All or Nothing (Page 9)

All or Nothing (Love by Design #3)(9)
Author: Kendall Ryan

I nodded. Sleep sounded heavenly. I’d had too much wine. Too much pizza. Too much hormone-fueled conversation with a devastatingly handsome man. My body wasn’t used to this.

“What time do you get off work tomorrow?”

“Six,” I responded without thinking.

“I’ll come by at seven with dinner. We’ll discuss our arrangement then.”

Our arrangement? “Okay,” I agreed, sleepily, wondering what in the world I was actually agreeing to.

• • •

Someone had stolen my brain and replaced it with a pile of goo. I couldn’t concentrate at work. I could barely form cohesive sentences. I’d dropped several petri dishes, spilled a specimen, and contaminated another sample I was working with. I’d consumed way too much wine for a Wednesday night and had woken up late and hung over. I’d gotten ready in a hurry, and as a result my hair was flat and dull and the dark circles under my eyes made me look like a zombie on crack. At lunch, I’d been so distracted, I’d picked at my food and dropped a huge glob of tuna salad on my shirt. Which led to me spending twenty minutes in the restroom trying to clean the stain, all while cursing myself out that I’d eaten smelly old tuna fish for lunch when I was supposed to see Braydon that night. I’d have to get home a little early to change my shirt and brush my teeth. Maybe touch up my makeup. And shave. Oh God, this was exactly why he wasn’t healthy for me. He sent my brain into overdrive. I hadn’t felt butterflies like this since I was in tenth grade and got felt up for the first time.

I’d replayed in my head what I would say to him a million times. Of course I’d refuse his offer. I was flattered, sure, but I couldn’t actually go through with it. I’d just have to make him understand. Braydon, though I’d known him only a short time, could be very persuasive. And that’s what scared me most. I couldn’t let myself get sucked into his world.

I fumbled with the dial on my microscope, cursing loudly when I couldn’t get the damn thing to cooperate.

“Are you okay?” my boss, Lydia, asked. She was looking at me with a concerned look, her wire-rimmed glasses balancing at the end of her nose. Lydia was a great boss. Smart as a whip, patient, and a great advocate for our department to receive the funding and training we needed to perform. I loved working for her. But we never discussed our personal lives. Ever. Aside from a simple “How was your weekend?” And I didn’t plan to start now. “You seem distracted today,” she said.

“I’m fine,” I lied. I focused on the task in front of me, hoping she’d let it drop.

“I’ve worked with you long enough to know when something’s wrong.” She removed her glasses and set them on the table beside her. Her brown eyes crinkled in the corners as she gave me a sympathetic smile. “You can talk to me, you know.”

I frowned and rubbed my forehead. I had a pounding headache from thinking about this arrangement with Braydon. “It’s nothing. Just guy problems.”

“Ah. I see.” She nodded, her eyes weary and wise, like she’d been around long enough to know all about such matters. “Do you want to talk about it?”

I inhaled deeply and released it slowly. “No. But thank you for the offer.” How did you tell your boss that a sexy male model wanted to become your . . . what did he call it again? Oh yeah, pleasure pal. No, I wouldn’t be explaining that to my boss. I wanted to keep my job, thank you very much.

She replaced her glasses and patted the back of my hand. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out, Elizabeth. You’re a very smart girl.” She was one of the only people who called me Elizabeth and not Ellie.

I smiled weakly. I didn’t feel so smart. I felt as if I was back in high school, complete with sweaty palms and a stomach full of nerves at the thought of the football captain wanting to ask me out. Scratch that. Braydon didn’t want to ask me to go steady. He just wanted me naked and ready in the backseat of his car.

Shit.

These thoughts weren’t helping me focus. “I didn’t sleep well last night. I had to help a friend with a leak in her apartment.” At least that part was true. Crap. Hopefully Braydon followed through on his promise to remove the soggy belongings and have the apartment aired out. Crappy friend that I was, I hadn’t thought about that again since last night.

Lydia nodded. “Okay. Well, if you need to leave a little early this afternoon—recharge your batteries—you be sure to do just that.”

“Thank you. I think I will.” Another reason why I loved my boss.

I thought getting home early would be a blessing. Instead it just meant I had more time to sit around worrying before Braydon was due. I felt caged up inside my apartment, so after cleaning every room thoroughly I decided to change into a sports bra, T-shirt, and shorts and go for a jog. I figured I’d still have time to shower and get ready before he arrived. Pushing my muscles into action, with loud music blaring in my ears, was exactly what I needed. I felt sluggish at first—too many indulgences last night—but soon found my rhythm and pounded out three miles. When I arrived back home, my head was slightly clearer. Maybe I could do this with Braydon. Give in to my body’s yearnings. Have a fun adventure. You only live once, right?

I turned the shower on as hot as I could stand it and let the water beat down on me. I scrubbed myself thoroughly, shampooed and conditioned my hair, and shaved my legs for good measure. I dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, refusing to primp for him. Refusing to pretend this was some type of date. He’d made it clear that we wouldn’t be dating.

When Braydon arrived promptly at seven, my heart jumped into my throat. I answered the door and found him standing there, dressed casually in jeans and an old band T-shirt. His style was cute. Relaxed and vintage. I liked it. A lot.

“Hi,” I said, pulling open the door wider.

“Hiya. Can I come in? I have Thai food.” He held up a brown paper sack. “Of course it occurred to me that you might not like Thai, but you seem like an adventurous girl, so I went with it.”

“Thai is fine. And please, come in.” I motioned him forward and led him into my tiny kitchen. After gathering plates, utensils, and drinks, we carried the whole lot to the small round table in my breakfast nook.

“Nice place,” he commented, looking around. I’d never officially given him a tour, but I was just trying to avoid that awkward moment when we ended up in my bedroom staring at the bed. I doubted I’d have a witty comeback when he suggested we christen it.