I Wanna Text You Up (Page 15)
“Two light beers, please.”
The bartender nods and scurries off to grab the drinks.
I brace my elbows on the bar top and glance out into the sea of bodies. Even for a Friday night, Lola’s is extra packed. The makeshift dance floor is full of grinding bodies, every table at capacity.
I find Caleb sitting alone at a table off to the side of the bar, shoulders slumped inward as he sits there scanning the room, eyes steady and sure.
He put on a pair of jeans that cling to his legs just right and a navy blue jersey-style shirt. The first button is undone, giving the sexiest glimpse of the base of his throat. His stubble is now shaven down to a five o’clock shadow, and damn does that look suit him.
The ever-present baseball cap is sitting atop his head, this time facing the right way. I want to march over to him and spin it around. There’s no reason eyes like his should be hidden in shadow.
There are a couple girls crowding the table, wanting his attention. He’s not paying them any as his gaze meanders over my way, stopping only a moment to connect with my own.
I can see his lips pull up on one side then he’s moving on, canvassing the room once again.
“You come here often?”
“You actually think that line will work?” I don’t even bother to look at the random guy who just used the worst pickup line in the history of pickup lines.
“A guy’s gotta try.”
I huff out a laugh. “And that’s the best you can come up with?”
I glance his way. The first thing I notice is the lack of a baseball cap, and I hate myself for even thinking about that right now because the guy standing in front of me is actually cute. His dark hair is disheveled in an artful way, grin plastered across his tan face, perfect white teeth shining out at me. He screams frat boy.
I don’t do frat boys.
“Hi,” he says.
“So, really, do you come here often? I haven’t seen you before.”
“Does that mean you come here often?”
He has the gall to look sheepish, like I don’t know he’s a shark in the water. “Sure, you could say that.”
“Right.” I turn my attention back to the bartender, brushing the guy off.
He doesn’t take the hint.
“What’s your name?”
I tsk. “That isn’t information I hand out to just anyone.”
“Oh, darlin’, I’m not just anyone.”
I throw my head back in laughter. “You have to stop with the cheesy lines. They’re not getting you anywhere right now.”
He stands a little straighter, his grin transforming into something more genuine. It instantly makes him more attractive.
Sticking his hand out, he says, “Hi, I’m Tony. Care to join me for a drink?”
My eyes bounce between his hand and his face. When he’s not acting like he’s on the prowl, he seems like a decent guy, so I clasp his hand in mine. “Hi, Tony. Name’s Zoe.”
“Zoe—beautiful name for a beautiful girl.”
I shake my head at him, trying to fight off a grin.
He runs a hand through his already messy hair, his embarrassment sincere. “Shit, I did it again, huh? I’m sorry. I’m horrible at this.”
“Kind of. I just got out of a bad relationship and I’m trying to dive back into the dating game. This shit is hard, man, hence me resorting to the worst pickup lines imaginable.”
“If it makes you feel any better, you’re not so bad when you’re not trying so hard.”
“Not so bad, huh.” He shakes his head, his smile broadening. “I’m such an ass because there’s another line right there on the tip of my tongue and I want to say it, but I can’t bring myself to do so.”
I laugh. “Probably for the best.”
“I’m sorry I came off as a dick. That’s not who I am.”
“That’s exactly what a dick would say.”
His eyes spark with interest. “You’re a tough cookie to crack, say just what’s on your mind. I like it.”
“I like it too.” I throw him a wink.
“Did you get lost in Narnia or something? What in the hell is taking so long?”
Caleb’s warmth slams into me, that now familiar scent of his wrapping around me like a blanket. His heavy hand lands on the bar just behind me, so close that I can feel his arm resting against my back. The heat seeps through my shirt, and I can already feel the beads of sweat starting to form along the back of my neck.
“It’s busy,” I tell him, spinning on my stool to face him.
“Busy my ass. You were grabbing two beers. It doesn’t take that long to pop a couple tops off.”
I reach up and poke at his drawn-together brows. “You’re so grumpy tonight. We’re supposed to be having fun.”
“Sitting in a room full of strangers and watching them try to score with one another is not fun. It’s sad.”
There’s a choked cough from behind me and I realize I forgot all about my new friend Tony—who happens to be doing just what Caleb described.
“Right.” I change positions on my stool until I’m facing the bar, the boys on either side of me. Caleb’s free hand makes its way to my lower back, the other still attached to the bar, encasing me. “Tony, this is Caleb. Caleb, Tony. Be nice.”
“I’m always nice.” He pushes himself off the bar and extends his hand Tony’s way. “Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise.” Tony catches my eye. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were here with someone.”
“Oh, I’m not. We’re not together.”
“Yes we are,” Caleb interjects.
“What? No we aren’t,” I tell him.
“Yes we are.”
“Are you insane? We are not together.”
Just then the bartender slides my two beers across the counter. “Want me to start a tab, sweetheart?”
“No, but thank you.” I hand over enough to cover the drinks and a tip. “You’re buying the next round,” I tell Caleb.
I turn back to Tony, who’s staring at me with big eyes. I raise a brow at him in question.
“Nothing,” he says, shaking his head. “It’s nothing. I’m, uh, I’m going to go meet up with my friends. It was great meeting you, Zoe. I’m sorry to have interrupted your date.”
“Date? No. That is not what this is!” But he’s already retreating.
I feel the rumbling of his chest before I hear his laughter, and I nearly growl in frustration.
“You just cockblocked me!”
“I did no such thing, Zoe.”
“Caleb Mills, you cockblocked me so hard I may as well be wearing a sign on my forehead that says, ‘Hey, we’re together! Stay away!’ Even though we most certainly are not together. Therefore, you should not be cockblocking me. Dick.”
He laughs again and takes the seat Tony was just occupying. I miss the feel of his hand on my lower back the moment his fingers drift away from my skin.
“Were you really considering going home with that dude?”
“If you hadn’t cockblocked me, I would have.” He gives me a look of disbelief. “What? I would have gone home with him. He’s my type, so why not?”
He scratches at the scruff covering his jawline. “I didn’t think you were into frat boys.”
I scoff, tossing my hair back over my shoulder. “Pfft. Frat boys are totally my thing.”
“I don’t believe you for one minute, Zoe.”
“Oh, really? Well then tell me, oh wise one, what is my type?”
“Based on what I know about your past relationships, I’d wager to bet that your type is”—he waves a hand down his body—“well, me.”
“You? You think you’re my type? Please.”
One side of his mouth lifts. “Yep. Me.”
“You cannot be serious right now.”
“Oh, baby, I know I’m your type.”
“Just because I dated one baseball player…” Caleb lifts a brow. “Fine, just because I dated a couple baseball players does not mean I have a thing for them.” His brows shoot higher and I push at his arm. “It doesn’t!”
He chuckles at my feeble attempt to shove him. “Are you trying to bullshit me or yourself right now? Because we both know I’m right.”
“You are not right. I’m not attracted to you.”
“Right.” He takes a sip of his beer, that stupid smirk still on his face.
“Fine. What if I am?”
“Then we’re on an even playing field here.”
“We’re flirting again, right?”
“We’re flirting again.”
“But that’s all it is, yes?”
He rolls the bottom edge of his beer bottle along the table, eyes trained on me. “If that’s what you want.”
“Is that what you want?”
“I want whatever’s going to make you happiest, Zoe.”
It’s all I say—all I allow myself to say.
Tonight’s not about Caleb and me and our unspoken rule of allowing ourselves to toe the line but not cross it. It’s about getting out of the house and having some fun.