“Owen Mason Gentry,” she says, pushing the tent out of her lap and onto the seat next to her. She slides onto my lap and I grab her waist, not at all sure where she’s going with this, but not really concerned enough to stop it. She looks me in the eyes while holding on to both sides of my face. “You better stop pouting. And doubting.”
I grin. “That rhymed.”
She laughs loudly, and have I mentioned I love her? No, I haven’t. Because that would be crazy. And impossible.
“I’m the queen of rhyming,” she says with a grin. “It’s all about the timing.” Her hands drop to my chest and she looks up at the roof of the car for a second, contemplating her next line before dropping her gaze to mine again. “So trust me, Owen. My desire for you is growin’.”
She’s trying to be seductive, and it’s working, but she also can’t stop laughing at herself, which is even better.
The cab comes to a stop in front of her apartment. She starts to reach for the tent, but I grab her face and pull her back to me, moving my lips to her ear. “So go take your shower. Come back over in an hour. Then you, Auburn Mason Reed, I will completely devour.”
When I pull back and look at her, her smile is gone. She swallows dramatically and her reaction to my words makes me grin. I push open the back door and she breaks out of her trance.
“You’re such a one-upper, Owen.” She leans across the seat and reaches for her tent. After she exits the cab, I smile at her and she smiles at me, but neither of us tells the other good-bye. I’m only saying good-bye to her once, and that won’t be until Monday morning.
I’m about to ring her doorbell. I know it’s only been an hour and she hasn’t even had time to make it back to my studio, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her walking all that way by herself. I hate that she makes that walk twice a day when she goes to work.
I don’t want to rush her, though, and I don’t want it to feel like I’m showing up because I doubt her. Maybe I should sit on the stairs and wait for her to open the door. That way, it’ll look like I got here just as she was leaving. And also, if she never opens her door, then I’ll know in a couple hours that she changed her mind. If that happens, I can just leave and she won’t even know I was here in the first place.
But what if she already left, and I just missed her because she took a cab? She could be at my place, and now I’ve made the idiotic decision to show up at her place. Shit.
“Do you want to come inside?”
I quickly turn, and Emory is standing in the doorway, staring at me. She’s holding her purse in one hand and her keys in the other.
“Is Auburn still here?”
Emory nods and holds the door open wider. “She’s in her room. She just got out of the shower.”
I hesitate, not feeling comfortable entering her apartment without her knowing. Emory can see the hesitation on my face, so she leans back into the apartment. “Auburn! That guy you should totally sleep with is here! Not the cop, the other one!”
Emory faces me again and nods her head like she’s saying you’re welcome. I would say I like her, but every time she speaks, she’s bringing up the “other” guy. I wonder if he’s the one who likes the color blue.
I hear Auburn groan from inside the apartment. “I swear to God, Emory. You need to take a class on social skills.” She appears in the doorway and Emory ducks out, heading for the exit. Her hair is damp, and she’s changed clothes. She’s still in jeans and a simple top, but they’re different from the ones she had on earlier. I like that she’s so casual. She’s eyeing me up and down. “It hasn’t even been an hour, Mr. Impatient.”
She doesn’t seem annoyed, which is good. She motions for me to come inside, so I follow her into the apartment. “I was going to wait outside,” I say.
She walks into her bedroom and walks back out with a backpack. She tosses it on the bar and turns and looks at me expectantly.
“I was bored,” I say. “I thought I’d walk with you to my studio.”
Her lips curl up into a grin. “You’re way too into me, Owen. Monday won’t be good for you.”
She says this like she’s kidding, but she has no idea how right she is.
“Oh!” She turns toward the living room and retrieves the tent from the couch. “Help me set up the tent before we go.” She walks toward her bedroom with the tent in her hands. “It’s tiny, it won’t take long.”
I shake my head, completely confused as to why she wants to set up a tent in her bedroom. But she doesn’t seem bothered by it, so I don’t question her. Because what girl doesn’t deserve a tent in her bedroom?
“I want it over here.” She points to a spot close to her bed as she kicks a yoga mat out of the way. I look around her room, trying to see what I can figure out about her without having to ask questions. There aren’t any pictures on her walls or her dresser, and her closet door is shut. It’s like she decided one day that she was leaving Portland and she didn’t bring a single thing with her when she came. I wonder why that is? Is this not a permanent move for her?
I help her unpack the tent. I didn’t notice at the store, but it really is a small tent. It fits two people and has an optional divider down the middle of it. We have it set up in less than five minutes, but simply setting it up isn’t good enough for her, apparently. She walks to her closet and grabs two blankets that are on the top shelf. She lays them down in the tent and crawls inside.
“Grab two pillows off my bed,” she says. “We have to lie in it for a few minutes before we leave.”
I grab the pillows and kneel down in front of the tent. I push them inside and she takes them from me. I pull the flap back and crawl in with her, but I go to my side instead of doing what I really want to do, which is crawl on top of her.
I’m too big for the tent and my feet hang out of it, but so do hers.
“I think you bought a tent for fictional characters.”
She shakes her head and lifts up onto her elbow. “I didn’t buy it; you bought it. And it’s a kid tent, Owen. Of course we don’t fit.”
Her eyes move to the zipper hanging from the top of the tent. “Look.” She grabs it and begins zipping. A net lowers from the top and she continues to zip up the sides of it until a mesh screen separates us. She lays her head on her arm and smiles at me. “Feels like we’re in a confessional.”