So here they were on their first official date. Hopefully by leaving town Galen had removed the problem of running into people who knew them, but he knew she still saw the evening as a declaration of intent.

He did too, he guessed, though he was nowhere near ready to put it into words yet. He was still frantically trying to convince himself that he wasn’t falling in love with Lydia Curry.

“This place is great,” she enthused, settling into her chair and beaming at Galen as he seated himself across the snowy linen tablecloth. “The décor is gorgeous and the smell is heavenly.” Rather than open her menu she tilted her head. “What do you recommend?”

“Haven’t you been here before?”

She rolled her eyes. “Only once, a couple of years ago. It’s a bit out of the average grad student’s budget. The tika masala was wonderful but I’d like to try something different this time. I know very little about Indian cuisine and I’m always in favor of new experiences.”

“Miss Curry isn’t an expert on curry?”

She groaned at his bad pun. After quizzing her on here preferences, Galen ordered for both of them, including a bottle of wine. When that had been tasted and poured, he raised his glass to Lydia.

“To the most beautiful woman in the room.”

He heard her little whimper as her eyes widened and filled. Damn, he hadn’t meant to make her cry. Instead she shook her head and raised her own glass. “To the handsomest man in the place then. And the only man in the world I’d want to be here with.”

Great, now his throat was the one with a lump in it. He knew he should say something casual and blithe to tone down the intensity of the moment but he couldn’t bring himself to cheapen the glowing intensity in her chocolate brown eyes. Instead he just touched the rim of his glass to hers and smiled. He had no idea why someone like her had any desire to be with him but he was going to thank his lucky stars that she did.

Dinner went beautifully. Even given the amount of time the two of them had spent together in the past couple of weeks, they never seemed to run out of things to talk about. They were both avid readers, both enjoyed action adventure movies and classic rock, had both watched and loved the same comedy special a few weeks earlier.

They also got around to discussing their childhoods. He was saddened to learn that she was an only child who had been raised by her eccentric grandmother after her parents died in a car accident when she was twelve. Now that her grandmother was gone as well she was completely alone in the world. Galen couldn’t even fathom that. Not only did he have Jason, though less often than he would have liked, but his parents were still alive and well and kicking up their heels in Florida. Plus there were his two sisters who still constantly meddled in every aspect of his life and their husbands and kids. His older sister Martha even had a granddaughter. Although they’d gone their separate ways, he still saw most of them on every major holiday. It really stank that someone as warm and loving as Lydia had no one to share those kinds of times with.

They chatted about work too. She filled him in on more of the treasures she’d been cataloging while he caught her up on the state of his current research project on Robert the Bruce. She’d even found a few documents in the collection she thought would help and she’d promised to set them aside for him as soon as she was able.

“Galen! Well, hello. I didn’t think we’d see you here.” A bright feminine voice spoke from over his left shoulder.

Galen swallowed hard and turned to cast a polite smile at one of his colleagues. Helen Morton, an American Civil War scholar, was a nice enough woman but she was one of the most notorious gossips in the department. No way that the chair wasn’t going to hear about this now. He nodded politely and held out his hand. “Helen. It’s nice to see you.”

“Don’t you just love this place?” Helen shook his hand enthusiastically. “My only problem with Kilkenny is the lack of decent restaurants and shopping. Galen, you’ve met my husband Stan, right? Stan, this is Galen Forsythe, our resident medievalist. Stan’s an engineer for Ford.”

“Pleased to meet you again, Stan.” Galen shook the other man’s hand and tried to think about how to introduce Lydia. Before he could come up with anything, Helen beat him to the punch.

“And is this your daughter, Galen? She’s lovely.” Helen reached out a hand to Lydia. “How do you do dear? I’m Dr. Morton—I work with your dad.”

Lydia shook the other woman’s hand with a very proper smile. “Delighted, Dr. Morton. And thank you for the compliment. I’d love to be young enough to be his daughter but I’m afraid you’re mistaken. I’m Dr. Lydia Curry, the new curator for the Kroner collection of medieval documents that was just bequeathed to the English department. Dr. Forsythe was kind enough to offer me dinner while we discuss some potential research collaboration between the two departments.”

Galen thought he heard Stan Morton stifle a suspicious cough but Helen seemed completely willing to accept Lydia’s glib explanation. She professed herself delighted to meet a new faculty member and went on to gush over the merits of SMU, Kilkenny and Michigan’s Irish Hills region without giving Lydia time to admit she’d been here for years as a graduate student. The two men waited silently while Lydia just nodded and smiled her thanks.

“Well, do enjoy your dinner,” Helen finally cooed. “We’re off to a concert at the old opera house.”

She waggled her fingers as her husband touched her arm to usher her away.

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