Home > Only You (One and Only #1)(5)

Only You (One and Only #1)(5)
Author: Melanie Harlow

I went into the kitchen, opened the freezer, and stuck my head in as far as it would go. A couple minutes later, I pulled out the bottle of vodka I kept in there and began to make Emme’s martini—three olives, extra dry, and extra dirty. I concentrated on mixing the cocktail exactly right, and by the time she knocked, her drink was ready, my breathing had slowed, my body temperature had returned to normal, and my pants fit just fine.

See? All it took to control your feelings was a little discipline.

“So was it any better the second time?” From her end of the couch, Emme looked at me hopefully before eating the last olive from her martini off the stainless steel cocktail pick. Her shoes were off, her denim-clad legs were tucked underneath her, and she’d taken her hair down. It spilled down over her shoulders, long and blond and wavy.

“You mean the third time?” As the credits rolled, I tossed back a little more bourbon, hoping it would take the edge off that uneasy feeling I’d had all day. I’d hoped putting out the fire in Emme’s kitchen would make it go away, but it had lingered. “I’ve watched this for you before. And no, it wasn’t.”

She stretched out one leg and nudged me with her bare foot. Her toes were painted pink, of course. Not a soft pink like her velvet sofa, but a deep vibrant hue, more like a raspberry. “You just don’t like Craig because he shows more vulnerability than Connery. He’s more human. And you know he’s a better actor.”

“I don’t know any such thing. And I don’t need to see vulnerability in Bond because he’s not a real person. Not that I think exhibiting vulnerability is an asset to real people, anyway, at least not usually. And definitely not men.”

She made a disgusted noise at the back of her throat and poked me with her toes again. “Real men can be vulnerable, Nate.”

“But they shouldn’t show it.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s a weakness, and weakness undermines power and authority and control.” But I couldn’t stop looking at her toes. What the fuck?

A sigh escaped her as she swirled the last few sips of her martini. “Well, I prefer men who aren’t afraid to show weakness sometimes. That’s what makes them real to me.”

“But Bond is a fantasy, Emme. A fantasy.” I got up off the couch, taking my empty glass with me. Partly it was to get a short refill, and partly it was to put a little distance between my thigh and her foot. It was disturbing how close to my dick it was. And why was I thinking about putting her toes in my mouth? I wasn’t even a foot man. Must be the dry spell.

I went into the kitchen and reached for the bourbon bottle, pouring myself only a couple more swallows since I wanted to be at the gym first thing in the morning, and working out with a hangover was never a good time.

Emme followed me into the kitchen and kept arguing. “He’s not a fantasy. A fantasy is a thing, a dream. Bond is a character—a human character.”

“Fine, he’s a character—the ultimate alpha male. No wife and kids, no honey-I’m-home. He eats and drinks what he wants when he wants, drives a cool car, sleeps with beautiful women, and kills bad people. No feelings involved.”

Emme rolled her eyes before she finished her drink and placed her empty glass in the sink. Our dinner dishes were already in the dishwasher, the leftovers put away in the fridge. “And this is what you aspire to?”

“Why not?”

She gestured dramatically. “Because it’s a cold and lonely life! You’re going to die alone!”

I laughed. We had some variation of this argument all the time. I have no idea why she was so hell-bent on my having feelings, but she was. “I’m never cold, and I enjoy my alone time. As for dying, why not die alone? I’m going to spare a bunch of people a lot of grief and regret.”

“That’s sad. I’m sad for you.”

“Of course you are.”

“You know, even an alpha male can have feelings occasionally.”

“Oh?”

She crossed her arms and leaned back against the counter, giving me the evil eye. “Yes. He doesn’t have to be hard as granite all the way through, all the time.”

Don’t think about being hard. Don’t think about being hard. Don’t think about being hard. I leaned back against the opposite counter and sort of held my glass in front of my crotch. “Why are you even concerned with alpha males? You’re never attracted to them.”

“What? Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not.” I knew her type well. “You’re always saying how you don’t want to be rescued, you want someone willing to show affection and talk about feelings, you don’t like arrogant or competitive guys or guys who always have to win, you like guys who get along with everyone—”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing. But that’s not an alpha male.”

She chewed her bottom lip. “But look at Bond. Who is he so worried about protecting? Why is he so driven to kill the bad guys? There must be people he cares about more than himself to put himself in harm’s way so often.”

“Maybe he just likes the thrill of the chase.”

“Maybe he’s more selfless than you think.”

“In this case, I think we’re going to have to disagree.”

She sighed heavily, and I knew I had disappointed her by ending the argument in a draw instead of winning or losing it. Any other night, I might have kept it going, but there was something odd going on with me, something that had me wanting to close the distance between us, set her up on the counter, slip my hands beneath that fuzzy white sweater she had on, see what her legs felt like wrapped around my hips. But I knew better.

Get her out of here before you do something stupid.

“Hey, you got fortune cookies? I didn’t see those.” She reached for the little cellophane bag.

“I forgot about them.”

“Can I have one?”

“You can have them both.”

She took one out and cracked it open. “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not why ships are built.”

“Very deep.”

She ignored me and went on to the next one. “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.” Her lips pursed. “Hm. I don’t want a dangerous ship or a broken heart.”

I laughed at the anguish in her tone and expression.

“It’s not funny,” she said, shoving pieces of cookie in her mouth. “It means I’m doomed to be unhappy. And then I’m going to die in a shipwreck.”

“It means you take things way too seriously.” I tipped back the last of the bourbon in my glass, and set it in the sink. “Well, I’ve got an early morning at the gym tomorrow.”

She popped the rest of one cookie in her mouth and brushed off her hands. “I’m going. What time is it anyway?”

I checked the digital clock on the microwave. “It’s 11:11.”

Her face lit up. “Ooh! Make a wish!”

“What?”

“It’s 11:11, you have to make a wish.” She closed her eyes for a couple seconds, her lips moving as if saying a silent prayer. Then she opened them. “Did you do it?”

I laughed. “No.”

“Nate! Hurry up! Make a wish.” She glanced at the clock and flapped her hands agitatedly.

“I don’t have a wish to make.”

“So make one for me, then. And do it fast, before it’s 11:12.”

This time it was my turn to roll my eyes, but secretly I wished that the next guy she fell in love with would love her back the way she deserved, and she’d be happy. But I didn’t close my eyes, and I didn’t move my lips, so she had no idea whether I’d made a wish or not.

“Did you do it?” She looked concerned.

“Yes.”

“For me?”

“Yes.”

Her mouth fell open for a second. “What was it? What did you wish for me?”

I started to laugh as I left the kitchen. “Nice try, Calamity. Even I know you don’t tell a wish if you want it to come true.” The credits were still rolling on the television, and I picked up the remote to turn everything off.

   
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