“Reservations for Payne. I confirmed this afternoon.” I twisted the clutch nervously in my hands as Ezra spoke to the bored but beautiful hostess at the front of the restaurant. She swiped her finger across a tablet of some kind before nodding and tapping on something else. The click of her fingernail against the glass was eerily similar to that of Molly’s against her phone.
“Party of two?” she asked, looking first at Ezra, then at me. I could feel her perfect green eyes sweep judgingly over me; but I must have passed inspection because she cradled the tablet in the crook of her arm and added a polite, “Follow me, please.”
The table she led us to was placed almost in the direct center of the tightly packed but quiet restaurant. Two menus- fancily bound books, not the plastic covered trifolds that I found at diners all the time- were placed at each spot and a bottle of red wine sat in the center of the table. “Do you think you’d be able to move us somewhere a bit more private?” asked Ezra as the hostess gestured for us to take our seats. He slipped something into her palm and I watched her glance down with disinterest before raising one eyebrow coolly.
“Sir, it is a Friday evening in one of the busiest cities in the world, in one of the best restaurants in the city, and you have a reservation at one of our busiest times. If you did not specifically request a table out of the way, I can guarantee you that we don’t have one for you. I’m sorry, but you can keep your money.” She wrapped his fingers back around his money, patted his hand twice, and walked off prissily. Ezra glared down at his clenched fist, dumbfounded, before shaking his head and pulling a chair out for me to sit down.
“So you like to flash your money around, huh, rich boy?” I asked, smirking as I picked up the menu. After a second, I realized what I’d said and ducked my head shamefully. “Oh, God, I’m sorry, that was so rude of me.” I struggled to open the menu before realized that it wasn’t paper or plastic but a cover for a tablet similar to the one the hostess had used to check us in for our reservation.
Ezra chuckled. “No, no, I can admit it. You’re right. I do flash money around, but I try and repress that urge unless I’m trying to impress someone…like you.”
“Oh.” I blinked roughly, slightly taken aback by the comment. “Well, you didn’t need to do that to impress me. This is by far one of the most impressive things that anyone’s ever done for me.”
“You deserve it, Mina. You’re a very impressive girl,” he said as he picked up the bottle of wine and poured some into the glass by his plate. My cup was already filled with water, due to the little fact that I was still only just eighteen. He must have known that, and I guessed it was because he already knew that I was only a freshman.
“Oh, am I?” I asked, taking a sip of water. “And how would you know that?” I flicked through the tablet’s menu thoughtfully, although I had to say it confused me. More than half of these words seemed to be in another language and for the few things I could understand, I had no clue what they tastes like. I would have easily killed for a burger or a quesadilla, but sole grenoblaise and squid-ink risotto were the norm for this menu.
“I have my ways.” Ezra smirked at me knowingly, flicking through his own tablet with ease. He hadn’t struggled with the cover and he looked oddly at home here. Most of the other diners were wearing stiff suits and fancy sport coats, even though we were inside. Fancy cufflinks decorated their wrists and plain black bowties adorned their necks. Ezra was wearing a nice button up shirt, but it was different than the others. He lacked the cufflinks and the black bowtie; the tie that he had chosen was black with ombre white swirls. The jacket he’d worn when he picked me up was now hung over the back of his chair, and it seemed as though no one but Ezra was doing this. The top button of his shirt was unbuttoned and his tie was loosened accordingly, allowing me a glance at a thin silver chain that hung around his neck. His sleeves weren’t rolled up, at least, but the fabric of his white dress shirt was thin and when the light hit it in just the right way, I could see hints of a black tribal tattoo swirling delicately along his left bicep.
Fuck. I was always a sucker for a guy with tattoos. “So, does your ink have any meaning in particular or…” I asked, pointing at his shoulder and letting my question drop off at the end. He glanced down, realized that the light was making his tattoo visible, and grinned.
“Oh, yeah.” He pressed the fabric of his shirt flat against his skin, so the black markings underneath were more visible. I could see that the tattoos covered his entire left shoulder; the ink wove in and around the other lines, tracing intricate designs across his arm. “It’s pretty complicated, I think, but you can pick out a few designs if you look closely. That’s a wheeled triskellion…there’s a Carolingian cross…and this one’s my favorite. This is a knot designed specifically for me, given to me by a guy I once knew. It’s from the Book of Kells.”
“Was the guy Irish?” I asked as he stopped pulling on his shirt and took another sip of wine. “I mean, it’s all very Celtic sounding. Is that your background or do you just have a thing for the Irish?”
He smiled briefly as he swallowed the wine. “You could say I’m part Irish. I’m pretty mixed, actually. A virtual United Nations.” He took another swig of wine and put the glass down, picking up his menu. “So what do you think looks good?” He seemed eager to change the conversation to something other than his tattoos and I didn’t mind.
“I’m…actually not sure,” I said, smiling nervously. “I can’t understand what half of these words are.”