The Exception(9)

By: Adriana Locke

“I don’t think fucking once warrants keeping your number.”

I bit the side of my cheek as I looked at Kari, not sure whether to laugh or be disgusted. She was watching the show, seemingly unfazed by the ridiculousness.

I bet she sees this stuff from him all the time. Just another reason to ignore him, regardless of how wet my panties are right now.

“Once?!” Miriam nearly shrieked. “We were together four times, Cane!”

Cane ignored her as he ordered a Corona for himself and Max from Julio. Julio blushed as he headed towards the bar, drink order in hand.

“Lucky for you, I still have your number.” She smiled sweetly, recovering quicker from Cane’s downplay than I had anticipated. “I’ll just shoot you a text later and you can hit me up.”

“You do that,” he said, nodding. “Now I’m about to enjoy a meal here with my friends, so why don’t you go find yours?”

“Oh, okay! Talk to you soon, baby.” She walked away, her head held high despite being clearly dismissed by Cane.

I was speechless.

“That was interesting,” Max said, shaking his head. “You can really find the crazy ones, Cane. That girl has no shame.”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” Kari said, rolling her eyes.

Cane laughed as he took his drink from the waiter. “The crazy ones are the most fun.” He looked at me and laughed at the look on my face. “No, seriously—she’s not nearly as fun as she thinks she is. And I think four times is a stretch.”

“I don’t know what to say to any of that,” I mumbled.

“Don’t worry.” Cane brought the bottle to his lips. “I’d be happy to take you home tonight instead.”

I was appalled for the second time in as many minutes.

“Excuse me?” I asked in disbelief, my voice rising. My mouth hung open at his audacity. “I’m not interested in going home with you, thank you very much.”

Cane leaned in close, his eyes sparkling and his voice just above a whisper. “Don’t act like you don’t want me, Jada.” The way his voice caressed my name made my entire body light up. “It’s your eyes that give you away.”

I forced a swallow as my brain left me hanging, abandoning me when I needed a quick, sassy retort. We watched each other, neither of us saying a word, until a beeping noise drew his attention away.

I sagged in my chair with relief, glancing at Max who looked amused. I glared at him and he responded with a laugh before taking a drink of his beer.

Cane’s eyebrows furrowed as he dug into his pocket. “Excuse me for one second,” he said, swiping his phone and holding it to his ear.

“Alexander,” he said, sitting upright. “Are you kidding me? That’s impossible.” Cane shook his head with exasperation. “Oh, for fuck’s sake. I’ll be there in a little while.”

He shoved his phone back into his front pocket and looked at Max as he stood. “I have to go take care of the mess in Queen Creek.”

Max nodded, seeming to understand what Cane was referring to.

A part of me relaxed with relief, while another part of me secretly wished he would stay. I had never met someone like him before, someone that could walk into a room and own it immediately. I knew I couldn’t take it any farther, but I couldn’t help but wish he could have stayed.

“Kari, it was nice to see you again. Jada, have Max give you my number.” He smiled confidently at me.

I was flabbergasted, annoyance at his presumptuousness overriding every other emotion. Is he freaking serious? What kind of girl does he take me for? “Excuse me? I don’t need, nor do I want, your number.”

“Are you going to play hard to get? That’s so cute.” He gazed down at me, his eyes daring me to disagree.

I was incensed and aroused—and mentally berated myself for the latter. Just as I was on the cusp of giving in to my body’s demands, images of Decker and Sarah flashed through my mind, and I tumbled back to reality with a resounding thud. “I’m not playing anything. I don’t want your number, Cane.”

He studied me for a moment, his forehead creased in thought. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No, I don’t. I’m not sure why that matters.”

I glanced at Kari and Max and they were watching us now. And I thought they would be the entertainment.

I glared at Cane for putting me on the spot.

“I’m pretty sure you have somewhere to be. And time is ticking,” I reminded him, glancing at my watch for emphasis.

He let out a deep breath and grabbed his wallet. He tossed a few bills in the center of the table. “I’ll take care of the bill.”