I press my lips together and hand him back his driver’s license.
I try to contain the laughter, but it’s hard, so I cover my mouth, hoping I’m being inconspicuous about it.
He slides his wallet back into his pocket. His eyebrow raises and he shoots me a look of suspicion. “Are you that quick?”
My shoulders are shaking from the suppressed laughter now. I feel so bad. So, so bad for him.
He rolls his eyes and looks slightly embarrassed in the way he attempts to hide his own smile. He heads back up the stairs much less confidently than before. “This is why I never tell anyone my middle name,” he mutters.
I feel guilty for finding this so funny, but his humility finally gives me the courage to climb the rest of the stairs. “Your initials are really OMG?” I bite the inside of my cheek, forcing back the smile I don’t want him to see.
I reach the top of the stairs and he ignores me, heading straight for a dresser. He opens a drawer and begins rummaging through it, so I take the opportunity to look around the massive room. There’s a large bed, probably a king, in the far corner. In the opposite corner is a full kitchen flanked by two doors, leading to other rooms.
I’m in his apartment.
He turns around and tosses me something black. I catch it and unfold it, revealing a skirt. “That should fit. You and the traitor look about the same size.” He walks to the closet and removes a white shirt from a hanger. “See if this works. The shoes you have on are fine.”
I take the shirt from him and glance toward the two doors. “Bathroom?”
He points to the door on the left.
“What if they don’t fit?” I ask, worried he won’t be able to use my help if I’m not dressed professionally. Two hundred dollars isn’t easy to come by.
“If they don’t fit, we’ll burn them along with everything else she left behind.”
I laugh and make my way to the bathroom. Once I’m inside, I pay no attention to the actual bathroom itself as I begin to change into the clothes he gave me. Luckily, they fit perfectly. I look at myself in the full-length mirror and cringe at the disaster that is my hair. I should be embarrassed to call myself a cosmetologist. I haven’t touched it since I left the apartment this morning, so I do a quick fix and use one of Owen’s combs to pull it up into a bun. I fold the clothes I just removed and set them on the countertop.
When I exit the bathroom, Owen is in the kitchen, pouring two glasses of wine. I contemplate whether or not I should tell him I’m a few weeks shy of being old enough to drink, but my nerves are screaming for a glass of wine right now.
“Fits,” I say, walking toward him.
He lifts his eyes and stares at my shirt for much longer than it takes to acknowledge whether or not a shirt fits. He clears his throat and looks back down at the wine he’s pouring. “Looks better on you,” he says.
I slide onto the stool, fighting to hide my smile. It’s been a while since I’ve been complimented and I’ve forgotten how good it feels. “You don’t mean that. You’re just bitter over your breakup.”
He pushes a glass of wine across the bar. “I’m not bitter, I’m relieved. And I absolutely mean it.” He raises his glass of wine, so I raise mine. “To ex-girlfriends and new employees.”
I laugh as our glasses clink together. “Better than ex-employees and new girlfriends.”
He pauses with his glass at his lips and watches me sip from mine. When I’m finished, he grins and finally takes a sip.
As soon as I set my wineglass back down on the countertop, something soft grazes my leg. My initial reaction is to scream, which is exactly what happens. Or maybe the noise that comes out of my mouth is more of a yelp. Either way, I pull both of my legs up and look down to see a black, long-haired cat rubbing the stool I’m seated on. I immediately lower my legs back to the floor and bend over to scoop up the cat. I don’t know why, but knowing this guy has a cat eases my discomfort even more. It doesn’t seem like someone could be dangerous if they own a pet. I know that isn’t the best way to justify being in a stranger’s apartment, but it does make me feel better.
“What’s your cat’s name?”
Owen reaches over and runs his fingers through the cat’s mane. “Owen.”
I immediately laugh at his joke, but his expression remains calm. I pause for a few seconds, waiting for him to laugh, but he doesn’t.
“You named your cat after yourself? Seriously?”
He looks at me and I can see the slightest smile playing at the corner of his mouth. He shrugs, almost bashfully. “She reminded me of myself.”
I laugh again. “She? You named a girl cat Owen?”
He looks down at Owen-Cat and continues to pet her as I hold her. “Shh,” he says quietly. “She can understand you. Don’t give her a complex.”
As if he’s right, and she can actually hear me making fun of her name, Owen-Cat jumps out of my arms and lands on the floor. She disappears around the bar, and I force myself to wipe the grin off my face. I love that he named a female cat after himself. Who does that?
I lean my arm on the counter and rest my chin in my hand. “So what do you need me to do tonight, OMG?”
Owen shakes his head and grabs the bottle of wine, storing it in the refrigerator. “You can start by never again referring to me by my initials. After you agree to that, I’ll give you the rundown of what’s about to happen.”
I should feel bad, but he seems amused. “Deal.”
“First of all,” he says, leaning forward across the bar, “how old are you?”
“Not old enough for wine.” I take another sip.
“Oops,” he says dryly. “What do you do? Are you in college?” He rests his chin in his hand and waits for my response to his questions.
“How are these questions preparing me for work tonight?”
He smiles. His smile is exceptionally nice when accompanied by a few sips of wine. He nods once and stands straight. He takes the wineglass from my hand and sets it back down on the bar. “Follow me, Auburn Mason Reed.”
I do what he asks, because for $100 an hour, I’ll do almost anything.
When we reach the main floor again, he walks into the center of the room and lifts his arms, making a full circle. I follow his gaze around the room, taking in the vastness of it. The track lighting is what catches my eye first. Each light is focused on a painting adorning the stark-white walls of the studio, pulling the focus to the art and nothing else. Well, there really isn’t anything else. Just floor-to-ceiling white walls, a polished concrete floor, and art. It’s both simple and overwhelming.