#Nerd (Page 23)

She cocked her head to the side and looked at me. “Do you have any roommates?”

“Nope.”

She visibly swallowed. “We’ll be alone?”

I slowed the car and leaned over into her personal space. “What’s the matter, Rimmel?” I whispered. “Are you afraid to be alone with me?”

She pursed her lips. “Of course not.”

“Good.” I snapped back into my seat and pressed on the gas.

She made a hissing sound and I laughed. I had her. She was trapped.

Silence lapsed for a few minutes as she turned to stare out the window. “Can I ask you something?” she said, her voice tentative and low.

“Yep.”

She kept her face turned away, and I knew whatever she wanted to ask was something she wasn’t sure she should. “Why aren’t you back there with those girls?”

“What makes you think I want to be?” I returned. The vulnerability but also underlying confusion actually made something inside me cave a little.

She snorted. “Everyone calls you Romeo for a reason.” I opened my mouth, but she held up her hand to say, “And it’s not because it’s a variation of your actual name.”

I grinned. “You noticed that, huh?”

Rimmel rolled her eyes and turned back to the window.

“Maybe I wanted to be here with you,” I answered.

She stiffened in the bucket seat. Her small fingers curled around the edge of the leather. Maybe it was the wrong thing to say. Maybe it sounded too much like a pickup line. I saw the disbelief in the set of her shoulders, in the tension of her jaw. I wanted her to believe me.

Not because I wanted to sleep with her.

Because it was true.

“Those girls back there, hell, the guys too… they only want something from me,” I said. She didn’t say anything, but I knew I’d caught her attention. I knew she was listening intently, so I continued. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s really me they like, or if it’s the football star, the guy with the nice car, or the guy who can get them into parties.”

I fell silent. I didn’t mean to say all that. I only wanted to make her believe me. I hadn’t meant to spill the thoughts buried deep in my mind.

My hands tightened around the steering wheel, flexing a little against the leather. I was acutely aware of Rimmel beside me, so when she moved, I knew it right away.

She rolled her head against the seat so she was looking at me instead of out the window. “It’s the blue eyes.”

It took a minute for me to realize what she meant. I threw back my head and laughed. “Are you saying you like my eyes, Rimmel?”

She turned away again, but she whispered, “Maybe.”

Something inside me eased. The panic I’d felt moments ago about my accidental confession no longer seemed like an issue. Her reaction—or lack thereof—was exactly what I needed. It made me feel like maybe those worries, the ones I held so deep, weren’t as bad as I thought they were.

And she liked my eyes.

Really, I wasn’t surprised. My eyes were pretty damn amazing.

I turned into the long curved driveway that led around the side of the house, and Rimmel straightened in her seat. Nervous energy seemed to vibrate right off her, and I suppressed a smile.

She was so expressive. I never noticed until I started to really pay attention to her. Most people I was sure didn’t realize because you had to really look at her to notice. But I was beginning to like it. I was beginning to want to do nothing but watch her. Every time her mood changed (which was like every five minutes) it was a new experience. I felt like I was seeing this house for the first time through someone else’s eyes.

And she was intimidated.

Most people I brought here ooohed and ahhhed over the sweeping pristine driveway, columns lining the main house, the picturesque landscaping, and the amazing backyard. It was an impressive home and it left an impression on people.

But not Rimmel.

She didn’t care about all the things everyone else did. If anything, she went against it.

“My mom is a perfectionist,” I explained, wanting to distract her. “She likes everything to look perfect all the time.”

“It is beautiful,” she said politely.

I parked the car and pointed through the windshield to the guest house. “That’s my place. I live out there by myself.”

“It must be nice to not have to share a bathroom.” She stuck out her tongue. A flame of desire ignited low in my gut.

I cleared my throat and got out of the car. Rimmel followed along behind me as we walked around the pool. I noticed the wide arc she made around the edge and the wary look in her eye. “Don’t like to swim?”

“No,” she said tightly, and then a wall closed over her features.

“Want a soda?” I asked, walking through the living room and into the kitchen.

“Sure,” she replied, stopping at the island and dropping her bag on the floor.

I grabbed two cans of Coke out of the fridge and turned. “Heads up,” I called and tossed it to her.

She threw up her hands and ducked. The soda hit the back of the barstool and bounced on the floor.

“You were supposed to catch that,” I pointed out as she unfolded her arms from her head.

“You were supposed to hand it to me.” She glared.

I shook my head and came around the island to pick up the can. I held it out in front of her face and flirted with the top. “Think it will explode if I open it?” I wagged my eyebrows.

She backed up a step. “Don’t you dare.”

I lifted the tab on the top just slightly. She shrieked and moved to rush by me, holding her arms up to protect her face from the spray. I laughed and caught her around the waist, dragging her back as I set the can on the counter.

“I’m not cleaning up the mess that will make.”

“Jerk!” she said and lifted her arm to smack me.

I wrapped my other arm around her, pressing her hands down against her sides. She struggled for a second. Then she seemed to realize how close we were and her body went still.

I could smell the shampoo from her hair, feel the rapid beating of her heart against her chest, and hear the unsteady breaths she was dragging into her lungs.

One of my hands flattened against her back and slid down so it rested in the hollow of her waist, just above her ass. My fingers flexed and her head tilted back so she could look up into my face.

Fuck, she was small. She didn’t even come to my shoulder. I imagined in that moment she looked a lot like she did the other night with my jacket on. Engulfed. Owned. Claimed.