“Of course I like the movies,” I said, rolling my eyes, as if that would work as my Smart Guy Repellent so I could keep him at bay. “Name me someone who doesn’t like movies. That’s like not liking sunshine. Or puppies.”
I shook my head. “No. It’s normal to dislike pie.”
“But not ice cream. So why don’t you have an ice cream with me even if you’re not hungry since that’s what Paulie DeLuca’s character would have done in Anyone’s Dough,” he proposed, and this man was getting under my skin in more ways than one. I might have been Scientific Jess, OCD Jess, Driven Jess when it came to school, but movies were my guilty pleasure, and my soft spot.
I wished I’d brushed my teeth in the bathroom a few minutes ago. Not because I had bad breath. But because having minty, fresh toothpaste breath is the one surefire way to make sweets taste bad. Sort of like drinking orange juice after brushing. Ergo, a clean mouth not only was good for the teeth, it was also good for resistance. To sweets and to the hot guys who proffered them.
I pursed my lips, considering if I wanted to give in, and William seized the moment. “Ice cream is like a Band-Aid for me. For my forehead scar.” He brushed his fingertips across the small cut and dropped the corners of his lips into a frown. “Besides, I hear the soft serve is irresistible, especially with the shells that harden. I bet you like hard shells,” he said, and raised an eyebrow. He was no longer talking about ice cream. He was talking about me. Seeing through me, and my very hard shell.
Since my resistance was already shot, I relented. “Fine. But only because you have that rugged scar and you like Anyone’s Dough.”
“Two reasons. We’re making progress.”
I did like Anyone’s Dough. I also didn’t want the conversation to end. Plus, I needed her. Was it a crime that I would both benefit from talking to her and that I’d enjoyed it so far?
Of course not. It meant I was a lucky bastard, as my brother Matthew would say.
We headed to the ice cream shack, a few feet away now that we’d managed to walk a good length of the boardwalk together. A group of guys was playing volleyball on the sand, yelling loudly in Spanish each time someone served.
“Chocolate or vanilla?” I asked.
“Vanilla with a chocolate shell,” she said.
I ordered for us both, opting for chocolate-on-chocolate since I was of the belief that you can never have too much of a good thing, and chocolate was one of those things. The guy behind the counter handed us our cones, and Jess reached into the front pocket of her backpack.
I waved her off. “I’ve got this.”
She shot me a sharp look. Oh, she was an independent little American vixen. What a turn-on. Feistiness was like a good drug to me.
“You don’t have to pay for my ice cream,” she said firmly as she opened her wallet.
She was not going to win on this front. I grasped her wrist gently and tugged her hand away. “I am aware of that,” I said softly, looking into her eyes. Bright blue, like a clear sky. “I certainly don’t have to pay for your ice cream. I’m sure given your fantastic photographic skills that you are more than capable of paying for it yourself. But I asked you, and more than that, I want to buy you an ice cream.”
“Fine. Thank you,” she grumbled, and I placed a hand on the small of her back as I led her over to a nearby table. She shrugged off my hand. I didn’t let it bother me. After all, I’d won the first battle—she’d agreed to spend more time with me.
“So,” she began, lingering on that word as she took her first lick of the ice cream. I wasn’t even sure if it was intentional or if it simply couldn’t be helped, but let’s be honest—there’s just something about a girl’s tongue licking something sweet that makes a guy’s mind wander. Mine was taking a quick trip into its dirtier corners, of which there were plenty. Sometimes I wondered how my brain even found its way out of all that terrain to let me function as a normal human being in civilized society. Like right now, as I imagined the taste of her lips. The feel of them. The things she could do with that tongue…
“What’s your story? You’re obviously not from here.”
Like a slingshot, I’d been returned to Planet Clean. “You’re direct.”
“I am. So…” she said, her tone making it clear she was on a hunt for information and wasn’t going to stop till she got it. She was relentless. Another trait I admired. It probably also meant she was fiery in bed.