Authors: Sophia Henry
“So am I.” She smiles. “You're wobbly, Alec.”
“Yes, I am,” I tell her, and her smile fades a little. Her eyes hold mine and I see her gulp. The air around us snaps. “I'm drunk and stupid andâ¦”
She tilts her head slightly, watching with intense concentration as I take a step toward her. “Andâ¦?”
The words get caught.
they get caught. Because they are way real and she knows it. I can see it in her eyes, and I'm not sure if I want to say it but I'm going to anyway.
“And I really think that I'm in love with you.” My hand slips off the door frame, and I take a deep breath. “Pleaseâ¦say something?”
Someone messed with my ringtones. I never programmed them when I upgraded, but I know that “Call Me Maybe” doesn't come Samsung standard.
I stop trying to wave down a taxi from the corner of 46th and Broadway and reach into my pocket instead, giving an awkward smile at the woman who's obviously judging me on my taste in music as she walks by.
Theresa's name and cute-as-all-hell profile picture flash on my screen, and I force back the whoop in my gut that
come standard when it comes to her.
Theresa is, in a word, complicated. She's also a lot of other things, but I'm gonna go with that. I never know what to expect when she calls (or drops by my apartment or shows up at one of my performances), so I'm tentative when I answer.
“Defcon five crisis. I need youâ¦like
A large lump rises in my throat and I gulp it back, choking myself a bit. This request wouldn't sound abnormal if it wasn't for the last night we spent together. Because I told her right before I let her “need” me that it wasn't going to mean anything, I've been trying to keep to my word. But I'm not sure I can handle another unattached evening.
“More information, please,” I say.
“One of my bachelors got disqualified. Turns out he's still married. I need an available, sexy, and looks-good-in-a-tux James Bond type, andâ”
“Jace is taken?” I say with a grin, finally getting a taxi to stop for me. Theresa's been coordinating this Valentine's Day charity auction since the first of the year, and told me herself that Jace probably would've been the top-dollar bachelor if he hadn't gone and fallen in love with his film agent.
” she huffs, and I envision her loose brown locks blowing around her face, how the sun angling through her apartment window is probably highlighting the little bit of red in her hair. She's most likely pacing, toying with the bottom of her shirtâwhich is probably black, sleeveless, and flowy. That particular shirt feels good against bare skin, something both she and I have attested to.
Ah, damn it.
I blink, shaking my head, and remember I'm supposed to give an address to the cabbie. I stop my thoughts before they go too far, and say, “Train station.”
“No, wait, don't get on the train,” Theresa says in the phone. “I need you to be the replacement bachelor. Will you, could you, pretty please? I'll cook you anything you want.”
I snort into the phone. “Can you guarantee it'll be edible?”
She hesitates. “I will
you anything you want.”
A laugh rocks my body, and I watch the fare tick up on the cab's meter. I guess I could; it's not like I have anything going tonight. Single on Valentine's Day doesn't mean I have a lot of plans, even with Landon back in town. He and Lizzie flew in from their new house in L.A. to pick up some extra stuff they couldn't get during the first move. It's been nice, since Landon has been here to balance out the XY-to-XX ratio. While Theresa and Lizzie have been stressing over just about everything having to do with this auction, Landon was able to convince a high-profile actor to participate. It was a much calmer week after that.
“Wait a second,” I say, sitting upright. “Aren't the bachelors supposed to be, you know, successful and shit? What's my bio going to say?”
“Six-pack abs?” she offers.
“More like a four-pack.”
“Knows how to have a good time.”
“Oh yeahâ¦spending every waking hour managing a Bed Bath & Beyond and auditioning for off-off Broadway plays is sure to get the bid up.”
“Has a sense of humor.”
“I don't even have a witty comeback for that.”
“Alecâ¦,” she growls in her half-amused voice, and I refuse to let my mind wander back to her hair or what shirt she's most likely wearing. “You're a damn catch. Please say you will?”
The cab turns a corner, nearing the train station. There's probably not much Theresa would ask of me that I wouldn't do for her. But still, I'm not sure I'd exactly help bring in money for the charity. Maybe a buck or two. And I'm gonna need a sweeter deal for that humiliation.
“You're going to need to bribe me with a lot more than takeout.”
“Name it,” she says without hesitation, and I know I shouldn'tâit's counterproductive in my attempt to move on, but the words come out anyway.
“Play for me?”
The line goes quiet, and I'm ready to let out a laugh and pretend I was kidding. Maybe we've gotten to the point when we can joke about what we could've had, what I thought we did have for a moment.
But I can't laugh. We haven't gotten there yet.
Theresa clucks her tongue twice, something else that is so damn small but ties my gut into a thousand different knots.
“I can do that.”
My eyebrows lift. “Really?”
“You do this for me, I will totally do that for you.”
The cab stops at the station. I look up at the giant billboards and keep my ass firmly planted in the backseat.
“Can you bring me a tux?”
She breathes a sigh of relief, and I can sense her smile, which makes
smile, then it makes me frown. Getting over someone is a real bitch, pardon my French, especially if you gotta be friends with this person.
“Not that kind of auction, but yes, I can take care of wardrobe. Jace has a guy over on 33rd Street.”
Of course he does.
“I'll text you the exact address and you can meet up with him there. Thank youâ¦you are a lifesaver.”
And a sucker.
I slump back against the taxi seat. “See you tonight.”
“Dude, what the hell kind of auction is this?”
I yank at the very thin and tight red T-shirt I'm sure only went on so easily because my torso is covered in oil. Jace told me it's what Theresa wants me to wear, and because she could literally tell me, “Dance, monkey, dance!” and I would, I squeezed myself into it.
“You gotta wear something that tears easy,” Jace says, waving a piece of black fabric at me. He fists each side, and it rips like paper. “More you rip off, the higher the bid.”
I stare down at my stomach and wish I'd at least had a six-week warning to prepare. “I thought this was for charity.”
“It is.” Jace shrugs and tells his “guy” to find a shirt that isn't for a “twelve-year-old,” and the guy nods in exaggerated agreement. I look down again and the tight shirt has rolled up to show off my belly button. I'm a belly-dancing monkey.
I grab the back of the neck and slide it off, chucking the now oiled-up shirt at Jace's face. He tosses the shirt away as though it were on fire, and it gets wedged between a pair of blue-and-red Nikes. We're in a walk-in-type man closet, the likes of which I've only seen in the movies. Lots of suits and blazers and ties and shoes, et cetera, et cetera, but there are other clothes in here for metro guys. I assume dressing rooms for big-time theaters look like this.
“Don't you have any jeans?” I pull at the crotch of the flimsy-ass pants I'm wearing. Pretty sure they're trying to castrate me.
Jace shakes his shaggy head and opens up a drawer on his right. “You're wearing about a thousand dollars there. Enjoy it.”
“These are a thousand dollars?” I ask, pulling the material away from my thighs. I look like I belong in
“This coming from the man in average-Joe clothing.” I wave at him. “I'm not a woman.”
He laughs and crouches down to get blindingly white and red shoes that I most likely will scuff before I leave the premises. “Why'd you agree to do this thing if you didn't want to get out of your red vest?”
He's talking about my Bed Bath & Beyond uniform. At least that thing doesn't cut my scrotum in half.
“Theresa asked me.”
He nods. “That's all it took, didn't it?”
“She's a friend.”
“Bull. If I asked you to oil up and get bid on by a bunch of strangers, would you?”
“Hell yeah. I love you, man.”
“See?” He straightens, holding the winning pair of shoes. “It's not about
. It's about
I rip the shoes from his hand. Ever since Jace fell in love he thinks he's all insightful and knowledgeable and shit.
. But it's still annoying.
“I can't help it,” I say. “It's been years, and I still can't help it.”
“Well, have you even tried?”
“To get over it. Over her.”
Good question. It's not like I've been swearing off women altogether. I go out, kiss, make out a bit, but when it gets to that part when things should probably go further, I can't seem to, um,
rise to the occasion
unless I'm thinking of Theresa. And, well, that just ruins it for the both of us.
Jace puts his hand on my shoulder. “Other women, man. You
I shrug him off because I'm still not wearing a shirt and I'm not evolved enough to let another man touch my oily shoulder. “There is no other woman. I can't
“I know. I used to be the same way.” That gets a gut laugh out of me. Before Shay, Jace had eyes for practically
Jace puts his hands up in his defense. “What I mean is that sometimes the best things you find are in unexpected places. Take a look at Shay and me. I was after another woman when I fell for her.”
“No offense, but you weren't exactly
with another woman.”
“Not the point.” He looks at his “guy,” who's finally come back with a larger shirt, then back at me. “I mean this with all the sincerity of a bro, Alec. Theresa and you? It's not happening. So find something worthwhile somewhere else. Might be where you least expect.”
The definitive statement should gut me, but maybe I've already been gutted to the point where there's nothing left. Fact is, I've been thinking the same thing. I
need to find someone else. Put myself out there. Stop thinking about the one I'll never have. I
find her where I least expect.
“Like at an auction?” I ask him.
He smirks. “Yeah. Like at an auction.”
Guess it's not a bad idea. If someone bids on me, they get me for the whole night. Jace fell in love in a week. Landon said it took him a day to fall in love with Liz. Maybe all I need is one night.
One thing firstâ¦
“Hey, man, can I please get better-fitting pants?”
He laughs, then shoves a pair of jeans at me.
Experience the first rush of love
eOriginal Romance from Random House