Off Sides(7)

By: Sawyer Bennett

Taking a seat on a stool just opposite of me, he gives me a huge smile. "Shredded anyone with philosophy lately?"

I actually burst out laughing and start shaking my head. "Nope. Not today at least."

"Well, I was running by and saw you standing in here. Thought I would stop in and thank you."

My eyebrows rise. "Thank me?"

"Yup. Those twenty seconds where you were thrashing Angeline with your knowledge of philosophy was the most fun I've had in a long, long time."

It's not very lady like but I can't help snort in response. "Then you must lead a pretty dull life."

"I'm Ryan Burnham, by the way." He sticks his hand out and I shake it. His hand is much larger than mine and warm. I can feel callouses on his palms and fingers.

"Danny Cross. Nice to meet you...officially."

He releases my hand. "Likewise."

My skin is tingling where he held my hand and I immediately try to squelch those feelings. I have no business getting googly-eyed over a guy, much less one that is clearly out of my social stratosphere. I have too many other important things going on right now, or so I seem to be reminding myself a lot lately.

"So, Danny," he begins. He's looking at me with amusement, and something akin to curiosity. "You’re clearly a very smart girl. Are you enrolled at Northeastern? I saw you wearing a school t-shirt the other night."

He had noticed and remembered the shirt I was wearing that night? Even I can't remember what I was wearing, and the knowledge that he held on to that detail pleases me for some reason.

"I just started this fall but I’m only taking two classes right now."

"Just two classes and you know who Ockham and Descartes are?" He's skeptical I can tell.

"I attended another school before Northeastern. I'm technically a junior."

"Where'd you go to school?"

"Nowhere important." I don't offer and decide to be elusive. I'm not sure why but I think I want to see how much interest he really has in me. It's a sick game I'm playing with myself because this is not going to go anywhere.

"Why won't you tell me the name?" He's grinning at me like a Cheshire cat.

"Why are you being so nosy?"

"Why are you being so evasive?"

I decide a rapid change in subject is warranted. "Do you want to order something? I need to get back to work."

Ryan looks around at the empty diner and then back to me. He arches an eyebrow. It's charming in an aggravating sort of way. I wait patiently for him to respond.

When he realizes the ball is in his court, he looks down at his watch and stands up from his stool. "I actually have to get going. I'm meeting a few guys at the gym."

I don't say anything—just give him a polite smile—but I am a little disappointed he's leaving so soon. He looks like he wants to say something else but he's hesitant. And as soon as I realize why he is stalling, he leans across the counter a little closer to me. "Danny...can I take you to dinner tonight? I'd really like to get to know you better."

Ah, damn. Why did this scrumptiously hot and completely charming guy have to ask me out? I was enjoying our banter, our flirting, but I never thought he'd act on it. I mean, he's Doom Perignon...and I'm Coca-Cola. And as if our differences aren’t enough, I really don’t have time to complicate my life with something like this.

"I can see the wheels turning in your head, Danny. I'm not asking you to marry me...just dinner."

I start shaking my head. "I don't think so. I just have a lot on my plate right now."

As I'm trying to rationalize my refusal, I'm feeling better about my decision to turn him down. I saw the friends he hung with the other night. I couldn't help but notice the expensive clothing and jewelry. The sense of entitlement that hung in the air. It really is just not my thing and why bother getting involved with someone, even just for dinner, when I will eventually never fit in. It’s like taking Cinderella to the ball, but then telling her she has to go back to being a maid the next day.

Before I can start to say no again, he reaches across and takes my hand. Stroking his thumb across my wrist, he murmurs, "I didn't peg you for a chicken, Danny. Come on...just dinner tonight and we will go anywhere you want to go."