Twenty Questions

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Lee's Restaurant was packed, but they found an empty table at the back, with a view of the busy kitchen. The place was in the middle of Chinatown, noisy and crowded, and if Ashe had hoped for some privacy, then he was in for some major disappointment. Unfamiliar with the specials, he let Riley do the ordering while he watched a man in the back room making the noodles.

"They make the very same noodles you've got in front of you," she said after the waiter brought the food to their table. "I hope you don't mind that I just went ahead and ordered the specials."

"This was an excellent idea."

Riley shrugged. She wasn't so sure whether hand-pulled noodles in the middle of Chinatown could beat the Michelin-starred fare at the posh hotel they'd just left. But after the night she'd had so far, she didn't care what he thought. She was in the mood for noodles, and as far as she was concerned, he was tagging along.

She pointed out the dishes she'd ordered for the both of them, which filled their small table completely. She had ordered Special # 2 for him, which was noodle soup with slices of chicken, shrimp, beef and a whole fried egg, all sitting in a steaming vegetable broth while she ordered her favorite, mixed beef and hand-pulled noodle soup, complete with vegetables and a side order of dumplings. She also ordered two beers, Tsing-Tao, which was the only brand the place carried.

"I've told you a lot about myself," Riley began. "Now, it's your turn. Is your name really Ashe? I'm sure it's so posh it's spelled with a silent 'e' and probably stands for Ashley or something."

"It does have a silent 'e' though it's far from posh," he said, unable to continue speaking because he was currently slurping a noodle that didn't seem to have an end. When he was finished, he'd managed to get broth all over his chin. "What kind of a name is Riley?"

"It's just a name my mother picked out. Nothing special," Riley said. "Your turn."

"Alright," he replied in a flawless Southern drawl that came out of nowhere. "I'm named after the common ash tree. Irish folk considered it sacred and all, and the Norse, well, they called it the Tree of Life."

Riley stared at him, her mouth hanging open. "How'd you do that? And please don't do it again," she said, holding out her hand. "I was just getting used to that posh accent of yours."

He laughed. "Do ya like it? Could I pass for someone from, say, Alabama?"

"I'm sure you could," Riley said. "I thought it was good, but then I'm no expert on Southern drawls—just Southern Comfort. Ha ha. But is this habit of changing accents meant to impress unsuspecting dates?"

"Are we on a date?"

She blushed before directing a frown at him. "You have this way of deflecting questions, you know. It's starting to get annoying. But no, we are not on a date."

"It's a terrible habit—imitating accents," he said, giving her his best puppy dog impression, which made her giggle. "And no, I don't do it to impress my dates."

I don't think you need to do much to impress anyone, looking and sounding the way you do, Riley almost said out loud but managed to stop herself from actually uttering the words. He was dangerously handsome, and she wondered now whether he was someone famous.

"Is this a hobby, then?" She asked. "Some people do impressions while you do accents."

He shook his head and slurped a noodle into his mouth, more gracefully this time while plucking a piece of chicken from the bowl with his chopsticks.

"I have a dialect coach," he said, his English accent returning.

"What for?"

"It's for a role," he answered. "I'm the first choice because I wrote the screenplay, but there's someone else they're also considering because he can sing much better than I can—even if we're probably just going to lip-sync to the songs. I'm not as good as, say, Hugh Laurie, whom many people think is American after seeing him in House. But he's a Brit. Fry and Laurie."

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