"I just think we're better off emphasizing math and science, especially for girls, given the current competitive business environment." He placed his credit card in the folder and handed it back to the server, seeming glad for an excuse not to look Serena in the eye.
"And I think we're doing the world a disservice by not emphasizing the development of creative thinkers. But of course, I have a master's degree in art history and worked as a gallery curator for years, so I might be a little biased."
"Oh?" His eyebrows lifted. "I'd no idea you worked."
She couldn't tell if it was simply a way to steer the topic away from his faux pas or if he was concerned about the fact she might want a career. "I gave it up before I had Em. It was somewhat... incompatible... with raising children."
Now he looked relieved. "I think that's admirable. Too many women put their own fulfillment ahead of their family's needs."
She should leave it alone. She knew she should. It wasn't as if this date were going anywhere. Yet she'd spent far too much time swallowing her opinions on the subject. She looked him directly in the eye and said, "It's probably not as common as men who bury themselves in the office and expect their wives to take on sole parenting responsibility."
And that was the nail in the coffin of a date already on life support. It made for an awkward drive home, though they both attempted a polite stream of chitchat. As they parted at her front door with a cordial handshake—he was smart enough not to go in for the kiss, at least—she figured it was for the best. Daniel wasn't a bad man, even if he did have rather conservative opinions on gender roles. He was intelligent, successful, and responsible. He simply lacked the level of imagination Serena required in a mate. She'd already had a marriage that felt like one long business transaction, and she wasn't about to jump into another.
"Did you have fun?" Allie, the teenage girl who babysat for Serena on occasion, popped up from the sofa in the reception room, a book in hand.
"It was nice, thanks." Serena reached into her clutch and took out several banknotes, which she handed to the girl with a smile.
Allie stuffed the money into her pocket and picked up her purse. "They were super easy tonight, by the way. Let me know when you need me again."
"Thank you, Allie. I'll ring you." Serena let the girl out the front door and watched until she got into her car and turned on the ignition. This little section of Nairn near the Moray Firth was quiet, almost rural, but her mum instincts wouldn't let her rest until she knew the girl was safely on her way. When Allie backed out of the drive, Serena stepped back into her house, locked up, and kicked her patent-leather heels onto the rug.
Nice dinner or not, that had been a waste of stilettos.
Serena quietly climbed the sweeping staircase to the upper floor and peeked into the first room she came to. Max was sleeping sprawled the wrong direction on his single bed, one pajama leg shoved up above the knee, his fine dark hair wild from his restless sleeping habits. She didn't move him— getting her three-year-old son to sleep was enough of a challenge without disturbing him—but merely covered him with his duvet, tucked his giraffe, Mr. Spots, in beside him, and pressed a kiss to his forehead. Next door, eight-year-old Em was hunkered under a purple floral covering, only the top of her head visible. Serena kissed her good night as well and tucked in the duvet more securely before continuing down the hall to her own expansive bedroom.
Serena's mobile buzzed in her handbag, and she yanked it out before it could go to a full ring and wake the kids. A quick glance at the screen showed a familiar number: the home of her younger brother, Jamie.
"Checking to make sure I got home safely from my date?" she said with a wry smile.
An American-accented female voice answered, "No, but the fact that you picked up answers my next question."
Serena laughed at her sister-in-law's wry tone. "Hi, Andrea. I just got back."
"So the hot date was not so hot?"