“She’s stunning; you’re a lucky man,” I hear him say.
“I know. I’m so glad she’s mine.”
This pulls me out of my stupor and my temper flares. I glare at Michael, but he is oblivious. He’s too busy strutting his peacock feathers to notice I want to take his head off.
When I look back at Ian, his eyes are laughing, and have a light in them that makes me feel faint. His lips curve up and I stare at that mouth, wishing it was on mine.
What in the world is happening to me.
I try to snap out of it as we find our seats. Unsure of how it even happens, I find myself with Michael on my left and Ian on my right.
“There you are, Brady,” Laila pats the seat next to her and across from me. “Brady, this is Sparrow and Michael. And you remember Anthony and Charlie from their visit last fall?” Brady nods and shakes everyone’s hand. He looks about twelve and seems very shy.
I try to concentrate on the menu, but Ian’s leg is flush against mine. We’re on the booth side of the table. The other side has chairs. I should have sat in a chair, so I could breathe and so I could look at him. No, this is better. I don’t need to breathe anyway.
After we’ve ordered, Ian turns his whole body toward mine, places his elbow on the table, rests his head on his hand and stares at me. He slowly begins to ask question after question. It’s at this point that I tell God I’ll do whatever He wants, I’ll even BEHAVE—and that’s saying a LOT for me—if He’ll just please not let me get hives and if He’ll also please let all my words come out intelligibly.
“So what are you into, Sparrow Fisher?” he asks. “Besides Michael, that is…”
I roll my eyes at him.
He grins. “Unless, you’d like to talk about that. I’m sure Michael would be pleased.”
I look at Michael and for the moment, he’s mesmerized by something Jeff is saying.
“How long have you been dating?” he asks.
I don’t want to talk about Michael with him. “Four months,” I answer.
“Ah, a new romance,” he teases. “So he shouldn’t take it too hard…” his voice trails off.
Something in his tone makes me defensive. My mother has drilled being “hard to get” as far back as I can remember. “We’re doing just fine, thank you very much.”
He raises his eyebrows and continues studying my face.
In middle school they used to say, “Take a picture, it’ll last longer.” But I’m studying him just as thoroughly and don’t want him to call ME out, so I resist the sass.
“What about you? Do you have a girlfriend?”
“Why? Do you want to fill the spot?” The mischief is back. He’s something else.
“You’re quite the tease, aren’t you,” I laugh and want to say, Yes, I’ll fill the spot. Pick me, pick me. I’m startled when Michael takes my hand, and I feel the first twinge of guilt. Took you long enough, I berate my conscience.
“You seem able to take it,” Ian replies.
The waitress comes with our food, and I promise, she practically lays her entire chest on Ian as she sets my food down. He looks at her and smiles. “Well, hello,” he says. She stands up and brazenly tucks her number in his pocket … the pocket in his jeans, no less. “Okay … thanks?” He looks back at me and raises his eyebrows.
“That happen often?” I ask.
“It happens,” he shrugs.
“Ah, so pretty much old hat, then.” I feel indescribably angry and sad that I have no right to this emotion when it comes to Ian Sterling.
He pulls the number out of his pocket and hands it to me. “If you’d put your number on this paper, it would be worth something,” he says quietly.
“Are you really hitting on me with my boyfriend sitting right here?” I am both proud and appalled by his audacity. Scratch that, I am loving his audacity.
I’m a horrible person. Let’s not even try to sugarcoat it.
He looks over at Michael, who has my hand, but is laughing at something Jeff has said. “Jeff’s keeping him occupied. He’s good that way.” He leans in closer and gets right in my face. “Your boyfriend doesn’t seem very attentive,” he whispers.
“Oh, he’s attentive,” I whisper back.
“Well, I guess if you like them like that.”
“Don’t you worry about what I like.”
“Can’t promise you that.”
“Well, look at you. I already want to steal you.” With these last two words, his nose bumps mine and for a moment, I think he is actually going to kiss me. My stomach takes a nosedive into my feet. I’m pretty sure I turn magenta.
Wanton Waitress—now that’s a better description for this tart than my hair, right?—has to ruin the moment by checking to see if everyone is okay. I haven’t eaten a single bite. I stare her down as she returns for more of Ian. She doesn’t notice me. She does, however, make sure to put on a show as she walks to another table. If there was a pole in the vicinity, she would be Worrr-king It right now.
“So you changed the subject before … what do you like to do, Sparrow?”
“Uh, well, lots of things,” my voice sounds shaky and I want to raise my fist to the heavens and force God to honor our agreement, however one-sided it might have been.
Ian smiles. “Lots … of what?”
“Books,” I say firmly. “I’m crazy about books.”
He laughs. “Okay. That’s cool.”
“I like to read them and write them,” I say shyly.
Hello, my name is Sparrow and I am a nerd.
He lifts his eyebrows, and his eyes land on my mouth. “God, everything you say is hot.” He runs his hands through his hair, making it go another equally fabulous direction. I wish I could do that. “So let me get this straight … you look like this” —he waves his hand up and down in my direction— “and you’re a book-smart, writer goddess too?” He inches closer to my face again, and I am positive he can hear my heart pounding. “Do you have glasses and wear your hair up with a pencil, too? That would be too…” He closes his eyes for a second and when he opens them, his pupils are huge swimming pools. “I don’t know if I could even take it.” He shakes his head.