“So, since when are shirtless selfies not thirst traps, Mr. Everett?” I asked, tossing the card onto the counter to pick up the wine bottle instead. His gaze followed me to the drawer that held my corkscrew.
“That’s just how I work sometimes. The shop can get hot when I have art drying. I don’t want any moving air to mess up the paint.” He took a seat at the counter, watching as I peeled off the foil from the top of the bottle, then set the corkscrew. “You’re about to open that now, when it hasn’t been chilled?”
I shrugged, then made quick work of uncorking the bottle. “That’s what ice is for,” I said, opening a cabinet to grab two glasses.
“You’re about to put ice in those, for the wine?” he asked, and I nodded as I opened the freezer, using the scoop to dispense cubes from the ice maker.
“Is that a problem for you?”
He scoffed. “Problem? Hell no. More like you’re about to make me fall in love.”
“Shut up,” I laughed, then went back to the counter with the glasses. His eyes stayed on me as I poured the glasses, then pushed one across the counter to him. He didn’t look at it. He kept looking at me. “What?” I asked, then took a deep, thirsty sip. “Why are you staring at me like that?”
“Staring has an ugly connotation, B. I’m not staring at you, I’m looking. And I’m looking because your ass is fine,” he explained, then took a sip of his own as I rolled my eyes.
“Look, let’s just… be easy, okay? None of whatever it is you’re trying to do right now.”
He raised a thick eyebrow at me. “I wasn’t trying to do anything. Just stating what was on my mind. What did you think I was trying to do?”
What did I think he was trying to do?
I shook my head – at myself, not him. I was on the verge of embarrassing my silly ass, thinking he was trying to hit on me, when he obviously wasn’t. “Nevermind. You hungry?”
“Hell yes,” he answered immediately, putting his hand to his stomach. “I doubt we’d be able to get any delivery in this weather though, not for a while.”
I shrugged. “So? I’ve got food.” I pulled open the fridge, looking around for a few moments before I glanced back at him. “You want grilled cheese? That’s the most work I’m doing at this time of night. With good cheese though. Or Zion has frozen pizzas…”
“I’m good with a grilled cheese… or two… please?”
I laughed as I grabbed the cheese and butter from the fridge, then put them down on the counter. “You can have two. Zion always inhales the first one, then actually chews the second.”
“You sound like my mama did when I was that age. Always talking about me “eating her out of house and home”. I couldn’t help it though.”
“I know, I know,” I said, pulling out my skillet, placing it on the stove and turning the heating element on. “He’s a growing boy – shot up damn near a foot in the last two months. It’s like a switch flipped when he turned thirteen. The time for Brandi to go broke buying shoes and clothes switch.”
Kyle chuckled, and I wrinkled my nose as I pulled a silicon spatula from the utensil drawer. “Yeah, laugh at my pain now, but KJ is what, four? He’s coming up on that age where he’s gonna be going through a new pair of shoes every month. I at least still get three or four.”
“His mother is already complaining.”
I grinned. “See?” I turned to put a fat chunk of butter into the skillet, then took six slices of whole wheat bread from the loaf on the counter. “But, that’s probably not a big deal for you, Mr. Former NBA. I can barely believe you kick it with us regular folks.”
“Cut that shit out, B,” he laughed. “I’m regular as fuck.”
“Ballistic had a full spread in the last issue of Sugar&Spice. Imagine my surprise, to look over my client’s shoulder while she’s in my chair and see your face.”
And not just his face. He’d been shirtless there too, covered in paint, but holding a pristine basketball. The art direction of the shoot had been gorgeous… and so had he.
“It was a good opportunity for my business,” he shrugged. “But don’t act like you weren’t hugged up with Dani’s little songbird ass on Instagram a few weeks back after you hooked her up with the color on her locs.”
I smiled. “And don’t forget about me talking Pixie into changing her look… and slaying that shit, by the way.” Kyle laughed as I took a little bow, then arranged three slices of bread in the skillet, sliding them around to absorb some butter before I topped each one with a slice of Havarti. I was quite proud of moving Pixie away from her signature short silver cut to a longer, sleek ombre bob that would give her natural hair a chance to rest in protective styles. Everybody loved the new look on her.
“See there?” he asked, as I went back to the fridge for a jar of pesto, which I spread over the other three slices of bread. “You’re a celebrity stylist, about to be a household name. The NBA was seven damn years ago. Nobody recognizes me like that anymore.”
“Whoa.” I held up a hand to stop him, and reached for a tomato from the counter with the other. “First of all, you have social media followers like current players, so you can kill that. Second – I have a couple of celebrity clients, but I’m not a celebrity stylist. And I don’t think I ever want to be either.”
I grabbed a knife and cutting board, quickly breaking the tomato down into thick slices before layering the them on top of the cheese, then topping each sandwich with its other piece of bread before I flipped them all over.
I took our finished sandwiches from the skillet and deposited them on the plates, where I cut each in half. I handed Kyle his plate with two, then moved to get both of us water to balance out the wine.
“This is good as hell,” he said, accepting the glass of water before he took another bite. “Way better than the American cheese on white bread you would have gotten with my grilled cheese sandwiches.”
I laughed, then joined him at the counter. “I try to do a little better when I’m feeding grownups than when I’m feeding Zion. That kid’s palette… I just don’t understand it.”
“He’s a kid,” Kyle chuckled. “He has time to be sophisticated later. KJ’s favorite thing in the world is damn chicken nuggets. But, in the meantime… I’ll eat his servings of whatever you fix. Cause this,” – he pointed at the second sandwich. The first was already gone. This fool eats just like Zion – “is bomb.”
“Well, thank you,” I said, taking my first bite.
“You realize this is strike two, right?”
I lifted my eyebrow, as I swallowed. “Strike two?! I didn’t know I’d gotten strike one! And what do the strikes mean anyway?”
“First strike was the wine served over ice. Second strike is this good ass sandwich. One more strike, and that’s it. Your fine ass isn’t gonna be able to get rid of me.”
I burst out laughing, shaking my head. “Boy if you don’t stop playing…”
“What’s up, what you gone do?” he teased, nudging my shoulder.
“I’m gonna put you out in the Sharknado is what I’m gone do,” I shot back.
His eyes got big, even though he knew I wasn’t going to do any such thing. “Oh damn, let me straighten up then, so I don’t get put out.”
“Yeah, you better.”
We settled into a comfortable silence to eat, but after a few moments, his phone rang in his backpack. Curiosity got the best of me, and I peeked up from my plate as I finished to get a glimpse of his face as he checked the screen to see who it was.
Whoever it was made him smile.
I picked up my plate from the counter as he answered, then reached to take his empty one as well. He didn’t even seem to notice though, as he embarked on a conversation.
As quietly as I could, I ran a sinkful of hot, soapy water to clean up the small mess I’d made in the kitchen. I was gathering our glasses when Kyle came into the main part of the kitchen.
“What are you doing?” he asked, with the phone pressed to his shoulder, earning himself a hiked eyebrow.
“Um, cleaning up?”
He sucked his teeth, then put a hand at my waist, easing me away from the sink. “What kind of wack ass guest would I be if you cooked and had to clean up after? Let me do this.”
“Okay,” I readily agreed. I certainly wasn’t about to argue with a man wanting to wash the dishes. He put the phone back to his ear, using his shoulder to keep it in place while he talked and cleaned the kitchen. While he was in his own little world, I took the opportunity to put away what was in the dishwasher, now that the cycle had finished running.
I was pushing myself up on my toes, reaching high to put away the slow cooker, now that the porcelain insert was clean. I really need to store this on a lower shelf, I thought to myself, and just as I did, I felt Kyle’s hand on my waist again, as he approached me from behind.
“Let me help you with that,” he said, taking the pot from my hands and easily placing it on the shelf. I sucked in a breath as he stepped in closer to me, right against my ass, to push it into place so the cabinet would close. My heart was thumping loud as hell as I waited for him to move back, but that moment never came. Instead, he moved to press his palm flat against my stomach.
“What are you doing?” I hissed, not knowing if he was still on the phone or not.
Instead of answering immediately, he used that hand on my stomach to pull me closer to him. So close that I felt the unmistakable hardness of his dick against the hollow of my back.
“Something I’ve been wanting to do for a long ass time,” he said, with his mouth so close to my ear that I felt the brush of his lips on my skin.