy, and she offers me a grin before hopping inside. I climb in after her and slam the door shut. Telling the driver my address, we settle back into the ride.

Buffy says nothing for a minute or two, and I start to worry if I've somehow frightened her or turned her off. Then, her warm hand creeps into my larger one, lacing fingers with mine.

"That was amazing, Spike."

I glance over to witness her watching me with a satisfied smile. "Yeah?"

She squeezes my palm against hers. "Yeah. Perfect ending to a perfect date."

An idea springs to life in my head. "It's not over yet."

"What do you mean?" She seems startled by my unexpected revelation.

"You'll see, pet. You'll see."

TBC. . . What else does Spike have planned for Buffy? Is this the perfect romance? Or is something about to go drastically wrong? Stay tuned. . .

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