(side note: I have a shiny new “books” page set up, finally! Check it out here!)
“What’s going on with you?”
I frowned, then shrugged, suddenly self-conscious under his careful inspection. “Nothing.”
Carter raised an eyebrow, taking the last few steps to put him barely a foot in front of me. “It’s definitely not nothing.”
“Because you know me so well?”
He grinned. “Well enough to know that your whole vibe is off. I mean, I didn’t even realize you owned solid clothes. I’ve never seen you in less than four colors and you’re standing in front of me in dark jeans, black sweater, and black boots.”
“I am a thirty-year-old woman, Carter. My wardrobe should reflect that. Not a teeny-bopper trying to renew the grandeur of her youth. Everybody has to grow up, right?” I asked, my cheeks flushed from realizing he had been paying so much attention to me.
A smile played at the corners of his mouth as he shook his head. “So, in other words, you just don’t wanna talk about it. That’s cool,” he said, cocking his head to the side as he surveyed me again. “Where you headed?”
“Down to Roman’s,” I said, nodding my head toward the coffee shop on the corner. “For a much-needed drink.”
“Mind if I tag along?”
“The sidewalk is public space.”
Carter’s eyes went wide, and he chuckled as he began walking beside me. “Damn, Frenchy, you are cold today.”
I stopped, glancing around the nearly-empty sidewalk. “Frenchy is… me? You are calling me Frenchy why?”
He smiled. “You’ve got that little sexy accent, so that’s what I’m gonna call you.”
I blushed, but didn’t address the “sexy” comment. “I don’t have an accent.”
“Frenchy, you’ve got an accent.”
“I do not. I used to, but I am very Americanized now. I barely have an accent.”
Carter stared at me for a moment, the corners of his mouth twitching as he tried not to laugh.
“What is so funny?” I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.
“You,” he said, finally giving in with a chuckle. “You sound like goddamned Pepe Le Pew, talking about you don’t have an accent.”
I gasped, a little bit horrified by that comparison before I burst into laughter myself, giggling until tears rolled down my face. “The skunk, Carter? You’re comparing me to a skunk?”
“Just the accent, I swear. And you’re fine as hell, so it’s sexy.”
My eyes went wide. “Oh, I’m pretty, so it is okay that I sound like a cartoon skunk with a terrible accent?”
Narrowing my eyes, I tried my best to hold it together, but laughter won over again. “How did you do that?” I asked, when I finally regained my composure.
I shook my head, using my thumbs to wipe stray tears from my face. “I don’t know… I sure as hell did not feel like laughing when I walked out of my apartment.”
He shrugged. “Hell, I don’t know. I’m just used to seeing a smile on your face. That’s you, always grinning or laughing about something.” He stopped, with his hand on the door to enter Urban Grind. I could already feel the beat of the music, smell the unique mixture of coffee and hookah smoke permeating the air near the entrance as Carter stepped closer. “You sure you okay?”
There was a concern in his eyes that made my heart race, and made me wonder just how “off” I looked. I tore my gaze away from his as I nodded. “I’m fine, Carter. Really.”
I felt his eyes on me for another moment longer before he pulled the door open, surrounding us with a blast of warmth from inside. “Come on,” he said, grabbing my hand to pull me in.