“That’s a good strong suit to have.”
“It is,” I agree, since it’s what’s going to fuel me as I run this marathon with Ginny. “Now isn’t the time. But someday it’s going to be a yes.”
“Someday you say?” She’s smiling wider now.
“What do you think, Ginny?” I ask as we reach the stairwell. “Will it be someday?”
“Maybe,” she says, and we’re getting closer.
“Excellent. You think I can get you from a maybe to a yes soon?”
She shrugs, a little playfully. “I think maybe if you try hard enough, you just might do that.”
“I can do that. I can definitely do that.”
She dusts invisible lint off my shoulder. “Go for it, Noah Rivera. Wear me down.”
The die has been cast, the gauntlet has been thrown, and I make it my mission to wear her down, but in, you know, a positive way, the way we both want.
The next week, as we embark on a crazy corporate scavenger hunt across New York, I work my magic.
After we solve the first clue and our teammates go off to check out a traveling exhibit, I seize my first shot at wearing her down on the steps of the Met, thanks to carbs.
I shudder at the thought of carbs when Ginny points to a pretzel cart. “I’m hungry. I think I’ll grab a pretzel.”
But if pretzels ring her bell, so be it. I swivel around. “Pretzels are on me,” I offer.
Her lips hook into a smile. “But it’s not a date.” She says it a little flirty, like she’s making her point, but also leaving the door open.
“I know. It’s only pretzels. I can buy the only pretzels though,” I say, because this is progress.
“But it’s not a date for these only pretzels,” she repeats.
“Someday it will be.”
Ginny shakes her head, but she’s smiling. “And that someday, it won’t be pretzels.” She arches an eyebrow in a naughty little wiggle that reminds me of our finishing chats.
I pump a fist. “We’ll start with a snack and work up to a someday.”
“Yes, let’s start with pretzels and see where we finish.”
Oh yeah, even with carbs, this is getting good.
* * *
The next day we’re working the clue at Washington Square Park, trying to figure out where it’ll take us, when
Ginny yawns. “Sorry, guys. I’m a bit off my game. Had a late night with my daughter.”
“Is everything okay with her?” I ask.
Ginny smiles, and it’s a new kind of grin, proud and maternal. “She’s great. But she possesses a common trait among ten-year-olds. She forgot to tell me we had to make cupcakes for a school project until the very last minute. We were up late baking.”
My brow furrows. “Why not just go out and buy the cupcakes?”
Ginny recoils. “I’d be shunned.”
“It’s completely verboten. You can’t bring in store-bought cupcakes when the class is asked to bake.”
“Ah, that makes sense and fortunately, I have the solution. Next time, ask me.”
She stares at me incredulously. “Why?”
The answer is easy, so easy. “Because I’ll help you bake. You can call me anytime.”
“But . . . you’re twenty-five,” she sputters, even though age has nothing to do with whether I, or anyone, can bake.
And that’s when I know. That’s when I fully understand this woman. Our age difference worries her. I smile. “I get you, Ginny.”
“What do you get?”
I lean closer, so close I can smell honeysuckle and it’s fantastic. “You think I’m too young for you. I’ll have you know I’m a mature twenty-five, and I can bake my ass off.”
She sighs heavily. “And I’m an old thirty-five. You know that, right?”
I shake my head. “Doesn’t bother me. I don’t even think about the age difference. You shouldn’t either.”
“I shouldn’t think about how young you are?”
“Only to think about how much energy my youth gives me in many areas.”
Her lips curve up. “Is that so?”
“That is so so.”
I can sense her bending as we return to the clue, but before we can tackle it, my teammate Leo spots a pink backpack left in the park. After a quick debate, we decide, obvs, to return it to the kid.
I grab it, and run like the cheetah I am to return it to the kid who owns it.
When I return, barely breaking a sweat from my run, I swear Ginny’s looking at me in a whole new way.
She sets a hand on my arm. “That was amazing what you did, and I don’t mean your stamina.”
“I’m the full package, Ginny.”
“Maybe you are.”
And now I feel like I’m walking on sunshine.
* * *
The next day, she’s not resistant at all. She’s the other Ginny, the flirty one.
But she’s also the open one.
Because as we debate where the next clue will take us, and I pray it won’t be Jersey, she laughs, I nudge her, and it feels like we’re all good.