Home > Hosed (Happy Cat #1)(11)

Hosed (Happy Cat #1)(11)
Author: Pippa Grant, Lili Valente

“It’s fine, all fine,” I hurry to assure him, waving a breezy hand through the air. I don’t want to admit to him how badly it hurt. “I mean, it wounded my pride a little as a kid, but that was a long—”

“No, Cassie,” he says, shaking his head. “You don’t understand. I—”

“Seriously.” I force a laugh. “It’s no big deal. I wouldn’t have brought it up, but there’s something I want to ask you, and that conversation is relevant to—”

“No. Listen to me.” He leans down, capturing my hands in his as he pins me with a look so intense it steals the rest of my sentence away. Soon, I forget every word I know in English, French, and a smattering of Spanish picked up on a trip to Costa Rica as he adds, “That conversation wasn’t about you.”

“I’m pretty sure it was,” I whisper, pulse disco-dancing in my throat as his fingers curl tighter around mine.

“Okay, yes, it was about you, but not in the way you think. Ben came up to me after our scene to ask me if it was cool to ask you out.” Ryan rolls his eyes. “He thought you were ‘hot’ as Juliet and wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything going on between us before he made his move.”

My brows lift. “What? But Ben Rathbone hated me.”

“He didn’t hate you, he was just an asshole who treated girls like shit.” Ryan’s expression darkens as he adds, “He’s still an asshole, by the way. Been divorced three times, and his latest ex had to file a restraining order last week to keep him from setting up his tennis ball launcher in front of her front door and giving her Chihuahua a nervous breakdown with all the pounding.”

I huff. “What a jerk.”

Ryan nods, lips curving lightly at the edges. “Yeah. He’s a bottom feeder. I knew that, even back then, and I couldn’t let him get his creepy hands on a sweet kid like you.” He shrugs. “So I told him you were a bad kisser.”

“I believe the exact words were ‘the worst ever’ and something about a ‘gag-worthy’ experience,” I say, even as my ribs relax and a light, breezy feeling drifts through my chest.

Could it really be as simple as that?

Just a silly misunderstanding?

All those years of heartache because he was trying to protect me—even if his methods left a lot to be desired.

He winces, his blue eyes wrinkling lightly at the edges. “Yeah, something like that. I’m sorry. You were never supposed to hear any of it. I just couldn’t stomach the thought of it—him with you. You looked like you were twelve years old and he was this giant dickhead wrestler.”

I cock my head, torn between being touched and troubled. I want to believe him, but I still remember how badly it hurt. And I don’t ever want to feel that way again. “But I wasn’t twelve years old, Ryan. I was sixteen, and as capable of telling Ben to get lost as you were. It wasn’t your place to make decisions for me like that. Especially not by spreading a story that I kissed like the creature from the black lagoon.”

“You’re right. And I’m sorry. I guess…” He trails off with an uncomfortable shrug. “I couldn’t help myself, I guess. I was so used to getting between my brothers and trouble, my gut instinct was to do whatever it took to make sure the people I cared about stayed out of trouble.”

The lightness in my chest transforms into a warm, pleasantly fierce ache. “So you…cared about me?”

Ryan nods, his fingers threading through mine, making me keenly aware of the fact that we’re still touching and that he’s making no move to let me go. “I did. You were so smart and funny. You made me laugh more than anyone I’d ever met, and…I liked you. Probably liked you too much considering how much older I was.”

I laugh, soft and breathy. “You were only two years older.”

“I had over a foot on you, Sunderwell. You were even more of a wee thing back then.”

“A wee thing?” I tilt my head back, lips buzzing as he shifts closer. “You really should know better than to insult a person’s size. We short people are notoriously crazy when we’re angry. Just look at Napoleon. Genghis Khan. Tom Cruise.”

He grins, a big, beautiful O’Dell-special that zings straight from my heart to my panties and back again, making me feel like a sparkler on the Fourth of July. “Genghis Khan, huh? Sounds like I should be scared.”

“Terrified,” I murmur as his head dips closer to my upturned face.

It’s the perfect word. I am terrified.

But I’m also filled with a million fizzy bubbles of anticipation. And then Ryan’s lips cover mine and the bubbles dump into my bloodstream, hitting faster than a shot of tequila on an empty stomach. His tongue traces the seam of my mouth as his arms go around my waist and then my hands are tangled in his hair and he’s dragging me close and we’re kissing in a way I’ve never kissed anyone in my life—hard, deep, and oh-so-breathless.

My nipples pull tight in my sports bra and visions of baseball diamonds dance behind my closed eyes.

Suddenly, I can imagine running all four of those bases with this man. With Ryan, Patron Saint of Kissing and Captain of my Panties.

“Oh captain, my captain,” I whisper when we finally come up for air.

“Dead Poets Society?” Ryan murmurs, sounding as breathless as I feel.

“Walt Whitman,” I say. “I’ve never seen Dead Poets Society.”

Ryan’s eyes narrow as he clucks his tongue disapprovingly. “Never? It’s a modern classic.”

I shake my head. “Never.”

“Then we’ll have to fix that tonight. My place. Popcorn and a movie at seven sharp.”

I grin, both because he’s not running for cover after this kiss, and because my heart’s leaping all over the place. He wants to extend our date! The heart discoing might actually be mutual. “Okay. I think I can fit you into my busy schedule.”

He arches a brow, his fingertips digging into my hips as he says, “That’s nice of you.”

“I’m a nice person,” I say, tingling all over again as his mouth moves back within devouring distance.

“You are. So nice.” His lips move against mine as he speaks the last two words, making me pretty sure he isn’t talking about my high moral fiber.

He’s talking about this kiss, my kiss.

Looks like I might not need make-out lessons after all.

Ten

Ryan

* * *

We stay out for the rest of the day—biking secret trails through the forest, picnicking in an abandoned tree house my brothers and I fixed up last summer, zip-lining at Canopy Tours over by the lake, and getting a second cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun to share at the Kennedy school before heading for home.

And even though I know I’m probably coming on too strong, I can’t resist parking my bike in the drive next to hers and taking her hand before she can say goodbye. “Want to come over now? I can whip up some dinner before we do movie and popcorn.”

“Or we could just have popcorn for dinner,” Cassie says, making my heart do that fist pump thing it does when she looks at me in that new, unguarded way that makes it clear things are good between us.

Hell, things are great between us. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun and that kiss….

Fuck, that kiss…

She is so delicious, so sexy I could have spent the entire day making out with her in the middle of nowhere. As long as I had Cassie, soft and curvy in my arms, I wouldn’t have felt like I was missing out on a damned thing.

And now she’s coming over to my place, letting me hold her hand as I lead her inside and shut the door. Now, I have an entire evening with her, too. It might be silly, but I feel like I’ve won the lottery. As I get out the popcorn pan and kernels, I’m flying so high I don’t notice that George hasn’t toddled in to welcome me home until Cassie asks where he is.

“I don’t know.” I glance into the living room from my place by the stove only to find George’s usual napping spot in the corner of the couch empty. “He might have let himself out through the cat door to use the facilities. He’ll be back once he hears the popcorn popping. He’s addicted to the stuff.”

Cassie laughs. “Really? Can he eat that? Is that okay?”

“Totally fine. I asked the vet. As long as it doesn’t have any butter or salt on it.”

“But we’re going to have butter and salt on ours, right?” she asks hopefully.

“Hell, yes, we are,” I say, laughing as she claps her hands happily.

“Excellent. But don’t worry, I won’t tell George.”

“That’s good of you. Don’t want him to know you’re getting special treatment.” I wink at her, loving the way she flushes in response.

But it turns out we don’t have to worry about George’s butter-induced jealousy. He doesn’t show up for movie time and Cassie and I have the entire couch to ourselves. We snuggle close, her tucked under my arm with no cuddle bandit wedged in between us with popcorn strewn across his furry belly. It’s nice, more than nice, and by the time the credits roll, Cassie is practically in my lap, our empty popcorn bowls discarded on the floor by the couch so we could get as close as two people can get while upright and fully clothed.

“That was sad.” Cassie sniffs as she lifts her shimmering eyes to mine. “But lovely.”

“You’re lovely,” I say, tucking a lock of silky soft hair behind her ear.

Her eyes tighten around the edges. “No, I’m not. I’m cute. On a good day.”

“No, you’re beautiful. Every day.” I kiss her again, proving the fireworks earlier today weren’t a freak occurrence. They’re just what happen when our lips meet, when she sighs into my mouth and her tongue dances with mine and her breasts flatten against my chest, threatening to give me a heart attack.

I can’t remember the last time I wanted a woman this much, if I’ve ever wanted a woman this much.

   
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