THE CHOICE – PART 4

FOUR FRIENDLY BEER DRINKING GUYS

Your heart pounds as you heed the smiling man’s kind invitation to join him and his friends. You wouldn’t typically describe yourself as shy-but plunking yourself down in a group of complete strangers is a little out of your comfort zone.

“I’m Steve,” says the guy who’d first offered you a seat. You shake his hand, taking in his kind brown eyes, tousled blond hair and bear-like build. Then you smile and nod at each of the other men he introduces: Kyle, a tall, impeccably dressed man with angular features and beautiful coffee brown skin, Larry, almost as big as Steve, with sandy hair, a ginger beard and a shy boyish smile, and Brandon, the most stereotypically good-looking with dark hair, five o’clock shadow, and deep blue eyes.

“We’re surveyors. Up here for work-”

“He’ll talk your ear off about work if you let him, and we hear enough from him all day, so let’s change the subject,” Brandon interrupts with a laugh that sparkles in his bright blue eyes. “Can I get you something to drink?”

You look at the beer glasses surrounding you, but even though beer’s casual, happy-go-lucky vibe appeals to you, you’ve never really gotten a taste for it. “That would be great, thanks. I’ll have a gin and tonic if they have it-or a glass of white wine.”

“I told you she’s a city girl,” Brandon says getting to his feet.

So they were talking about you before you sat down? You’re not sure if you’re flattered or a bit unnerved or irritated. . . .

Your expression must give away your flash of unease because Steve shakes his head. “Don’t worry. We’re weirdos, but we’re not creeps.”

His comment-and his quick intuition-make you smile.

“Yeah,” Kyle agrees. “Trying to figure out where people are from or what they do for a living is a game we play wherever we go. We spend a lot of time at restaurants and hotels together.”

“Too much time,” agrees Steve.

Brandon returns with your drink, just as a server deposits a plate of yummy looking appetizer-skewers, which the server identifies as being prosciutto, olives, cherry tomatoes, and bocconcini, drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction. “The main course will be served in the hotline, but we’ll drop off some starters before then,” she adds.

You all thank her and dig in. Somehow the arrival of food breaks the ice a little further-or maybe it’s the gin-but soon you’re all chatting like old friends. The guys are surprised by your reason for being at River’s Sigh, as they’d assumed that you, like them, were there for work.

“Don’t worry though. I may be here to holiday, but I love to obsess about work too. Don’t feel you have to pare down your conversation on my account,” you say at one point, making Steve laugh appreciatively.

“See, it’s not just me.”

Before you know it, dinner is winding down and you’re stuffed with prime rib, oven roasted vegetables, and mashed yam and garlic potatoes. Your new friends look as soporific as you feel.

“Well, that’s it for me,” Larry says, lumbering to his feet. “I want to call my wife and girls before it’s too late.”

Kyle makes a similar getaway, though doesn’t give a specific reason for leaving, just says goodnight. Both Steve and Brandon seem content to chat longer-and after more small talk and much laughter, you decide it’s not just gin-fueled wishful thinking. Both men seem to find you funny and interesting.

“It was really nice meeting you,” Steve says a little while later when you all realize that the clean-up staff, though very polite and kindly insisting you should stay as long as you like, are ready to go. “In fact, I was wondering if maybe you’d like to continue our conversation tomorrow over dinner or something.”

“That’s funny,” Brandon adds with a grin. “I was just going to ask the same thing-if maybe you wanted to grab a bite to eat in town and go to a show or something.”

“And/or maybe we could do some sight-seeing before we eat? There are a lot of gorgeous spots up here,” Steve said, like he was trying to sweeten his original offer.

You look back and forth between the two men, almost needing to pinch yourself. It’s been a while (just how long, you’ll never tell!) since you’ve been asked out.

Then it hits you-of course-they probably just mean together, like in a group. They’re just being friendly, not . . . date-ey.

“Like together, the group of us?” you ask.

Steve and Brandon both look momentarily horrified and you realize your gaff. It’s surprising but true. They both seem into you.

“Well . . . I was thinking of something more one-on-one, like an actual date,” Steve admits.

Brandon nods. “Me too. So how about it? No hard feelings if you choose the wrong guy, of course.” His eyes twinkle and you realize you like his slightly irreverent, always joking nature. Steve nods too, but looks unabashedly hopeful and earnest, which is really sweet and cute.

The thought does cross your mind, however, that since you have a busy day of sightseeing already planned, it might be nice to just lay low and enjoy your cabin-by yourself-tomorrow night.

What do you do?

OPTION 1: You thank Brandon for his kind offer and tell him you’re flattered-but turn to Steve and say that dinner and a drive sounds wonderful.

OPTION 2: You thank Steve for inviting you over to the table in the first place and for the kind offer of dinner-then turn to Brandon and say you’d love to go for dinner and a movie with him.

OPTION 3: You thank both men for the thoroughly enjoyable evening and tell them it was really nice to meet them, but that you already have plans. (Yes, a date with a book and a bottle of wine TOTALLY counts!)

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