I force a smile. It hurts like hell. “Thank you.”
He nods his head toward the service department. “Follow me.”
Griffin’s at a computer. He looks up.
“Your woman wants you to take a break. The bathroom door has a lock.” Jett smirks.
Griffin doesn’t acknowledge him. Neither do I. It’s like he can see through me, like he knows what I’m going to say. I’m the girl who forgot his birthday. I’m the girl who kissed another guy. And Griffin is just the boy who fell for the wrong girl.
My chest hurts so badly it’s crushing me. I have to tell him what happened. And even though I know without a single doubt that it meant nothing to me, it’s going to mean everything to Griffin. And that’s fair, because the world’s kindest grocery store guy deserves a girl who would never let another man kiss her.
I look around, but there’s no one else in sight. Griffin shifts his weight on the stool, propping one boot up on the metal rung, hands crossed over his chest.
“You’ve never looked more miserable,” he says.
I laugh a little, fighting back the tears.
“If you’re not coming with me, then you don’t have to say anything.”
I bite my quivering lips together and blink. As soon as he sees my tears, he looks away. I close my eyes.
“Tell me about your day, Swayz.” Griffin shot me this killer grin on our third date.
We were eating dinner at his house for the first time. He baked salmon and steamed asparagus. I brought a bottle of wine and cookies that I tried to pass off as homemade, but I was pretty sure he knew they were store-bought.
It was the first time he called me Swayz. No one had ever given me a nickname before. In that moment, for the first time in my life, I didn’t hate my name.
“It was good.” I shrugged, still struggling to keep eye contact with him for more than five seconds without blushing like a schoolgirl.
“Good is a terrible description. I need details.” He took another bite of salmon and pinned me with the sexiest look.
“Details, huh? Well, nothing too exciting. I got fitted for my cap and gown—”
“No.” He shook his head. “Start from the beginning. Breakfast. What did you have for breakfast?”
“Really? You want all the details? I’m not that exciting.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.”
My face hurt from smiling so much. “Toast and butter. Coffee with sugar. I like a lot of sugar in my coffee. So much so I’m not sure if my jolt is from the caffeine or the sugar. Barre class. Shower—”
“Tell me more about this shower.”
I giggled with a full-on blush. “It was wet.” My hands covered my face. “Gah! I can’t do this.”
“Swayze Samuels naked and wet. I can work with that. Do you wash your hair or soap your body first?”
Shaking my head, I continued to laugh. “I can’t do this. It’s like phone sex without the phone.”
“Fine. We’ll save phone sex without the phone for after-dinner conversation. So how much sugar are we talking about? Like would you say you have coffee with sugar, or sugar with coffee?”
“Probably the latter.”
“Barre class. Are you a dancer? Please say yes.”
I giggled more. I never knew giggling was my thing until I met Grocery Store Guy.
“No. My coordination is quite challenged, but I like the burn and it’s supposed to lift my butt. I think the jury is still out on that.”
His chin jerks up. “Stand up. Let me see. I’ll happily be the judge of that.”
“You’re a total flirt.”
“Just with you.”
“Ha! I doubt that.”
Griffin gave me this look, the kind of look that came with an exaggerated pause like he needed to process something. Something new. Something unexpected.
I liked that look because unlike the casual flirting, it felt like something he hadn’t given to anyone else.
We sat at his two-person kitchen table for almost two hours, flirting, laughing, and sharing special looks.
“Can I talk you into sitting on my sofa?” He stood, holding out his hand.
I rubbed the rim of the wine glass over my bottom lip. “Is there something special about your sofa?”
“It’s more comfortable than these old wooden chairs.”
“Are you inviting me to get comfortable?” I grinned, trying to be flirty, but … man oh man I was so nervous. Third date and no kiss. In all fairness, it was our first evening date. The other two had been quick meals over his lunch break.
Three dates in three weeks, but we texted every day. Lots of texts about the most random stuff.
Griffin: Strawberries are on sale. Do you like strawberries?
Me: I cut my sandwiches diagonally. Do you cut your sandwiches in half?
Griffin: Going to the speedway with some friends. Do you bat your eyelashes to get out of speeding tickets?
Me: Never do a vinegar rinse after shaving your legs.
Griffin: Getting another tattoo.
Me: Sparrow. The name of the new girl in my barre class. Parents are stupid.
“Yes. I’m inviting you to get more comfortable.”
I placed my hand in his hand. It fit. It felt right. No, it felt perfect.
“So how many tattoos do you have?”
“Quite a few.”
We sat on the sofa. A small grin tugged at his lips when I left a full cushion between us. My nerves were firing on all cylinders. There was a hundred percent chance of me whimpering if our bodies got too close.
“You don’t keep count?”
“Do you have a favorite one?”
My gaze inspected the tattoos on his arms.
“I’m wearing too many clothes for you to see it.”
Heat crawled up my neck and in lower places as well.
“Do you have any ink?”
I shook my head. “Just a birthmark.”
His gaze made a quick inspection of me.
I grinned. “I’m wearing too many clothes for you to see it.”
“Cute.” He leaned back in the opposite corner, crossing his inked arms over his chest. “I know what you’re doing. And it’s not going to work. I’m not that easy.”
“What am I doing?” I chuckled.
“You’re pretending you have a birthmark so I’ll agree to show you my dragon if you show me your birthmark. And only after I’m standing in front of you, completely naked, will you reveal that it’s not really a birthmark, just an odd-shaped mole. No …” He shook his head. “I’m not falling for that. If you want me naked, you’re going to have to show me the birthmark first.”
They all hit me at once. Griffin wasn’t just a flirt. He was good … really really good.
I swallowed hard. All that my brain made sense of in that moment was a simple exchange. Me lifting my shirt a few inches in exchange for him getting naked. I needed to see the dragon. After all, it was his favorite tattoo, and who doesn’t like dragons?
“It’s not an odd-shaped mole.” I leaned back in my corner of the sofa and slid up my T-shirt.
Griffin’s tongue made a lazy swipe along his bottom lip. I rubbed my lips together, hoping, praying that said lips would get to press to his mouth soon. We were on date three, but all the random texts made me feel like I knew him more like an eighth date. My body just wanted to catch up to my mind.
“That’s quite the birthmark. I can’t see the whole thing.” His gaze flit to mine, eyes gleaming with this sexy challenge.
My shirt was tucked up just to the bottom edge of my bra, but the birthmark extended a half inch to the underside of my left breast.
“I’d have to remove my bra.” I faked confidence. Like no big deal.
He glanced at the nonexistent watch on his wrist. “I don’t have any plans for a while. I’ve got time. Do you?”
“We haven’t kissed, but you want me to take off my bra for you?”
He smirked. “Swayz, you make it sound like a strip tease. I just want to see all of your birthmark before I show you my dragon.”
I scraped my teeth along my lower lip, eyeing his tight sexy graphic tee and muscular legs clad in worn denim. Sinewy, inked arms. Shaven head. At least two days’ worth of stubble along his jaw.
Sitting up, I inched my shirt off, the rush of adrenaline obvious in the exaggerated rise and fall of my chest.
Griffin’s Adam’s apple bobbed just before his lips parted.
“Here.” I slid the bottom of my bra up just enough to show him where my birthmark ended.
“That’s a sexy birthmark.”
I slid my bra back down. “It’s no dragon.”
His grin grew so big I felt it along every inch of my skin, but nowhere did I feel it stronger than the heavy pulse between my legs.
In one full motion, he stood and shrugged off his shirt. I swallowed back my whimper and squeezed my legs together.
He turned, showing me his back and the dragon that started midway and off to one side. I tried to speak, but he unfastened his jeans, leaving me fumbling for a single coherent thought.
Granted his back was to me, but … but … butt!
Sigh. Drool. Whimper.