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The following night, Francesca slipped into a blue dress and matching heels. How had she allowed that smooth-talking bass player to convince her to go on a date with him the night before their big concert? What a schmoozer. If only the butterflies in her stomach would settle down.
She peeked at herself in the mirror and ran a hand through her hair to smooth it. Why did she care what this guy, Brandon, thought anyway?
A knock sounded at the door. She pulled it open. Brandon leaned against the wall, a bouquet of lilies in hand.
A grin spread across his face as he handed them to her. “For you.”
She held the flowers to her nose and inhaled the glorious fragrance. How had he known lilies were her favorite flower? Maybe Carl had told him. They appeared quite chummy at rehearsal.
Brandon looped his thumbs into his khaki pockets. “Where do you wanna go for dinner? I hear the new Italian place is good.”
“Antonio’s? Yes, it’s fabulous. I ought to know, since I’m Italian.”
He chuckled. “I figured, based on your name. I love Italian food.”
“Maybe I could whip something up for you sometime.” The words were out before she could stop them. She’d assumed that they’d make it to a second date. What if tonight was a fiasco?
“I’m sure you’re a great cook. And I’d be happy to help. I make killer garlic bread out of a box.” He winked.
“All right. I’ll put you on garlic bread duty.” Maybe this wouldn’t turn out too bad, after all.
At dinner, they split an order of Italian salad, spaghetti, and manicotti, Francesca’s favorite.
She gestured at the tube-shaped pasta on the plate, one drenched in marinara, the other in a creamy Alfredo sauce. “I used to make these all the time with my mother.”
Brandon cut off a piece and forked it into his mouth. “Really good. I bet you had fun cooking with your Mom. Mine was always too busy to bother teaching me how to cook—thought it was a waste of time.”
Francesca scooped a bite of pasta into her mouth. The creamy goodness filled her from the inside out with food and fond memories. “Why did she consider cooking a waste of time?”
He shrugged. “I dunno. Didn’t like the extra mess, I guess.”
Without thinking, she reached across the table and placed her hand on his. “I wouldn’t think it a waste of time. I’d teach you to cook any day.”
A shiver tingled up her arm as he laced his fingers in hers. “I’m glad to know that someone cares about my culinary advancement.” His eyes twinkled.
The next day, Brandon straightened the bow tie on his tux between movements of the Dvorak Symphony. Francesca’s big moment was coming up. He hoped she’d nail it. Guilt pricked his conscience. He’d kept her out too late the previous night. Not on purpose, but they’d had so much to talk about that he’d lost track of the time. He should have known better than to keep the star flute player out the night before their concert.
His eyes darted in her direction. Wow. She looked dazzling in that little black dress. Maybe she’d wear it on their next date… if she agreed to one.
Seconds later, the sound of the flute filled the concert hall. Her puckered mouth kissed the metal as her fingers flew over the instrument. What he wouldn’t give to kiss her right now.
The audience erupted with applause at the end of the Symphony. The conductor gestured at Francesca to encourage her to stand. She flashed a smile at the audience, then glanced his way. His heartbeat quickened. Maybe she was thinking about him, too.
Several minutes later, as he tucked his bass safely inside its gargantuan case, a small hand pressed against his shoulder.
“Francesca.” His breath caught in his throat. “You were wonderful. I was worried—”
She popped a piece of a delicious pastry into his mouth.
The chocolate melted on his tongue. “This is amazing. What is it?”
“A cannoli.” She pressed a box filled with the tiny desserts into his hands.
He smiled. “Thanks. They look like miniature flutes.”
“I think that’s why I love them so much.” She pulled one out and held it to her lips like her instrument—those gorgeous pink lips. “Do you want to learn how to make them?”
His mouth went dry. He cleared his throat. “Yeah.”
She beamed. “Good. It’s a date.”
Yes, a second date. In spite of the reprimand he’d received from the conductor, he was grateful for this change in the winds.