“Let’s order from Pow Thai Café. I’m craving their lemongrass shrimp.”
“Poo Poo Café? Ew. No thanks.”
He chuckled. “Poo Poo?”
“Yeah, that place makes you poop.”
His mouth twitched in a smile. “Newsflash, Ellie. All food makes you poop.”
“Yes, but I’d rather not take a direct laxative right now. Seriously, that place and my stomach do not mix.”
He shook his head at me, still smirking. “That was probably more information than I needed, but thanks for sharing. You pick the place then.”
“The Eat Shop. And they deliver, too, since you’re so anti going out.”
His mouth pulled down in a frown. “Fine. Get me whatever you recommend.”
I ordered couscous salad and grilled salmon while Braydon continued quietly sitting on my couch, sipping his beer and watching me. This arrangement between us confused me. I had figured the majority of the time we’d spend together would be between the sheets. But this felt like more than just sex. This was different. Comfortably ordering delivery together, chatting casually, sipping beers on my couch . . . It felt like more.
When our food arrived, we served ourselves then settled back onto the couch. He talked between bites of salmon and couscous and I listened, genuinely interested in learning more about him. He told me about his many passions—working out, good food, handcrafted beers, and sex. I almost choked when I heard that last one.
“Care to tell me why you’re so antimen?” Braydon asked, taking a bite of his salmon.
“Let’s see . . . my last boyfriend had a habit of filming the girls he slept with. He had over twenty videos of girls, and I was rumored to be one of them.” I poked at the salad on my plate.
“Shit.” His eyebrows shot up. “But you weren’t?”
“No, thank God. Then there was the guy who I thought was a car salesman but turned out to be just a car thief instead.” I waited for his judgment but none came. “Basically, my dating experiences the last few years have taught me one thing—that men are not to be trusted.”
“I can’t argue with any of that, so I won’t try. But I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
“Yeah, thanks.” I picked at the hem of my shirt, plucking imaginary lint from it. “It was quite a string of bad luck. I was starting to think it was me.”
His expression turned serious, his eyes darkening. “It’s not you. Trust me.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“You’re lovely. Quite a catch, kitten.” His words were too kind. Too sweet, considering the kind of arrangement we had. Being sweet to me only deepened my feelings for him. Which wasn’t good. He’d been very clear about our relationship. Or lack thereof. I needed to remember that.
“What about you? No past relationships? Any ex-girlfriends I should be aware of?”
His expression darkened further and he set down his plate on the ottoman in front of us. “Why do you ask?”
“No reason. I just noticed in your pictures online that you never have a girl with you. There was even one blog claiming you were g*y.”
“I like pu**y way too much to be g*y. I guess you’re right, though, I do tend to fly solo, mostly. I don’t typically bring the girls I’m seeing to events with me.”
I wasn’t talking about events. I never expected to be on his arm walking the red carpet. I was referring to simple things like meeting for breakfast or going to the movies, but I merely nodded. Something told me not to push him on this. I swallowed a lump of unease in my throat. He was so fun and easygoing one minute and then so guarded and closed off the next.
Braydon Kincaid, my own little Rubik’s Cube to solve.
After dinner we cuddled together on the couch, Braydon with his legs resting on the ottoman and me with my feet curled under me while I leaned against his shoulder.
“Sooo . . . our arrangement . . . what happens when Ben and Emmy get home?” I asked.
“What about them? What you and I have is no one’s business but our own.”
I nodded, my heart silently pinching in my chest. After several minutes of silence, his eyes slowly raked over me, making me shiver. The longer he watched me, the further away thoughts of refusing him drifted. “Do you have any idea how f**king sexy you look right now?” he asked.
I looked down at my yoga pants and comfy T-shirt, my brain struggling to comprehend if he was kidding or being serious.
“Most girls want to impress me with their designer clothes, lingerie, accessories, makeup . . .” He leaned closer. “No one’s ever like this with me, you know? I like that you’re confident enough to just be you.”
His words meant a lot to me, only I had no idea how to react to them. Were we good buddies? Something more? “Who else would I be?” I joked.
The seriousness of the mood fell away as Braydon let out a chuckle. He set down his beer and turned to me with a playful smile. “Sooo . . .” he rubbed his hands together. “What shall we do to entertain ourselves?”
I faked a yawn and stretched my arms over my head. “I’m exhausted. You’re welcome to stay and entertain yourself, though. There’s lube in my nightstand drawer if you need it.”
He let out a snort and tackled me on the couch. “Get over here.” He pressed me to the sofa, careful not to crush me under his weight but making sure I felt his firm body covering mine. “Why would I take care of myself when you have two perfectly functioning hands?” He traced a single fingertip over my lips. “And this pretty mouth I’d like to f**k.”
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