Page 7 of We Were Once

His laughter picks up. “You don’t understand. Bonsai plants don’t have genders. Their shape determines in generally accepted terms if they’re masculine or feminine.”

Staring him down, I tilt my head, trying not to let the irritation he brings out in me surface. “And mine is feminine?”

“Yes. Thin branches, a curve to the trunk. I’m no expert, but Frankie is feminine, in my humble opinion.”

“Why do I get the feeling nothing about you is humble, especially your opinion?” I hate that I notice that his hair isn’t hidden under a cap, and with an unruly cowlick, his dark hair keeps falling in his face, drawing me back to his eyes.

He smirks.

I roll my eyes and tap my book. Scrunching my nose, I say, “If you don’t mind,” and then take another bite.

“I don’t at all. How’s the chili?”

Patty comes around the counter. Not all heroes wear capes. Some have coffee. “You met Chloe.” She picks up the tag and hands it to him. “She was sweet enough to bring this back to you.”

“Oh, she did, did she?”

Ugh. And here I thought Patty was here to save me, not throw me under the bus. “I found it in my building and just happened to be in the area doing some shopping.”

“Shopping, huh?”

“Does everything you say have to be in the form of a question, or is that something you enjoy doing?”

Patty says, “Guess you two know each other.”

“Nope,” he replies. “Just met last night.” Those dimples of his are really annoying—ly distracting.

“Could have fooled me.” Turning to me, she says, “Your mother placed that order for you. She wanted to send you something comforting.” Holding up a finger, she adds, “I steered her toward the special. Nothing makes me feel better than home in a bowl.” She looks at her son. “Right, Josh?”

His eyes shoot back to mine after dipping lower. “Couldn’t agree more.”

Patting the top of my hand, she lowers her voice. “I’ll let you eat. Enjoy the meal and don’t worry about the bill. It’s covered.”

“You really don’t have—”

“Eh,” she stops me. “It’s my pleasure, but make sure to stop in again sometime. Josh, cover the counter. I need to check on my orders.”

His attention stretches the length of the counter and then follows her. “Covered.”

As soon as she walks away, I say, “Don’t think I didn’t catch you checking me out.”

He remains leaning against the counter, making himself at home just as he did last night. “Figured it was only fair since you did the same to me.”

Fine, I gave him a once-over. So he’s right. It’s only fair. “Your arrogance is a turn-off.”

“I didn’t realize my job was to turn you on.”

“Don’t twist my words. And ew, I’m trying to eat here.”

Despite the arguing, he doesn’t seem bothered by me. Quite the contrary. He appears intrigued. Twisting the tag around in his hand, he says, “Of all the diners in New Haven, you walk into mine.”

“Your mom’s, actually, and I was returning the name tag that you carelessly dropped.”

“Maybe I wasn’t being so careless.” Bending down eye-level with me, he says, “Maybe I left it on purpose.”

“Well, if that’s the best you got . . .” I shrug. “Your method needs some work.”

“Does it?” He holds out his hand, and that damn wry grin reappears. “We never did officially meet.”

Angling my chin up, I reply, “I guess it’s good to get to know your enemies, Joshua.”

“Is that what we are, Chloe? Enemies? And here I was starting to think we we’re soul mates.”

3

Joshua Evans

It’s not often that I run into the people I deliver to, but apartment 3B was hard to forget.

Good tipper.

Stack of medical textbooks.

Bonsai tree named Frankie.

I’d almost forgotten the hard time she gave me. That’s not entirely fair since I’m the one who pushed every one of her buttons.

“Soul mates,” she scoffs with the devil in her eyes. It’s a different look from last night when she held more of an air of superiority. Either way, she’s hot.

Those green eyes, like her mouth, make it hard to look away.

The girl likes to argue, and there’s something about her that pushes me to engage.

Standing back up again, I ask, “So, tell me something, Chloe. Why’d you really come by?” I waggle the name tag in front of her. “Because I have a feeling it wasn’t to return a cheap name badge.”

“You’re right.” She holds her hands up in surrender. “You busted me.” Reaching for the mug, she adds, “What can I say? I came for caffeine and stayed for the chili.”

“I thought you’d stroke my ego and tell me you stayed for the company.”

Shaking her head, she laughs. “There will be no stroking of anything between you and I.”

“Me.”

“What?” She cocks an eyebrow, and there’s something incredibly sexy about the arc of it. Not that I’ll tell her. She doesn’t seem to want my input.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com