Look the Part (Page 27)
God … I hope we can work something out with Harry.
Tonight is step one in my plan. If all three of us hang out enough, he might see how well Flint and I get along, and—fingers crossed, prayers said to any god willing to listen—he will change his mind about the no physical contact rule.
Long shot. I know. But a girl’s gotta try.
“They’re here!” I clench my fists and shake with way too much excitement from the knock on my door. I’m thirty-two. I should have mastered getting a grip by now.
“Hey.” Harry gives me a half smile and brushes past me, guitar case in hand. “Can I let your rats out?”
I laugh. “Absolutely. Just tell them to ‘come.’”
Stepping out into the hallway, I close the door behind me. Flint peaks an eyebrow, lips twisting into something too irresistible not to kiss.
“An untucked button-down and jeans? I feel cheated of my sex-in-a-suit fix.” Fisting his shirt, I lean up on my tippy toes and kiss him. His hands palm my butt, eliciting a hum of pure pleasure—and torture.
I pull away and rub my lips together.
He makes a quick inspection of my white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, short skirt, knee-high socks, and ankle boots.
“Good lord, you’re a tease. You can’t do this to a man with a child-enforced vow of celibacy.”
“I just don’t want you to lose interest in what you can’t have at the moment.” I open the door and head inside.
“You do realize people desire most what they can’t have.”
“Mmm, I’m counting on it.” I lead him down the hall to the kitchen.
I shut off the oven, but leave the crisp in to stay warm until after dinner. “Don’t sound so surprised.”
“Lady Gaga came out for me.” Harry carries my naked rat into the living room.
“You’re a rat whisperer.” I wink at him.
“I didn’t whisper. I just said ‘come’ in my regular voice.”
Flint and I share grins.
“A whisperer is someone who is good with a specific kind of animal. Dog whisperer. Horse whisperer,” I say.
“Huh …” Harry lets Lady Gaga climb up his chest to his shoulder. “I guess I could be a rat whisperer someday.”
“I can already feel myself swelling with fatherly pride. ‘What does your son do? He’s a highly sought after rat whisperer.’”
“You know…” I plant my hands on my waist “…some rats can detect tuberculosis, and there’s a specific breed of rats that can locate landmines. So basically, rats are saving lives.”
“Really? That’s cool.” Harry continues to play with Lady Gaga as my other babies make their way into the room.
Flint lifts his feet onto the rung of the barstool and gives me a poorly restrained smile. “I love the case you make for rats. If I ever have to defend the actions of one in court, you’ll be my expert witness.”
“Aw, that means a lot coming from my favorite shyster. I mean … legal beagle.”
This grin works its way up Flint’s handsome face. It’s different than any other grin he’s given me … not that he hands them out with any sort of generosity. Sometimes I wonder if his laughter, his smile, and his life died with Harry’s mother. I wouldn’t blame him one bit if they did.
I meant what I said to him the other day. Sometimes the world ends and forgets to take you with it.
Alex said it to me after he lost his hands. And those same words echoed in my mind when my mom died and when Alex served me with divorce papers.
But just now … Flint grinned like someone told him there was in fact life after death—something magical, something good—and he gave me that look. I don’t know where this journey will take us, but I will always remember this one look and how it made me feel physically touched while standing out of arm’s reach.
“Harry, will you say ‘cage’ to my lady and gentlemen? We’ll play more after dinner, and you can feed them theirs.”
Harry calls their names—their full names—even Lady Gaga’s, and he tells them “cage.”
Flint eases off the kitchen stool and brushes his arm against mine as he makes his way to the stove. He pauses next to me long enough to run his finger along my bare outer thigh, just below the hem of my short skirt.
I nudge him away. “Now who’s the tease?”
He chuckles and lifts the lid to the soup pot. “Harrison loves chicken noodle soup.”
“All kids do.” I grab three bowls and set them on the counter.
“Are you an expert on kids?” He stirs the soup.
I lean my back against the counter next to the stove and watch him. He makes stirring soup look sexy. How is that possible? “Well, I was a kid, so there’s that eighteen years of experience. And I work with a lot of kids, so I’d say I have some degree of expertise.”
Flint glances over his shoulder. “Wash your hands, Harrison.”
“They didn’t pee on me.”
“I’m glad. Wash your hands.”
I bite my lips together.
“I read that rats spend most of their waking hours cleaning themselves or each other. More so than cats.” Harry rocks back and forth on his feet, wringing his hands together.
“It’s good to know you’re spending your spare time researching rats. Did you happen to see how they clean themselves? In a bathtub? In a shower with hot water and soap? Or do they lick themselves?” Flint asks.
“They lick themselves.”
“So if I lick your hands, will you feel the need to wash them before you eat?”
“That’s gross. Why would you lick my hands?”
“I wouldn’t. Just go wash them.”
I take the ladle, nudging Flint aside with my hip. “We swapped saliva in the hallway. Is that going to ruin your dinner?”
“Only if you tell Harrison and get me in trouble.”
“I would never.” I fill the bowls with soup, and Flint takes them to the table. “And for your information … I do bathe my rats.”
He looks over his shoulder at me. “Why am I not surprised?”
“Is this gluten-free?” Harry asks, taking a seat at the table.
“Yes.” I smile, sitting next to him, forcing Flint to sit across from us.
“No nuts. It’s all been approved by your dad.”
“He thinks the things I eat affect my brain.”
“What do you think?” I sip the steamy soup from my spoon.
“I don’t know. Grandma said it’s his job to be overprotective. Weird job.”
Flint smirks, placing the napkin on his knee.
“I’ve met some parents who need to be more protective of their children, so it’s a good thing that your dad cares about you so much.”
Harry shrugs, blowing on his soup. “Are you going to ask Ellen on a date?”
Flint stirs his soup, a slight shake to his head. “Oh, Harrison, you’re quite the wingman.”
“What do you mean?” Harry asks.
“You’re quite the helper when it comes to getting me a date.”
I watch the commentary between them, amused with where this might be going.
“I’m not helping you get a date. I just asked if you were going to ask.” Harry gives me a quick glance. “He wants to ask you on a date. No sex. No kissing. Dinner and a movie. And I can’t go with you.”
I cover my mouth with my napkin, but I can feel the red flush working up my face into my cheeks and nose.
Flint takes a spoonful of soup, eyes rolling up to glance at me.
“Sounds like fun. I haven’t been to a movie in a long time.”
“Just don’t go see the new Spiderman movie because I want to see it.”
“Well, your dad hasn’t asked me on a date yet, so we don’t have to worry about picking out a movie.”
“Are you going to ask her?”
I tap the toe of my boot against Flint’s shoe. He eyes me while taking a drink of water.
“Maybe,” he says. “But let’s talk about this new Spiderman movie.”
And with that, the next half hour turns into a thorough comparison of all the superheroes. I confess my favorite superhero is Superman, specifically played by Henry Cavill. I don’t mention that Flint’s body and sexy smile bears an uncanny resemblance to Henry. Something tells me Harry would not like that comparison.
After dessert, which earns me two thumbs up from Flint and Harry, Flint shoos me off to play rat games with Harry while he washes the dishes. If it weren’t for the seven rating and eviction notice, he’d be the perfect guy.
“Oh my god … they play basketball.”
I adore the excitement on Harry’s face when I show him how Bach and Chopin play basketball with their tiny hoop and ball. Then I teach him how to set up an obstacle course they can do—except my diva Gaga—and hand him treats to give them as rewards.
“I’m going to go make sure your dad doesn’t need help in the kitchen. He won’t know where my dishes belong.”