"A driving range?" Cora sounded skeptical on the phone. "I've never really golfed before, Eliot. Mini golf yes, but real golf, I don't know."
Eliot grimaced, the driving range had sounded like a good idea when he thought of it. Miniature golf on the other hand was something Parker and Hardison took Dash to do. He could only imagine how long it took them to get through with a four year old. He had heard of a more challenging course that was near his favorite cafe, so he taking a deep breath, he suggested it.
"That sounds more fun," Cora agreed sounding so delighted that Eliot put away his misgivings about the place. He liked making women happy after all. "I mean you did win the bet though."
"It's alright, I was planning on taking you to my favorite place for dessert anyway. So how about 3? We'll grab a quick bite and then dessert?"
"Sounds fantastic, I'll see you then."
"Eliot's picking me up at 3," Cora explained to her uncle as she checked her makeup in the hallway mirror. "I doubt I'll be late since he's got to get back to his little boy but I won't be home for dinner."
"I won't wait up," Nate chuckled. "And kiddo, relax and enjoy, okay? I've got a plan to handle your boss that I'll be putting into place."
"Nothing shady, right?" Cora asked, narrowing her eyes and looking at him.
"Nothing shady, scout's honor."
"Hmm," Cora looked him over. "I happen to know you actually were a scout, so I'll believe you. This time."
A truck was pulling up the drive. "I'm guessing that's your date."
"Do you want to meet him?" Cora asked.
Nate laughed. "Maybe next time, you're not 16 and I'm not your dad. Go have fun."
"Thanks, Uncle Nate, for everything." Cora kissed him on the cheek and flew out the door.
Nate watched her go ,standing to the side of the window and smiled when she leaned into Eliot for a short kiss before he helped her up into the truck. Spencer seemed like a gentleman even though Nate had a very strong guess why he wasn't going to write a book. The motives behind that why still were a mystery, but Nate wasn't sure that was his business. Nate shook his head. He probably shouldn't encourage this relationship when there were secrets behind it. But Cora was so lonely and she glowed when she talked about this man. He'd know more when he met Eliot, but he'd seen the way the younger man had smiled at his niece when they broke off the kiss. And that was enough for him. Maybe they could find something real enough that the rest wouldn't matter.
Now for Sophie Deveraux, super agent.
Sophie Deveraux was miffed. That was an understatement. This trip to Oklahoma was a disaster and all she wanted to do was go home. Cora apparently was useless and she made a mental note to have Amy craft an new ad for a personal assistant when she got back to the office. Sophie huffed, well Cora wasn't bad as an assistant, she supposed it wasn't her fault that she was a terrible actress. Or too bloody shy to just get this over with. Sophie wasn't sure what the problem was, but whatever it was, Cora was failing at it.
If only Eliot Spencer was less of a country boy or more of a bumpkin, Sophie would have handled him herself. But judging from the blog, Eliot was not a simpleton nor was he naive. He would know straight off the bat that she was way out of his league and be suspicious as to her motives. A naive country boy, now he'd be flattered by the attentions of a sophisticated woman. Sophie sighed, that's why she'd sent innocent Cora in, there was no way Eliot would see right through that act.
Although really if this fiasco was anyone's fault, other than Mr. Spencer's stubbornness, it was her wanker of a boss. Sophie always got her author except when she knew when to cut and run. Eliot Spencer should have been one of those times. It simply was not worth the hassle.
Really, blogger books were usually best sellers but they often were flashes in pans. No staying power once their devoted followers had all gotten their copies. This man wasn't worth wasting her resources in middle America.
But for some reason James Sterling was like a dog with a bone about this. So obsessed with snagging him.
Sophie felt like screaming. It was maddening. She'd been tempted more than once to start her own agency and this mess was getting closer and closer to pushing her over the edge. Whatever, she was going back to New York the day after tomorrow and leaving Cora to her own devices. Not that she had seen any of her assistant since the airport.
Maybe Amy should put that ad out, if Cora was more interested in well, whatever the hell it was she was doing that wasn't snagging Eliot Spencer.
Her phone rang, an unfamiliar number with a local area code. She answered it cautiously.
"Hello, I'm trying to reach Sophie Deveraux," the man's voice came across the line.
"This is she, how may I help you?"
"Ah, Ms. Deveraux, I'm Nathan Ford and it's more how I can help you."
Sophie raised an eyebrow. "Nathan Ford, the crime novelist?"
"The very same," he chuckled. "Now are you interested in what I may have to offer?"
Sophie smiled. This was intriguing. "I'm listening."
Eliot had more fun at mini golf than he'd expected. It was all about the company. Cora was a lot of fun. She had a competitive streak, which made the game more challenging than just simple kids' stuff. She also wasn't above having a tiny bit of a wicked streak, not that he minded at all her attempts to distract him when he was making a shot by nuzzling his neck or stealing a kiss. The kisses were all still fairly chaste, but he a feeling that Cora would be a lot of fun in a totally different way if they lasted long enough to take it to the next level.
She'd read his mind by suggesting they drown his sorrows at losing (just barely!) to her with a trip to a hot dog stand before dessert. He liked that about her, she was the small town Indiana version of a down home country girl. He bet that she would take to life in Oklahoma just fine . . . .
Wow, he was gettin' way ahead of himself. This was date two with a girl that he'd just met a few days ago. Things were her were so easy though, like they'd always been with Aimee. He didn't have to work hard to please her or like her for that matter. They just clicked. He wondered about the asshole who broke her heart, he hoped the bastard regretted letting this sweet girl go.
"A French pastry shop?" Cora's eyes were wide as they pulled up to the cafe. "You are full of surprises, Eliot."
He grinned at her. "So I take it you're good with this?"
"Oh, yes! One of the things I love about New York is the pastry shop near my apartment, so this is perfect."
They sat at a table with cups of strong coffee and a sampler plate of goodies between them.
"How did you ever find this?" Cora asked.
"Well, I actually learned to cook from a French chef, it's a really long story. But I can't bake worth shit," Eliot's eyes widened but Cora didn't look offended by his slip into colorful language so he kept talking. "So I've had a craving and looked until I found it. It is a little out of the way but I'm usually here a couple of times a month. Champ loves it too."
"Admittedly I can't make French pastry, but I'm pretty handy with more American style baking. Chocolate chip cookies to die for, if I do say so myself."
"Cookies you say? I have a son who would love you forever if you came over and showed me how to make them."
"And what about you?"
"Well ma'am, I'd be mighty obliged to you for the recipe," he drawled with a grin.
She broke a piece of the pastry in front of her off and popped it in her mouth and chewed like she was thinking it over. She grinned flirtatiously at him. "You keep talking like that and you've got yourself a deal."
He tipped an imaginary hat at her. "You got it, ma'am."
She giggled and went back to enjoying her pastry. After a few more minutes of both of them eating, Eliot asked softly. "How long are ya plannin' on stayin'?"
She shook her head. "I don't know. Going back to New York is really not looking like something I want to do. I'm sort of dodging my boss . . ." at Eliot's concerned look, she added, "who luckily is on an extended vacation right now so doesn't call too often. But eventually I need to make up my mind. Part of me feels like I should go home. But . . ." and she looked over at him once more. "Uncle Nate has offered to make me his assistant. Which is an offer that's looking better all the time."
He grinned at her and despite his best efforts, blushed. "Oh, is it now?"
"Yeah," she smiled back. "Oklahoma's . . .nice."
He winked. "Yeah, it sure is."
It was Cora's turn to blush and he let her off the hook by changing the subject.
They were driving in comfortable silence back to her uncle's house that evening. It was fairly early but he had to get back to Dash. Cora mulled over what she'd said about staying. Uncle Nate really could use an assistant, so she was certain he was sincere about offering her that job. Maybe . . . .
Her thoughts were cut off by them pulling into the driveway.
"Well, I know you have to get home and I think my uncle went out tonight anyway, or I'd ask you in to meet him."
" Maybe next time," Eliot said. "Well uh . . . ."
"Yeah, I know. I'll call you tomorrow and we'll work out when we can make cookies?"
He nodded. "Sounds perfect, ma'am."
Cora giggled and undid her seatbelt. Eliot opened his door to go around and help her down. This time instead of offering her a hand, he put his hands around her waist and lifted her down, pulling her into him when she touched ground.
She laughed lightly. "I had a lot of fun, Eliot. Thank you."
He didn't answer, he just moved one hand from her waist to lightly caress her cheek before pulling her closer and kissing her. The kiss was soft but a little deeper than the kisses they'd shared earlier this evening, lasting longer before they both parted on a sigh.
"You would stay?" he asked suddenly.
She nodded. "Yeah, I'm starting to think I could."
He looked at her for a long moment and then pulled her in for another kiss. Maybe this could work. Maybe she could stay. She'd leave the mess with the literary agency in her rear view for good. And this sweet man would never, ever find out the true reason she'd come into his life. They'd find something real that would make the lie not mean anything at all.
And as she finally watched him drive away, she wished on a star that it would all work out.
A striking woman with black hair approached his table, "Mr. Ford?"
"Ah, yes, Ms. Deveraux," he got up and pulled out a chair for her. "You can call me, Nate."
"And you may call me Ms. Deveraux," she smiled, just a little air of predator in that smile. He liked it.
"A drink, Ms. Deveraux?" he asked, as the waiter came over. She ordered a Kir Royale and he got a Scotch.
"So you had a business proposal for me . . .Mr. . . .Nate?"
"Is it always down to business with you?" he asked, leaning back. "Or do you mix business with pleasure?"
She leaned back as well studying him. "It depends. What are you suggesting?"
"Why don't we wait for our drinks and I'll explain."
Sophie rolled her eyes but he could tell it was more for show. "I would normally tell you to stop wasting my time," but she motioned upwards with her hands. "But it seems that I have nothing but time while I remain in Tulsa. So we'll play by your rules . . . for now."
"Fair enough," he smirked at her.
The drinks came in short order and he lifted his glass, "to a profitable partnership."
"We'll see," she said, but clinked her glass against his anyway.
"So, Ms. Deveraux . . . ."