"Judith! How have you been?"
Didn't it just figure Cade would turn up here, of all places, when my hair was uncombed and my breath smelled like a sewer? "Uh, hi. Doing great. Busy. Work, life..."
"Don't I know it?" He grinned like he hadn't even noticed that I hadn't been in touch. "I found a great spot for herring - one of my crew has a sixth sense for that sort of thing - but it's meant a lot of long hours bringing it in before anyone else finds it."
I didn't have much to say about this, since I knew nothing of fishing. "That's great, uh...congratulations." I grabbed a tube of toothpaste and glanced toward the counter. "It's been great running into you like this, but I need to go."
Instead of taking the hint, Cade followed me to the cashier. "Have you had dinner yet? I know it's kind of early, but there's a little Italian place just opened on the other side of town. Very small, informal, limited menu but what they've got is as good as anything I've had back home in Portland."
Dinner? I suppressed an urge to laugh. What would he think if I told him I had hadn't even had breakfast yet? He'd lump me in with every other loser in this town, no doubt. "It's a nice idea, but..."
"Just as friends. My treat."
I was sliding coins across the counter and the cashier met my eyes, then glanced away with a little twitch of his shoulders, as if to say I might as well. And who was I kidding? Unless some work came through quick, this was probably my best shot at a decent meal for today. "I should at least fix myself up a little."
"You look fine," he assured me. "It's really very casual."
"No," I insisted. "If you're going to treat me to dinner, the least I can do look like a girl worth being seen in public with. I'll have to meet you somewhere, though. It wouldn't be appropriate for you wait outside my apartment."
"You in the witness protection program or something?"
It was a smart-ass remark, but said with such gentle good humor that I smiled. "How about I meet you back here in fifteen minutes?"
Cade gave a little shrug. "Works for me. I still haven't gotten what I came for, anyway. But I have one condition. Give me your phone number this time, so I can text you if you take longer than expected."
"I'll let you know if I'm running late," I assured him, but I gave him my number anyway, and nervously watched as he added it to his contacts. I was committed now. "I'll see you in a few," I said, and darted out the door.