Chapter 5

Tension vibrated around the two couples like a coiled snake. Judy didn't know who or what would strike next. Doug's jokes fell on sober ears and her heart went out to him. But everything else was highly attuned to Tom. He sat across from her in the dimly lit Italian restaurant. Every so often, his foot brushed hers. Tingles stole up her leg and spread throughout her body. She avoided his gaze as much as possible. Finally, she couldn't take it anymore.

"Excuse me," she said, standing. "I'll be right back."

Doug rose and pulled out her chair. Against her ear, he whispered, "Where are you going?"

"To the restroom and I don't need any help going there." She patted his arm to soften the blow. Then, she hurried away.

The sign glowed like a beacon. Judy dodged waitresses and other restaurant patrons in her mad rush toward escape. The usual mouth watering aromas of tomatoes, oregano and garlic turned her stomach. She held her breath as she rounded a corner. The door marked with the outline of a woman in a dress was only two steps away. She released a sigh of relief just as a hand curled around her wrist.

She knew. Without turning around, Judy knew whose hand held her. Tom's touch wasn't hard to mistake. She relived it in her dreams.

"Judy, wait."

This is what she wanted to avoid. Confrontations in dark surroundings screamed trouble. Close confines only reminded her how strongly she was attracted to him. This double date was a mistake from beginning to end.

"Jude?"

"You shouldn't have followed me." She slowly turned around. His puppy dog stare with his liquid brown eyes almost did her in. She squared her shoulders and went for false bravado. "Amy and Doug are right there--"

"They don't suspect a thing--"

"Gee, great."

His hand slid to hold hers. The warmth of his touch rippled through her. He gave her a half smile. "I didn't mean it that way. I think Doug wanted me to come after you, but I'm not here to talk about him or Amy. Are you okay?"

"What do you think?" She enjoyed the comfort of his hand for just a moment more. Then, she tugged free and folded her arms across her chest. "This is a disaster. I have half a mind to call a cab."

"It's not a walk in the park for me either. I hate seeing his arm around you and pretending like we're just friends--"

"Tom, that's all we are," she said as much for her benefit as his.

"But is that all you really want?"

Tom knew he blew it with the question when she turned her back and disappeared inside the ladies' room. Dammit! He started to pace. Curious looks and pointed stares reminded him of his surroundings. He ducked into the men's room. A splash of cold water to his face helped, but it didn't erase the agony of the night.

Five minutes passed. He couldn't hide out in the bathroom forever. When he returned to the table, he was surprised to see Judy already there. She and Amy were engaged in conversation and Doug seemed relieved by his return.

"Hey, man," Doug said. "I almost sent out a search party. You sick or something?"

Tom recognized an easy way out when he saw one. Nodding, he said, "Yeah, it must be a stomach virus."

"Serious?" Doug mumbled under his breath. "I'll cancel our order and we can leave."

"You don't have to. I can get a cab--"

"Come on?" Doug countered. "A cab? Nah, man." He slipped his arm around Judy's shoulders. "Maybe we can hang out together another time."

"Yeah, maybe so."

Tom's gaze connected with Judy's for a fraction of a second. In that single glance, one thought translated between them. No matter what, they would never go through another night like that again.

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