“No, I’m not!” London said amid laughter, because booty shorts, a tank top and no bra hardly qualified as fully dressed.
“And you’re right. Parking is lousy, so I’m in the middle of the street. Put on something casual with comfortable shoes. And don’t keep me waiting.”
“Just come in for a—hello? Hello?” London let out an exasperated huff and stomped up the stairs. But her heart was smiling.
She exchanged the booty shorts for brushed corduroy leggings, pulled on a bulky sweater over the tank and grabbed the most comfortable shoes in the closet, a pair of boots with a three-inch wedge heel. She pulled her Rapunzel-like extensions into a loose braid and secured it at the bottom with a hair band. After grabbing her purse, keys and shades off the bar counter that separated the kitchen from a breakfast nook, she set the house alarm and walked out the door. Ace was double-parked in front of her house leaning against a gleaming silver Porsche, the one she’d seen the other night in his company’s garage. He was on the phone but ended the call as she approached, and opened her door.
“I thought you said this wasn’t your car.” She gave him a playful pop upside the head as she slid into the buttery leather seat.
He closed the door and leaned into the car through the open window. “Woman, you’re going to have to learn to keep your hands off me.” He gave her a quick peck before going around the front of the car, waving an apology at the car honking behind them, and got inside.
He shifted the car into gear and took off.
“Did you borrow your partner’s car? You didn’t have to do that.”
“Wow. Thank you, Clarisse.”
“I didn’t mind riding in your old jalopy.”
Ace burst out laughing. “Sorry, my bad. It’s definitely London in the car.” He turned on the radio and smoothly navigated the city’s crowded streets toward the interstate. “I didn’t tell you this wasn’t my car. I told you it wasn’t the car we were riding in that night. The SUV—or, excuse me, my jalopy—is a safer bet in some parts of Oakland.”
“I was just teasing, Ace. Your other car is perfectly fine.”
“I know it is. But when given the choice, I prefer driving this one.”
“And I prefer riding in it. This is nice!”
“Why didn’t you want to come inside just now?”
“Because I knew if I did we’d be in bed within ten minutes. We’ve spent more time having sex than talking. I didn’t want to spend the day that way.”
“Jeez. I don’t know whether I should be flattered or offended.”
“Flattered, definitely.” He beat out a little of the rhythm from a nineties’ throwback that played in the background. “Even though we’ve known each other for years, I don’t know that much about you. Heck, until a couple weeks ago, I didn’t even know your last name. Or your first, for that matter.”
“London is all the world needs to know.”
“Where are we going?”
“What?” she exclaimed, as though he’d said they were jumping off a cliff without parachutes.
He looked at her feet. “I told you to wear comfortable shoes.”
“These are all I had.”
He shrugged. “If I had Clarisse in the car, I’d stop and buy her a pair of Nikes. But since it’s you, deal with it.”
“You’re a trip.” She shook her head, then rested it against the headrest. “We need to stop anyway. I haven’t eaten yet and I’m starved.”
“All taken care of, baby. We’ll eat soon.” London looked over at the man who made her heartbeat increase and certain muscles clench and realized he was right. They’d spent much of their time doing instead of talking. But the more she knew about him, the more she wanted to know.
“How’d you get into modeling?”
“My high school art teacher trying to keep me out of trouble. She saw my drawings and thought I had potential, encouraged me to develop a couple designs I’d played around with. I did, and afterward she sent them to a friend she knew in New York, along with a pic of me. He wasn’t interested in my clothes but bought a plane ticket for me to come try out at a modeling agency. Next thing I knew, my parents were looking over contracts and hiring attorneys. I signed on and the agency secured me a tutor and an apartment in New York. Life took off from there.”