Home > Hosed (Happy Cat #1)(10)

Hosed (Happy Cat #1)(10)
Author: Pippa Grant, Lili Valente

I swing onto my bike. “You should write that down. Get Savannah on the job when she gets back.”

“Maybe I will.” Cassie mounts her bike beside me, her cheeks going adorably pink as she grips the massive purple dildo handles. “It would be good for her to have something to look forward to, and she loves designing new products. So where are we headed?”

“Somewhere cool,” I say mysteriously. “You’ll see.”

“Okay, but I can’t imagine there’s anywhere close enough to reach by bike that I haven’t seen yet. I’ve been around Happy Cat a time or two, you know. I did grow up here.”

“But you don’t know her hidden treasures, Cassie. You haven’t taken the time to coax her secrets to the surface.”

“So Happy Cat is female?”

“Of course she is. Her name is Happy Cat.” I wink before I dart to the left, heading down the trail leading around the lake. “Come on, Sunderwell, look sharp, this coffee isn’t going to hunt and kill itself.”

Twenty minutes later, we’re parked outside the Kennedy Family Day School, an abandoned schoolhouse from the late 1800s that’s now a general store and sandwich shop that serves the best damned coffee in this or any other county.

Watching Cassie bury her cute little nose in her cup and inhale like she’s just sniffed a piece of heaven, it seems she agrees. She takes a cautious sip, her eyes going wide as she swallows. “That is in-fucking-credible.” She winces, glancing over her shoulder and laughing in relief when she realizes we’re still alone on the front porch rockers. The family of four who ordered breakfast sandwiches behind us are still inside. “Pardon my French, but seriously. How is this so good? What have they done to it?”

“Magic,” I say, moaning in appreciation as the smoky, berry, nutty brew goes down as smooth as always. “It’s the only explanation.”

Cassie lifts her mug to her lips again, eyelashes fluttering with pleasure, making me wonder if that’s the face she makes when she experiences other kinds of profoundly pleasurable experiences. I try to put the wayward thought out of my mind, because I’m being a gentleman and a friend first, but then Cassie’s dark eyes slit open, meeting mine as her tongue sweeps a sensuous trail across her upper lip, and electricity leaps between us.

“Enjoying your first underbelly tour stop?” I ask, voice husky.

She nods. “I am. I can’t believe I didn’t know this was here. It’s practically in our backyard.”

“Now that you’re hooked, you’ll be making this stop every morning on your way to work.”

“I was already thinking about adding a drink holder to the handlebars,” she confesses in a whisper, gaze darting guiltily to our bikes in a way that makes me laugh.

“I can probably help you with that. I saw something at the hardware store the other day that would work. I’ll get two next time I’m in. One for your bike and one for mine.”

Cassie studies me out of the corner of her eyes for a long beat that makes me wonder if I’ve said the wrong thing. Before I can ask, her lips curve up in a sweet, almost shy way I’ve never seen before and she says, “That would be very nice. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” The hardware store is now officially on my agenda for this weekend. That smile is too irresistible to wait a single hour longer than necessary to coax it back to her face again. “Want to look at the class photos on the back wall before we go? They’ve got every year from 1916 to when the school closed in the late seventies.”

“Yes!” Her eyes light up. “I love stuff like that. I love seeing how people change so much, but still seem to stay the same, you know?”

I cock my head. “How so?”

“Well, the fashions and the trends are different,” she says as we rise, starting back into the store. “But there’s always the class clown and the queen bee, the guy everyone falls in love with and the kids too shy to make eye contact with the camera. Still, we all grow up thinking we’re the only people who ever got a zit on picture day or were too embarrassed to tell our crush we think they’re the bee’s knees.”

“What does that mean?” I ask. “The bee’s knees.”

“Fantastic. Excellent. The very best.”

I pause with my hand on the screen door. She looks up to find me staring and I smile. “I think you’re the bee’s knees, Cassandra Sunderwell.”

She blushes and I want to kiss her so badly I’m about to go for it, screw taking things slow, when the sandwich family pushes through the door on the other side, instigating a round of apologies from both groups—Cassie and me for blocking the door, them for backing out without looking first.

By the time we get to the back of the store to check out the photos, I figure the moment has passed, but as we’re leaning in for a closer look at the class of 1934, Cassie murmurs, “You’re pretty bee’s knees yourself, O’Dell. But don’t let it go to your head.”

I grin. “Yes, ma’am.”

But it’s too late. It’s already gone to my head, and my brain is throwing a decidedly premature “Cassie digs us” party.

Nine

Cassie

* * *

This is not a friend date.

This is a real date.

I am on a real date with Ryan O’Dell, the only person who has ever made me tingle with a glance. And unless I’m absolutely out of my mind, my glances make him tingle too.

I shoot a look his way as we leave our second stop—a covered bridge so quaintly picturesque I’ve already decided to return with my camera later this week—to find him watching me with a grin on his ridiculously handsome face.

I blush for the hundredth time today as he asks, “Having fun yet?”

“So much fun,” I answer honestly, though I shouldn’t be. This is dangerous. Letting myself get swept up in the moment with a man like Ryan—a man who doles out sexy stares like candy on Halloween and who is literally ten thousand times more experienced than I am—is a mistake.

Not to mention the fact that he thinks I’m repulsively gross and that kissing me is a breed of torture on par with waterboarding or having his fingernails ripped out with pliers or only getting four chicken wings when he ordered half a dozen.

The thought slows the giddy rush of my heart and makes me wonder, yet again—why are we here? Why this date and the flirting and the sweet offer to set me up with a bike coffee-cup holder of my very own?

Could I be misreading an innocent attempt at friendship?

Or maybe he assumes you’ve gotten better at locking lips since high school. Ha! As if. He’s in for a rude awakening.

I want to tell the inner voice to shut its trap and stop spewing meanness around my brain, but how can I when it’s probably right?

I mean, I’ve had boyfriends—even a couple of serious ones—but I’ve never made it past third base. I’ve never been ready and none of my potential partners pushed the issue. And yes, they were all coding nerds, like me, but surely at least one or two should have been so hot for my bod that he was willing to make a play for more than heaving petting.

But they didn’t. Not one, not even once.

Until now, I’d assumed that was because they were respectful, sensitive guys who could tell I wasn’t ready to take that final step. But as Ryan and I head into the woods, bound for another destination on my dashing companion’s oh-so-charming tour, I wonder if maybe teen Ryan was right.

Maybe I am sensually repulsive. Maybe that’s why I’m the oldest virgin in California, the country, and possibly the world.

Maybe I should have taken his words into my head all those years ago, instead of letting them break my heart, and worked hard to suck less at making out.

Though I can’t imagine what those steps might have been…

It’s not like they offer Foreplay 101 in college and Kissing Classes aren’t something you can pick up two-for-one on Groupon. Aside from a steamy practice session with my pillow, I’m not sure I have many options for improving my game.

Unless…

An idea blooms in my head, surging from seed to shade tree in seconds.

I’m so distracted by the mental foliage I don’t realize Ryan is slowing down until I’m nearly on top of him. When I do, I shove my heels backward, skidding to an unsteady stop on the leaves in the clearing with a high-pitched yip.

“You okay?” Ryan swings off his bike with the same easy sensuality with which he does all things, this man who has clearly never had to worry about whether he gives good lip lock.

I nod, heart pounding fast, and only partially from the exercise. Can I really do this? Can I open my mouth and make the crazy come out? Can I ask Ryan to be my Tonsil Hockey Tutor?

Um…yes. I think I can.

“No, I’m not okay.” I chew my bottom lip for a moment before pulling in a breath and confessing in a rush, “I heard you. What you said. The night we performed our scenes for our parents.”

Ryan’s brows furrow. “In high school?”

I nod. “Yes. In high school. After we went offstage. When you were behind the curtains?”

“The curtains…” he echoes, looking so confused my cheeks catch fire all over again.

“You know, behind the curtains,” I repeat, pulse racing faster as I wonder what the heck I’m going to do if he doesn’t remember this almost ten-year-old conversation as well as I do. Probably run off to hide in the forest and perish of starvation and embarrassment. “Before the final bow. When you were chatting with Ben,” I add, shoulders relaxing away from my ears as his eyes widen and comprehension apparently dawns.

“Oh…with Ben.” Ryan nods slowly.

“Yes, with Ben,” I say, nodding along with him.

He runs a hand through his hair, making it stick up in an adorable mess on top of his head because everything about this man is adorable. There is literally charisma oozing out of his pores, even when he’s uncomfortable. “I’m sorry. I had no idea you were—”

   
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