Page 4


“What kind of cookies do you guys like?” I ask, directing the question at Finn as I head to the pantry. “We’ll bring some up to you when they’re done.” I add a smile but Finn is peering into the oven at the pizza rolls and misses it.
“You know I like chocolate chip,” Eric responds and I panic. I want to know what Finn likes.
“Uh, yeah, but your friend is over,” I say, waving at Finn. “It’s polite to ask what your guests want.” I smile. There. That was smooth, right?
Eric looks at me like I’ve lost my mind, but I ignore him and focus on Finn. “Finn, what kind of cookies do you like?”
“Huh?” He pauses from chugging a Coke to look at me. “Um, chocolate-chip cookies are fine with me.”
“Yep, who doesn’t love chocolate-chip cookies and football, right?” Wait. Did that even make sense? I sound like an idiot. Flirting is hard.
“Football?” Finn questions.
“Your jersey,” I say, nodding towards him as I set the ingredients on the counter. Chloe is already there with the mixing bowl and wooden spoon. “Go Eagles!” I say and do a little fist bump and immediately want to die. That was so stupid.
“Oh.” Finn glances down at his jersey. “My brother gave this to me.”
“I love football!” I gush and Eric stops and looks at me strangely. Okay. Too far.
“I’m so glad you’ve learned to like football, Everly,” Eric says slowly.
Oh, no. He’s gonna call me out on this. I went too far. I should never have read those teen dating columns on the internet. I am clearly not ready for teenage-level flirting. I duck my head and pray.
“Dad is going to be so happy.”
What? I peek a look at Eric. He’s rubbing his chin and waiting for me to pay attention.
“Dad’s gonna be so happy he has someone to watch football with every weekend,” he says with a smirk.
Present Day
“Why does he call you Shortcake, anyway?” he asks, glancing at me. His left arm is casually bent against the door frame, fingers resting on the steering wheel. His right hand rests on his thigh. He fills out the pants he’s wearing nicely. I can see the outline of muscle on his leg. My gaze lingers, wondering if I can see the outline of something else as well.
No! I mentally chastise myself. He’s not the one I’m interested in.
“I always assumed you were a freckle-faced little redhead,” he continues, “or that you possibly looked like a Cabbage Patch doll.”
His lips twist in amusement at my ire. We’re stopped dead in traffic on the I-684. He slides an arm over my headrest and turns his full attention in my direction. He leans towards me, his head inches from mine, and while he’s not touching me, it feels like he’s all over me. It feels… intimate. “But you’re beautiful.”
Oh, no.
His eyes run across my face and I wonder what he sees there. Denial? Sheer panic? Attraction? I swallow and it sounds loud in this small space. He smells good. Why does he have to smell good? I’m so annoyed. He’s got a hint of stubble across his jaw and I find myself wondering what that would feel like pressed against my neck. Stop thinking. I need to stop thinking. Or start thinking about something else. Like orphaned kangaroos.
He takes my silence as license to continue speaking. “Stunning, actually. Your hair, Jesus.” Traffic picks up and he settles back into his seat as the car moves forward. “It’s not red.”
“I can’t wait to run my hands through it,” he says and I suck in a breath. “Or wrap it around my fist to pull you closer, or yank your head back while I’ve got you bent over—”