After her third margarita, Kailyn knew she'd hit her limit. She also knew she had overstayed her welcome, at least in her mind. Ryan's laughter was contagious, which is why she agreed to the second drink. She enjoyed his company, and she knew she needed a break. She could let loose with Ryan, not worry about what he was thinking about how she looked or if her words were slurred.
But after the third buzz of a text message from her phone, she realized she missed her commitment for the night. And she was in no shape to attend now, nor could she drive herself there even if she wanted to go.
"Well, are you ready to hit the road?" she asked Ryan as he downed the last of his beer.
"Uh, sure, yeah," he said. "Let me just get the tab."
"OK." Kailyn reached for her wallet, and Ryan grabbed her wrist in protest.
"Uh uh, no way. Tonight's on me," he said and made his way to the bar. Kailyn replaced her wallet and sipped the water the waitress had brought her earlier. She also used the time to check her messages. Two were from her sister, asking where in the hell Kailyn was. The third was from Ben. He was supposed to be her date at the gala event. Kailyn was more than an hour late. Oh no, she thought. He probably thinks I stood him up!
Ryan returned to the table a moment later. "Hey, you OK to drive?" he asked.
"Uh, about that," Kailyn said with a smile. "Think you can drop me off at the gallery? I was supposed to be there a while ago. Guess I just lost track of time."
"Oh, hey, yeah, I'm so sorry. I really didn't mean to keep you."
"It's all right. I didn't protest. I miss spending time with you." Kailyn stood and grabbed her purse. "But I should make an appearance. I'm not trashed or anything, just shouldn't drive my car. Rachel can give me a ride home."
"OK, let's go."
Kailyn sent both Rachel and Ben a text message as Ryan drove to the gallery. When they pulled up, Kailyn leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you so much for a great night," she said. "I owe you one."
"It's no problem. I came to you, remember? I should be thanking you." He reached across her and opened her door. "Now go have more fun. I was just the appetizer."
"You're a goof, ya know that," Kailyn laughed and stepped out of the car. "Be careful!"
"You, too, babe. Later!" Kailyn shut the door and watched Ryan pull away back into traffic. Taking a deep breath, she turned and walked up the steps to the art gallery.
"There you are!" exclaimed Rachel as Kailyn was searching the room for Ben and her sister. "Two hours late. What happened?"
Turning around, Kailyn hugged her sister. "I'm SO sorry," she said. "Ryan surprised me as I was leaving work. And you know how much I treasure his company. I couldn't resist. Where's Ben?" Kailyn looked around the room but didn't see him.
"Uh, he said call him. He left."
"Oh, no!" Kailyn covered her face with her hands. "I blew it."
"No, no you didn't," Rachel said, steering her sister into an alcove of paintings. "He just had to go. He said this was a last-minute date anyway, right. But he did emphasize you should call him."
"OK. Do you mind if I do it now? I need a minute to clear my head." Nodding, Rachel clinked her nails on her wine glass. "I need a refill. I'll get you some water." Smiling, Rachel walked away.
Kailyn pulled out her cell and dialed Ben's number. After three rings, he answered. "Hi, Kailyn. Everything OK?"
"Ben," Kailyn said. "I'm really sorry about tonight. I got held up with an old friend I never see and totally lost track of time."
"Hey, it's OK. I understand. Just hope we don't miss the game Thursday night ... "
Kailyn laughed. "Oh, no. We won't miss that. Did you at least look at the art while you were here? What did you think?"
"I liked a lot of it," he said. "And your sister's stuff is pretty amazing. I was impressed."
"Yeah, she's a natural. I'm pretty proud of her."
"You should be. Anyway, I'm glad you called. I was just about to go to bed. I just wanted to make sure you were OK."
"Aw, that's sweet," Kailyn said, smiling as she accepted the water Rachel was shoving at her. "Call me tomorrow, and we can make final plans for the game." She sipped the beverage and closed her eyes.
"Sure thing. Have a good night."
"Thanks. You, too. And again, I'm sorry."
"Hey, it's no big deal. Goodnight."
Kailyn hung up and put her phone back in her purse. "Thanks for keeping my date company," she said as she sipped the water again. "He said he really liked your work."
"Yeah, he seemed truly interested. I like him."
"Hey, married woman. He's off-limits."
"Ha ha. Yeah. Now come on. I've got something to show you."