“Come on, Erika. I live in the condo complex across the street. You can make me something to drink there.”
“No. Please. You can stay. Really.” The girl hops off her stool. “You need something to drink. I have a whole mini-fridge—”
But I have Erika out the door before the clerk finishes her sentence.
“I think that girl wanted to give you her number,” Erika says as I’m hustling her down the sidewalk.
“Nah. She probably has some pyramid scheme quota she has to fill and collects numbers for that.”
“She was offering her whole mini-fridge to you. For a college student, that’s like handing over your bank account.”
“I’m not interested”—I clear my throat—“in her. I’m not interested in her. I have my own refrigerator. And it’s full-sized. Packed full, too.”
Erika’s little mouth quirks up on the sides. “Full-sized? Packed full?” she repeats. Her lips quiver as she tries to suppress her laughter.
A reluctant grin spreads across my face as the implication of my words set in. It’s her cheeky smile that shuts down my brain again so that I don’t have the sense to stop the next question. Instead, blinded by her happiness, my mouth opens and I blurt out, “Yeah, are you interested?”
I stroll next to Tank, letting my arm brush against his, wishing it was wrapped around me again. I still can’t believe I agreed to go back to his place. I reach up and pull my hair from its messy bun, letting it fall all around me. I bite my lip to keep from smiling when I hear Tank suck in a deep breath. That makes me feel even sexier. I’ve never used the word “sexy” to describe myself before today. Tank just made me realize I had it in me.
Cute? Sure. Maybe even pretty. I always felt my small size made me more boyish. The boys usually look past me to the girls who look just like the one that Tank dismissed. Though Tank is no boy in any shape or form. He’s all man from what I’ve seen of him.
I shouldn’t have enjoyed the brushoff he gave the other girl, but I did. I more than enjoyed it. I saw the change in his eyes when they moved from her to me, the softness that came to them when he gazed at me. He wanted me. Just thinking those words has my heart beating faster.
He hadn’t wanted the night to end either. I’m actually thankful for the girl stopping us. Instead of us going back to my small dorm room that Liv and I share, we’re going to his place. It’s highly likely that Liv will be home tonight, so I’m thankful that we have the option of his place. I just want to get to know him a little bit better without anyone else around.
“Your hair,” he finally says. I look over when I feel him touch it, sliding a strand between his fingers. “It’s beautiful.”
His voice comes out gruffer than before. Maybe his throat is getting worse. I stop walking. He does, too, but his eyes stay locked on the thick chunk of hair he has in his massive hand. He continues to rub it between two fingers, completely fascinated with it. I make a mental note to keep it down around him.
“Does your throat hurt more?” I ask, making his gaze shift back to me.
“Sure.” He nods, but he says it in such a way that I’m not sure if it really does or not.
“It’s real,” I say with a laugh when he still doesn’t let the strand go. “I’ll let you braid it after we get you some honey. You can do it while I eat my pie,” I tease.
He lets my hair go. A small look of panic hits his face. “I don’t know how to braid hair. I bet I can find a YouTube post that will show me.” He goes to pull out his phone, and I laugh.
“I was joking,” I say through laughter. “I mean, if you want to braid it, sure, have at it, but I know how to braid my own hair.” I grab my hair, braiding it in seconds. He watches closely as I tie off the end.
He reaches for the braid and pulls the tie free. My hair falls loose once again and he tucks the tie into his pocket. I go to protest that I need that hair tie, but he takes my hand in his and we start walking again. His hand doesn’t just take mine, it engulfs it. It’s warm and rough. My mind drifts to what it would feel like on other parts of my skin.
I lick my suddenly dry lips, not noticing at first where we are until we are stepping onto the elevator. I know this building. It’s where all of the kids with money live. And I know some professors have places here, too.