She shook her head, avoiding his stare. “I don’t know. This feels like unfamiliar territory to me, Everett.” A strained silence ensued. She saw him shift on his feet.
“Unfamiliar territory? In what way?” he asked.
“I don’t really know what . . . a person like you expects. I don’t know what to expect,” she admitted quietly.
“There is no ‘person like me.’ There’s only me. And you.”
His words throbbed in her ears. He could have said nothing truer. There was no one like him. He defied stereotypes. He was the most unique person she’d ever met. She noticed his eyebrows quirk up in a silent query.
Well . . . perhaps if she just framed the whole thing as a pleasant sexual encounter? No strings attached. It might not seem so intimidating then . . .
“What’s this?” he asked.
He’d picked up her sketch of him on the napkin. He studied it, his brow slightly furrowed.
“It’s just . . . I was doodling,” she muttered. It had been a quick sketch, but she had successfully caught that expression he’d had in his eyes when he stared at her from across the room, that look that seemed to say, When I get you alone, I’m going to make you scream. Her cheeks burned. God, she’d never blushed so much in her life as she had in the past two days.
He glanced up, still holding the napkin, a strange expression on his face.
“Say you’ll come with me to Vulture’s Canyon.”
“Yes,” she replied in a choked voice.
He took three long steps and cupped her shoulders in her hands. He leaned down and kissed her—a quick yet total possession of her body and mind. It just wasn’t fair, the amount of power he had over her.
“I’ll call you tomorrow evening,” he murmured. She glanced down when he carefully placed something in her hand. He strode out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him. The sketch of him looked up at her.
“No strings attached,” she repeated under her breath.
But somehow, she knew that those comforting words and the expression she’d caught in Everett’s eyes in the sketch were not going to be easily reconciled.
Now that Joy had agreed to a long weekend with Everett Hughes, she wished it would happen sooner versus later. The nervous anticipation was starting to kill her. How many times a day could she ask herself if she was making a monumental mistake by agreeing to go? How many times could she lose herself in heated fantasies about being with him for so many long, glorious hours?
On Monday night, she’d been tempted to turn on The Shay Show to catch a glimpse of Everett. Perhaps fortunately—or perhaps not, Joy couldn’t decide—Seth had asked to use the small studio in her apartment. He was there still by the time the show was set to air. Joy had been brainstorming some makeup concepts with him and been too self-conscious to excuse herself to watch the show. Seth probably would have thought she was acting like a breathless teenager, gaping at Everett as he charmed the nation on television.
Luckily, she had the field trip on Tuesday to keep her mind distracted. She returned home that night clutching a bag of groceries, tired but happy about how the day had gone. She bought the ingredients for a Cobb salad and a bottle of chardonnay. Her grand plan for celebrating the end of her summer semester was to eat dinner and watch television in bed—a rare, decadent indulgence she liked to treat herself to once in a while.
Her cell phone rang while she was in the process of frying up some low-fat turkey bacon. She glanced at the number and set her wineglass down on the counter a little too abruptly, causing the crystal to ring.
“Hi. It’s Everett,” he added after a brief pause.
She smiled. “I know.”
“How’d you know?”
Her brain froze for a moment. He hadn’t given her his number. She didn’t want to tell him she’d recognize his deep, resonant voice anywhere. “You have an L.A. prefix. I didn’t recognize it as Seth’s or any of my friends’, though,” she said lightly.
“Am I catching you at a bad time?”
“No, not at all. I was just making a little dinner to celebrate the last day of my summer semester.”
“Is that a tradition?” In the background, she thought she heard the sound of springs giving way, as if he’d just fallen on a bed.
“To make a celebratory dinner for myself? Yeah, I guess so. It’s nice to wrap things up.”