The man with the well-trimmed beard looked at his friends. “Ben, Tom, I’ve brought you here under false pretenses.
Ben, sitting opposite Mike, responded first. “So, you didn’t get the promotion?” His blond beard and curled mustache crumbled as his face frowned.
“Oh, I got the promotion, Ben.”
“Shit,” said Tom. “Ben, I’ll lay you odds Mike got himself engaged.”
Mike grinned, showing two perfect rows of white teeth. His blue eyes twinkled as he looked over Ben’s head to the front door where three women entered. The first woman, brown hair reflecting candle light in its curls, waved and smiled at him. “How do you always know what I’m doing, Tom? Amanda only said yes this morning.”
“Asshole,” said Tom, scratching his chin through his long, tan beard speckled with white. “As soon as she told mom and dad, mom called me.”
The three men laughed and stood as the Amanda and her friends arrived at the table.
“How did you find this place, Mike? We must have walked past it a dozen times before finding the door.” Amanda hugged and kissed her fiancée.
Tom hugged his sister. “You have no sense of direction.”
Amanda pretended to slug her brother’s shoulder. “Be nice. It’s my day. You know Kaylee and Marty.”
Charlie watched the introductions and listened as Sam described the subtle flavors of Grappa. Tom walked to the bar, standing on Charlii’s left.
“Wine for the ladies,” Tom told Balder. “I think the rest of us want something harder, maybe some bourbon.”
“Perhaps for your friends,” said Balder. “But for you, something unique.” He turned and walked away from Tom.
Charlii held up her hand to Sam to turn and speak to Tom. “Just go with it. He’s not bad and picking what you need.”
Tom straightedges his back. “All I want is-“
“This,” interrupted Balder placing an ocean water color bottle in front of Tom. “Let the neat, clean cut lovers drink the ordinary. You stand proud of them.”
Tom picked up the glass and held it to his nose.
Sam smiled at him. “That’s right. Breath it I first. Let your nose guide your taste.”
Tom shrugged his shoulders as he breathed in the blue liquor. “Fruity.” He sipped. “Light, tingly.”
Sam toasted him with his grappa. “I prefer the grappa. Reminds me of my dad.”
Tom walked to stand next to Sam. “This kind of reminds me of my dad, too. He was from the islands. Always lots of tropical fruit around.”
Balder placed glasses on a tray, pouring drinks.
Charlii shook her head. “Is there anyone you can’t figure out what they should drink?”
Balder smiled at Charlie, candlelight reflecting in his dark eyes. “You’ve yet decided what you want.”