I groan. “That’s the worst thing you could have said.”
“Because it’s exactly how I feel with him. All warm and bubbly. Like a delicious soda you crack open. And it’s effervescent, and you want to taste it so badly.”
“And how does his soda taste?” she asks, in an Elvira-type purr.
“Like the best soda ever. Obviously.”
She smiles like she has a secret. “This is good, then.”
I shake my head, popping her bubble. My own has already been pricked. “He doesn’t get involved with women he works with. He made that clear the first day I met him, before we started working together. It’s just a rule of his. Do I know how to pick ’em or what?” I flip over and frown. My sad face sags down to my knees, and I hope I look so pathetic that Hayden will take pity on me and bake me her spectacular butterscotch cookies.
“Well done then, Fashion Hound,” she says sarcastically, patting my shoulder as Chaucer saunters by.
I point at the Siamese. “It’s all his fault. If he hadn’t knocked down my hard drive, I’d never have met Chris, and then I’d never have felt all this conflict.” I say the last word on an epic moan.
Hayden turns to the cat. “Evidently everything is always your fault.”
He meows saucily and turns the corner into the kitchen, leaping onto the counter. A sound like ceramic hitting tile rends the air.
Hayden sighs. “Looks like he attacked a mug.”
“His hatred of all things knows no bounds.”
She rolls her eyes. “I know. I’ll clean it in a minute. But first, how exactly did this kiss come about if Chris has such an ironclad rule?”
I turn over again, about to spit out an easy answer, but there isn’t one. It came about because we were playing a game. The “if we dated” game.
She nudges me. “C’mon. I can see it in your eyes. Something interesting went down.”
“We were just talking, and one of us said something like, ‘If we dated we’d do this or that.’ And then it kind of spiraled into a kiss?” I say it like a question. Like I’m sorting out how it happened. And perhaps I am.
“Oh, it just spiraled?”
But I know it didn’t just happen. We’ve been building toward it. I shake my head. “No. It was sort of inevitable. We do click. It’s crazy. But the thing is, my audience loves the dating segments. Checking my web stats is the biggest rush. It’s like a hit of something intoxicating. Every day, it’s growing. My views are going up, revenue is up—everything is cooking. I’m starting to make inroads in luring a male audience like Kara, my investor, wants. And really, I shouldn’t mess with those efforts. Business is the one reliable thing in my life. Well, besides my dog and my friends.”
She offers a smile and squeezes my shoulder. “That’s a pretty solid number of reliable things. But, you know, dating isn’t supposed to count.”
“Why?” I ask, unsure of her meaning.
“Dating isn’t designed to be reliable. It’s wild and chaotic and unpredictable. If you like this guy, go for chaos rather than reliability.”
The idea is bright and shiny, and I’m the squirrel who wants to snag it. But whatever game Chris and I are playing requires two, and he’s stated his position from the start. “He doesn’t want to date or get involved. I think he only wanted to kiss. And I wasn’t kicking him away for doing that. It was amazing. I can still feel it.”
She arches a brow. “He wants to kiss you but not take you out? Ah, hell no.”
I nod sadly. “I know, right? But look, I wanted it too. Maybe I just needed to get one fabulous kiss out of my system.” I flash her a goofy grin, like that’ll get her to agree with my brilliant justification.
“Then don’t date him. Just kiss him. And more. Definitely more. Do more than kissing, pretty please?”
“You dirty perv.”
“I’m only looking out for your lady parts. I bet they appreciate me being a dirty perv. So I say”—Hayden lowers her voice to a whisper, only after whipping her head around to make sure Lena isn’t on the prowl—“kiss him again. And then climb him.”
The mere mention of climbing Chris sets my skin on fire, makes my organs positively glow with lust. I bet anyone can see inside me, an X-ray woman, and see I’m zooming toward DEFCON 1 on the scale of readiness.
But there’s one little issue.
“I can’t make him change his mind,” I say.
“No, but you can put yourself out there. Consider it. This dating experiment is led by you. It’s about what you want. You being ready. You testing the waters. If you’re ready for something, try it. And someday, when you least expect it, you’ll find someone you’ll want to date forever. Your person.”