I smothered a smile, looking around. He had a point. Birkenstocks and deodorant-free patrons seemed to be the vibe this place was going for. It had been a recommendation from my roommate Alex, and was one of the few downtown restaurants that was avoided by the staff. Now I knew why. “No steaks on the menu?”
“Barely any meat on the menu. One free-range chicken dish, the rest all vegetarian. I’ll eat at home, but you need something. Here.” He pushed a laminated menu across the small table, and I scanned it quickly, fighting my own urge to curl an upper lip. The items were all healthy, all organic, and all...unappetizing. I spotted vegetable soup and decided to go with that, setting the menu aside and looking at Brad.
The man was sinful. Tan skin, thick black hair, with bits of silver littering it. Dark brown eyes that held every emotion possible, with the tendency to smolder and cloud at just the moment when it drove me the craziest. Strong features that worked perfectly together to make every grin, grimace and glare heart-stoppingly gorgeous. But honestly, you could run his face through a blender, shave his head bald and starve the man out of his amazing, too-built-for-mortal-men build, and he would still be stop-you-in-your-tracks sexy. Because it wasn’t the looks that really made him sizzle; it was the pure sex that reeked from his pores, the cocky confidence that dominated every move, every touch. And the horrible yet ecstatic fact about the whole package is that he could back it all up with mind-numbing sexual prowess. He knew what he rocked beneath those dress pants, and he knew exactly how to use the damn thing. It was, as I had thought a thousand times before, ridiculously unfair.
“Stop smirking at me.” I spoke through a half-eaten carrot, hoping that my mental drool-fest hadn’t shown in my face, which I fixed into an irritated scowl.
“I’ll smirk at you until you tell me what I have done wrong. I assure you, I have not f**ked anybody since you left my house last night.” He leaned back, placing his hands in his pockets, his legs spread. He looked relaxed, which was the last thing I wanted him looking.
Our waitress, an overall-wearing blonde, swung by and I handed her the menu, requesting the soup and a glass of ice water. Then I took him out of his not-even-present misery and reached into my bag, pulling out the spreadsheet Rebecca had emailed me and slapping it onto the table.
He leaned forward, his hands still in his pockets, and glanced at the document before leaning back and shrugging. “So?”
“So? That’s your response? Do you know what this is?”
“Yeah. It’s the questionnaire. Rebecca sends it to all of the important women in my life.” He gave me a grin that indicated that I should thank my lucky stars and dance around hugging myself, so grateful that he graced me with receiving his ridiculous spreadsheet. I wanted to take the hummus and shove it all over his face.
“Let me read this shit to you, Brad. Birthday, time of monthly cycle, favorite authors, favorite clothing store, shoe size, bra size, name of four closest friends, favorite band—”
“Where are you going with this, Julia?” he interrupted my rant, which was too bad, because I was just getting to the good stuff.
“I’m not telling her—or you—all this shit! This is Lazy Boyfriend 101. This is her cheat sheet so that she can buy all the right presents at all of the appropriate times! Text you during social events, reminding you of my friends’ names. This is the stuff we are supposed to discover about each other during dates—things that you are supposed to care enough to find out, and then remember!” I slammed my hand on the table, the noise loud in the small restaurant.
He didn’t move, studying me from his seat, his head tilted as his eyes burned through me. “Okay.”
He shrugged. “Okay. I’ll tell her to throw away the list, as far as you are concerned. You’re right.”
My mouth threatened to drop open again. That was easy. From the man whom I had expected to fight me tooth and nail, on principle and stubbornness alone.
My astonishment must have shown; he gave a quick laugh and leaned forward. “Rebecca doesn’t know, okay? I told her I was dating someone, and she probably assumed you are like the other girls. I don’t need that list, I know half the shit on it already and will know the rest soon enough. Forget it. I’ll talk to Rebecca and make sure she leaves you alone from here on out.” He grinned at me, reaching across the table and grabbing my arm. “Now, am I forgiven?”
I tried to glare at him, but my anger had abandoned me somewhere around his admittance of fault. My face contorted in a variety of expressions before I finally returned his grin, accepting the tug of his hands and meeting him across the table for a quick, panty-melting kiss.
We parted, the connection broken, and he grinned at me as he settled back into his chair.
“What?” I asked warily, leaning back as the waitress set my soup down.
“Boyfriend.” My quizzical look caused him to elaborate. “Lazy Boyfriend 101—you referred to me as your boyfriend.”
My soup steamed hot before me, and I broke saltines into it and stirred, avoiding his cocky stare. “You’re reading too much into my word choice—I was trying to explain, in simple caveman terms, your gross error in judgment.”
“I’m ready to be exclusive.”
The statement surprised me, and I looked up to find his eyes on me, serious and intense. “Really? Now?”
“Yes, now. We had wanted to see if you were okay with my sexual lifestyle. You’ve had a chance to experience it, you enjoyed it, so let’s move on.”
“Together,” I said, my word more of a question than a declaration.
“You seem to have trouble grasping this concept.”
“I have no problem grasping the concept. I’m just shocked you are pushing the subject. You seem like the type to run from commitment, not seek it out.” I took a sip of soup and watched as he shifted in his seat.
“Julia, what I said to you three weeks ago in the stairwell was true. I don’t like being alone. While I enjoy the flirtations of being single, I would prefer to be in a committed relationship.”
I grinned at him. “So the promise of a relationship wasn’t just to trick me into ditching my inhibitions?”
He had the good grace to look wounded, reaching over and tugging on my hand. He brought it up to his mouth, kissing it gently and looking at me. “I am a man of my word, and ready to commit fully to you. With the obvious exceptions.”