Haven had a craving for salt, steak, and chocolate and not necessarily in that order. She chose to focus on that rather than the fact that she was minutes away from meeting her husband. To call her nervous would be an understatement. She’d barely been able to sleep last night. She’d skipped breakfast this morning because her stomach was tied in knots. So now she was nervous and starving. She hoped she could hold her food down.
The restaurant he’d chosen was one she’d never tried. She’d walked by it a few times. She immediately liked the interior. The walls were white. Plants hung from the ceiling. Large windows and adequate lighting made the dining room bright and cheery. It wasn’t romantic, but she’d prefer it to eating in a dark restaurant.
A hostess greeted her and when Haven gave her name, she smiled brightly and led her to a table. Haven took a deep breath. Despite her friends’ advice, she’d refrained from performing an internet search on her husband. With a quick glance down at her dress, she dried her sweaty palms on the black skirt. The bodice was lower than she would have liked. Denise had come over while she was dressing and had insisted she show a little skin.
Well, she’d be showing plenty of skin soon enough, she thought with a small bit of anticipation. This man was supposed to be her soul mate, the man of her dreams. She didn’t see any point in waiting to become intimate with him. It would be the end of a two year long dry spell for her. She liked sex. Loved it in fact, but she was discriminate about who she chose to share her body with. It had been two years since she’d met anyone who she considered worthy of the honor. She’d rather be alone than with some of the jerks she’d met.
As they approached, a tall white man with longish strawberry blond curls stood. She was 5’7” and she estimated him to be a few inches above six feet. He wore a weathered gray t-shirt and casual slacks. Not only did he need a haircut, he needed a shave. He’d certainly gone to no pains with his appearance. And he was still the most attractive man she’d ever seen. His bone structure was amazing. His broad shoulders and firm biceps stretched the cotton of his shirt. “Haven?” He smiled and extended his hand for her to shake.
Two things had her breath catching. One was his voice. It was deep and smooth. She could listen to him all day. The other was his smile. His teeth were straight and brilliantly clean, but it was his dimples that gave her pause. It didn’t seem fair that genetics should have been so kind to one person.
“You are Haven?”
“Um…yes.” She took his hand. His palm was large and it engulfed hers entirely. “And you’re Scott.”
“Yes.” He held her chair out for her. He settled in the seat across from her, his blue eyes flicking over her. They paused momentarily on her cleavage before coming back up. She gave him points for being a gentleman. Her breasts were large but that was no excuse for ogling. His irises were an intense and lovely blue. “You’re even more beautiful in person.”
Her brows rose. “Thank you. You researched me.”
“I wouldn’t say that. I just wanted to know what you looked like. Didn’t you do the same?”
She shook her head. “I wanted to be surprised.” A waiter brought them water and salads. “We didn’t order anything,” she protested.
“I took the liberty of ordering for us. I didn’t want to have to wait. I thought we could go for a walk after if we have time. My apartment is near here. If you like it, we could stay there for our probation period.”
“Um, okay,” she said, tamping down a spark of irritation. He was trying to be considerate. There would be time enough to inform him that ordering someone else’s meal unless asked to was an asshole move. She picked up a fork. “Want to enlighten me as to what you ordered?”
“Just this.” He dug into his salad.
Her dreams of steak, salt and chocolate would have to wait. The salad was the type that she hated. It had everything in it but the kitchen sink. There were olives, cherry tomatoes, onions, nuts, berries and sprigs of who knew what. How the hell did one fork a nut anyway? And there was no dressing. After a few bites, she put her fork down and sipped her water. “So what do you do for a living?”
“Well, um, I used to model. But now I’m a co-owner of a gym and I own this restaurant.”
“Really? I love the décor.” Good thing she hadn’t said anything derogatory about the salad. That he was a former model wasn’t a surprise to her. But he seemed embarrassed so she didn’t pursue that topic.
“Verdant Fields is relatively new. We specialize in natural, organic foods. There’s a garden out back. You should try our smoothies.”
She hated smoothies. She had teeth. Why would she want to drink her food? “I’m sure I will some time.”
“I can get you one to go before we leave.”
His smile was so friendly that she nodded. Really, those damn dimples were too much. And he had full, pink lips which appeared impossibly soft in comparison to the rough stubble that surrounded them. She dragged her gaze away from his mouth and stared down at her salad. “Well, um, I’m a website designer. I work from home. Um, after we visit your apartment, we should visit my house.”
“That sounds good. So that sounds like a rather sedentary job. What kinds of activities do you like?”
She shrugged. “When I have the time I like to hike.”
He grinned. “I like that, too. I also like to ride bikes and I work out at the gym. I’ll set you up with a free gym membership and we can go together.”
“That might be fun,” she readily agreed. She hated going to the gym or working out alone. It was boring and she never seemed to be able to establish a routine.
He glanced at her plate. His own was empty. “Are you finished?” he asked with a frown.
She shrugged. “I guess I wasn’t that hungry.” She hoped they didn’t regularly serve undressed salads here or this restaurant wouldn’t last long. Not knowing how well Scott took constructive criticism, she kept her mouth shut.
He waved over a waiter and ordered a smoothie for her. Minutes later the waiter returned with a clear container filled with sewage green liquid. Haven eyed it with skepticism. It didn’t smell much better than it looked, but she tried to smile as she took a small sip through the straw. She was raised to be polite, but her new husband was sorely testing her.
Unfortunately, the smoothie tasted like raw vegetables. She didn’t hate vegetables, but she liked them better cooked and with some sort of seasoning. “What’s in this?”
“Broccoli, a little apple and orange to make it sweeter, and some secret ingredients.”
“Mm,” she said around a second sip and then had to fight the urge to spit it back out. She would have guessed broccoli and a bit of dirt. She wondered if he would notice if she left it on their table. Leaning over to pick her purse off the floor she began to plot project smoothie abandonment.
He stood and held out his hand to her. “Don’t forget your smoothie,” he said as she joined him. So she was forced to pick it up though she’d definitely had more than enough. Though she didn’t have a sensitive stomach, she thought if she had much more of the drink she was likely to hurl from the gritty texture and overly assertive flavor. She took his hand and he escorted her out of the restaurant. It was a warm summer day. As they walked, several women gave him a second glance. One woman stared so hard that she lost her footing and stumbled on the sidewalk. If Scott noticed, he didn’t give any visible reaction. She supposed he must be used to this sort of behavior.
He scanned his print to gain entrance into his building. He also had to scan his palm to get into his apartment. “I guess this is the type of security I’m missing by having a house.” She could have a scanner installed. Instead, she chose to use the antiqued lock and key method.
“Make yourself at home. Feel free to look around. Excuse me while I use the bathroom.”
Even his ass was nice, she noticed as he walked away. Not flat, but instead a nice curve. With a sigh, she crossed to the large windows opposite the door to check out the view. The streets below practically thrummed with activity, but none of the sounds penetrated his apartment. The walls were exposed brick. High, white ceilings and light from the windows kept the place from being dark and depressing. His sofa and chairs were white, also.
She cast a quick glance at his kitchen. The appliances and countertops were stainless steel. The bedroom area was separated by a large black and white screen with a painting of flowers on it. He’d shifted it to the side and he’d made his bed this morning. The bedding was black and white with red decorative pillows on top.
On a glass shelf next to the window, he had a few books. But mostly, the shelves were filled with framed photos. These drew her like a magnet attracted metal. She expected to see some glamour shots of Scott, perhaps some from his modeling days. Instead they were pictures of him surfing, hiking, canoeing, and biking. Haven frowned as she took in the photos. He was with a different woman in each one. Not one of the women looked like her. Their coloring differed. He dated blonds and brunettes and a few women of different ethnicities. Each of them possessed slim twig-like figures. Not one of them could be above a size two.
If these were his previous girlfriends…he couldn’t possibly be attracted to her. She would never be that skinny and didn’t even desire to be so. At her smallest in high school she’d worn a size eight. Now she wore a fourteen and could occasionally squeeze into a size twelve.
Haven reviewed their lunch. He’d researched her on the internet. And then he ordered her a salad with no dressing, spoke of giving her a free gym membership, and gave her the garbage can smoothie. With a glare at the smoothie, she set the cup down on his desk. Evidently, he’d seen her picture and placed a plan into action to make her over into his ideal woman.
And she’d thought he was being a gentleman by not ogling her. But that wasn’t it at all. He was probably disgusted by her overabundant curves. Her face heated with embarrassment and anger.
“So what do you think?” He seemed nervous, his gaze shifting from her to the shelf at her back.
Haven turned to him slowly, no longer impressed with his pretty outside. She had to spend thirty days with this ass. There was no getting around that, but she wouldn’t live here where he’d no doubt had a parade of women pass through. And she wouldn’t have sex with him. She missed sex, but not enough to demean herself by sleeping with a man who didn’t want her as she was. For thirty days, she would be forced to be his wife, but the sooner she saw the last of him the better.