There’s a lump in my throat, and I didn’t realize I was gripping my hands together so tightly. When I release, my fingers are stiff. I get up and hug him. Not sure if he needs it or even wants it, but his arms come around me, and we stand there in the quiet. I’m not sure what to say, so I fall back on what made us fall for each other in the first place. “So, we’re going with the double-barrel name?”
He starts chuckling. “Yes. Dwayne Evans is a formal kind of bonsai.” I love his laughter. Releasing me, he says, “I need to get going.”
“As much as you’re gone from your place, maybe you should consider bringing Dwayne Evans over here. He can spend time with Frankie.”
When I open the door, he leaves his backpack on the floor as he exits. “That’s a bit forward. I mean, I can ask him.” Another shrug comes with a heaping helping of a wry grin. He taps the tip of my nose. “But no guarantees. He’s quite the ladies’ man.”
I tap his nose right back. “He’s not a man at all, actually.”
“You know what I mean.”
I’m kissed—not reflective of any of the joking we’ve been doing—his lips relishing mine and me returning the favor. The struggle is heard in a heavy sigh when he forces himself to walk away. I feel that sadness corroding my stomach as well. I ask, “Hey, how’d you get in anyway?”
“I have my ways, Fox.” Just before his head is out of sight, his eyes meet mine, and he adds, “I’ll add another later.”
“Ah.” He picked my lock. His skills extend way beyond a college classroom. “Keep me posted on Dwayne Evans.”
His laughter echoes through the stairwell. “I will. See you later.”
Returning inside, I flop back on the couch, needing to reevaluate the path I’m choosing versus the course created by others and the life everyone expects of me.
I’ve had the same goals since I was fifteen, and then I met Joshua Evans. Now I’m coloring outside the lines for the first time. Staying up late and experiencing what it’s like to share my nights.
Chloe Evans does have a nice ring to it.
Heat sweeps across my cheeks because yes, I just did that, and I like the sound of it. Since I’m already chartering a new course, I can play with the title of Mr. and Mrs. in my head. Of course, for me, Dr. Evans has a much better ring to it.
My heart pulses with a joy I’ve never felt before. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and it’s because of the man who just hung a towel over my window to protect me. A charming devil of a catch and I caught him. I think I’m going to love walking on the wild side if I’m walking it with him.
“Josh?” my mom calls from the front of the diner.
The dinner rush hasn’t kicked in, so I push through the kitchen door to find her. She’s in the main area, but I see why she called me. “Service around here sucks.” Bryant smacks his hands on the counter where he and Todd take up space
“Fuckers. Don’t say that. It makes my mom look bad.”
She returns, giving them that don’t-test-me-glare that told me I was in trouble when I was younger. Still works on me. I chuckle, knowing she’s giving them shit, though. She can’t hold that look for long, always liking my friends. She asks, “What are you troublemakers up to today?”
Todd replies, “Checking on our boy. Other than the time he and his lady graced us with their presence at Lucky’s, he’s been MIA for most of September, including his birthday.”
“We’re also hungry,” Bryant adds, never one to turn down a free meal. “But what Todd said, too. First birthday we haven’t drank down by the lake in years.”
I can’t tell them why I couldn’t go but remembering how dirty we got in that shower of hers leaves no room for anything less than a guilty grin.
My mom asks, “You took Chloe to Lucky’s? Not the classiest place, Josh.”
“Cheap drinks and pool tables. We don’t need much. Anyway, she had a good time.” I try to hide my grin as I think about how that night ended—sex and snacks. Good times.
“I don’t even want to know why you have that smirk on your face.” I get popped with a towel, causing me to laugh. Turning back to the guys, she asks, “Burgers?”
“All the way, Ms. Russo.” Todd rests his arms on the counter.
“I’ll cover them, Mom.” Spinning the spatula in my hand, I cock a brow. “I think I know how you like your burgers. I’ve made enough over the years to pay for Yale. If I’d been paid, that is.”
We head back to the kitchen because I know my mom would rather us take our foul mouths out of hearing range from paying customers. I slap patties on the grill as they come around from washing their hands. Across from me, they lean against the sink. Todd starts, “Let’s talk about Chloe Fox.”