“I figured we’d better go out to lunch before we get started with research or we might end up with takeout again,” Alex said, holding open the passenger door to his Porsche and offering Krystina his hand.
“Why thank you, kind sir.” Krystina smiled playfully as she slipped into the sleek leather seat.
Alex was momentarily distracted by the way her otherwise professional skirt opened at the knee in a slit that suddenly revealed part of her thigh. Get your mind out of the gutter, Alex! he silently warned himself before closing the door and heading around the front of the car to climb in the driver’s seat.
“So, where are you taking me?” Krystina asked with excitement in her crystal blue eyes.
“I considered Mexican,” Alex answered, turning his head to see behind the car before pulling out into traffic. “But then I figured you may not want to spend the afternoon with me in an enclosed office.”
Krystina leaned her head back in a naturally playful laugh. Alex was surprised how quickly he felt comfortable with her enough to joke about flatulence.
He could tell she wasn’t faking her attraction to him or pretending to be something she wasn’t. Krystina honestly had a crush on Alex before they’d even met and now that he was pursuing her, she fell right into the role of girlfriend before they’d gone on their first official date.
It was times like this that he wished he had a mom he could call to tell her he’d met the girl of his dreams. Although he missed his mom, the older he got the less he remembered about her. He was raised by a wonderful single father, but he was a guy. This was the kind of news a man wants to tell his mom. Maybe he’d talk to his cousin, Hazel. That gave him an idea.
“Hey, I think once we gather as much research as we can, we should take everything over to Mark and Hazel’s house,” Alex said. “You’ll love my cousin. She’s totally cool.”
“Wait, Hazel’s your cousin?” Krystina asked. “The prince’s wife?”
“And you’re his… advisor?”
“What do you advise him about?”
“It’s more of a companion situation,” Alex explained. “Someone to see things from over his shoulder. Someone to watch everything that’s going on in the fringe and protect him.”
“Like a bodyguard?”
“Does Mark look like he needs a bodyguard?” Alex glanced over and raised his eyebrows.
“Well, if I needed a bodyguard, I’d want someone strong like you to protect me.” Krystina reached over and squeezed Alex’s arm with one hand, which he promptly grasped and pulled into his, intertwining their fingers.
“Too soon?” Alex held up their adjoined hands.
“Not too soon for me,” Krystina said with a soft blush on her cheeks.
“So, where are you taking me for lunch?”
“Are you up for some Middle-Eastern fare?” Alex asked. “They probably won’t be as authentic as what’s served at the palace in Madain Saleh, but I’ve heard good reviews for the Garden House down in Rosedale. It’s only fifteen minutes from here.”
“That sounds awesome,” Krystina said. “I’ve never had Middle-Eastern food. And I have no idea how good the food was at the palace, so the bar is set pretty low.”
“Hey, I’m trying to impress you, since this is our first official date.”
“It seems like we’ve known each other a lot longer than one day,” Krystina said, her voice more serious.
“How long have you had a crush on me?” Her instant attraction the day prior had taken Alex by surprise.
“Since I saw you at a campaign rally a year ago.” She bit her lower lip.
“Well I wish I’d known that,” Alex said. “We could have been married and expecting our first child by now.”
She threw her head back and laughed again. “Then I wouldn’t have anything to daydream about.” She squeezed his hand playfully.
He wondered if it was too soon to be joking about things like marriage and kids. But if their banter was lighthearted and neither of them became obsessive or something, they could flirt about more serious topics.
When they arrived at the restaurant, Alex hurried around to open her car door and helped her step out, being careful not to focus too much on her exposed legs. As he clicked the key fob, he tucked her hand into the crook of his arm as if leading her into a ballroom rather than a semi-casual restaurant.
The food was better than Alex expected and found the authenticity better than the palace because they weren’t trying to be pretentious. The falafel was handmade, the pita chips and muhammara were fresh and zesty, and the blueberry fruit drink was the perfect way to cool the palate.
They kept conversation light and playful throughout the meal, and on the drive back to Kingston.
But they took their research seriously all afternoon. By the end of the workday, they had scanned, saved, and printed hundreds of documents.
“Are you ready to go meet two of the most spoiled and adorable little princes in the world?”
“Only if you’re ready to introduce your new girlfriend to your cousin.” Krystina raised her eyebrows playfully.
“Dang, I only had to take you on one date and you’ve already agreed to be my girlfriend?”
“Well… you haven’t exactly asked me to be your girlfriend,” she said.
“Will you be my girlfriend?” Alex quickly responded.
“Yes!” Krystina practically bounced on her toes.
“Then, yes, I’m ready to introduce my new girlfriend to my cousin.” Alex was tempted to pull her in close for a first kiss but knew it was way too soon for that. Instead he held open the door to her office and she reached in to lower the light switch and locked the door behind them.