Screwed Page 28

“Well, if you insist . . . just for a moment. And water is fine.” She sets his laundry down by the living room doorway and perches on the edge of the armchair like a restless bird.

My lips quirk; it’s endearing to see Hayden fuss over her, as if she were family instead of his employee.

He retrieves a bottle of water and two beers from the fridge and I focus again on the reason why I came here. Despite my determination, I feel a little squirm of nervousness. He probably isn’t going to like my Omaha plan, and there’s only so much I can say to persuade him before things devolve into begging and awkward silence.

As Hayden hands me my opened beer, I pluck up my courage and say brightly, “Hey, can I ask you a favor?”

He gives me a weird look. “That depends on what it is.”

Shit, he’s already suspicious. I guess I knew he wasn’t stupid. And I’m probably not the first woman to try to sweet-talk him into trouble. Nothing to do now but dive right in.

“I have a work thing in Omaha next week,” I start. “We’ll be staying at a hotel for two nights, and I’m sure my gross boss is going to pester me for the entire trip.” I take a deep breath. “Will you come with me as my shield? Just so I don’t have to be alone with him?”

His brow is furrowed. “Omaha. As in, Nebraska.”

“Pretty please? You’re the only friend I can ask. If I brought a woman, he’d just perv all over her too.” Hopefully Hayden’s loyalty to me wins out over his desire to stay out of this mess. “Come on . . . it’s basically one giant party. All the free steak and whiskey you can handle.”

“I don’t know,” he says with mock thoughtfulness. “I can handle a lot when it comes to meat and liquor.”

“Well, that’ll be their problem, won’t it? They promised unlimited refreshments.” I smile sweetly.

“Oh, come on,” Dottie chimes in. I wasn’t even aware she was listening. “A beautiful girl invites you on vacation, what’s there to think about?”

While it’s not exactly a vacation, and I’m definitely not one of Hayden’s latest conquests looking for some fun between the sheets, Dottie’s enthusiasm is cute. Lies. All lies. I would bounce on that pogo stick for hours.

Hayden rubs his chin, then takes out his phone. “Let me check my calendar. I might have to move some appointments around. When does the flight leave?”

I give him all the travel details, sternly telling myself not to get my hopes up, and sit on the couch to wait while he taps at his phone. Dottie has gotten to her feet again, and I politely turn down her insistent offers to fix me something to eat.

Eventually Hayden puts down the phone and gives me a reassuring smile. “There . . . all taken care of. I’ll come with you.”

“You’re a lifesaver,” I say on a relieved breath, really meaning it. “Thank you so much.”

“Hey, no problem. I’m happy to help out a friend.” He chuckles. “The free food and booze is just a bonus.”

Smiling back at Hayden, I can feel my whole body relax. Of course he would come through for me. Why was I freaking out about this earlier? I never should have worried about where our friendship stands or where it might go. Whatever it is we have, it doesn’t have to be anything in particular. It can just exist —in whatever way feels right.

“You have plans for dinner?” he asks, capturing my attention again with his sweet charm and megawatt smile.

God, the things this man does to me without having any awareness. I’m surprised I haven’t melted into a horny, needy puddle yet.

“No, but I need to crank through some serious studying tonight. I’ll probably just order a pizza or something.”

He smirks at me. “I’ve seen the Gio’s delivery driver here three times this week. Aren’t you sick of pizza yet?”

Rolling my eyes, I take another sip of my beer. “What are you, the carbohydrate police? Can’t a girl enjoy a veggie pizza three times a week?”

“Listen.” He stands, rising to his full height above me. “I’m going to cook. You’ve gotta eat. It’s a no-brainer. Go get your books or whatever, and I’ll start whipping us up something.”

“You cook?”

He shrugs. “On occasion.”

Knowing that it would be in poor taste to argue with him just when he’s cleared his calendar and agreed to come to Omaha with me, I comply, scurrying down the stairs to grab my laptop and notebook. I doubt I’ll get much studying done, but he’s right about me needing to eat.

When I come back, three distinct things have changed. One—Dottie has left for the day. Two—there’s soft jazz music playing in the background. Three—Hayden’s tight ass looks damn good in the pair of dark jeans he’s wearing. Well, maybe that hasn’t changed, I just can fully appreciate it since he’s stationed himself at the kitchen island. He’s just finishing a phone call, complete with an I love you at the end.

Curiosity tempting me, I wander into the kitchen. “Who was that?” I ask.

“My little sister Gracie. She wanted to tell me she got the job she interviewed for.”

“Oh, that’s great.”

His sisters were both so nice and pretty, and it’s cool how he’s close with them. You can’t be that bad of a guy and be super tight with your sisters, right? I picture myself shopping with them, having pedicure dates and sharing bottles of wine . . .

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