‘Meet me at bar at 7. Kisses, Predator.’
“Feels like a booty call,” Franz commented, squeezing a stress ball in one hand.
I groaned and buried my head in my hands.
“She even waited the usual two days to text you.”
I shook my head, not disagreeing, just in disbelief. When the text had initially come in, I’d stared at it for a long time. Maybe I was just behind the times when it came to texting after you had sex with someone you weren’t dating, but I had expected something between that night and the… booty call text.
“You gonna text her back?”
Franz, of course, took every possible opportunity to poke at me. There was a little bit of older-brother protectiveness, but I knew it was also him enjoying the chance to give me hell about my sex life.
“No,” I answered, sliding my phone shut and putting it in my pocket. “I’ve got a shift starting at five. She can wait until I get back.”
“You’re just going to leave her hanging?” Franz teased. “Cold, Ai.”
I rolled my eyes and grabbed my keys. “When you finally manage to ask Kara out, then you can give me dating advice.”
His dramatic gasp followed me out.
“You look so cute, in your little apron.”
I whirled around, brandishing the price-checker like it was something more than a hunk of plastic.
Standing in front of me, looking more amused than anyone in her position had any right to, was Predator. Her hair hung loose around her shoulders, and she smelled like… something, some cologne different than last time.
“I’m working,” I managed, raising an eyebrow.
“You didn’t return my texts,” Predator said, like that excused it, “I got worried. It’s not safe for Named, you know.”
“No, I didn’t,” I snapped, peeved at the whole situation, “and thank you for taking as long as possible to tell me about it.”
She eyed me, and I folded my hands over my chest. I had to work to stay mad; what I really wanted to do was go on break and get her up against the wall of the loading area in the back of the store.
“Are you always hot and cold?” She asked, jamming her hands into her pockets. “Because it’s already starting to get old.”
“Sorry if I don’t welcome you with open arms when you stalk me to my job,” I fired off, turning back to what I had been doing.
“I told you, I got worried. And I thought you could figure out that it was dangerous; if I can track you down, so can other people.”
“And here I thought you were the best,” I quipped, scanning something almost savagely.
“I am the best, but that doesn’t mean I’m the only one.” I heard her sigh in frustration. “Look, Mirror- Aiyana. I like you and all, but I’m not sure how much longer that’s going to last if you keep treating me like this. If you didn’t want to see me, all you had to do was say so.”
What I meant to say was something witty about silence not equalling consent. What I ended up saying was:
“I don’t sleep with people I’m not dating, okay?”
There was a long pause, in which I silently cursed whatever mind-to-mouth filter Predator broke just by existing.
“Is that the problem?” She asked, sounding amused. “Then date me. We’ll go to some place that’s still open when you get off shift, you’ll make fun of my taste in food, I’ll bitch about the service-” her voice lowered, “-and then you bring me back to your place, and I’ll make you scream.”
I flushed and fumbled the scanner, but managed to turn around without dropping it. Swallowing, I searched her eyes. One sign – one sign – that she was jerking me around, and I’d tell her to high-tail it.
As best I could tell, she looked sincere. Amused, not nervous in any way about asking me out, but sincere.
“Tell me your name,” I hedged, searching her eyes. She opened her mouth, and I cut her off. “Your birth name.”
She pursed her lips, and for a few seconds I really thought she was going to leave. Then:
“Anna,” she answered finally, crossing her arms over her chest. “My birth name is Anna.”
I nodded slowly, then darted forward for a quick kiss. “I get off at ten.”
“No, you’re getting off at eleven,” Predator smirked, brushing the backs of her fingers against my cheek, “but I’ll be here at ten for the pre-party.”
I managed something like a nod, and she turned to leave. “Kisses, Aiyana.”