By: Candace Blevins

Kiki glanced up briefly to acknowledge she’d seen her friend enter, but remained focused on her art. “Out with it. What made you agree to go out with him? I thought you’d decided you only choose assholes, and had stopped picking guys on your own.”

“The guys ya’ll chose for me weren’t my type either.”

Kiki shook her head and reached for a tool, deftly cutting the clay away in long, curling slivers. “I don’t get it — you don’t like men who’re polite, or the ones who consider your feelings.” She sighed. “Unless you consider how the guys you pick are all insensitive jerks, then it makes total sense.”

She stopped shaving at the clay to look up. “But they treat you like shit, Cara. They stand you up, and only call when they want to see you, and don’t give a flying shit when you want to see them. You seem to have been better off since you turned Junior into a fuck buddy. What’s the deal with this new guy?”

Cara had expected a lecture from Kiki. Needed it, in a way, to try to figure out what the hell she was doing. She sat up, gesturing with her arms as she replied, “I didn’t go looking, okay? And he’s not my type, he’s a major geek.” She rolled her eyes. “He’s attracted to me because he saw I had skills as a graphic artist, for crying out loud!”

Kiki raised her eyebrows and smiled in amusement, obviously not seeing this as the horrible piece of information Cara implied.

Sighing, Cara flopped back down, watching her friend’s hands on the clay instead of looking at her face. “I’m meeting him at The Melting Pot tomorrow. It’ll prolly just be the one date, and it may sound shallow but I’m only going because I’ve been wanting to eat there and it’s too expensive to splurge and pay for it myself. I googled him. He’s rich, he can afford it.”

Kiki looked at her a second and went back to shaving pieces of gray clay off Cara couldn’t tell yet.

“If there’s something I know for sure,” said Kiki, “you aren’t shallow. You’re painfully shy around people you don’t know, terrible at choosing guys, and a gifted artist — but you’re not superficial. You wouldn’t have accepted if there weren’t some kind of attraction. Tell me about him.”

Cara told Kiki everything, except for the call girls. She couldn’t bring herself to talk to Kiki about them; it seemed like an invasion of his privacy. Kiki agreed he didn’t sound like her type and encouraged her to give him a chance.

Chapter Two

Cara arrived at The Melting pot five minutes before seven and was walking towards the door when Travis stepped out of a perfectly normal looking car. She’d read articles saying he owned a Ferrari and a Porsche, but she didn’t recognize whatever he was driving.

He caught her eye and grinned. “I drive the most ordinary car I own and still people look at it instead of me. Oh well, such is life. How are you today?”

They did the required, “I’m fine how are you, how was your day” conversation and walked in. Travis gave his name and they were led to a secluded area. The hostess turned on the recessed eyes of the burner at the center of the table, warned them of the heat, and as she stepped away a waitress moved in to take their drink order. Travis requested a bottle of wine Cara had never heard of, and the server looked impressed. Cara asked for ice water.

As the waitress walked away Travis said, “I’m sorry, I should’ve made sure you drink before I ordered the wine.”

“No, it’s okay, I drink occasionally, but I need water too. I’m clueless about wine, so if you ordered something designed to impress me you should know it went over my head.”

He smiled and picked up the menu, talking to her about the options available. They chose the base for the fondue pot, then the types of food to cook in it, and when their waitress returned he placed both orders.

Travis watched the server walk away and leaned back, looking a bit nervous for the first time. “I decided to take a look at your art today since your card listed a few places selling it. I hope it doesn’t seem too stalkerish of me, but I was curious.” He smiled again, and his eyes lit up as he said, “Your artwork’s amazing — your use of color and texture, your handle on perspective, the emotion you convey. Have you worked to get into large galleries in bigger cities?”

Drat. Other than one particularly absentminded artist, no one who’d appreciated her art had been bearable in bed. She smiled, trying to look sociable. “Thanks. It’s always good to hear when people like your work. There’s a Nashville gallery with mostly country music type stuff, and every once in a while I paint something appropriate for their clientele. I kind of lucked into the deal though, since one of my teachers emailed them an image I was working on and they liked it.”