Eric leaned back, never taking his eyes—well, never taking his one unbruised eye—off the cat.
Another clunk that sounded like a dish being placed on the counter was followed by a click and hiss of a can opener and then a distinctive grind of it being turned.
The sudden noise made Gandalf leap to the floor from his perch in the highest box with surprising agility for something so thick.
“There, you won,” she called from the kitchen.
“Nope. Doesn’t count. There was interference from the audience again.” He went to the kitchen to find Gandalf scarfing some nasty-looking gruel in a bright yellow dish with paw prints painted on the sides. “You’re going to be banned from future matches if you keep causing my opponent to forfeit.”
She held up a small, empty can. “The winner of this round is Fancy Feast. Handle your defeat with dignity, Blackwell.”
“Defeat is never dignified. I might have to throw myself on the floor in a tear-filled tantrum.”
“It wouldn’t be the first one I’ve seen from a full-grown man tonight.”
What the hell happened tonight… He hoped she’d go on, partly from curiosity, partly because hearing about a bombed date made him feel…relieved.
She dug in the pantry and pulled out a bag of Cheetos. “Your friend Brody didn’t take defeat well, either, when I ended the date halfway through.”
God, she was cute. He smiled as he thought of all the times he’d watched her walk down the hall in her business suit, looking over-the-top professional and untouchable with her hair smoothed stylishly back from her face. Never in a million years did he picture her like this, holding Cheetos and beer in warmup pants and a baggy T-shirt… Wait. Holy shit. She didn’t have on a bra.
He closed his eyes, but the image remained. High, round breasts, not large, but perfect… with nipples straining against the soft blue fabric.
I am so screwed.
When he opened his eyes, Jane was at the sink washing the can opener and Gandalf was at his feet, staring up as if trying to communicate. Then he stretched up, placing his paws—claws retracted this time—on Eric’s knee as if he wanted to be picked up.
What the hell. He already had a black eye, what were a few scratches and maybe a bite?
Carefully, he picked the creature up by the rib cage and rested him against his chest, grateful to not be feeling the pointy parts. As soon as he was cradled comfortably, Gandalf began to purr. And it wasn’t a polite thrum, like other cats he’d handled. It was a wheezy, grating rasp that could probably be heard in the next apartment over.
“I don’t believe it,” Jane said, drying her hands. “Just when I thought my day couldn’t get weirder, you prove me wrong.”
Not wanting to press his luck and end up bloody, Eric walked to the carpeted tower in the TV room and gently set Gandalf, still purring, on a flat part of the structure. Jane followed him in and plopped down on the sofa with a huff and a crinkling of the Cheetos bag.
“What happened with Brody?” he asked, sitting on the opposite end of the sofa. The suspense was killing him. If that walking steroid had done something to upset her… “He said he was taking you to the museum, which seemed like something you’d like.” Of all the places that seemed public and safe and least likely to see either of them unclothed, that would be it. Eric heartily approved of the location.
“Oh yeah. I love museums. I used to go every Thursday during undergrad. I was really excited to go today, too. Took off work early and everything.” She clicked the TV on and the Weather Channel came up, but it was muted.
“So, your friend Brody has the emotional maturity of a nine-year-old.”
Lots of guys did, but he didn’t think pointing that out would help. “What did he do?”
She grabbed the Cheetos and ripped them open, spilling some on her lap. “He giggled.”
“Yeah. And pointed.”
He twisted the caps off both beers as she crunched on Cheetos. “Pointed at other people?” He took a swallow of beer. That really didn’t sound like Brody.
“No. He pointed…” A pink flush moved up her face and she took a deep breath. “He pointed at penises.”
It was a struggle to not choke on his beer, or worse yet, spew it from his nose. After he could breathe again, he set the beer down. This conversation was one of the most entertaining he’d ever had. “Whose penises?”
“Everyone’s. Do you know how many penises there are in the Met?”
Now, the conversation had escalated into plain awesome. “I have no idea. How many?”
“Lots. Lots and lots. Probably dozens in the European Paintings Hall alone. Not to mention breasts and…and…well everything.” She took a huge pull on her beer and clicked the channel.
“Everything?” He grabbed the Cheetos bag and grinned. She was so cute, all red-faced and flustered.
She settled for an old horror movie, volume still muted.
He stood and paced the floor in front of the coffee table as if he were delivering a cross-examination of a witness. “So, to summarize for the jury, Ms. Dixon: my workout buddy took you on a date to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and proceeded to point at naked genitalia in paintings.”
She nodded, face remarkably serious for a subject so amusing. “And sculptures.”
“And sculptures.” It was all he could do to not bust out laughing, but he continued with his act, pacing the floor with his hands clasped behind his back. “What else did he do?”
He stopped and faced her. “Giggled.”
“Yeah. Like a little kid. He pointed and giggled, and I was sure we were going to get kicked out of there, or worse, run into somebody I knew.”
“Well, it’s my belief that the testimony calls for a summary judgment from the court. There is no other option but to insist you never date this giggling genitalia pointer-at-er again.”
“Case closed!” she said, saluting him with her beer.
He joined her on the couch and Gandalf settled in between them to watch the movie, which was a routine he could get used to, even if it meant playing dating service every week. It was going to be hard to find someone she’d less likely want to date than Brody, but Eric did love a challenge. “Court adjourned.”