I stood assessing myself in the mirror Adam bought me for my twenty-first birthday. It was a welcome to the apartment building gift after him and Bobby coerced me into moving across the hall from them. They had just moved in, and the day the location opened up they were dragging me to meet the owner of the building. It hadn’t even been posted in the paper, and I already had the keys. Adam bought me the full-length mirror because the frosted flowers and butterflies reminded him of me. What the hell he was doing in the designer furniture store he found it in was beside me.
I ran my fingers over the butterfly with a smile as I looked at my outfit and took a deep breath. It wasn’t a date, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to look like it. I’d put on my best dark-wash skinny jeans, wedge booties, and a green sequin tank top that pulled the green out of my gray eyes.
Adam never knocked on the door, but I heard it swing open before he flopped on the sofa. I smiled to myself as I applied mascara and then stuck my head out of the bathroom door.
“Just invite yourself in,” I said, and Adam looked up from his cell phone.
“Wow, you look beautiful as always,” Adam said as his eyes went up and down my body. When they came up to my face, a chill ran down my spine.
Somehow I still managed to find my voice. “I figured I’d make you some good arm candy tonight. You ready?”
He nodded. “Crap, I’m lucky. It’s a good thing I chose you to dress me.”
“Yes,” I nodded; “You do have good taste.”
Adam placed his hand on the small of my back as we headed down the stairs. When we reached the front door, he held it for me, still smiling as he looked at me.
“What?” I asked, pressing my lips together to keep from smiling like an idiot. I could get used to him staring at me like that.
“Nothing. I’m just grateful you’re willing to help me.”
“I know it’s a sore subject, but why didn’t you ask Amber to help you?” I asked as we neared his white VW.
He looked over at me, and his lips pursed before he slid into the car and said, “I think it’s more of a sore subject for you.”
I rolled my tongue into my cheek and inhaled a long breath as I kept in the words I wanted to say.
“You really don’t like her, huh?” he asked as he placed his arm around my seat, looking over his shoulder to back up the car.
“I don’t like any of your girlfriends. You have bad taste,” I said.
I could feel the warmth of his arm against the back of my bare neck, and despite how I tried to hang onto the feeling, it wicked away the anger I felt at him for the accusation. He left his arm there and sunk into the seat, steering with one hand.
“What’s wrong with my taste in women?”
I grit my teeth before giving in and replying, “They’re never good enough for you—you choose these high maintenance big boobed bitches, who don’t respect you for anything but your sculpted body.”
He shrugged, his lips tugging at the corner as he formulated his no doubt cocky response, “What’s wrong with having women who worship my body?”
I sank deeper into the seat, and my eyes moved to the gray ceiling above me. “I should know better. I really should.”
His arm slipped from behind the seat, and his hand went to my knee and squeezed. “If it makes you feel any better, I think you date a bunch of Cro-Magnon idiots.”
“That’s not my fault. Tara keeps setting me up with them,” I said.
Adam kept his hand on my knee. “You’re the one who continues to date them after the first failure of a date.”
“A girl has needs,” I answered, looking out of the corner of my eye and waiting for his reply. I wanted a rise out of him, and if he had any feelings for me that would certainly do it, right?
His nostrils flared as he thought over my response. “I’m going to choose not to respond to that,” he said through gritted teeth.
His brows arched hard over his eyes and his hand tightened on my leg. This was definitely a reaction, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the awkward statement or something else.
“Adam?” I asked.
His hand came off my knee, and he gripped the steering wheel with both hands. “You know what? I’m not going to leave it be. You deserve someone who worships you…knows your favorite color, your favorite fruit…that you’re afraid of the dark—”
“Hey! You’re not supposed to ever mention that!”
His eyes washed over my face before returning to the road. “You think I deserve better—I don’t think I do, but I know you do.”
“Well, until someone tells me they’re going to worship me; I think we’re stuck with Cro-Magnon, Tara’s choice men.”
Adam was thoughtful for a second before he shook his head. “So where would you like to go for dinner?”
“I could go for a big burger and some fries?”
“That’s my girl!”
My tongue slipped over my lips as I glanced over at him. Another thing I loved hearing him say, even if I wanted it in an entirely different way than him. I cocked my head as I thought of the point of this ‘date.’ A smile came to my lips. “You’re not going to be saying that when I put you in a sweater vest.”
Adam’s nose scrounged up, and he made a gagging noise. “Uh…sweater vest?”
I bobbed my head in an overly enthusiastic movement, and he gagged again.
“Why?” he asked.
“That’s what hot teachers wear.”
“Sweater vest and hot, don’t usually go together in the looks department—maybe in the body heat department, but not in the sexy teacher department.”
“Shows what you know!”
He looked over at me through his eyebrows. I was teasing him, but I was definitely going to force him into one so that I could get a picture.
“I’m not coming out there!” Adam yelled over the dressing room door.
I got my way and gave him a sweater vest to try on over a white button-up.
“I look like a frat brother for the geek squad!” he said.
“Yeah, yeah—get your butt out here!” I said from my seat. I’d picked several bathing suits out for our upcoming beach day and was sitting with them in my lap.
He opened the door, hand on top and leaned back, one eyebrow raised.
“Hey, baby, how you doin’?” He put on his sleaze-ball smile and winked at me before sauntering over.
He leaned down and tilted my chin with his index finger. “You know you want all this.”
He stood signaling to his sweater vest.
“It turns you on, doesn’t it?” he cooed, sticking his lips out in a pout.
I bit my cheek as I tried to hold back the laughter.
“Alright, alright…it looks bad…really bad.”
In truth it didn’t look that bad, the navy of the vest picked up his eyes, but it did nothing to show his A&F model shape.
“The other pants and button-ups looked good, though!” I said, watching as he leaned back against the wall, hand in chin.
“Yes, they did. Why you got this thing into your head, I have no clue. I just have the handful of regular vests you picked to try on. I’m sure they’ll be just as awful.”
I shook my head. “No, and don’t forget to try on the ties I picked out to match.”
I stood with my pile of bathing suits. “While you try on those vests I’m going to try on some of these.”
Adam put his hands in his pocket and bounced on his toes. “I get to see at least one, right?”
I rolled my eyes as I entered one of the empty rooms, pausing as I closed the door. He was flirting, and I was flirting back. My heart pounded in my chest before I took a deep breath and settled in to try on the bathing suits.
I huffed after trying on several one pieces that just weren’t sexy enough. I wasn’t a fan of showing everything off, but nothing seemed to be fitting right.
“You okay in there?” Adam called over the door. “I’m waiting to show you my sexy teacher look.”
I looked down at the pile of discarded bathing suits and then looked up at the last one I picked out. It was one of the only two-pieces I picked up. The top was a twisted bandeau style, with a bit of push and the bottom had two gold hoops on either side right where my hip bone started. The mauve pink color was subtle, but that was about the only thing that didn’t scream sexy.
“I’ll be right out,” I said over the door, my nerves getting the best of me as I shimmied into the top and bottom.
When I looked up, I knew it was a winner. It fit me in all the right spots, and the optional halter top would be good for volleyball. Right now, though, it was strapless for full on beach goddess status…or so I hoped.
I opened the door to find Adam leaning back against the wall looking down at his fingernails.
I coughed, and he looked up.
His body went rigid as he took a step towards me with his eyes wandering up the curves of my body. Mine wandered up his, concentrating on the way the vest showed the smallness of his waist, tugging perfectly at his muscular chest and broad shoulders.
He was the picture of a sexy teacher.
“Wow,” he finally said, his hand going to the back of his neck to rub it. “You’re not wearing that to the beach are you?”
I’d never been this bold with him before, but with him looking at me like that I couldn’t help it. I wandered forward and placed my hand on his tie. “Why?”
He looked down at me, his hand slipping from behind his neck to my hip, thumb skimming over the tattoo there. “I won’t be able to keep my friends from tripping over their tongues.”
I wrapped the tie around my finger, trying to look coy as I met his gaze, his lips only inches from mine. “How’s your tongue doing?”
“Wow! River, you look smoking!” Bobby’s voice boomed and broke us apart.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, eyes wide as he sauntered in, tripping over his feet.
He hiccupped before answering, “Had to check on my little brother; make sure he was behaving around my bestie.”
Bobby slung his arm over my bare shoulders, and I almost collapsed under his weight as I tried to push him away.
“You’re drunk,” Adam said, his back facing away from us. He turned, and his eyes were cool as he looked at Bobby leaning against me.
“So?” Bobby retorted.
Adam was shaking with anger.
“Sit,” I said, pushing Bobby down on the chair. “Wait here while Adam and I change.”
Bobby’s head lolled on his shoulders. “Not together I hope.”
I heard Adam’s dressing room door slam.
“What the hell has gotten into you?” I hissed as I leaned down into Bobby’s face. His breath reeked of vodka, but I held firm in my anger.
“I see the way he’s starting to look at you,” Bobby mumbled, leaning up against the wall.
“What are you talking about?”
“I don’t feel so well,” he said, ignoring my question, eyes wide.
“How did you get here in the first place? Where were you?” I asked, still in his face.
“I was across the street,” he began to answer, words slurring together; “I saw Adam’s car, and I knew you must be here.”
“You drove here!” I found myself yelling.
“So? So? I’m going to kill you Robert Thomas Beckerson! Kill you!” I screamed in his face.
“River.” Adam came out of the dressing room and reached for me. “Leave it be. He’s going to lose his stomach any moment now.”
His hands rested on my bare shoulders, and I felt my muscles relaxing. I shook my head as I looked down at Bobby. “I can’t believe you’d be this stupid. I’m…” I swallowed hard, my teeth clenching as I tried to keep my voice from shaking. “I’m so fucking pissed at you.”
Bobby shrugged. “Adam’s going to chew me a new one too, who gives a shit?”
I looked over at Adam. His lips twitched as he looked down at his brother. “I’ll take Jackass home. Can you drive my car back?” Adam asked.
“Yeah, I’ll pay for our stuff and then head home,” I replied.
Adam pulled out his debit card. “The bathing suit is on me, and don’t you dare buy that sweater vest for me! Got it?”
I smirked at him, taking the card. “If you say so.”
He leaned down, moving my hair out of my ear with his fingertips grazing my neck. The blood rushed to my head as his breath washed over my neck.
“The PIN is 1022,” he whispered.
“That’s my birthday,” I replied.
He winked at me as he pulled his brother up and supported him, throwing the keys from his pocket at me.
“No sweater vest!” he said over his shoulder, his eyes smiling as much as his lips.
“Okay, okay,” I replied as I shooed him with my hand.
I stood there for a good minute as I ran over the events in my head. The one that stopped me in my tracks was the PIN number—why had he chosen my birthday?
Then I felt the warmth spreading in my limbs as I remembered his thumb gently tracing the tattoo on my hip. Was he about to kiss me when Bobby arrived? I’d never know.
Bobby had impeccable timing.