Page 17

And yet, a conflicted feeling consumes me, because I can see where this is headed. And for a typical girl in her twenties, this would be exciting and fun. Something you would be texting your best friend about. Hey, I met this really attractive, successful guy, and he actually seems normal.

But my situation is anything but typical, which explains the mound of hesitation that keeps growing alongside my nervousness and anticipation. I find myself curious about him, and every now and then, I catch myself staring at his lips or his neck or those hands, which seem capable of doing a hell of a lot of magnificent things, aside from just painting.

But the hesitation I’m feeling is due in large part to me and my inexperience, because I’m not sure I’d know what to do with my hands if it came down to it. I try to remind myself of scenes in movies or books where the guy and girl are attracted to each other and how they go from that initial moment of attraction to the point of . . . acting on it. It’s been so long since I was with Adam, I forget what comes next.

Of course I’m not sleeping with him tonight, but it’s been so damn long since I’ve even felt comfortable enough to consider someone worthy of kissing. I just don’t want my inexperience to reveal itself, which I’m sure it already has.

This lack of confidence is really getting in the way of my thoughts, and apparently our conversation, because I’m not speaking and he’s just staring.

And I like it. I like it when he stares at me, because it’s been a long time since I’ve felt beautiful in someone else’s eyes. And right now, he’s watching me so closely and with such a satisfied, heated look in his eyes, I would be fine if we spent the rest of the night just doing this and not speaking at all.

“I want to paint you,” he says, breaking the silence. His voice is full of all the confidence I lack.

Apparently my heart is worried I forgot it existed, because it’s giving me a loud and fast reminder of its presence in my chest. I do my best to swallow without his noticing. “You want to paint me?” I ask in an embarrassingly weak voice.

He nods slowly. “Yes.”

I smile and try to play off the fact that his words just became the most erotic thing a guy has ever said to me. “I don’t . . .” I release a breath to try to calm myself down. “Would it be . . . you know . . . with clothes on? Because I’m not posing nude.”

I expect him to smile or laugh at this comment, but he doesn’t. He stands up, slowly, and brings his cup of coffee back to his mouth. I like how he drinks his coffee. Like his coffee is so important, it deserves all of his attention. When he’s finished, he sets it on the bar and gives me his focus, fixing me with a pointed stare. “You don’t even have to be there when I paint you. I just want to paint you.”

I don’t know why he’s standing now, but it makes me nervous. The fact that he’s standing means either he’s about to leave, or he’s about to make a move. Neither of which I’m ready for quite yet.

“How will you paint me if I’m not there?” I hate that I can’t fake the confidence that surrounds him like an aura.

He confirms my fear that he’s about to make a move, because he slowly works his way around the bar, toward me. I’m eyeing him the entire time until my back is against the counter and he’s standing directly in front of me. He lifts his right hand and—yes, I know you’re in there, heart—his fingers brush lightly beneath my chin, slowly tilting my face upward. I gasp. His eyes fall to my mouth before scanning slowly over my features, lingering on each one, giving every part of me from the neck up his complete and total focus. I watch his eyes as they move from my jaw, to my cheekbones, to my forehead, back to my eyes again.

“I’ll paint you from memory,” he says as he releases my face. He takes two steps back until he meets the counter behind him. I don’t realize how heavily I’m breathing until I see his gaze fall to my chest for a brief second. But I honestly don’t have time to worry about whether or not my reaction is obvious to him, because all I can focus on right now is how to get oxygen back into my lungs and a voice back into my throat. I inhale a shaky breath and realize it isn’t coffee I need right now. It’s water. Ice water. I walk toward him and open a cabinet and proceed to pour myself a glass of water. He props his hands on the counter behind him and crosses one foot over the other, grinning at me the entire time I down half the glass.

The sound the glass makes when I set it on the counter is a little loud and dramatic, and it makes him laugh. I wipe my mouth and curse myself for being so obvious.

His laugh is cut short when his cell phone rings. He quickly stands and pulls it out of his pocket. He glances at the screen, silences his phone, and slides it back into his pocket. His eyes move around the living room once more before they land on me again. “I should probably go.”

Wow. This went well.

I nod and take his cup when he slides it toward me. I turn around and begin washing it. “Well, thanks for the job,” I say. “And for walking me home.”

I don’t turn around to watch him leave. I feel like my obvious inexperience just killed the entire vibe we had going. And I’m not upset with myself for that; I’m upset with him. I’m upset that he would be turned off by the fact that I’m not being forward or throwing myself at him. I’m upset that he gets one phone call, more than likely from Hannah, and he immediately uses it as his opportunity to hightail it out of here.

This is exactly why I never do things like this.

“It wasn’t a girl.”

His voice startles me and I immediately spin around to find him standing right behind me. I start to respond, but I don’t know what to say, so I just clamp my mouth shut. I feel stupid for getting so angry just now, even though he has no idea what was going through my head.

He takes a step closer and I press myself against the counter behind me, leaving the two feet of space between us that I need in order to remain coherent.

“I don’t want you to think I’m leaving because another girl just called me,” he says, explaining his remark in more detail.

I love that he just said this, and it makes all the negative thoughts I was having about him disappear. Maybe I was wrong. I do tend to have irrational reactions from time to time.

I turn around and face the sink again because I don’t want him to see how much it pleases me that he wasn’t making up an excuse to leave. “It’s not my business who calls you, Owen.”

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