I Bet You (Page 5)
Abort! Abort! He knows too much!
Sanity slowly returns to my brain in small increments, and I take a deep breath, orienting myself as questions race through my head. What if he uses my crush against me? Maybe he wants revenge for the article. I don’t know!
Flustered and unsure, my eyes dart around the restaurant, looking for an exit so I don’t have to answer his question.
My gaze lands on the football table he came from, and I notice Archer watching us with focused interest, a calculating look on his face as he whips his eyes from me to Ryker. He leans over and whispers to Blaze, who turns to peer in our direction. I pause, my brain analyzing and decoding. Why is Archer suddenly interested in what Ryker is doing over here with me—especially when there’s a pretty co-ed sitting right next to him, tracing little circles on his bicep?
Yet Archer’s eagle eyes are on us. Watchful.
I notice all three players at the table have suddenly given us their attention, anticipation evident on their faces.
Alarms go off in my head and things start to click into place.
How nice he was to me. How we ‘have a connection’. Yeah, right.
Mortification washes over me.
How could I not have seen it sooner?
God, I am an idiot. I was so distracted…
I’m a bet. A stupid freaking bet.
I feel like someone just punched me in the gut.
My survival instinct tells me to get away from Ryker, and obviously, I could just walk away and hold my head high, but I want to make a point and show those football players they can’t toy with me. I release the tray I’ve been balancing for what seems like days in his direction. The contents of the glasses spill out and crash to the floor, watered-down soda and ice drenching us before dripping down to the floor. The plastic glasses make a horrible clattering noise on the wooden floors, and I imagine most everyone in the restaurant heard it. I don’t look to see their faces. I only glare at Ryker.
He jumps back and stares down at the mess on his khaki pants then looks back at me. “Remind me to never bring up Dimpleshitz again.”
“Stop your games, Ryker.”
His face stills. “What games?”
My teeth snap together. Enough.
Tension is thick as we eye each other, both of us ignoring the mess to continue our stare-down. The apron around my waist took the brunt of the water that came in my direction, but Ryker’s pants are soaked—only he barely seems to notice now that we’re facing off.
“It was nice chatting, Ryker. Oh, and by the way, it looks like you peed yourself.” I move to walk past him to grab some towels from the back, but he takes a small step, blocking me.
“Wait, what’s wrong?” Frustration flashes over his features. “Look, I never know how to ask a real girl out. Can we start over? Without all this water everywhere?”
Look at him. Still trying to win me over. He’s persistent, I’ll give him that.
I tilt my chin up and glare at him. “Why do you even care?”
He sighs heavily, and he seems to gather himself as he searches for the right words. “I don’t know…maybe it’s because you take great pains to walk around me on campus. You sit on the opposite side of me in class, and that was before you wrote that stupid article about me last year. It’s like there’s something about me that repels you.”
“You repel me because you’re a douchebag.” Not waiting to see his reaction to that, I forget about getting the towels and bend down to pick up the glasses, setting them back on the tray. My hands are shaking as I whip off my apron and use the dry parts to dab at the floor.
“Here, let me help.” He squats down next to me, raking the ice up into a pile and then scooping it onto the tray.
“No, let me help.”
I pause what I’m doing and glare at him. “Just quit the acting, okay? Whatever bet you and the team have going about me, forget it. It won’t work.”
He stops and pales, and that’s all the confirmation I need.
I was right.
Part of me, the silly girl inside who would be flattered to have the honest attention of the most popular guy on campus—even if he is a football player—wants to cry. I stuff her down in a box and throw away the key.
For half a second, I honestly thought the article I wrote didn’t matter and he was being sincere. I thought he liked me. My hands clench. I let down my guard for half a second, and this is what happens.
I stand up. “You only came over here to talk to me for a bet.” My lips flatten. “Just leave me alone. Please.”
He’s picked up the tray and is standing now, a look of unease on his face. “Wait, that’s not the whole story—”
“And the next time you attempt to win a bet like this, consider the feelings of the person you mess with.”
He swallows. “Penelope, it wasn’t—”
I hold my hand up for him to shut up, and he does, his teeth tugging at his lower lip, a torn expression on his face. I flick my eyes back to Archer and company. Some of them are guffawing and chortling as they watch us, and anger tightens in my gut.
“Ignore them,” he says. “They’re just laughing at my pants. They knew I didn’t have a chance with you, and now you’ve proved it.”
I shake my head. “I guess the bet was if you could get me to kiss you? Go out with you?”
He rakes a hand through his hair and stares at me. “Look, I didn’t mean for it—”
“What was the bet?”
His shoulders dip. “They bet me I couldn’t get you to go out with me.”
He gives me a terse nod.
“Huh. So, you actually thought you and I would go out? Even though we don’t like each other?”
“I never said I didn’t like you.”
“But you don’t,” I insist.
He hesitates, the words leaving his mouth reluctantly. “It was assumed I’d stand you up, but—”
My hands tighten. “So, your plan was for me to come over to do laundry and then you wouldn’t be there?” My face scrunches as I try to picture the scenario. Hurt slices through me. “I have my own washer anyway, jerk.”
He shakes his head. “I didn’t have a real plan. I was just winging it—”
“You knew exactly what you were doing and you lost, Baby Llama. You lost. I hope it was worth the laugh.”
“I’m not laughing, Penelope.” He frowns. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Only because you lost.” Mustering up as much gumption as I have left, I turn my back to him and march over to the football table. I put my hands on my hips and make eye contact with each player. They don’t faze me. Blaze reads my face and mouths I’m sorry, but I brush my eyes right over him. We may know each other, but right now, he’s an a*****e just like the rest of them.
“He lost, boys. Ryker Voss asked me out and crashed and burned. If there was money involved, I expect my cut of whatever the amount was. Understood?”
They all gape at me except for Archer. With a stare that seems to see right through my bravado, he grins. There’s a carefree nonchalance to his stance as he shakes off the jersey chaser and stands to shake my hand. “Yes, cher. Absolutely,” he murmurs. “You can have it all as far as I’m concerned.” He pops the table with his hand and addresses the players. “Let’s go ahead and give the lady our winnings. Ryker can even it up with us later.”