I waited for them to enter the building before responding to Shaw’s accusation. “That’s not true.” Okay, maybe it was, but I wasn’t admitting that to him.
“Yeah. It is.” He stopped laughing and leveled his dark eyes on me. They glinted in the near darkness. “Because I’m not a nice boy, and you know it. That’s why you won’t go out with me. You’re too scared.”
He might as well have waved a red flag in my face. “I’m not scared.”
“No? Prove it.” He nodded toward the parking lot where I assumed his truck waited. “Let’s go eat.”
“This is ridiculous—”
I felt my eyes widen. “Oh my God. Does this really work? Do girls really go out with you if you dare them into doing it?”
He shrugged. “It’s not a dare. Just stating the facts. You’re scared. And I haven’t asked a girl out since I’ve been back, so I wouldn’t know. But they never said no in high school.”
I snorted. “I’m sure they didn’t.” I could just imagine him and Reece together in high school. The girls must have been throwing their panties at them both.
Well, not this girl. After last night I knew he was hard to resist, but the key was to never end up alone, on a bed, with him again. Should be easy enough to manage.
“Fine. No big deal. It’s just food.”
He nodded, looking supremely satisfied. “Sure.” And yet he looked like he had just won a skirmish.
“I’m paying for my own meal though.”
His smile slipped. Feeling as though I’d won this round, I turned and headed toward the parking lot, leaving him to follow.
HE WASN’T KIDDING. IT was the best burger I had ever tasted. I groaned after my second mouthful. Juice from the meat, bacon, and cheese ran down my chin. I grabbed a napkin to swipe my chin and cover my mouth in an attempt to hide the indelicate display.
Shaw watched me, his eyes intent on my face, and I worried that I was making a pig of myself in front of him and probably turning him off. And then I reminded myself that that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Putting Shaw firmly in the friend zone would be a good thing.
Okay. So the idea was kind of crazy given that last night he had given me a mind-blowing orgasm. He would have given me two if he hadn’t decided to punish me and leave me hanging right on the precipice of number two. I would never be able to relegate him to friend. But then it didn’t matter how I viewed him. It was how he viewed me.
“I can’t tell you how impressed I am that you went for the Death Burger.”
I took a sip of my Coke.
“You’re not one of those girls who orders a salad in a burger place.”
I rolled my eyes. “I never let a guy’s presence dictate what food I eat.”
I looked around the diner as I dipped a French fry in ketchup. The place was definitely a dive with its peeling floor tiles and cracked picture of Elvis behind the cash register. “I’ve never been here before.”
“Not surprised. Ask Pepper. I bet Reece has brought her here. We used to eat here a lot in high school.”
He sat with one arm stretched along the back of the booth, his long-sleeved shirt stretched temptingly across his broad chest. The cut of his muscled pecs was visible beneath the fabric and my mouth dried a little. I looked up at his face, trying to avoid the sexy distraction of his body, but that only presented another distraction. His face. His eyes. He watched me so intently it was unnerving. I looked away and surveyed the room, noticing there were a few bikers sitting at a booth in the corner. It reminded me of the first night I’d met him.
“Gone to Maisie’s lately?”
“Why? Want to go back?” He grinned.
I shook my head.
“I’ve been there once since then . . . it’s a good way to mingle with prospective clients. If I open my own garage, it helps if I’m a familiar face among them.”
I was right then. He went to Maisie’s to further himself career wise. “So you want to open a bike shop?”
“Yeah. Custom bikes. My grandfather got me into them. It’s something we did together. I’m already doing all the bike work at the garage where I work now.”
“I’d like to see some of your bikes.” The words slipped out before I could stop them.
There was a pause before he said, “I’d like to show you.”
I quickly looked down at my basket of food, concentrating on dipping another fry into ketchup. What was I doing making arrangements with him to see him again? I took another bite from my burger. The quicker I ate, the quicker this pseudo-date was over and I could get back to my room. Minus him.
“Pepper says you have a bunch of artwork in the studio on campus.” My eyes snapped back to him. Just how much had Pepper told him about me? “I’d like to see more of your work.”
I shook my head, struggling to swallow my food. My eyes teared up a bit as I swallowed a particularly spicy pepper in that bite. “I don’t really show my stuff to anyone.” Well, other than what I put up on my walls. Just the idea of him seeing the one I did of him made me shudder.
Of course my work would go on display at the winter showcase coming up. Not that I was mentioning that to him. The showcase was for a grade. I had to participate. But I didn’t have to choose to display Shaw’s picture.
“How can you be an artist if you never let anyone see your work?”
“I told you. I’m probably getting a real job after college.” I used air quotes around “real.” “There’re a couple of design firms—”
“Lame.” He took a drink, watching me over the rim.
My mouth sagged for a moment before I recovered my voice. “Excuse me?”
“I said that’s lame.” He set his glass down on the Formica tabletop with a click. “It’s one thing to try to make it and not get anywhere, so you take a job behind some desk, out of necessity . . . but you haven’t even given it a shot. You’re not going to even give yourself a chance.”
“You don’t know anything about me,” I bit out, his words seeping uncomfortably inside me.
“Well, tell me then. Explain how I’m wrong. Explain how not even giving your dream a shot is for the best?”
I stared at him, words strangling inside me. How could I tell him it was too hard? That putting myself out there like that, exposing myself in such a personal and intimate way . . . I just wasn’t comfortable doing that. Not now. Not ever. I couldn’t.