In the elevator, Trix turned to me, excited but trying for deadpan.
“What did he say?”
“Who?” She crunched up her mouth, irritated with my dissembling. I had to admit I’d just replied on autopilot – of course I knew who she meant.
“Tyler Brendshaw. What did he say to you?”
“That I look contemptuous.” She jerked her head, startled.
“What? He said that?”
“What he said was that I look bored with the crowd for my entertainment.”
“Oh, okay.” Her shoulders relaxed. “That sounds more like him. Is that it?”
“He said I’m smaller than he expected. That, he really did say. He knew who I was. Why did he know who I was?”
“Website, gossip blogs, who knows? If he recognized you, that means he’s paying attention.”
“He called me Mouse. That’s your fault. From the website?
She smiled wide, satisfied.
“Yes! Very good. Very good. It’s all uphill until the end, but now, we’d better hang on tight!”
We walked past the honorary bellman through automated glass doors. She slid into her gear while we waited for the bike.
“What are you talking about, with the uphill and the hang on tight?”
“I’m talking about success. Can you smell it?” She took an exaggerated breath of the cool, moist night air.
“I don’t even know what it means. Who is this guy, Tyler, that he make your nostrils tweak?”
“Let’s just say, if Brendshaw takes an interest, we won’t have a problem getting where we want to go. And I wonder if maybe he hasn’t taken an interest in you?”
Trix tweaked me under the chin, teasing. I slumped forward, hanging my head. I knew I was pouting. I felt tears rise in my eyes. I felt way, way too tired, and probably hungry, too. I thought fleetingly of all that food back there, untouched.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” she asked, concerned.
“Just what I need, another man who wants what he wants from me and nothing else.”
Trix picked up my hand and squeezed.”Oh, little girl. I wondered if it might be like that. Men don’t love like we do, you know. And you don’t give anyone much slack. It’s all or nothing with you, which is cool and all, it just might be hard for a man to take. They aren’t very strong.”
“I don’t want to talk about this with you.”
“Okay. Hey, don’t worry about Bren, I’ll sic Trace on him and he’ll be blinded. Oh, no offense.” As though I could compete with Trace.
“I hadn’t taken any until you said that.”
I noticed Trix still held my hand. She leaned in like a gentle labrador, smelling around my hair in a slow, exaggerated way, letting her nose brush my cheek and neck, until her lips sat right beside my ear. My skin tingled under her breath as she murmured, “Are you in heat or something, Mouse? All the dogs are sniffing around you.”
“Does it seem that way to you?” I looked up quickly, breaking the spell. She stayed at my height and found my eyes.
“Maybe I’m just projecting.” In the end, her eyes scooted away first. I felt heat behind my ribcage and became aware of my breath and heartbeat in the same moment – shallow and fast. My hand felt hot in her hand.
The valet roared up with the bike.
“Sweet ride! Had a hard time getting her started,” he shared.
“Well you’re here now.” Trix tipped him – I didn’t see how much though I was curious. I heard her muttering into her earpiece – I hadn’t even noticed her phone ring.
“Okay, that’s done. I’ll drop you home on my way to the next stop,” she informed me, suddenly all business. I panicked a little.
“I told you, I can’t go home tonight!”
“No,” she shook her head impatiently. “My home. Timeless. Hold on.” She was still on the phone. I caught the end of her words, “…probably better this way. Grow up.”
We rode right into the ally beside Timeless. Trix didn’t get off the bike. Jamie stood at the door.
“Mouse is sleeping home tonight,” she yelled. “Tell them to make her comfortable in the girls’ bunkers, okay?”
“No problem,” replied Jamie, as though I had no say about anything.
“I’ll catch up with you tomorrow, Mouse. Don’t worry, It’ll all work out.” The words were barely out before she sped off.