I’m still facing the sink when his hands grip the counter on either side of me. His face moves close to the side of my head and I can feel his breath on my neck. I don’t know how it happens, but my entire body moves involuntarily until his chest is flush against my back. We aren’t nearly as close as we were during our dance, but it feels a whole hell of a lot more intimate considering we aren’t actually dancing.
He rests his chin on my shoulder and I close my eyes and inhale. The way he makes me feel is so overwhelming; I find it difficult to continue standing. I’m gripping the counter, hoping he doesn’t notice how white my knuckles are.
“I want to see you again,” he whispers.
I don’t think about all the reasons why that’s such a bad idea. I don’t think about what my focus should be on. Instead, I think about how good it feels when he’s this close to me and how I want so much more of it. All the bad parts of me answer him and force my voice to say, “Okay,” because all the good parts of me are too weak to offer up a defense.
“Tomorrow night,” he says. “Will you be home?”
I think about tomorrow, and for a few seconds I have no idea what month it is, much less what day of the week it is. After grasping where and who I am, and remembering that this is still Thursday and tomorrow is Friday, I conclude that I am, in fact, free tomorrow night.
“Yes,” I whisper.
“Good,” he says. I’m almost positive he’s smiling right now. I can hear it in his voice.
“But . . .” I turn and face him. “I thought you learned your lesson about mixing business with pleasure. Isn’t that how you found yourself in a bind today?”
He grins with a very subtle laugh. “Consider yourself fired.”
I smile, because I’m not sure I’ve ever been so happy to lose a job. I would choose his coming over tomorrow night over working for $100 an hour any day. And that surprises me. A lot.
He turns and heads toward the front door. “I’ll see you tomorrow night, Auburn Mason Reed.”
We’re both smiling when we lock eyes for the two seconds it takes for him to close the door behind him. I fall forward and lay my head on my arms, sucking in all the air I’ve been missing tonight, straight into my lungs.
“Oh, em, gee,” I exhale. This was definitely an unexpected departure from my usual routine.
A sudden knock on my door startles me, and I stand upright just as the door begins to crack open. He reappears in the doorway. “Will you lock your door behind me? You don’t live in the best neighborhood.”
I can’t help but grin at his request. I walk to the door and he pushes it open a little further. “And one more thing,” he adds. “You shouldn’t be so quick to follow strangers into random buildings. That’s not very smart for someone who doesn’t know anything about Dallas.”
I narrow my eyes at him. “Well, you shouldn’t be so desperate for employees,” I say in my own defense. I lift my hand to the lock on the door, but instead of pulling it shut, he opens it even further.
“And I don’t know how it is in Portland, but you also shouldn’t allow strangers inside your apartment.”
“You walked me home. I couldn’t deny you the use of my restroom.”
He laughs. “Thank you. I appreciate that. Just don’t let anyone else in to use your restroom, okay?”
I grin at him flirtatiously, proud that I even have it in me. “We haven’t even been on a date yet and you’re already trying to dictate who can and can’t use my restroom?”
He shoots me the same grin in return. “I can’t help it if I’m a little possessive. It was a really nice restroom.”
I roll my eyes and begin to close the door. “Good night, Owen.”
“I’m serious,” he says. “You even have those cute little seashell soaps. I love those.”
We’re both laughing now as he watches me through the crack in the door. Right when the door shuts and I lock the latch, he knocks again. I shake my head and open the door, but it catches with the chain lock this time.
“It’s midnight!” he says frantically, slapping at the door. “Call her. Call your roommate!”
“Oh, shit,” I mutter. I retrieve my phone and begin to dial Emory’s number.
“I was about to dial 911,” Emory says as she answers.
“Sorry, we almost forgot.”
“Do you need to use the code word?” she asks.
“No, I’m fine. I already locked him out, so I don’t think he’s going to murder me tonight.”
Emory sighs. “That sucks,” she says. “Not that he didn’t murder you,” she adds quickly. “I just really wanted to hear you say the code word.”
I laugh. “I’m sorry my safety disappoints you.”
She sighs again. “Please? Just say it for me one time.”
“Fine,” I say with a groan. “Meat dress. Are you happy?”
There’s a quiet pause before she says, “I don’t know. Now I’m not sure if you said the code word just to make me happy or if you’re really in danger.”
I laugh. “I’m fine. I’ll see you when you get home.” I hang up the phone and glance at Owen through the opening in the door. His eyebrow is cocked and his head is tilted.
“Your code word was meat dress? That’s kind of morbid, isn’t it?”
I smile, because it kind of is. “So is choosing an apartment based on its connection to a horror film. I told you Emory is different.”
He nods in agreement.
“I had fun tonight,” I tell him.
He smiles. “I had funner.”
We’re both smiling, almost cheesily, until I straighten up and decide to close the door for good this time.
“Good night, Owen.”
“Good night, Auburn,” he says. “Thank you for not correcting my grammar.”
“Thank you for not killing me,” I say in response.
His smile disappears. “Yet.”
I don’t know if I should laugh at that comment.
“I’m kidding,” he says as soon as he sees the hesitation on my face. “My jokes always fail when I’m trying to impress a girl.”
“Don’t worry,” I say to reassure him. “I was kind of impressed as soon as I walked into your studio tonight.”