The Hating Game Page 41

Where am I? I’m on another planet.

Another text.

Joshua Templeman: Lucinda. I’m getting annoyed.

I don’t reply. What’s the use? I need to chalk tonight up as another awkward life experience. I look down the street and can see my car at the end of the block, waiting patiently. A cab cruises past, slows, and when I shake my head it speeds off.

Is this how stalking begins? I look up and see a moth circling a streetlight. Tonight, I understand that creature completely.

One pass along the front of his building and I’m done. I’ll turn my head to look at where the mailboxes are. Perhaps I might want to leave him a death threat. Or an anonymous dirty note, wrapped in a pair of underpants the size of a naval flag.

I lengthen my stride to pass by the front doors, catching a glimpse of the tidy lobby, when I see someone walking ahead of me. A man, tall, beautifully proportioned, hands in pockets, temper and agitation in his stride. The same silhouette I saw on my first day at B&G. The shape I know better than my own shadow.

Of course, on this new planet I’ve traveled to, there is no one but Josh.

He glances over his shoulder, no doubt hearing my insanely loud shoes stop in their tracks. Then he looks again. It’s a double take for the record books.

“I’m out stalking,” I call. It doesn’t come out the way I’d intended. It’s not lighthearted or funny. It comes out like a warning. I’m one scary bitch right now. I hold my hands up to show I’m not armed. My heart is racing.

“Me too,” he replies. Another cab cruises past like a shark.

“Where are you actually going?” My voice rings down the empty street.

“I just told you. I’m going out stalking.”

“What, on foot?” I come closer by another six paces. “You were going to walk?”

“I was going to run down the middle of the street like the Terminator.”

The laugh blasts out of me like bah. I’m breaking one of my rules by grinning at him, but I can’t seem to stop.

“You’re on foot, after all. Stilts.” He gestures at my sky-high shoes.

“It gives me a few extra inches of height to look through your garbage.”

“Find anything of interest?” He strolls closer and stops until we have maybe ten paces between us. I can almost pick up the scent of his skin.

“Pretty much what I was expecting. Vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, adult diapers.”

He tips his head back and laughs at the tiny stars visible through the clouds. His amazing, exhilarating laugh is even better than I remembered. Every atom in my body trembles with the need for more. The space between us is vibrating with energy.

“You can smile.” It’s all I can say.

His smile is worth a thousand of anyone else’s. I need a photograph. I need something to hold on to. I need this entire bizarre planet to stop spinning so I can freeze this moment in time. What a disaster.

“What can I say? You’re funny tonight.” It fades off his face as I take a step back.

“So giving you my address was the only thing I needed to do to find you out here? Maybe I should have given it to you on our first day.”

“What, so you could run me over with your car?”

I creep a little closer until we meet under a streetlight. I’ve spent over eight hours looking at him today, but out of the office context, he looks brand-new and strange.

His hair is shiny and damp and there is a glow on his cheekbones. The cotton T-shirt he’s wearing is a washed-out navy, probably softer than a baby’s bedsheets, and the cold air is probably nipping his bare forearms. Those old jeans love his body and the button winks at me like a Roman coin. The laces on his sneakers are loose and nearly undone. He is an absolute pleasure to look at.

“Date didn’t go so well,” he surmises.

To his credit he doesn’t smirk. Those dark blue eyes watch me patiently. He lets me stand there and try to think of something. How can I get myself out of this situation? Embarrassment is starting to catch up with me again, now that the joking between us is fading away.

“It went okay.” I check my watch.

“But not great, if you’re outside my building. Or are you here to report good news?”

“Oh, shut up. I wanted to . . . I don’t know. See where you live. How could I resist? I was thinking about putting a dead fish in your mailbox one day. You saw where I live. It’s unfair and uneven.”

He won’t be distracted. “Did you kiss him like we agreed?”

I look at the streetlight. “Yes.”

“And?”

While I dither he puts his hands on his hips and looks down the street, apparently at his wit’s end. I wipe the back of my hand across my lips.

“The date itself went fine,” I begin, but he steps close and cradles my jaw in his hands. The tension is crackling like static.

“Fine. Fine and great and nice. You need something more than fine. Tell me the truth.”

“Fine is exactly what I need. I need something normal, and easy.” I see disappointment in his eyes.

“That’s not what you need. Trust me.”

I try to turn my face away, but he won’t allow it. I feel his thumb trace across my cheek. I try to push him away but end up tugging him closer, his T-shirt in my fists.

“He’s not enough for you.”

“I have no idea why I’m even here.”

“You do know.” He presses a kiss to my cheekbone, and I rise to my tiptoes, shivering. “You’re here to tell me the truth. Once you stop being a little liar.”

He’s right, of course. He’s always right.

“No one can kiss me like you do.”

I have the rare privilege of seeing Josh’s eyes flash bright from something other than irritation or anger. He steps closer and pauses to assess me. Whatever he sees in my own eyes seems to reassure him, and he wraps his arms around me and lifts me clear off my feet. His mouth touches mine.

We both let out twin sighs of relief. There’s no point in lying about why I’m here on the wet pavement outside his building.

It starts as nothing more than breathing each other’s air, until the pressure of our lips breaks into an open-mouth slide. I said earlier, What does it matter? Unfortunately for me, this kiss matters.

The muscles in my arms begin to quiver pathetically at his neck and he holds me tighter until I can feel he’s got me. My fingers curl into his hair, and I tug the silky thickness. He groans. Our lips sink luxuriously into kisses. Slip, tug, slide.

Prev Next