Sinful Abandon(7)

By: Jeannine Colette

“Homeless,” I state matter-of-factly. “Deal.” I wait for him to hand out the cards.

I split a pair and win with twenty to his nineteen.

“First time following a woman home?” I ask.

“First time she was wearing lingerie,” he says as a joke.

I raise a brow at him.

“Yes, this is my first time. I wouldn’t say, I followed you home as much as you pulled me in.”

Ryan deals, and I win again.

I always judge a man by how he answers this question. “How many women have you left the morning after?”

He doesn’t blanch at my question. “Two. A howler and a biter.”

Honest and without conceit.

He wins the next deal. “Worst thing you’ve ever done to a person?”

“Sabotage their career. Don’t look at me like that. It’s a cutthroat world for a woman, and I’ll take down anyone in my way.”

“A woman taking down a man in the corporate world is impressive, if not scary.”

I tweak my mouth in mild embarrassment. “It was a secretary. She was encroaching on my position. I tried to push her back down the totem pole.”

Ryan whistles through his teeth. “Damn. Remind me never to get on your bad side.”

“You threatened to punch me over a cab!”

“Only if you were a man.” He deals and wins again, getting blackjack. “Something you hate but pretend to like?”

“People,” I answer.

He looks back at me like that was obvious. He’s right. I told him earlier that I don’t like people.

I don’t know. What else do I pretend to like? “Coffee. I drink it because everyone wants to meet for coffee, but it’s pretty gross. And sushi. It’s so popular right now. Everyone wants to have business meetings over Asian fusion, but I really just want a pizza.” My mouth waters at the thought. I haven’t had good pizza in forever.

“I’ll have to take you to Giordano’s then. You’ll love it.”

The way he says it—as if he is actually going to be back here, taking me out for deep dish—makes my stomach flutter. I dig my nail into my thumb to bring myself back to reality.

“What are you hiding?” I ask. He hasn’t dealt the cards again, but I ask anyway, “What’s the one thing that would make me hate you as a person?”

Please say you killed someone, stole money from your grandmother, cheated on your wife…

“I get terrible road rage. Bad. You’ll want to throw me out,” he answers as he deals the cards again.

“That’s it?” I lean forward and ask incredulously, “Never stabbed anyone in the back? Taken a bro’s girl? Cheated on an exam? Taken steroids? Lied to a boss about your abilities?” I’m fishing for something, anything.

“No. Sorry to disappoint. Were you looking for a bad boy? I do have a temper though. You saw it on Wacker. Sorry about that, by the way. I’d never hit a girl or anything. I just get heated. I played football, and the adrenaline rush is still lingering under my skin.”

I stare back at him and wonder why a handsome man with few flaws, minus a temper over hailing cabs, has to wear generic clothing and come from a suburb in Chicago. “I hate you, and I hardly know you.”

“You hate everyone,” he says. “This is a good song. Wanna dance?”

Ryan stands and raises the volume on the stereo. His hips sway from side to side as he moves to the music. He must have an incredibly low tolerance for vodka because I’ve never seen anyone actually dance like no one is watching. Plus, I am, in fact, sitting here, watching him dance in my living room.

He leans down and offers me his hands. I scrunch my face at him. I think I’ve let a drug addict into my home.

“You don’t dance?” he asks.

With a slow shake of my head, I say, “Not with strangers. Not to old-school Rihanna. And not on my shag carpet.”

He quirks up a grin. “So, you don’t have a problem with letting strangers come up to your apartment, play CDs on your ancient stereo, and drink with you on said shag carpet, but you do have a problem with dancing.” His brows lower over his lids. “Interesting.”

“Nothing about me is interesting.”