"He'll be here. Would you sit down already?" Haylie makes a face at me, fingers twisted in the fabric of my sleeve. "Just be still and relax!"
I slide into the seat next to her, giving her a miserable look. "I'm nervous, okay? I've never done this before. What if he doesn't even like seafood?"
"You like seafood. That's why we chose this place. Besides, they serve other things too. He can order a salad or a cheeseburger or pizza."
"They don't even make burgers or pizza here."
"Boo for him. Salad's healthy anyway." She shrugs. "Now take a deep breath, and stop twiddling your thumbs! Pretend you're confident, if you have to." Her hand brushes my hair down, petting me lightly. "You'll be alright. And anyway, I'm here with you. What could possibly go wrong?"
"Everything," I mutter as the restaurant's chatter goes down to a muted whispering.
And then he's sitting in front of me, his head ducked in something akin to apology. "I had things to take care of." He explains, an edge to his normally gentle voice. He sends a look around the room, chin defiant, eyes flashing. The restaurant slowly begins with their banter again. "I'm here, though." He nods at Haylie, then at me. How he manages to look so good in simple clothing... That dark grey, long sleeved, collared button up and black slacks. It's almost as if he's a model for a classy magazine, front cover and everything. All he needs is a pair of black, thick rimmed glasses and a copy of Tristes Torpes.
Oh, god, how cheesy can I get?
I feel myself smiling, despite the obvious discomfort in his eyes. And keep my own eyes from studying the dip of his collarbone, the strong curve of the muscles in his neck, despite the first buttons of his shirt beckoning me to look.
All in an artistic sense, of course.
"Oh...we already ordered," I say, waving a waiter towards us. He hands me another menu, and I push it over to Dante, mouthing thanks to the worker. "I hope you like seafood...I probably should've asked you first, though. I'm sorry," I rub the back of my neck hesitantly while he flips the menu open, an unreadable expression flashing through his eyes before he reads through the lists.
"Luckily for you, there's meat on here." He snorts, that semi-smile leaking through his cold exterior. "I'll have it medium rare, please, with some black tea." The waiter jots his order down, nodding, then takes the menu and disappears into the sea of people. There's a silence as our eyes meet.
"So you don't like--"
"Oh, Dante, where'd you get that scar?" Haylie blurts, horror written all over her face.
I kick her under the table, wincing when my foot aches at the blow. Nevertheless, my...physical reprimand doesn't stop my gaze from falling to the open collar of Dante's shirt, and the red, angry scar peering from behind his clothes. Something hardens in his expression, and he snarls wordlessly, unbuttoning the top three buttons to expose the welt. It stretches across his chest, jagged, an uneven, knotted line testifying to a memory of agony. "This one? Did you ever think maybe it was not your business?" He closes his shirt rapidly, glaring furiously. "If you brought me here to simply oogle at my past, then I suggest you--"
Haylie opens her mouth to interrupt him, but I beat her to it, warning her with a look to shut up. She pouts, crossing her arms.
"No, Dante, she's just worried," I rein in the urge to flinch when his burning silver eyes dart over to me, "It looks a little fresh, that's all. She thought maybe it was hurting you," I nudge her side, and she straightens in her chair, biting her lip. "I did, actually." She nods, leaning toward him a bit. "Doesn't cool air soothe the pain? Like, applying a cold pack? I just thought you got hurt again," She frowns, irritably, when Dante simply narrows his gaze at her.
"Again?" I echo.
Haylie responds slowly, giving Dante a chance to interject with what she says next. "Dante fell off his motorcycle a few weeks back. He had a nasty bruise on his face."
"It was hardly a bruise." He scoffs, clenched fists dropping to his lap. "I rolled as I landed."
"The good ol' tuck and roll," She grins, rebuttal bouncing off her cheekiness.
Dante nods, warily. "I didn't exactly want to be a pancake on the sidewalk."
"Were you hurt? Was your bike okay?" I ask, eyes wide. A motorcycle accident! Although...somehow, I'm not surprised he has a motorcycle. "What happened?"
"A little late on the medical check, aren't you?" Haylie leers at me. She slides an arm around the back of my chair.
Dante shrugs, glancing up at the waiter when he brings us our food. He says his thanks, then waits as the waiter bows slightly to us, and leaves, before he continues. "A little skidding, a rapid turn...nothing happened. I hit my cheek, but that was it. My bike's alright. Nothing some paint couldn't fix. Although, now that I think on it..."
He trails off quietly, sipping on his tea. "Well, never mind. Completely different story."
"No, no, I'd like to hear it," I encourage him to go on, hoping it makes him forget we were talking about his scar.
"Today, when I got to my apartment, there were these kids in the back of the shed where I leave my motorbike." He begins, an odd look on his face. "Usually, they stare at my bike, smoke, and all that," here, he shakes his head, "but today, they were yelling at this one kid. They would've beat him up worse, if... It was just weird. They're not a violent sort at all, but that kid looked like they'd knocked him around before I got there. They beat him good."
Haylie frowns. "That's not a very...warm sight to come home to."
"It isn't. Even for someone like me." He shakes his head again.
Someone like him...? I pause in my spearing of fish fillet. Someone like him is very...unique, that's for sure. There's a moment of silence, amiable, thank goodness, as he starts slicing into his steak. Why am I not surprised he's ordered steak? Then, he looks up at me, metallic gaze calculating. I blink back at him.
"By the way," a slow grin lights his face. "Vesci showed me a certain sketch of a certain guy you drew."