Motion (Page 33)
Abram glanced between me and the back of the novel. “You read romance?”
“Um, no,” I said, tucking the book back where it belonged. Serious people with serious thoughts didn’t read romance novels.
I gave him a look. “Why would I?”
“You like to read, right?”
“Uh, yes. But—”
“You should try this.” Abram selected a novel from a nearby shelf and showed me the cover.
I scanned the title, glanced at Abram, and then placed it back on the shelf. “No, thank you. I don’t read that kind of stuff.”
“What kind of stuff?” He grabbed it again, leaning a shoulder against the shelf, giving me the sense of being caged in (but not in a bad way).
I made a face as I inspected him, unable to discern whether he was poking fun at me, or the author, or what, so I said, “I’ll read it if you read it.”
“Deal.” He handed it to me again. “I like this author.”
I reared back, shocked, stunned, shocked again. “You read romance?”
I blinked at him several times; apparently my eyes couldn’t believe my ears. “No, you don’t.”
“Yes. I do.” He leaned closer, smiling down at me like he thought I was cute, or my disbelief was cute, or something like that.
“Prove it. What else has this author written? And no looking at the shelf or the book I’m holding.” I hid the novel by twisting away, but my attention remained on Abram’s face, enthralled. I still couldn’t tell if he was joking.
“Let’s see, uh, Devil In Winter—that was a really good one—and the other book I really liked was Love in the Afternoon. The main character was obsessed with animals.” His smile grew as his eyes drifted over my shoulder. “She cracked me up.”
Captivated, I stared at him. I didn’t know what other books this author had written, so I couldn’t fact-check his statements. Nevertheless, I was now convinced Abram read romance.
His gaze returned to mine. “What?”
“I’m so confused.”
“When would you have come across romance novels? Did your mom read them?”
“No.” He wrinkled his nose—just a little—at this question. “My mom reads gardening books and science fiction. But my sister reads everything.” He tapped at the cover of the book I clutched. “I read whatever she recommends, and she recommended this author, highly.”
“Your sister is so . . .” I was in love with Marie. No use denying it. Teach me your ways, Marie-Wan Kenobi.
“Amazing,” I said on a sigh.
His grin was as quick as it was massive, but then he dropped his chin—as though to hide his smile again—and cleared his throat. “She is, but don’t tell her I said so.”
“Why wouldn’t you tell her yourself?”
“You know how it is between siblings.”
My eyebrows inched upwards. “How is it?”
“They live to torture each other.”
“Of course.” His eyes moved between mine and he looked truly confused by my confusion. “Come off it, Lisa. Leo doesn’t talk about you and your sister much, but he’s told me a few stories about you. You love to piss him off.”
Oh! . . . yeah. I’d forgotten for a moment who I was supposed to be. Okay, I’d forgotten for longer than a moment. Actually, I’d been Mona all day.
“Ah! Hahaha. Yes. That is true.” I turned and promptly winced.
He was not finished. “The time you texted Meghan using his phone, but called her Melissa? Classic.”
I glanced at Abram, who now walked at my shoulder, and gave him a noncommittal shrug. I didn’t know anything about a Meghan, or a Melissa, so it was probably best neither to confirm nor deny his statements.
“Actually, I should thank you for that one.”
I stopped. “You should thank me?”
“Oh yeah.” He nodded, looking serious. “Did you ever see them together? She wasn’t good for him.”
Frowning, I nodded—again vaguely—making a mental note to ask Leo about this Meghan person the next time we spoke. And then I’d ask him why he’d never told me about this Meghan person.
“Well, see? That wasn’t torture. I was helping Leo make good life decisions.”
“Sure.” He gave me another little smile, now squinting. “And what you did to your sister before her graduation? With the newspaper? What was that?”
Staring at Abram, I became very, very still. How did . . . ?
“How do you know about that?” I whispered the question. My hands suddenly felt clammy, my throat hurt, and my heart was beating like mad.
“Leo told me. He thought it was hilarious.” Abram had picked up a book and was browsing the back cover, apparently not noticing the shift in my demeanor.
Leo thought it was hilarious?
Coming to myself just enough to realize it probably wasn’t a good idea to continue staring as though shell-shocked, I turned. Nodding faintly, I grabbed the first book I found and pretending to read the cover, I worked to regain my composure.
Upon arriving two days before my graduation, she’d given an interview to the university’s newspaper pretending to be me. Luckily, the student reporter called to double-check one of my statements and I’d discovered the “prank” before they’d published the story.
It wasn’t that big of a deal to anyone but me. And—I reasoned—from the outside looking in, I could see how it might be funny. She’d told the reporter I planned to give up physics for a career in performance art, that I’d discovered my true passion and that passion was nude interpretive dance.
Except not. Not when you’ve spent four years struggling to be taken seriously.
“It’s a small world.” Abram’s statement brought me back to the present, and I worried for a moment that he’d been speaking and I’d missed some of it.
But then he said, “What are the chances that you go to boarding school with this girl, and then she goes on to the same university as your sister, and she’s on the newspaper the same year your sister graduated.”
I blinked, processing his words, and asking before I could catch myself, “Sorry, what?”
He glanced at me, his lips curved to the left. “Leo said Mona freaked out, thinking the whole thing was real, thinking you actually gave the interview.” His gaze moved over my features and warmed, softened, his mouth gave in to a real smile. “Your sister must not know you very well, to think you’d do something so mean.” ***
“What are you doing?” Abram’s attention flickered between me and the book I’d just opened. “Are you starting? Now?”
“Yes.” I flipped to the page that read Chapter One.
My plan to remain at the bookstore until closing didn’t come to fruition, mostly due to a Julius-and-Ethel-Rosenberg-level betrayal by my stomach. It had growled so loudly, Abram gave me the side-eye, paid for our purchases directly, and pushed me out of the shop.
Silly with starvation, I had a fantastical thought: had I not been so hungry, I would’ve liked the afternoon to last forever.
I’d had the best time. The BEST time. THE BEST TIME!
Other than that one minor uncomfortable reminder of Lisa’s practical joke and his bizarre statements that followed, good feelings reigned. I hadn’t been able to figure out how to ask him about the prank without blowing my cover—was he saying that Lisa hadn’t actually given the interview? That the interviewer/reporter had been in on the joke? Or what?—so, I ultimately decided to let it go. For now. Something to ask Lisa or Gabby about later.
It had been somewhat difficult to push it from my mind. But my continued proximity to Abram while browsing at the bookstore meant his mysterious man-scent had been easily accessible. Loose and wonderfully fuzzy headed, anytime I thought of Lisa’s prank, trying to parse through what he’d meant by “Your sister must not know you very well, to think you’d do something so mean,” all I had to do was move closer to Abram. I’d pretend to reach around him for a book, or brush past him when the space between aisles grew tight—and take a big sniff.
Instant olfactory sensory relaxation.
Presently, we were sitting in a booth at a small Italian place not far from Anderson’s. We’d just ordered—lasagna for me, steak of some sort for him—and then I’d opened the romance novel he’d bought me.
“I thought you were hungry?” He poked at the book with a breadstick.
“I am. But my brain is also hungry. For stimulation.”
“What? My conversation isn’t stimulating enough?”
I smirked, because he was just so darn cute sometimes and it made me smile.
“I didn’t say that.” I cleared my throat in an effort to erase the smile from my face, lifting the book higher to hide the persistent grin as I mumbled, “But you said it and you’re very perceptive.”
A surprised-sounding laugh emanated from his side of the table.
Impulsively, I lowered the book and peeked at him, anticipating he would do something to hide his happy expression. Like clockwork, he covered the bottom half of his face with his hand. My heart gave a little tug at the sight. For a big, strong, tall, dark and manly musician, he sure was super adorable sometimes.