thank you for the explanations! I appreciate it.
I think there may have been a little misunderstanding with the lunch date and the failed dinner date. The woman I have the relationship with is called "J.". Her best friend, who also works in our office, is called "L.". So far, J. has asked me to keep almost all of our 1-on-1 meetings a secret from L., because she was concerned that L. would make an issue out of getting too close to the "boss". A while ago, L. actually asked J. if she thought it was "healthy" to have such a close relationship with me!
Anyway, as far as the Good Friday lunch went, that was the first occasion when my lady J. actually told her best friend L. that I was taking J. out to lunch. For me, this represented a significant development, because J. was finally admitting to someone that J. and I were having a "date" as opposed to just a few drinks after work. She didn't say how L. reacted.
The other issue was last night, when I was supposed to be taking both J. and L. out for dinner. My lady J. decided not to come when she had trouble with her babysitter, and there seemed to be some tension in the air between J. and L. So the three of us went for a quick drink after work, then my lady J. had to leave, and her best friend L. and I went round a few other bars, then went for dinner. This was the point at which L. told me about so many clients assuming that J. and I are already in a relationship, and that maybe J. and I should just get married to stop the speculation. L. herself is already married with 2 small children. I hope I explained that a bit better! One thing is certain - L. is at least a little jealous of my lady J., because J. attracts a lot of attention wherever she goes.
One other thing that's happened twice, that I found almost unnerving; on 2 occasions J. said she felt something in her hair and asked me to look. Both times, when I looked and then ran my hand through her hair slowly to check, she looked down, nodded her head slightly forwards and to the side, towards my hand - almost like an old labrador when you rub its ear. I was startled, because I expected her to keep looking at me as I checked her hair, but both times there was that drop of the eyes, and the head movement. It didn't happen the last time, but my hand was resting in her hair for a good 15 seconds, at the base of her neck, as we talked. This was in a public bar, whereas the other 2 times we had been alone.
Sorry for the long posts - just trying to explain circumstances! This has been a long, slow road, and at times it's felt like 2 steps forwards and then 1 step back. Each time J. shows a bit more interest, the following week she's a bit quieter, then maybe 2 weeks later something will happen that takes the relationship up a notch again. Then a step back, then a while later up 2 notches again!
I'm pretty sure J. is interested in me, but what's holding her back now is letting the relationship out into the open. Her ex. has already seen us leaving work, me with my arm around her, and he gave J. a hard time about that, so it's not easy for her.
I think my next step is to directly ask J. out for dinner on her own (after all, I've just taken her best friend out!), and at that time try to discuss how we can see each other more, without affecting our working relationship. I don't want to ask her directly if she likes me, for two reasons; first, it looks "needy", and second, it doesn't give her a way out. On the other hand, if I talk about wanting to see her a lot more because I enjoy being with her (I've already told her this), then she has the chance to agree up front, but simply make herself "unavailable" if she doesn't want to take things further.
What do you think?
Many thanks once again, I really appreciate your opinions.