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Somebody Else's Sky (Something in the Way #2)(103)

By:Jessica Hawkins

She cleared her throat. She hadn't expected that. Yet, he only said he'd started a business-not that it was successful. Maybe it wasn't. But there was his suit, the cut of it, the way it moved with him instead of against him. It turned his shoulders into two strong right angles with a large expanse in between.

If she pretended there were a bug, she could reach out and brush it away just to see if the fabric was smooth, scratchy or something else. And she could get an idea of what was underneath it.

"What'd you do before this?" Beau asked, oblivious to her wandering imagination.

"Before this? Nothing really. I've worked here since I was … " She almost couldn't finish the sentence. It was a lifetime ago now. In the eight years she'd been doing it, she couldn't pinpoint when she'd decided waiting tables would be her career. "Twenty-one," she finished. "That's how old I was when I started." 

"So that would be, what?" Beau pretended to count to himself. "Two years ago? Three?"

"Nice try," she said as she laughed.

"I can't be that far off. You could pass for early twenties."

"Maybe compared to tonight's crowd. You and I might be the only ones under forty." She guessed at his age to see if he'd correct her, because he could very possibly be forty.

"Except for Johnny," Beau said.

"Obviously except for Johnny," Lola said quickly. He'd flustered her with the insinuation she'd forgotten about Johnny-because she had.

"You're a bit younger than me, though," Beau said, his voice light, teasing. "And I'm a bit older than you."

She wanted to ask by how much, but she just glanced at the floor. "Not a lot older, I don't think."

"The way you're smiling a little makes me think maybe you wouldn't mind an older man."

"Actually," Lola said, lifting her head, "I wouldn't know anything about that. Johnny's the oldest guy I've been with, and he's a few years older than me. And my guess is you're a few years older than him. And my other guess is, whether or not I'd mind an older man isn't really your business."

His eyes twinkled. "You're right. It was inappropriate to suggest you might. I'm sorry."

"I don't think you are." She turned away from the probing look on his face, more intimate now than it'd just been.

"I don't think you are, either," he said.

She paused, and against her better judgment, looked back. His cheeks were high and round, as though losing the fight against his smile. "Don't tell me you're forfeiting the game," he said.

"And give you the satisfaction? Never. I'm in it 'til the end."

"Then why are you walking away?"

"If I'm going to hang around you any longer, I'm going to need a drink for myself."

He put his hand in his pocket and stalked slowly toward her. No longer on the verge of smiling, he looked at her as though she were on display in a museum, some rare and amusing find.

She stood her ground, even when he came close enough that the tips of their feet almost touched. His eyes, their unusual oval shape and striking color-he narrowed them and frowned as if he were trying to read her but couldn't. He leaned in. He was going to kiss her right there in front of everyone. She had to move, push him-something. She looked at his mouth, his bottom lip slightly fuller, slightly pinker than the upper one.

"Are you going somewhere dangerous?" he asked.

She tried not to sound as breathless as the thought of kissing him made her feel. "What?"

He put his hand over hers, encompassing it in warmth. He turned it over. Instinctively, she opened her fingers to reveal a dart she hadn't realized she'd been gripping.

"I'll hold onto this-unless you think you'll need it for protection?" He took it and walked back a few steps. She wondered if she'd been wrong that he couldn't read her because of the way he grinned. It was as if he knew something about her she didn't.