raised his brows quizzically. âAre you calling it off?â
She looked at him in surprise. âArenât you? I mean, you were just mugged! You canât possibly feel like going out.â
He shrugged. âIâll admit those two thugs hurt my pride. And my pocketbook. But not my appetite. And I still have my credit cards. Iâm willing to give it a shot, as long as you donât mind being seen with a guy who has a shiner. Besides, this way I can get all the unpleasantness out of the way in one nightâa mugging and this date.â His teasing tone and crooked grin softened his words.
Amy stared at him. He was actually smiling at her! Genuinely smiling! And suddenly her pulse did the oddest thing. It started to race. Not the way it did when she was nervous about confronting a hostile source for a story. No, this was altogether different. This was almost a pleasant sensation. And why onearth had a thrilling little tingle just run up her spine? Good heavens, if she didnât know better, sheâd think she was attracted to the man! Which was ridiculous. After all, this wasnât even a real date. It was a strategy. And she would do well to remember that, she admonished herself.
Amy swallowed and tried for a flippant tone. âPutting my date on par with a mugging isnât the most flattering comparison Iâve ever heard.â
He smiled again. âYou must admit there is a similarity. The muggers wanted money, you want information. But I guarantee they were more successful than youâll be.â
âMaybe I should resort to strong-arming, like they did,â she replied pertly, getting into the teasing spirit.
He eyed her speculatively, the quick sweep of his gaze lingering just a bit too long on her shapely, crossed legs. âUnless youâre a black belt, I donât think that will work. Or maybe youâre referring to something besides physical force,â he countered with a lazy smile.
Amy stared at him. The man was actually flirting with her! The buttoned-up, stuffed-shirt, play-by-the-rules assistant prosecuting attorney was letting his hair down! The transformation in his demeanor was amazing! Apparently he had a sense of humor after all.
Or did he? she wondered, her eyes suddenly growing troubled. Maybe he wasnât teasing. Maybe he was hinting that he might be willing to answer her questions if she cooperated in other ways. He had made it clear that he thought she was attractive. He hadnâtstruck her as the type to even think along those lines, but, after all, she hardly knew him. And it wouldnât be the first time someone had suggested such a thing. She just hadnât expected it from him, she admitted, oddly disappointed. He seemed somehow to radiate integrity and honor andâ¦well, goodness, corny as that might sound.
Amy hoped her first impression was right, that his last remark had just been innocent flirting, but in case she was wrong, she needed to clarify the parameters of this date right now. She rose, tilted her chin up and gazed at him levelly.
âLook, Mr. Richards, donât get the wrong idea. Iââ
âI thought we were past the âMr.â stage.â
âMaybe. Maybe not. I donât know what youâre thinking right now, and I might be jumping to conclusions, but let me make something very clear. I want to find a way to make my coverage on the Jamie Johnson story stand out. I want that very much. Enough to go to some pretty extreme lengths, including spending five hundred dollars for a date with a man who dislikes me on the slim chance that I might get some piece of information I can use. But I donât intend to make aâ¦personalâ¦investment in this story. Thatâs not my style. It never has been, and it never will be.â
Now it was Calâs turn to stare. Good heavens, did she really think he was insinuating that for the right âpersonal investment,â as she put it,