South Beach: Marina Drive, The Iron Gate
Blade punched off the GPS and sat in his car and looked at the restaurant. It wasn't what he expected. Iron Gate, he'd thought that might be something private, some private club he'd have to crash, but it was just an Italian place on the bay with some kind of gate in the middle. She was here, that was the same car he'd shoved out of the mud, and he didn't see any other cars. Didn't anticipate he would...Cooper wasn't here.
Good thing that place he'd bought was close by; once Rafe dropped him off, he hadn't even bothered to go inside. Take the chance. Blade had come in a close second to Coop more times than he cared to think about, even three of his ex-wives would have jumped at Stanfield if he'd been inclined. Blade couldn't help the slow grin as he calculated how long it might take to return the favor. It wouldn't be easy, but it would be worth a hell of a lot of time and effort to finally stick it to Cooper.
Striding quickly out of the rain into the foyer, looked around for someone, anyone, didn't see anybody but a woman scurrying somewhere. The place was deserted. He turned and waited and tried to think where she would be when he heard her voice. Raised and angry. "Fine. I'll stay at the Palms while you stay there. That's just perfect Coop. I am soaking wet...yes I can probably buy something there...ok...make sure Hugs has that bunny to sleep with."
Beth hung up, slammed the phone down. He took a few steps toward her and waited until she turned and saw him, the look of surprise on her face. Breathing hard, raindrops shining on the swell of her breasts, she stared at him and demanded, "What are you doing here?"
"Making sure you don't run off the road again. Come on, Cooper's not here. Let me help you get somewhere safe." Blade slid into a relaxed smile and waited.
"I got this far, I think I can make it a few more miles all by myself. If you want to tag along, it's up to you. You'll probably be stuck there for the night - they're closing the road to South Beach."
Blade's luck could not have been better but he tried to hide his elation. "I couldn't stand by and let you fend for yourself. Besides, you still haven't eaten. I'd consider it a privilege to buy you dinner after you're settled and dried off. We can discuss your fee for decorating my new place."
Beth glanced out toward the street, then looked back at him and said nothing, stretching it out until he began to feel the silence before she finally, with a dry edge to her voice, replied, "I never agreed to do any design job for you and you know it. Is there any particular reason you think you'd like anything I might do for you?"
Blade eased her toward the door, stifling amusement...was there anything she could do...they weren't talking about wallpaper now were they? He didn't know one damned decorator from another but doubted it made a difference. She knew he didn't know. Playing along, he responded, "I've seen your work; you did my second wife's loft awhile back. Very impressive." He stopped, carefully took her arm and turned her toward him, "I told you I might stay awhile, settle here, it's looking better and better as a matter of fact. At least give me the opportunity to convince you...over dinner."
Lightning struck a transformer across the street, an explosion of sparks and fire spreading through the air and the water. He caught his breath and took a quick, protective step closer to her. She startled, hesitated, watching the lightning flash, then in a quiet, shaken voice, told him, "If you can drive around that, you've got a deal."
Uneasy, Blade tried to recall the way to the Palms; it was a few miles north, uphill, on higher ground, away from exploding transformers and falling power lines...not that he knew where power lines were falling or exploding. "I can do that," he assured her, and then, because it was automatic, because driving through a storm like this wasn't something he'd done before and he wasn't all that goddamned certain he could do it, no way to back out now, he took a deep breath and murmured to himself, "Take it out of warp drive, put it into impulse, go for it..."
She abruptly and unexpectedly laughed, surprising him, putting him off balance, forcing him to look down at her again, to see her. Stepping away from him, removing his hand from her arm, she shook her head and, still laughing, said, "Well make it so then, Captain Blade, but you keep your hands on those controls, not on me."