He flopped down on the bed with his beer and grinned at her. She could just push him all the way down and unbutton that shirt of his. Would he have chest hair? If so, not too much—that glimpse of his stomach she’d had in the elevator was branded in her memory, and there hadn’t been a ton of hair there.
Oh my God, what was wrong with her? A few sips of beer and her fantasies were trying to take over.
“I love that stuff. I should have bought some of that,” he said. Her eyes shot back to his face, and she tried to remember what they’d been talking about. At least if her cheeks were flushed now she could blame the alcohol. Just to make sure that excuse would work, she drained her beer.
“You want another?” he asked. He stood up and moved toward the bathroom.
“Sure.” She took out her makeup bag and closed her eyes. This whole thing was such a bad idea—she was getting drunk in the hotel room of a hot guy she barely knew, she was getting drunk enough to fantasize about jumping a guy far out of her league, and her unwelcome fantasies were probably written all over her face because he’d rolled off the bed and moved far away from her.
Oh well, at least she was getting free cheese and crackers out of this. And beer.
He came back from the bathroom with two more beers and stood next to her at the desk as she grabbed more crackers.
“Tell me about your morning,” he said. “You built a playground? I’m impressed.”
“Oh please, don’t be,” she said. “The playground building operation was well orchestrated by an actual construction company. My boss and I were just there for show and for the press. I mean, the playground did actually get built—well, started, at least—and I got a few splinters in the process, but everything I did was under the very close supervision of someone who knew what she was doing.”
“But tell me.” He sat down on the bed. “Where does the construction company come from? How did they figure out where to build the playground?”
“Oh, well, this has been a project that started almost as soon as my boss got into office. Low-income kids are a real priority of his—and mine. We identified a few areas early on that needed safe and attractive playgrounds, and this is the first one that actually got built.”
He leaned back on his elbows. Good Lord, was he doing this to torment her?
“Is this your modest way of saying that you found the construction company and you figured out where to build the playground?”
She slipped her sandals off and rubbed her toes into the plush carpet.
“Yes to both of those things, but I’m not that modest; I just hadn’t gotten there yet. I can be kind of long-winded.”
He laughed and motioned for her to toss him a cracker, which she did.
“Do you have any pictures?”
Alexa beamed at him and reached for her phone. She got so excited when she talked about her work. He liked that about her. He looked over her shoulder as she scrolled through the pictures of what the empty lot had been, the groundbreaking today, and some sketches of what the playground would look like when it was all finished. She was so animated in telling him about it that he couldn’t stop himself from moving closer to her on the bed; close enough that their shoulders touched, that her head was almost against his chest.
She turned and looked up at him. They both seemed to realize how close they were at the same time, but neither of them moved away. His hand moved to the small of her back, up her back to the nape of her neck, and back down again. He could smell her perfume. Vanilla, with a hint of spice.
Suddenly there was a loud knock on his door.
“Drew? You ready?”
Dan. Not now. Not yet.
He turned back toward Alexa, but she jumped off the bed and went back to the cheese and cracker table.
“Yeah.” He sighed and stood up.
He threw open the door to Dan, who looked altogether too perky for the occasion.
“Hey, man. Oh, hey, Alexa! You almost ready for the wedding? We’ll see you over there, huh?”
She looked up and smiled at Dan but didn’t look at Drew.
“Yeah, see you there. Is Lauren going to be on the shuttle?” she asked Dan.
“She is! She’s still in the room getting dressed, so you guys can ride over together. Here, let me give you her number, so you can be buddies.”
“See you at the church,” Drew said to Alexa, willing her to look at him. She met his eyes for a second, then looked away.
He was halfway to the elevator before he heard his name from behind him and turned around.
“Drew, aren’t you forgetting something?” she said.
He could think of many things he’d forgotten to do in that hotel room, but he could say none of them with Dan standing there.
“Your bow tie?” He glanced down and saw the offending garment dangling from her fingertips.
“Oh. Right.” He took the tie from her and smiled. “If you finish the beer, save that table dance for where I can see it, please.”
Oh God, she had really been about to kiss him. One and a half beers and a few minutes of him listening to her talk and she was ready to pounce on him. She needed someone to talk some sense into her, and right now the only person to do it was herself.
“Alexa,” she said out loud at her reflection in the lighted magnifying mirror. Holy shit, she really needed to pluck her eyebrows. Thank goodness she’d brought her tweezers.
Wait, she needed to focus. She was talking sense to herself, remember?
“Alexa ELIZABETH. This is all fake. This is a fake date; this is a fake boyfriend. You can’t just go around kissing hot guys who look like they come straight out of a movie set because they smile at you like that and listen to you prattle on about your job for a few minutes. Just because Maddie told you to practice flirting doesn’t mean you get to practice kissing, too.”
She cringed to think how humiliating it would have been if she’d actually moved in to kiss him. He would have gently kissed her back for a second. Then he would have pulled back, put his hands on her shoulders, and said that he was very sorry if he’d given her the wrong impression about everything, but she wasn’t really his type. All he was looking for from this evening, he would have said, was a buddy to stick by his side and repel other women, and if that was going to be a problem for her it was totally okay for her to go home now instead of to the wedding with him.
And she would have had to suck back her tears like she always did and smile big and say oh no, it was probably just the beer getting to her, it would be no problem. And then things would have been awkward and weird all night.
Well, it was still probably going to be awkward and weird all night, but at least that would be more subtext than text.
Enough pep talk time. All she could do now was look as fabulous as she possibly could. She cued up her girl-power playlist, pulled out her reddest of red lipsticks, and threw herself into getting ready.
“One more with the maid of honor and best man—Amy, you give him your bouquet this time!”
Drew was more than ready for these pictures to stop and the wedding to begin. Especially because that meant Alexa would finally get here. Even though he wouldn’t be anywhere near her during the wedding, at least he’d have one person on his side among his sea of blatant or veiled hostility.
She hadn’t texted him yet. He should check in and make sure she was on her way.
You on the shuttle over here? Everyone being nice to you?
A few minutes later:
Just getting on now. Dan’s girlfriend Lauren is my new date. Glad I met her last night.
He smiled down at his phone. Oh thank God, she was on her way.
Wait, does that make Dan my date? I think I like you better, no offense to Dan.
“Hellooooo, Drew!” He looked up to find the rest of the wedding party, sans bride and groom, staring at him. “Stop texting your girlfriend and pay attention.”
Oh shit, close save. He’d been that close to declaring, She’s not my girlfriend, the way he did every time someone called some woman his girlfriend.
“. . . on her way,” he trailed off, as everyone stared at him.
“Great, that’s great.” Amy came up to him and put her arm around his waist. “But can we finish taking these pictures before the wedding starts without us?”