This short story is prompted by one of the best-known lines from one of my favourite films. It’s in response to Ronovan’s weekly Friday Fiction challenge.
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…”
“It’s called a wine bar, and don’t even mention gin or you’ll get us thrown out.”
“Swanky, isn’t it,” he said, eyeing the sawdust on the floor.
“Oh don’t be such a wet Nelly,” she said, but she had a quick look round to make sure no one was watching, before dusting off the chair with a tissue.
“So, you think we could make a go of this lark, do you?” she said.
“Why not? You know all about wine, and I know about selling. It’s fool proof.”
She looked at him, assessing him quite openly. They’d known one another in a professional context for a few months, but it was only in the last couple of weeks, since he broached the subject of a partnership in a wine import/export business that she’d begun to take an interest in him. He had the contacts; she had the know how.
She liked to think she was a good judge of character, but only if she could keep a cool head. The more she looked at him, the more she felt the temperature rising. She gave her wrist a metaphorical slap and told herself to keep her mind on business. So she forced her eyes to stop straying along his chin, down that cute little dimple, and into the open neck of his shirt. If he got the slightest inkling where her mind was wandering, she’d never get this deal done the way she wanted it.
“This site you have in mind. Tell me about it.”
He reached into his case and grabbed a tablet. He had photos, maps, and diagrams of warehouses, road networks, and a multitude of costings, statistics, market projections international wine production figures.
“You’ll have to order,” he said. “My French is pretty rudimentary. I might order polecat fritters by mistake.”
She called over the patron and ordered a couple of glasses of sauvignon from Haut-Poitou while they waited for their plat du jour. He knocked his back without even tasting it. She ordered him something a bit heftier this time, a Montagny premier cru. He seemed not to notice the difference, but he was getting quite voluble, and the sparkle in his eyes had become positively irresistible.
She was sure she could swing this partnership to make sure she had no interference in what she did best, as long as she kept her mind on work. He hung his jacket on the back of his chair and rolled up his sleeves. The movement pulled the cotton tight across his chest, straining over his pecs. His forearms were covered in curly red-gold hair. She shivered and had his glass filled with a rich Condrieu.
The patron arrived with the food. He filled their empty glasses with a very black-looking Madiran, placed a basket of bread on the table, and slid the steaming plates in front of them.
“Bon appétit,” he murmured and bustled away.
He stared at the plate. “What the…? What is it?”
She ate at this bar regularly. The food was pretty standard wine bar food. She looked at the andouillette and lentilles with a blank expression. He jabbed at the pale sausage with his fork, rolled it over so it reared up on its bed of lentilles.
“It’s andouillette,” she said slowly, suddenly seeing it with his eyes.
“You’re gonna eat that?” he asked, his eyes round with horror.
“Watch me.” She picked up her knife and fork and sliced off the end. He groaned. She burst into laughter.
“Okay,” he said, “but I’m choosing what we have for dessert.” He put his hand on hers. “And where.”
“Business before pleasure,” she said, and took another mouthful of andouillette.
“You get to make the final decision on purchases?”
“I get to make all the decisions on purchasing.”
He sighed. “I can’t even go on the tasting trips?”
She shook her head.
He sighed again and stabbed at the andouillette.
“Eat up,” she said. “I could really fancy something exotic for afters.”
He gave a final sigh. “You win.”
“Attaboy,” she said.