Felix drenched a few strands of pasta in sauce before guiding them into her mouth. "This is probably the best homemade red sauce I've ever taken part in."
"Wait until you taste my mom's sauce," Ryan said, swiping a hunk of bread across his plate. "She's full Italian."
"So, I'm having dinner at your mom's house? When is this supposed to happen?"
Felix watched Ryan blanch as she threw him a curve. While he had all the characteristics of a cop; sturdy exterior, no-nonsense approach to conversation, naturally suspicious, he had definitely let down his guard a couple of times with her. His relationship with his mom probably saved him.
"She might have mentioned something about bringing you by the house," Ryan said around a large piece of bread. "She knows I don't entertain much."
Felix was dying to bring up the big-boobed girl who seemed perfectly at ease walking around his apartment in the nude, but it wasn't polite table conversation. "I'd love to see your mom again. Bonnie was always my favorite neighbor, even though I was antisocial with her sons. How is your brother, by the way?"
"Todd's great. He's working his dream job in Seattle, so we only see each other about twice a year. He's got a couple of kids now."
"That's nice. He always struck me as the responsible type."
"What about me? Did you think I was responsible?" Ryan smiled the kind of smile that could sell you anything.
"Not as much. You struck me as the guy most likely to punch somebody's lights out. Didn't you beat up Micky Haskall? Gave him a bloody nose."
"Micky Haskall was an asshole. He got pissed about our lineup on the field that day and jumped me to prove something. There's a difference between punching somebody's lights out and not backing down when they throw the first punch."
Felix nodded her agreement. "Thanks for clearing that up for me. I'll be able to sleep much better knowing you're not going to pummel me when I close my eyes."
"You're a real smartass, you know that?" Ryan smirked as he aimed a piece of Italian sausage in her direction.
"Don't you dare throw that sausage at me. I only have one more change of clothes."
"There's a laundry room downstairs."
"That's beside the point." Felix lifted her napkin, preparing to shield herself from the spicy projectile when her phone rang. She didn't have to look at the screen to know who it was. "Damn. I really don't want to talk to him right now."
"Then don't pick up." Ryan lowered his fork and stared at her across the table. Those eyes could tame a lion.
"I don't want him to think I'm avoiding him. That will seem suspicious."
Ryan shrugged. "It's your call, Felix, but you better be prepared to answer his questions without sounding like your bullshitting him."
Felix stood and picked up her phone from the counter, reading Andy's name on the screen. She had developed the strategy of reacting spontaneously, thus promoting the ruse she was behaving like a woman scorned.
"Hello?" she said, although her voice came out rougher than she intended.
"Baby! Where the fuck are you!" Andy screamed loud enough for Ryan to hear, and he walked over to stand next to her.
"Christ, Andy, you don't have to yell. I'm at a Starbucks."
"Which Starbucks? You need to tell me or I'm totally going to lose it. I'm freaking out over here. Carlos has been on a rampage looking for you. He claims you're nowhere near Lapham Peak."
"I know. I've been ignoring his texts, and I'll continue to ignore them until he stops calling me a puta."
"Don't ignore him, Felix. He thinks you've bolted. He and Jordy are under orders to find you no matter what it takes."
"Under orders from who?"
"Donovan. Fucking Donovan, all right? Please tell me you didn't bolt, baby."
Felix gripped the back of her chair, praying her stomach wouldn't reject Ryan's amazing red sauce all over his floor. She had determined over the past year that Donovan didn't get involved in her business unless it was absolutely necessary, and it was his filthy money that paid her bills. She'd met the guy only once at a party, and the vibe he gave off had her watching her back the rest of the night.
"I didn't bolt, but now you've got me freaking out. They're never going to believe I just took a ride to clear my head. Have you talked to Jordy or Carlos? Did they tell you exactly what they're supposed to do with me when they find me?"
"They're supposed to bring you back to the house and put you under twenty-four-seven surveillance until this shit blows over. I know it sucks, baby, but it's how they operate. You know that."
"Yeah, I know it sucks."
"Please, turn your GPS on so they can find you. I promise our lives will be back to normal in a couple of weeks."
"Normal? When have our lives ever been normal?"
The silence on the other end made Felix's stomach throb even more, and she felt grateful for Ryan's presence, although his incessant rubbing on her back made her want to elbow him.
"I'm sorry, Felix," Andy said, finally. "This is my fault. I'm the worst boyfriend on the planet. I don't deserve you."
"Don't say that. We're both responsible for the decisions we've made, in spite of how stupid they turn out to be. This last thing just pushed me past my breaking point. How would you feel if you found me in bed with another man?" More silence followed, and Felix wondered if his stomach was throbbing too. "Are you listening to me, Andy?"
"Yes, I'm listening. I love you, baby. You've never been like them and you never will be. I gotta go before... I just gotta go."
The phone went dead and Felix felt her heart go dead with it. She dropped it on the counter as tears streamed down her cheeks. Ryan pulled her against his chest, letting her sob like a child into his shirt. He didn't say a word, he just stood there letting his shirt get soaked. Once she'd stopped sniffling, he lifted her head.
"I might know something that will take your mind off things, besides eighties music," he said. "How do you feel about hot tubs?"
PLAYLIST SONG: Under Pressure by Queen feat. David Bowie
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Inked and DangerousRomance
Felicity Taylor has a beautiful mind and a future with promise, until something happens to blow it all to hell. How does she respond? She gets inked, buys a Harley, and teams up with a bunch of crooks, not necessarily in that order. Ryan Clark is a...