Ryan was in a bad mood when I turned up the next morning. As I walked through the door he was finishing a conversation on his cell, which culminated with a sharp “goodbye” and him chucking his phone across the counter.
“Wake up on the wrong side of the bed?” I asked, dropping my bag behind the counter and leaning against the doorframe.
“Something like that,” he said. “A friend of mine is having a party tonight and I need a date.”
“What, and you can’t find one on such short notice? Pity.”
“Cute,” he said.
“So who was on the phone?”
“Jaime. Can you pull all of the Balogh off the shelves, tag them with a yellow sticker, and put them on the racks?”
I pushed away from the counter and wandered along the aisle until I found the Bs. “Who’s Jaime? Ex-girlfriend?”
He snorted and turned on the computer. “Hardly. She’s a barista at Batdorf.”
“You’re sleeping with her.”
“Not since November.” He stabbed at the keyboard with a vicious finger. “Hence why she won’t go with me tonight.”
“You must have dozens of go-to girls,” I said, pulling books off the shelf and stacking them on the floor.
He leveled an annoyed glare at me. I ignored him. “Apparently,” he said after a moment, “none of them are free tonight.”
“Gosh, it’s rough being you.”
“Say,” he said, doing his best to sound as though the idea had just popped into his head, “you’re not doing anything tonight, are you? You could come with me.”
“Can’t,” I said. “My friend Adam is coming up from Portland. I have to pick him up from the Amtrak station at a quarter past six.”
“He could come too.”
“What, won’t he need a date?” I inquired snidely. I gathered up an armful of books and staggered towards the turning rack by the register. “Or were you just trying to preserve your image?”
Ryan filched the top book off my stack and flipped through it. “There’s someone who’s going to be at the party that I’d really rather thought I wasn’t single.”
I snickered. “Okay, fine, I’ll go,” I said. “As long as Adam gets to go too, and as long as you drive.”
“Yup,” he said. “We can leave from here.”
I looked down at myself. “Is the attire for this party casual?” I inquired, indicating my jeans and t-shirt.
He winced. “Not exactly…”
Which is how I wound up walking out of Macy’s at six that evening carrying a strapless cocktail dress and matching heels that I was pretty sure I was going to topple out of as soon as I actually tried to dance in them. And promptly began to stress as soon as I slid into Ryan’s pickup and realised the time.
“We’re going to be late to pick up Adam,” I said. “It’s, like, a half hour drive from here.”
“So call him and tell him we’ll be late.” He sped through a yellow light and hit the freeway. “I hope he brought a nice shirt…”