Now, I watch as she gets closer and closer, her eyes looking me over then landing on my hand. Today, I stopped at the gas station and got two ice cream cookies. She told me yesterday these are her favorite. I hold one out to her, and she smiles as she shakes her head, making my heart beat a little faster. Yes, I know I’m a f**king pu**y, but I couldn’t give a f**k.
“What are you doing here”—she pauses—“again?” she asks, taking the ice cream from my hand and unwrapping it.
“Someone told me you like these.”
“Someone has a big mouth,” she says, taking a bite out of the giant frozen cookie.
“She does,” I agree, looking at her mouth.
She laughs and smacks me on the chest. She covers her mouth with her hand, chewing while holding up one finger. “What are you really doing here?” she asks after she swallows.
“Just in the neighborhood.” I shrug and take a bite of my cookie before immediately spitting it on the ground.
“Hey! What the hell?” she asks, offended, grabbing the rest of the cookie out of my hand.
“That tastes like shit.” I wipe my mouth before reaching into my car for a bottle of water.
“No, it doesn’t,” she defends with an exasperated look on her face.
“Baby, it tastes like cardboard,” I tell her, watching as her face goes soft at my endearment.
“Well, I guess I like eating cardboard then.”
I shake my head, looking at her smile. “So are you working tomorrow?” I ask her, leaning against my car.
She finishes off her cookie, and mine is halfway to her mouth when she answers, “Yes, but tomorrow I work from home.” She puts her bag on top of my car, leans her side against the door, and takes another bite of her ice cream.
I watch her movements, noticing that everything is so fluid and graceful. The urge to touch her is so overwhelming I have to cross my arms over my chest to keep myself in check.
“What about you? Do you work tomorrow?”
“Nah. I have some time off,” I reply, watching her closely.
She nods her head and looks around. “I never asked you—what kind of work do you do?”
“I’m a bounty hunter,” I answer smoothly.
“Wow,” she says, her eyes getting big. “Like Dog?”
“You mean the TV show Dog the Bounty Hunter?” I ask, laughing.
“Yeah! I used to love that show!” She smiles and her cheeks turn pink. She lowers her head so her hair falls in front of her face.
“It’s nothing like that, but yeah, that’s what I do.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?” she asks, her eyes meeting mine and her face losing some of the color.
“It can be if you’re not smart,” I confirm with a nod.
“Are you smart?” Her words are quietly spoken.
“Always.” I watch in fascination as her eyes go from worried to respect.
“How often do you work?” she asks while taking another bite of the cookie.
“It depends. Sometimes once a month, and others, three times a week.” I shrug.
“That’s cool. I mean, it’s cool if you like doing it.”
“I do. I used to work construction with my brothers, but then I got into this by helping my cousin. I found I had a knack for it and haven’t been able to stop. And you, do you like what you do?”
“Yes. It’s not exciting, but I like it, and it pays the bills, so that’s a plus.”
I nod in understanding. “What about here? Do you like working at the school?” I ask curiously.
“This is what I love doing.” Her face lights up, her voice becoming animated. “I love books. Have since I was a little girl. I used to go to the toy store with my mom and walk out with a book. I guess I’m still like that to this day. I can’t go to the store without buying one.”
“It’s a good feeling, doing something you love,” I tell her, knowing how important it is to do things that make you happy.
“Yeah, it is,” she says and licks her fingers, and it’s in this moment that I know how unaware of herself she really is. She did that not knowing the effect she’s having on me. I doubt she even understands the way she affects men in general. It could be an act, but I seriously doubt it. She doesn’t seem like she’s trying to be seductive; she’s just being herself.
“Where are you from? You have an accent I can’t place,” I say, trying to clear the image in my head of her licking something else.
“I have an accent?” she asks, pointing to herself and laughing. Then she shakes her head and replies, “No, you have an accent. I sound normal.”
“You may sound normal to yourself, but to me—and I’m sure to a lot of other people around here—you have an accent.”
“I never thought of that.” Her head tilts to the side, her smile getting bigger. “I feel kinda cool. I always wanted an accent, though I wished it was a European one, but hey, I’ll settle for this.” She giggles, and my head goes back and I laugh harder than I have in a long time. When I lift my head and our eyes meet, hers are soft and her smile is gentle. “You have a really great laugh,” she says almost to herself.
Words are caught in my throat. I don’t know what it is she’s doing to me, but I feel completely off-kilter. I’m not used to the feelings I’m having. That’s why I tried to walk away from her the first time I saw her, but then she grabbed my arm and I looked down at her, and something in me shifted. I knew if I walked away I would regret it for the rest of my life.
“So I should probably go,” she tells me, looking away quickly.
My chest tightens in response. I don’t want her to leave, but I don’t want to scare her off either. “Can I get your number?”
“Um, I…” She studies me, her eyes searching my face. “Yeah, okay. Sure.”
“Here. Just program it into my phone.” I pull my phone out of my back pocket and hand it to her.
“Oh…okay.” She presses the button on my phone, and in her concentration, her bottom lip gets a workout from her teeth.
My fingers automatically curve under her chin, pulling her lip down with my thumb so she releases it. Her head lifts and her lips part. Our eyes lock, and I fight the urge to lean forward and press my mouth to hers.
“Don’t do that, baby,” I say quietly before cupping my hand around hers, pulling her concentration back to my phone in her hand.