The Pizza Talks
“Y-you’re not m-my dinner.”
Wow. Back to epic fails. Just wow.
“Actually,” he glanced down at the Primo box with a tight smile, “I am your dinner.”
That was funny…
“May I come in?”
Nodding silently, Mickey took a couple unsteady steps backwards, giving him enough space to cross over the threshold and close the door behind him.
He gave his head a shake sending droplets of water flying in every direction before looking up at her with a long sigh.
Breathe. Just breathe.
“Don’t look so thrilled to see me, Mickey.”
“In the flesh.”
“W-what are y-you doing h-here?”
“I came to bring you dinner,” he reminded flatly and tossed the pizza box haphazardly onto the kitchen counter.
“H-how did y-you find m-me?”
Why am I stammering?
Who cares about the stammering anyway?
“Your best friend is a traitor.”
Of course, she is.
“She willingly betrayed your location.”
Of, course she did.
“Look, Mickey. If you want me to leave,” staring down at his unmoving knees, Cale’s voice was a touch caustic, “just say the word and I’ll go.”
“No!” Flushing immediately at her unwarranted outburst, she lowered her voice to a whisper and added breathlessly, “Please don’t.”
As Cale gradually peered up through an abundance of thick lashes, they entered into a stalemate of sorts. The apprehensive reluctance in his glittering emerald eyes bore an uncanny resemblance to the nervousness that was clawing painfully at her insides. It seemed that neither of them was comfortable with making the first move. As always, it was Cale who took the bull by the horns and spoke up a few moments later…
But what he said was the last thing that Mickey expected to hear. Not to mention, his sharply bitter words barely seeped through gritted teeth, “I see you’re expecting company.”
She blinked at the unexpected statement.
“Are you going to get that?”
Another soundless blink.
“Fine, Mickey,” he growled spitefully and turned his back to her.
Is he leaving?
“It’s not as if I can humiliate myself any more than I already have.”
As Cale’s hand closed over the knob and he forcefully swung the door open, it finally occurred to Mickey – she vaguely recalled hearing it – that the doorbell had rung.
Who on Earth could that be?
They both stared wide-eyed at the new visitor.
After a long and exceedingly awkward stretch of time, it was their guest who finally broke the silence, albeit timidly.
“Um. I’m sorry to interrupt,” the young man held up a Primo box and double checked the address on the ticket, “but you guys did order delivery, didn’t you?” Having taken note of the identical twin that was sitting on the counter he added casually, “You two must really like pizza.”
As comprehension suddenly washed over him, Cale shook his head and immediately produced his wallet to make a trade with the clean-cut teenager. “Evidently so. Keep the change.”
The lanky redhead gawked in disbelief at the hefty bill in his hand. “This is too much…”
“Nonsense. It’s not enough to apologize for our rudeness,” Cale interjected lightly, breaking into an amused and slightly impish grin. “Now please get out of here before you drown,” he chuckled. “Or I’m tempted to pay you even more for the damn thing.”
An impossibly wide smile stretched across the teenager’s face as he nodded eagerly, thanked Cale thrice and bounded happily down the stairs, practically skipping through the rain as he crossed the street.
The kid probably just made an entire day’s wages in one single tip. Who wouldn’t be ecstatic about that?
Shutting the door, Cale spun around and wheeled a couple of feet over to stack the second pizza box neatly on top of its predecessor, casually inquiring, “So, what did you order?”
“Your favorite,” she admitted softly.
His hands stilled for a moment. “Is that so?”
“Why? What did you get?”
We’ve resorted to pizza talk…
Lining the two boxes up perfectly, Cale muttered lowly, “Now I feel like an idiot.”
Why does he feel like an idiot?
The only thing Mickey knew was that she didn’t want him to leave. Biting her lip, she whispered tentatively, “Are you staying?”
He ran his thumb across the cardboard edge and shrugged, his words barely audible, “Why don’t you tell me?”
She wasn’t accustomed to taking the reins. In fact, she was much more inclined to run…
You almost knocked your boss out cold because you were running to him. Like a madwoman. So don’t you dare be a coward now, Mickey.
Drawing in a deep breath, she instructed firmly, “Take your shirt off.”
Instantly, his eyes shot up to meet hers in utter disbelief. “Excuse me?”
“Your shirt,” Mickey repeated, willing her voice not to tremble, “and everything else too.”
“I don’t think…”
“You’re staying,” her brave interjection was accompanied by an affirmative nod, “but not in those wet clothes.”
Furrowing his brow, Cale began to unbutton his collar as he mumbled, “And what exactly do you propose I wear, Mickey?”
Nothing. Buck-naked is perfectly fine by me.
“I’ve seen you without a shirt on before, Cale,” she reminded him gently. “So don’t get shy on me now and die of pneumonia .”
He wrinkled his nose and peeled off the soaking wet dress shirt with a low growl, “And what about my pants, Mickey?”
Have you already forgotten that I’ve seen all of that too?
“Just get undressed,” she headed straight for the bedroom before he could protest, “and leave the rest to me.”
As she opened the dresser and plucked out the chosen article, Mickey heard Cale’s throaty grumble drift over, “I refuse to wear a sheet, so don’t even think of suggesting it.”
“Well, I do tie a mean toga.” She closed the drawer with her hip and poked her head around the doorframe to find Cale bent over in his wheelchair, socks already off. “But we’ll leave that for another time.”
“Yeah, we’d better leave that for another time,” Cale agreed wryly as he straightened up and tossed the wet slacks on top of his other discarded clothes. “I’ll need some time to work on my tan before entering any toga contests.”
You’d take home the championship belt. For the title of sexiest non-Greek Greek god ever. No tan necessary. No toga necessary.
“Here. I’ll trade you.” Gliding over to stand in front of the scantily clad man, she held out the folded garment and held in a giggle. “But I’m afraid you’ll have to go commando.”
Snorting at the “commando” comment, Cale accepted her offering and shook out the grey sweatpants. Staring at them for a moment, he frowned and stated flatly, “These are mine.”
Of course, they are. I’ve worn them too. Quite often.
Matching his expression with a scowl of her own, she muttered back, “Well, who else would they belong to?”
“I don’t know,” Cale admitted quietly. “I just thought that…”
As he trailed off into silence, Mickey narrowed her eyes accusingly. “You thought that what?”
“Never mind.” Averting his gaze, Cale began to shimmy out of his boxers, only to pause halfway. “Mickey…”
Okay, okay. Fine.
She was glad that he couldn’t see the pout on her lips as she asked levelly, “Why don’t grab you a towel?”
“You have two minutes,” she warned smartly before scooping up his pile of clothes and ducking into the bathroom.
An indignant snort followed by a much less impressed, “Thanks.”
Taking her sweet time, Mickey tossed her armload into the dryer.
She gave a long sigh as she passed her reflection in the mirror. It was painfully obvious that she hadn’t slept well or much at all over the last couple weeks.
I look like garbage.
Mickey stopped in the doorway.
Oh. My. God.
Correction: Mickey froze in the doorway. Like a deer in the headlights.
Can a deer in the headlights drool? Seriously. Can it?
Barefoot. Shirtless. Delicious. Painfully delicious…
Yep. That’s my man. No. Was my man. Ugh.
Mickey blinked a couple times before, echoing, “I live?”
“Yeah. I was worried that I’d lost you for good in there.”
“L-lost me?” she squeaked breathlessly.
“That was a joke, Mickey.”
“I thought that you fell in.”
“The toilet.” A wry chuckle. “Get it?”
“Tough crowd tonight.” An exaggerated sigh. “Guess I need new material.”
“All good. You’ve simply crushed my childhood dream. To smithereens. No big deal at all.”
“I’ve only wanted to be a stand-up comic ever since I was a wee lad.”
“Of course I’m lying,” a strategically placed pause, “since I can’t stand at all.”
“I didn’t mean…”
“I’m just teasing, Mickey,” Cale interjected with a disapproving shake of his head. “You’re the one who’s lying to me anyways.”
“You don’t even live here, do you?”
“Of course, I do…”
“You can’t possibly live here,” Cale paused in his quest to send her a goofy grin, “seeing as how there’s not a damn thing in this place.”
“Not a single plate in sight.”
Mickey stared at the handsome and highly amused man in utter confusion for a long moment before his words successfully registered.
Cale was gesturing at the row of cupboards that he’d opened and closed in disappointment. They were empty. Completely empty. Every last one.
Blushing slightly, Mickey finally stepped into the kitchen and tossed the towel at Cale’s chest. “You can get comfy on the couch. And I’ll try to dig up some plates.”
I probably should have labeled all of these moving boxes…
Flipping open the second lid, Mickey asked, “Do you want a slice of this too?”
Cale gave a loud snort in reply, before he shot back, “Not a chance in hell.”
“But you like pepperoni too,” she insisted defensively. As if it was an insult to be wrong about his tastes.
Mickey frowned in confusion.
“That thing damn near killed me.”
She raised a skeptical brow and tentatively poked her finger at the untouched and possibly explosive pizza.
Rolling his eyes at the ridiculous misunderstanding, Cale muttered, “It’s not poisoned, Mickey.” A long pause. Then he grunted begrudgingly before making his sheepish confession, “It’s just that I nearly took a nosedive down your steps earlier.”
She gasped at the alarming disclosure. “What?”
“Don’t worry, Mickey,” a soft chuckle as he raked a hand through his unruly hair, “I didn’t actually plummet to my death.”
“It’s just no easy feat carrying a pizza box up the stairs in the rain,” he grinned wickedly, a mischievous twinkle appearing in his eyes, “when you’re a cripple.”
“You are such an ass,” she murmured softly and handed Cale a plate, before tucking her feet underneath and leaning into the couch.
“I keep trying to tell you that.”
They both laughed. And then…
Complete silence. The awkward type of silence. The claw-your-eyes-out awkward type of silence.
Ah. There’s the Cale I know. Calm. Composed. In control.
“How about that elephant in the room?”
Well, I’ll be darned. I guess that he can be awkward too.
To be continued in Chapter Eighteen…