“You think that’s what this place is worth? Some lousy rubber bands and Chinese food?”
“If they’re so lousy I’ll take them back.”
“Not a chance.” I wink at her before I take a drink. “Can you tell me what happened the other night?”
She lets out a sigh and I hate that I’ve taken the mood down. “I’m not really sure yet, but someone broke into my apartment and ransacked the place. My landlord emailed me some photos and they’re pretty bad. It doesn’t look like anything is stolen, but I didn’t keep any valuables there so I don’t know what they would have taken. I don’t even have a nice TV and I had my laptop at the shop when it happened.”
“When do you have to go back?”
“I can leave any time.” She sits up straighter and looks around. “Do you need me to go?”
“No!” I say, too loudly and too quickly. “No, sorry, that’s not what I meant. I’m working on a case with my sister and staying at her place.”
“She’s a lawyer too?”
“Yeah, we have a firm together.” She asks me a bunch of questions about work and I wonder if it’s because she doesn’t want to discuss what happened at her place. I get it, but I need to follow up with the detective I put on this and see what he was able to find out.
“Thanks for stocking up the refrigerator for me,” she says as she leans back in her chair and picks at a few half-empty boxes.
“How do you know I did that for you?” I smile as I use my chopsticks to dig into a vegetable lo mein.
“Because the first time I was here there was only coffee and an old jar of pickles in the back of the fridge. I assumed you did that for me, but maybe I was on the end of your yearly grocery store visit?”
“Are you teasing me, Erin?” When I say her name her cheeks flush, and she looks away.
“What do you do?” I want to know everything about her.
“That’s a mystery to myself right now too.” She shrugs and I sit back and wait. “I finished college with a degree in graphic design last semester and now I either need to get a master’s in it or find a job.”
“And have you decided?”
“I know that I’m not going to do my masters there. Grams is here and I have nothing left for me where I was. I want to be close to her, so for right now I’m going to move this way and hopefully figure out my next step.”
I don’t realize I’m holding my breath until I let it go. “So you’re moving here?”
“Yeah, I guess that’s the plan. I have to see about breaking my lease and what that’s going to cost me. I also have to look at places here and find one that’s comparable in price to what I had before.”
“There’s a vacant apartment in this building,” I offer as I pick at the label on my beer bottle.
“I think this place is out of my price range.”
“It’s not,” I blurt out, and then she laughs at me.
“You don’t even know what my price range is.”
“Let me show you the place first and then we can talk about the price.”
“I’m not sure I want to fall in love with something and then not be able to have it.”
Her words have a direct hit on my chest and they hang heavy between us. Does it feel that way to her now?
“How long do you have until you have to go back to your place?”
She shrugs. “I don’t think I can put it off too long. I need to get my things and talk to my landlord. It’s going to be a pain in the ass, but I can’t avoid it forever.”
“You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need.”
“This place is pretty incredible, you know that, right?”
I smile and nod. “I bought it for the bathtub.”
“You’re joking.” She sits up and looks at me with wide eyes. “Tell me you’re not serious.”
“Oh, I am. I’m a man who loves a good soak at the end of the workday.”
“For some reason I can’t picture you in a bathtub.” Her eyes travel down my body and then she quickly blushes again. Is it always so easy to tell when she’s turned on?
“Oh, picture it, baby. Candles lit, soft music, bubbles everywhere.”
“Bubbles?” She’s laughing and I love the sound of it.
“Hey, I like to treat myself.” I watch her for a second and just enjoy that she’s happy. “It’s not like I’ve got much else in my life besides work.”
“My grams said you work too much.”
“I do,” I agree and lean forward on my elbows. “I love what I do, but I’m building something I want to last. Security for those I love is important to me.”