I Wanna Text You Up (Page 9)
“I’m really not that into it, just what’s on my B&B playlist. I like how jazzed up it makes me feel, gets my blood pumping in the morning, which helps get my creativity flowing. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I listen to that mopey emo shit.” I grin at him.
“Aha! I knew it!”
I shrug. “What can I say? I’m a walking artistic cliché. What about you? What kind of music do you like?” I twist my lips up as I study him. “I want to say you’re a top 40s guy based off the whole aw shucks, boy-next-door thing you have going on, but I also kind of want to say classic rock since you’ve already surprised me once before.”
He laughs. “I have an ‘aw shucks’ thing going on? What does that even mean?”
“You know.” I stand and make my way to the fridge, pulling out the juice and refilling my cup. I rest against the counter, take a drink, and shrug. “Irresistible blue peepers, blond curly hair. The dimple in your chin. That body. That cute grin you hand out like candy on Halloween night. Your obliviousness to how hot you are. The fact that you’re kind of a closet nerd. You know, all of that.”
Caleb crosses his arms over his chest, his muscles straining against the material of his shirt, and leans against the counter. His eyes are trained on me, full of mischievous fun and something else.
He takes me in from head to toe, his stare so full of heat I can feel sweat licking at my skin. We’re standing only a foot apart, something palpable hanging between us.
Pushing off the counter, he takes a step toward me and leans close. Those safe couple feet of distance that separated us only moments ago have become nothing but inches, and my heart begins beating against my chest wildly at his proximity, his scent almost overwhelming me. My Brown Sugar Pear body wash is the first thing I smell, but beyond that is a whole different scent.
“You been paying attention to me, Zoe?”
Blood rushes to my ears, nearly drowning out his words. The invisible string is pulled taught and there’s no air left in the room.
There’s something in his words, in the calm, soft tone he uses.
He’s not asking to embarrass me. He’s asking to encourage me.
“You’re hard to miss, Caleb.”
His eyes darken and flit to my parted lips, remaining there for far longer than appropriate.
We stand there, inspecting one another, waiting for…I don’t know what. To make a move, to bring our mouths closer, to do anything other than just stand here…
My grip is waning on the glass I’m holding, and I wonder how many seconds it’ll be before it slips out of my hand completely.
Suddenly Caleb rears back and retraces his steps to the safe two-foot distance we had before, his attention turning firmly to his phone.
He’s good at that—retreating, pulling himself away.
He also plays into the silent broody thing a lot more than I thought he would. He’s keen on using as few words as possible to get his point across.
Part of me likes it. The other part wants to scream out in frustration.
Slowly, my heart begins to calm, my breathing returning to normal.
This isn’t the first time today we’ve leaned into one another, not the first time his eyes stayed trained on my lips for a beat too long or the first time I’ve wanted to press against him, wanted to touch him in any way I can.
There’s something about Caleb that’s magnetic, enticing me closer with each passing moment.
If I’m not careful, he’ll reel me all the way in.
There’s no turning back from that.
A soft, bluesy tone drifts through the surround sound speakers in the living room, and it pulls me back into the moment and away from the dangerous thoughts bouncing around inside my head.
I laugh at what I hear playing.
“See? I knew you’d be into classic rock. Zeppelin’s a good choice.”
He shrugs and starts pulling boxes of mac and cheese from the cabinets, organizing them on the counter so he can make room for the new groceries we bought. “Guess I’m a predictable guy.”
“Far from it.” I return to my spot at the counter. “I never expected that massive comic book collection you have.”
“That’s what surprised you?”
“You scream jock, not nerd.”
He chuckles. “I suppose that’s a fair point since I do play baseball.” The can of corn he’s holding is suspended in midair as he halts all movements.
His broad shoulders sag and I itch to reach out to him, to comfort him in his obvious pain. I hate that he lost something that meant so much to him.
“Did. I did play baseball.”
“Even still,” I say immediately, moving on and hoping he does too. “You have that look about you. I don’t think of you being the first to the store when the new issue hits or waiting in line at cons, but based on the number of comics you have and the stacks of badges I saw, you’ve done both…a lot.”
“No? Then what do you think?”
“Friday nights beneath the lights, keggers on the weekends, homecoming—you know, good guy homegrown boy stuff.”
A huffed laugh escapes him and he shakes his head. I don’t know if he’s amused or annoyed. “You’re way off base, Zoe.”
He moves around the kitchen, ignoring my question as he continues to empty and then refill the cabinets just how he wants them.
Finally, when he’s putting up the last pile of groceries, he responds. “I wasn’t homegrown. I just was.”
I sit there, blinking, unsure what exactly his words are supposed to mean. I’m stunned by the way he drops what he’s doing and marches out of the room, bad attitude in tow.
He doesn’t slam his door closed, but the message is loud and clear: leave me be.
My brows pinch together as I stay seated at the counter, chewing my bottom lip and staring at the spot Caleb was occupying only moments ago.
Did I pry too much? Was I too invasive? Are questions about his past off limits? Does it get that dark?
Not once did I get the vibe from Caleb that he was carrying around anything but sunshine. He’s always been that easygoing, happy guy. I assumed he had the golden childhood, parents still together, prom king and all that.
But the light that shines off him isn’t a reflection of his past, a dark gray area I never knew existed; it’s a glimpse into his future, a demonstration of the person he strives to be.
My phone vibrates against my bedside table, and I’m hesitant to put down my paintbrush for it.
I’m in the middle of what I like to call a get this stupid shit off my mind piece. Basically, I’m going balls to the wall and letting my hands take control.
There’s another buzz.
With reluctance, I put my brush down and snatch up the offending object.
This better be damn good.
Caleb: I’m sorry…sorry I walked away and didn’t talk anything over with you. I suck sometimes and tonight was one of those times.
Caleb: Can you forgive me?
Well, look at the balls on him.
Me: Prepare for a lengthy response…
Me: I’m pretty pissed at you, a little confused, and maybe even hurt. For one, I didn’t deserve that sort of exit. For two, you didn’t even finish cleaning up the kitchen. That’s not good roomie behavior. I don’t know what kind of roommates you had before, but I’m not about to walk on eggshells around you and your temper tantrums. Let me in, keep me shut out—I don’t give a crap. Just don’t treat me that way and we’ll be square. Check your shit at the door and don’t take it out on me.
Caleb: Yeah. Roger that.
Me: Did you really just act like an ass again?
Caleb: Shit, I did. I’m sorry. I fucking suck.
Me: You’re damn right you do.
Caleb: It’s just…my past is a sore subject for me. I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now.
Me: No shit. That bad?
Caleb: Dick stuck in a zipper bad.
Me: I don’t have a dick, as we’ve already established, so I don’t know what that feels like, but it doesn’t sound fun.
Caleb: Oh, there was nothing fun about it. I wasn’t the golden child. I didn’t get invited to parties, let alone a school dance. I wasn’t homecoming anything. The only reason I was part of the baseball team and was able to get the fuck out of that place was because of my mom and who she was and what she did for the coaches after hours. I skated the edges of the outcasts and barely outran the troubled ones. High school was tough. College is my do-over.
Caleb: Think we could get a do-over?
Me: I can do that, but this is your last chance. Don’t screw it up.
Me: God, I feel like we’re all keyed up here now. Can’t we just go back to flirting like we did in the emails?
Caleb: Flirting? Is that what you were doing? Oh, you mean go back to you staring at my ass and me pretending like I don’t notice? Or you inching close to me and trying to get me to give in to kissing you? You want to go back to that?
Me: You are such a jerk! I was NOT staring at your ass.
Me: Okay, fine. I was. So sue me. You’ve got a great ass.
Me: I hate you because now I’m blushing, and I never blush. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?
Caleb: You are such a liar. You could never hate me. Even when I’m at my worst, you won’t be able to truly hate me. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you were checking me out…if you promise not to tell anyone I was checking you out too.