I laughed again, then leaned closer to him to whisper Lolanna’s pedigree.
“Oh yes! Exactly. I was going to say her next.”
I shook my head. “And I thought J.P. was trying to give me a real run for my money.”
“You don’t think I’m worthy competition?”
I pointed from my naked nails to my blue eyes. “Let’s just say I’m more impressed with your color matching skills than with your facial recognition abilities. You obviously don’t practice the latter, do you?”
“You know, flash cards. Website studying. Photos of famous faces. Don’t you practice?”
“Of course, of course. I could spot the BBC stars like that,” he said, and snapped his fingers. “But like I said, I need to get up to speed with this side of the pond. Do you? Practice a lot?”
“Of course. How else would I be able to do my job? You never know when, where, or who you might run into. Always be prepared.”
“Why aren’t you taking her picture now that you know who she is?”
“Well, didn’t you? I mean, we’re working for the same guy. He always takes the first to file.”
“This picture isn’t for him. The shot I got is for my best friend only.”
“Does she run a photo agency?”
I shook my head. “She uses them in this really spoofy, funny sort of way. Here. I’ll show you,” I said, then I tapped on my phone to call up Karina’s Burn Book. But I stopped before the page loaded. Something about this moment felt too close, too intimate. I might want to press my body against his, but I wasn’t ready to show him my best friend’s tongue-in-cheek, anonymous website. Whether he recognized Lolanna Winnifred or not, he was still the competition. Besides, he might very well be asking me for ice cream and pedicures for the very same reason I was saying yes to his requests—to glean information.
“Darn. Page not loading,” I said, and stuffed the phone in my back pocket.
“Bloody phones,” he said with a nod, as the manicurist put the finishing touches on his toes. “Mine was slow as hell while I was looking up the movie times earlier. Speaking of, are we back on?”
“You think now that we’ve shared a pedicure—or rather that I’ve watched you have your toes done—that a movie is happening?”
He shrugged sheepishly. “I was hoping so.”
Then it hit me. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I wanted to know what he was up to. I wanted to know why he didn’t recognize Lolanna. “You know, William, I believe if we finish up soon, we can even see that film this evening. Let’s not wait till tomorrow.”
We rode separately to the theater. It was only a few miles away, and we both knew the back roads, so she followed me as we sped away from traffic and to the Silver Screen Cinema. Once we arrived at the theater, I was no longer thinking of my slipup at the salon over Lolanna, nor was I thinking about James’s very soon directive. I was thinking about taking a girl I was interested in out on a date.
I paid for the tickets, held open the door, snagged the popcorn, and then sat down next to her in a mostly-empty theater after she picked two seats by the side. As the lights dimmed, she dipped her fingers into the air-popped popcorn tub.
She flashed me her smile, and her dark blue eyes seemed to twinkle. “I only said yes because of the popcorn,” she said, but I knew she was teasing—I knew it especially because she leaned in closer to me, brushed her lips across my cheek, and breathed softly, “Thank you for the popcorn.”
“Feel free to say yes again because of the popcorn, then,” I whispered, feeling like I was buzzed on her.
“Yes,” she said as the opening credits began.
Somewhere around the big crawl-under-a-truck-to-escape chase scene, I reached for her hand. She didn’t resist. She let me slide my fingers through hers like I’d done at the nail salon. Slowly, then more quickly, our fingers were laced together and she squeezed my hand. My mind was a haze, swirling with nearness to her, even from this kind of contact, which was the simplest, most basic kind. Hand in hand, fingers entwined. But then, there’s something to holding a girl’s hand, to the way she responds, to the suggestion of how bodies might come together. Because holding hands can be the prelude to so much more.
While I might have asked her to the movies to ferret out more details about her job, any ulterior motives had been banished well before the curtain fell. They were so far in the rearview mirror now, as we touched, that I could no longer see them. She brushed her shoulder against mine, and when she shifted closer, the sexy honey scent of her hair drifted into my senses. All I had to do would be to inch closer and press my lips against the sweet skin of her absolutely kissable neck.