Unravel Me

By: Tori St. Claire

Chapter One

One drink. Just one drink.

Then Cassandra Blaire could return home and cozy up with case files, like she really needed to be doing tonight. Instead, she’d let her secretary Stephanie convince her into a blind date with some friend of her current go-to guy. A pity date, probably, given she’d spent the last three years since her husband’s death focusing on work and not her social life.

Sure, she went out now and then… Okay more then than now. But she’d done the settling down, meeting someone else’s needs, for ten years. It was time to see to her own desires, and really the only desire she had currently was to win this Cooper case so she could alter the successful criminal practice her husband had built into a family law practice. And that meant preparing to meet the pitbull opposing counselor tomorrow, not drinking it up with a stranger.

But she’d committed, and she couldn’t back out now. Stephanie would never let her hear the end of it.

Cassie glanced up at the twinkling Christmas lights strewn across the popular restaurant’s front entrance. One glass of wine. She could excuse herself after. Besides, the little bit of alcohol might unwind some of the nerves that kinked the closer her meeting with her legal adversary grew.

She shoved open the car door to a blast of cold winter air, set a black heel on the parking lot’s asphalt, and climbed out. After shutting the door, she smoothed the short length of her black skirt over her rear and approached the entry. Loud laughter blended with Christmas carols as she stepped inside.

“Good evening, ma’am,” the hostess greeted her warmly. “Did you have a reservation?”

Cassie forced a wide smile. “Jefferson. For two?”

The woman ran a manicured nail down her guest book. A crinkle appeared in her brow as she turned the page. “Jefferson, you said?”

“Um…yes. Eight o’clock.”

The hostess shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything listed.”

Cassie blinked. “Are you certain? I’m sure it was here at eight.”

With a sympathetic smile, the young woman nodded. “I’m sure. And I don’t have any available tables either to fit you in.”

Well, didn’t that just beat everything. She’d been stood up. After supposedly hounding Stephanie for the set-up, the jerk didn’t even have the courtesy to cancel. It really shouldn’t have bothered her—after all, she didn’t know the guy—but the rejection still stung. That kind of crap hadn’t happened since college.

She let out a heavy sigh and scanned the bar area. Logic said she ought to go home, but she was here now, and her bruised ego definitely could use that glass of wine.

“I’m really sorry,” the hostess said again.

Cassie shook her head. “That’s okay. I’m only going to have a glass of wine at the bar.” She shrugged out of her coat, looped it over her arm, and struck off toward the crowded alcove, avoiding looking at the dining room full of couples and the rose-topped tables bathed in candlelight. So much for a kindling up a holiday romance. Not that she’d really been hoping. But if it had happened, celebrating with someone would have been nice.

While the crowded dining room wasn’t a surprise, the bar’s elbow-to-elbow crowd was thicker than she remembered in years past. Maybe it was the significant snow that had descended on the mountains. For the past month, it seemed like every place in Vail, Colorado brought more tourists than usual. More single, male tourists, to be specific.

Then again, maybe she’d just been paying more attention. Christmas was in another two weeks, and it didn’t seem depressing anymore. Her house no longer screamed Chris’s absence every time she turned out a light. And her big four-poster bed had stopped feeling so damned empty. All it did was remind her she hadn’t ever wanted the monstrous thing anyway. Though, admittedly, she’d made peace with the objections now that she could sleep flat out in the middle of the huge mattress.

Oddly enough, she’d realized a lot of those sort of things—she’d done an awfully good job at compromising what she wanted when she married Chris Blaire. His sudden death had shattered her. But rebuilding awakened parts of her she hadn’t realized she’d let go of.

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