I Bet You (Page 31)
“Dude. Where’s your head tonight?” Maverick’s voice brings me back. He’s off the phone and watching me.
“Nowhere,” I say.
Maverick smirks. “You need a girl.”
“I’m sick of jersey chasers,” I mutter.
“Been there.” He nods and laughs. “Let Delaney set you up with one of her friends.”
I shake my head. “No.”
Maverick asks for the check, and when the server leaves, I watch him walk away, my gaze looking around and stopping on a hot girl with auburn hair.
Penelope? I squint, my eyes narrowed in on a couple at a small round table tucked away in a dim alcove with a candle in the middle.
Is she on a date?
It’s not Connor she’s with and it’s not her dad, so who the hell is it? He’s older, maybe mid-30s, with thinning sandy hair and glasses. As I watch, he leans in over the table, and their discussion appears intense.
My eyes go back to her face. Where are her glasses?
My lips flatten. F*****g date.
“Who’s that?” Maverick asks, following my gaze.
“Penelope.” I tilt my head toward their table. “You know her—or him?” I ask.
He furtively checks them out. “Nah, but I don’t get out much.”
I tell him about the piece she wrote for the Wildcat Weekly last year, not really surprised he doesn’t remember her or the article. He’s from Magnolia too, but he went to public school while Penelope attended the private school. As far as the article, Delaney kept him isolated from most of the bad press, and Penelope’s was just a tiny ripple.
I mention the bet, and he raises an eyebrow.
“You into her?” he asks ruefully. “That makes the bet easier.”
“That’s not my style, man.”
I look away from him when Penelope stands up from the table. My eyes widen. She’s wearing a white dress with splashes of roses on it, and her auburn hair is twisted up in some kind of fancy knot. The dress clings to her curves, accentuating her hips, her long legs. She’s wearing more makeup than usual, her eyes thickly lashed, her lips a deep red.
The man stands as well, his hand on her shoulder. She says something, picks up a portfolio off the table, and hugs it to her chest. I watch as she flips around and darts to the exit. I think I see a tear running down her face.
Oh, hell no.
Before I know it, I’m throwing cash at Maverick to pay for dinner and saying goodbye.
I stand up.
“It’s interesting that I’ve never seen you jump up to chase a girl so fast,” he murmurs as I walk briskly away. I wave him off and catch up with the a*****e she was with, easing up next to him as he’s hot on her tail. I nudge him with my shoulder.
“What the heck?” He catches himself, his eyes darting to me and then widening. “Oh, excuse me.”
“Yeah. Excuse you. By the way, don’t follow her. I insist.”
He blinks and follows my gaze. “Penelope?”
“You catch on fast.”
He stutters and mumbles something about “agent”, but I’m already gone and rushing to catch up with her.
The doorman greets me with a grin and pops out an umbrella since it’s started to rain. Big drops fall steadily on the hot concrete as I look up and down the street.
“Where did the girl in the white dress go?” I ask.
He points to the alley next to the hotel. “She darted down that way. There’s a free parking lot in the back.”
I know the one. With a sharp turn, I take off after her and see a flash of her skirt as she turns behind another building.
I call out her name, but the steady rain has morphed into a downpour and thunder rumbles in the sky.
I run down the alley and take the same right she did. Finally, she’s stopped next to her car.
“Penelope!” I call out and jog over to her, sidestepping puddles.
I reach her and she looks up at me, a frown on her face as she huddles in the rain that’s drenched her dress. I do my best to keep my eyes off the lace bra she has on underneath.
“What’s wrong?” I ask just as a strong wind blows. I take a step closer to her. Mississippi is known for its thunderstorms and sometimes a tornado or two, even in the fall.
“I’m soaked, for one, and I have a flat tire. Again!” Her lips compress as she glares down at the slumping car. “It was just a spare, and I kept meaning to get a new one, but I never had the time. Just a great ending to an already crappy day.”
With a brief look down, I see the dismal-looking spare. “Come on,” I say. “My car’s this way.” I nod my head toward the other side of the street where the covered parking is. I reach for her hand and clasp it firmly. “We’ll worry about your car later.”
A flash of indecision flicks across her face for half a second before she nods. She clutches her portfolio to her chest, and we take off running.
She nearly trips and I pause as she bends over and tries to adjust her heels.
We’re only about twenty feet away from the covered parking lot, so I sweep her up and take off.
“What on earth are you doing?” she calls out over the downpour as I adjust her, cradling her in my arms. She isn’t a lightweight, but she’s light enough for me to run with. Her free hand that isn’t clutching her folder curls around my neck.
“Trying to keep you from breaking your neck,” I say back gruffly.
I look down at her, and I’m feeling…protective. Again. I’m a caveman when she’s around.
I dodge a mud puddle, and she slips a little until I hitch her up closer. “You’re going to kill us,” she yells out, and I laugh.
Hell, this is more fun than I’ve had in weeks.
We enter the parking garage, and I set her down on her feet. She sways back and forth a bit, and I steady her as she huffs out a little laugh. “That was exciting. No one’s ever run with me in their arms before. I’m not a small person.”
“You’re welcome.” I smirk, doing a futile job of trying to get the rain off my clothes.
We’re both soaked, and I watch as she uses her free hand to wipe the dampness from her face. She pushes her hair back off her forehead.
I take in her plastered hair and smeared mascara. I grin. “You look like a drowned raccoon.”
Her eyes drift over my damp clothes, lingering on the V-neck of my button-down. “You look like a wet…football player.”
I laugh and step closer, tilting her chin up. “Hey, who was that guy?”
Her lashes flutter against pale cheeks. “No one important.”
I open the passenger side of my truck and shove over books and a few practice jerseys. She gets inside and I help her with the seat belt even when she insists she can do it. “Just let me do it. This one gets stuck.”
“Okay.” She sighs, her hands folded in her lap.
I get the buckle done and look at her.
“Was it a date?” I ask, circling back to the mystery dude.
She smirks. “Hardly. He’s at least ten years older than me.”
A few ticks of silence stretch between us and I sigh. Her door is open and I’m standing in front of her. “I’m not starting this truck until I know who he is and why you were upset.”
Her eyes flash up at me. “Has anyone ever told you how stubborn you are?”
“So are you, babe.”
She stares down at her hands. “He’s a literary agent.”