C7 Chapter 7
“What the hell are you wearing?” Indie arrived just as I returned to my office from the ladies’ room on Wednesday evening.
“A new outfit. For my date tonight.”
“You’re dressed like a sixty-year-old grandmother of nine about to go to church.”
I totally was. Some of it I’d actually had to purchase just for the occasion. The Goodwill store on Seventy-Second Street was perfect—a bag full of granny goods for under twenty bucks. I caught my reflection in the glass window. Oversized navy corduroy blazer. Navy elastic waist polyester pants (pretty damn comfortable). Cream-cotton-and-doily-lace button-up blouse, buttoned up to the top, of course. A string of fake pearls. Hair pulled back in a tight bun. Worn penny loafers. (Okay, so those might have been mine.)
I patted my bun and rolled on some bland, mauve lipstick, purposefully swiping some on my front tooth. “You don’t like my outfit?”
“Seriously? You look a little insane.”
I smoothed my jacket down and picked up the giant dowdy brown church-lady purse. “What? You don’t think I look sexy?”
“Are you wearing bloomers under there?”
I flipped off the light switch in my office. “And a nursing bra.” I actually had a G-string and a demi cup bra on, but the appalled look on Indie’s face was worth the little white lie.
She followed me out of my office. Luckily, the building was already mostly empty, or I might have gotten some strange looks. I really did look a bit nuts.
“Did you get that crap from wardrobe?” Indie asked.
“Nope. I bought it for my date.”
“You bought that getup?”
“I think you’ve been under too much stress lately.” She kissed me on the cheek before jumping on the up elevator to head back to her office. “Breakfast in your office at eight. I can’t wait to hear all about this date.”
Ten minutes later, I exited the glass turn-style door of WMBC and saw a fancy car double-parked right at the curb. Brody got out and walked around the car to open the passenger door. As his eyes swept me up and down, his brows drew together. Then he blinked repeatedly. “Hi.”
I gave him a goofy ear-to-ear smile. “Hi. Where are we going?”
“Um . . . to the . . . um . . . the restaurant at the Regency.”
It was everything I could do to not crack up. He had no idea if my outfit was serious or a joke. Although he earned a point for being polite enough not to say anything. I couldn’t resist screwing with him a little more after we settled into the car.
“You look nice.” He was wearing a hunter-green cashmere sweater that fit him well, snug across his broad shoulders, but not too tight, and simple black slacks.
He glanced at me and back at the road. “Thank you.” I wasn’t sure if I liked him more or less because he didn’t lie and feed me a compliment back about my outfit.
“You look different with your hair up. I like it.”
“Yeah. It’s sexy librarian.”
“Sexy librarian, huh?”
“I’ve always had a thing for librarians. You know . . . unpin her tight hair, let it loose down her back. And then make her moan between the stacks.”
“How romantic.” I shifted in my seat at the visual he painted.
“I don’t think women want romance as much as they think they do.”
I cackled. “You don’t know women very well.”
“Oh, but I think I do. I think most women, especially women who work hard and have a lot on their mind, prefer a man to come home, lift her off her feet and take her against the wall rather than hand her some bullshit flowers and pussyfoot around with sweet gestures all night.”
“We like bullshit flowers and sweet gestures.” Though I could use a good wall banging.
“Then you haven’t been fucked properly against a wall.”
“Let me guess. You could demonstrate?”
“We could skip dinner.”
“Big of you. But our deal was dinner for an interview.”
He shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
We arrived at the Regency, and the valet who opened the car door for me knew Brody by name. “Usual time in the morning, Mr. Easton?”
“Actually. I’ll probably be using the car again tonight. Why don’t you keep it close by?”
“Sure thing, Mr. Easton.”
Brody walked around the car. His hand went to the small of my back.
“A man has to hold on to his dreams.” He winked.
As we walked through the lobby, more employees greeted him by name. He was a household name, but they spoke to him with the familiarity of a frequent visitor. “Do you come here often? Dinner at a hotel? How convenient for dessert.”
“I live here.”
“You live at the Regency?”
“During the season, I do. The field is less than an hour from here, even with traffic.”
“Where do you live in the offseason?”
“I have a cabin upstate. I stay there mostly.”
“A cabin? In the woods?”
“Yes. I’ve been working on it for a few years now in the offseason. I figure it should be done in about . . . I don’t know . . . twenty or thirty years.” He chuckled.
“Sounds like you work fast.”
He steered me down the hall toward the restaurant and leaned into me as he spoke. His voice was raspy. “Actually, I like to take my time.” The timbre of his voice made my toes curl in my sensible shoes.
A part of me suddenly wished I hadn’t dressed up like a schoolmarm.
We settled into our table at the beautiful Silver Ivy restaurant, and a waitress came over to take our drink order. She batted her long eyelashes at Brody and gave me the once-over, no doubt jealous of my outfit. “What can I do for you this evening, Mr. Easton?”
“Hey, Siselee.” He looked at me. “Do you like red wine?”
“I consider it one of the five major food groups.”
He ordered a bottle of wine I’d never heard of. The waitress opened it tableside, poured me a glass and set the bottle in the bucket beside the table.
“Aren’t you having any?” The question was directed at Brody, but Siselee answered before he could.
“He only drinks on Tuesday nights.” She lifted her chin, proud of herself for knowing the answer.
“Training,” Brody offered as means of explanation.
We relaxed into easy conversation, our natural flow leading to sports. Arguing over the greats of all time, we sampled each other’s dinners without a lull in our banter. The topic of conversation eventually moved to Brody’s new wide receiver.
“I throw, he catches. We don’t need to be buddies.”
“You need to have trust in each other. My dad always said his receiver was like his wife—he needed a partner he could trust to make the right decisions.”
“I have to trust his abilities. Not his morality.”
“So is that what the issue is? His morals?”
Brody leaned back in his seat and folded his arms. “Is this an interview? This shit going to be on the air tomorrow?”
“No. Sorry. Habit. I grew up arguing about football. I actually sort of like doing it, if I’m being honest.”
“Guess I do, too. What else do you like doing?”
“I don’t have much spare time these days, really. Between the traveling and all the research and stats I have to keep up with, there’s not much time for anything but work and sleep lately. I haven’t had a day off in two months.”
“What would you be doing if you were off for a day?”
“Hmm. I love museums and bike riding. But if I had a full day off, I’d probably spend it in bed, watching movies.”
“What kind of movies?”
“B horror flicks. The gorier, the better.”
“Really.” I tipped my glass of wine toward him before bringing it to my lips. “What about you? What would you do with a day of no practice or games?” I knew from growing up with a quarterback dad that a day like that was a rarity during football season. Even on “recovery” days after a game, quarterbacks had films to watch from the last game to prepare for the next one.
“I’d be in bed, too.”
“What would you be watching?”
“Your face while I sink inside of you.”
I was in the middle of a long sip of my wine and choked. At least the sputtering and coughing gave me an excuse for my face turning beet red.
It took me a minute, and my voice was a little hoarse when I spoke, but I finally regained my composure. “Why do you say things like that?”
He shrugged. “Because it’s true. If I could do anything I wanted on a day off, I’d do . . . you.”
“You have a dirty mouth.”
“This dirty mouth wants to do dirty things to you.”
I had that feeling of teetering on the top of a roller coaster, about to go down a steep hill . . . only that anxious and excited feeling wasn’t in my stomach, it was in my panties. And they were growing damp.
Brody lifted the wine bottle from the bucket and refilled my glass. “Tell me something embarrassing about you.”
“Yeah. Maybe it will help me stop thinking about doing dirty things to you.”
“Hmm...let me think.”
He leaned in. “Hurry. You’re sorta hot when you think.”
Shaking my head, I shared the first embarrassing story I could think of, even though it was an old one. “When I was sixteen, I told my parents I was going to sleep at my friend’s house, but I really went camping with a big group of people. We bought beer and sat around a campfire all night drinking. At some point, after we’d all had too much to drink, we decided to roast marshmallows. I was about as experienced with camping as I was drinking, which is to say I was drunk and didn’t belong near a fire. We collected sticks and popped marshmallows on the end. My stick was only about six inches long.”
Brody interrupted, grinning. “My stick’s bigger.”
I rolled my eyes, but continued with my story. “Anyway. I was sitting way too close to the fire with my short stick trying to brown my marshmallow, and my hair caught on fire. I was lucky I didn’t get burned badly, but it singed the entire half of my head. I had to walk around with my head shaved for my entire sophomore year. And I was grounded for a month.”
We both had a good laugh at my expense. “You know the funniest part of that story?” Brody asked.
“I still want to do dirty things to you.”
The waitress came to the table and cleared our plates. Brody asked for a few minutes to decide on dessert, which gave me a much-needed minute to regroup. I folded my hands in front of me on the table. “So this is it? This is my courtship? A dinner, which you basically made me come to in order to get an interview for my job, and now I’m supposed to have sex with you?”
“By the tone of your voice, I guess I shouldn’t answer yes to that question?”
The waitress returned before I could respond. “Would you like dessert?”
Brody pointed to the menu. “Bring us one of everything, please.”
She justifiably looked confused. “You want one of every dessert?”
He looked at me. “That’s right. She needs more courtship. Bring us one of everything.”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“See,” he said when Siselee had gone. “I’m entertaining, too. I’m making you laugh. And you think I’m hot. This is a great courtship. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Excuse me? I never said I thought you were hot.”
“You don’t have to. I feel it. It’s in the air when we’re near each other. You’re as attracted to me as I am to you.”
“Honestly, it wouldn’t even matter if I did—“
“Whatever. I don’t do casual sex.”
“Because sex has to be more than just . . . sex.”
“Why?” His eyebrows drew down. He really didn’t comprehend my answer.
“I need an emotional connection with the person to have sex with them.”
“You mean like a relationship?”
“Yes. A relationship. I’m not talking about marriage. But dating. Getting to know each other outside of the bedroom.”
He blew out a rush of air. “I can’t do that. I need to keep things simple.”
I forced a smile, hating that I felt a little disappointed. “See, we’re better as friends.”
“I don’t have any girl friends. Well, ones that I haven’t, you know.”
“Well, then this will be a first for you.”
“I guess it will be.” He extended his hand to me to shake on our newfound friendship, but he didn’t let go. Instead, he leaned in, keeping my hand wrapped in his when he spoke. “I’m disappointed. I was really looking forward to seeing your clothes on my bedroom floor.”
“Even these clothes?” I arched an eyebrow.
The waitress wheeled our dessert cart over, forcing us apart. I hated to admit it, but I missed his touch when he let go of my hand. All those sweets would be filling in for something else.
Things returned to normal after that. Well, normal for us. We argued some more. He said some more inappropriate things, and we ate one bite each from thirteen different desserts. I was glad I had on my fancy new elastic-waist pants.
“I’m stuffed.” I leaned back in my chair.
“You can sure eat for a little thing.”
“That’s not something you should ever point out to a woman.”
“I can if she’s only a friend, right?”
Neither of us made an attempt to end the evening, and it wasn’t until we were the only people left in the restaurant that I realized how late it was. “Wow. We’ve been sitting here for almost four hours.”
“Doesn’t seem like it.”
“I know. Tonight wasn’t anything like I expected.”
“What did you expect?”
“I don’t know. I guess I just didn’t expect to get to know you, really.”
“You expected me to be just a pretty face, didn’t you?”
I laughed off his comment, but that sort of was what I had expected. An evening of sexual references and talking shop about football. Don’t get me wrong, we had plenty of that, but there was also more. I couldn’t remember the last time a first date had went that well. Shit. This isn’t a date.
An hour later, we pulled up at my building. He parked, turned off the car and came around to open my door. “No doorman?”
“He leaves at eleven.”
“I’m walking you inside.”
The lobby was quiet and, as usual, only one elevator in my high-rise complex was working. I pushed the button, mentally debating if I should invite him up or not.
No. Inviting him up would be misleading.
But I really don’t want him to leave.
“So . . . I’ll call your agent to set up the interview for this weekend.”
“Call me. Not my agent.”
The elevator dinged, and I suddenly felt awkward. “Do you want to come up for some coffee?”
He shook his head slowly.
“Okay, then. Well. Thank you for dinner.” I stepped into the elevator.
The impatient doors began to close. Brody stopped them, holding them open as he leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. His mouth lingered, and he leaned in a little farther to whisper in my ear. “I don’t trust myself alone with you. I need a little space between us, or our friendship isn’t going to end well.”
He leaned back, and we stared at each other for a moment. My heart was racing, my pulse was beating like I’d just run a marathon, and every hair on the back of my neck was standing up from the electricity running between us.
He lifted the arm that was holding the door, and as it closed he said, “Sweet dreams, friend.”
I knew they would be. Because I was certain who would be starring in them that evening.