“Or by the lovely ex, in this case,” Darren quipped, his eyes lighting on Maya.
I was kicking myself in the a*s for letting Darren coordinate this meeting. Now I’d have to contend with him being an a*****e all night. As if all of this wasn’t difficult enough.
The comment earned a small smile from Maya, and she lifted herself onto the stool. She ordered a drink. I took advantage of her distraction to look her over. She looked good, dressed casually, but nice. A dark blue sweater dress, the hem of which rested mid-thigh, showing just enough of her sheer stocking-sheathed leg to make me want to see more.
“You look great, Maya.” Darren’s voice mimicked my thoughts.
“Thanks.” Maya flashed him, and then me, a smile.
Everything seemed to go out of focus except her when she looked up at me then. That moment of levity was swiftly interrupted.
“Cam, how come you never told me Maya was drop-dead gorgeous?” Darren said.
I released a breath that hissed between my teeth, resisting the urge to rip him off his seat and set him straight right now. “Darren, you want to go harass someone else for a while so we can catch up?”
He grabbed his beer and slid off the stool. “Sure thing, bro. You can take it from here.” He slapped me on the back and winked at Maya before making his way toward two women positioned at the far end of the bar.
I seriously pitied them.
“What was that about?” Maya took a slow sip of her freshly poured martini.
“Darren was just being ignorant, as usual. Don’t mind him.”
“For complimenting me?”
“No, of course not.”
I wasn’t about to give her the full history on what an irritating a*s he could be, or the fact that his only goal was to expedite his little brother getting laid.
“You did well this morning,” I said, hoping to change the subject.
“Thanks. Working out isn’t really my thing.”
“You should come in more. I could get you into a pretty good routine.”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I work a long day, and frankly I just need to unwind with a drink after.”
“Exercise works just as well as a nightcap, trust me. ”
She laughed a little. “Somehow I doubt that.”
Her eyebrow went up at the challenge.
“Give me a week. I’ll show you how to use your body to work off stress, blow off some steam, and I guarantee you’ll sleep like a baby and have more energy the next day.”
A slow flush worked up her cheeks, and I realized that my trainer spiel sounded a little different in the context of speaking with someone I’d once slept with. Despite Darren’s taunts, I wouldn’t mind using her body to blow off some steam either. I sat back in the stool, forcing my thoughts in a different direction. God knew, after overhearing the tail end of my conversation with Darren, she probably already thought I was only out to f**k her. I silently wished for an easier way to go about this. There probably was and I was too out of practice to figure it out.
“I’m not sure if that’s a good idea,” she finally said.
“What do you mean?”
The last of the martini slid into her mouth. She moved the glass away and swiveled in her seat to face me. She straightened her shoulders. “You said you wanted to be friends.”
“Is that really true? I hate to kill the mood here, but I just need to know what I’m getting into. I mean, I run into Olivia one day, you track me down at work the next, and now here we are. We could keep dancing around this for the next few weeks if you want, or we can lay it out right now. If this is about sex and you’re just interested in a hook up, you can tell me that. I’m a big girl.”
I blew out a breath. S**t, she’d never been this direct before. “Are you saying you’d be open to having a sexual relationship with me if that’s what I said I wanted?”
She didn’t flinch. “Not necessarily, but at least I’d know what your intentions were. I heard the tail end of whatever you and Darren were talking about. Something about sleeping with me when you’re good and ready?”
I winced, cursing Darren and his big stupid mouth. “I’m sorry, Maya. I really wish you hadn’t heard that. He was egging me on and…” I cursed, shoving my hands through my hair. There was no way to regurgitate that conversation in a way that didn’t make us both sound like grade A p****s. “I don’t have a hidden agenda, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
She shut her eyes and shook her head slightly, her expression softening. I relaxed a little, hoping she was going to let me off the hook for that slip up. I really, really hoped that’s what was happening. Otherwise Darren was going to get a beating of a lifetime.