I got ready in a fury and reread Ellis’s invasive text three times while I fixed my hair and makeup, shaking my head each time and fighting back a smile.
I still hadn’t answered when I started walking the six blocks to Sawyer’s apartment. I’d barely stepped off the stoop of my building when my phone rang.
“You never answered my question,” Ellis said.
My lips curled up at the corners. “Of course, I didn’t.”
“Because it’s none of your business.”
“Len, your nudity is absolutely my business. In fact, I’m the CEO of that luscious body and I’m a hands-on kind of leader.”
I shook my head, unable to hold back my smile any longer. “Wow, you managed to turn a creepy text into an even creepier metaphor. Kudos to you.”
Ellis laughed. “Are you?”
“Am I what?”
“Naked,” he said. “I’m about the hop in the shower and I need a visual to, you know, help me finish the job.”
“Unbelievably sexy you mean.” I could hear the grin in his voice.
“Seriously, though,” he said. “What are you up to?”
“Well.” I took a deep breath, the ice-cold air burning my nose. “If you must know, Sawyer offered to make me dinner. I’m on my way to his place.”
“Really?” he asked. “Great!”
I stopped short on the sidewalk my feet frozen to the pavement. People around me grunted their disapproval and moved around me as I stood glued to the concrete.
“Great?” What happened to throwing his hat in the ring?
“Yeah. I’m starved; I’ll meet you there in ten.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I love his food—man, that guy can cook. Best decision I ever made, going into business with him. Even if he’s trying to steal my woman.”
“Ellis!” I shouted into the phone. An elderly woman pulling a grocery cart behind her glared at me for my outburst. I mouthed my apologies to her then returned to my phone. “So help me God if you show up at Sawyer’s…”
“What’s the big deal? I’m friends with him. He’s friends with you. We can all have dinner together, it’ll be fun.”
“You aren’t invited.”
“Oh, Len, I’m hurt. I thought we were moving forward. We’re friends, aren’t we?”
I sighed. “Yes, we’re friends.”
“And friends sometimes eat together?” I groaned, not liking the route this conversation was taking. “Sawyer and I are friends, which I expect might change when I tell him how I feel about you. Oh, what the hell—we’ll just leave him out of this and you and I will just go ourselves.”
“Smooth, Ellis,” I said. “Real smooth.”
“I am pretty smooth if I do say so myself. Not to mention devastatingly handsome, and moderately charming.”
“Only moderately?” I asked.
“Yes, but don’t worry; I grow on you.”
I took a deep breath to calm my nerves and closed my eyes. “Please tell me you are not going to show up this evening.”
Ellis laughed. “Relax. I won’t be interrupting your little dinner.”
“Thanks.” I checked the address and looked up at Sawyer’s building. The door to which was sandwiched between a dry cleaner and a greasy pizza place. “I’ve got to go. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Okay,” he said. “Lennox?”
He didn’t say anything right away. I just stood there, the cold wind biting at my fingertips.
“Don’t—,” he started, his voice sounding almost pained.
I stood there listening to him breathe on the other end.
“Nothing.” He sighed.
I groaned and rolled my eyes. “Bye, Ellis.”