“It’s the Naughty Nanny! Where’s Drew?”
“Already moved onto a new guy?”
“Do you still work for the Callahans?
“Who’s the guy, Syd? What’s his name?”
“Trying to shed that naughty nanny image, Sydney?”
Every one of them is an asshole. I’m tempted to turn and sock them all in the face with my clutched fist.
“Don’t say anything,” Sydney whispers fiercely as we keep walking. “They’re just trying to provoke me.”
“I don’t want to say anything,” I tell her. “I want to hit them.”
Her gaze meets mine and she laughs, keeping her steps hurried. She wants away from them as much as I do. “That would be even worse, though I appreciate you wanting to come to my defense.”
“They’re awful. I can’t believe the stuff they say.”
“And these guys are being mild.”
It doesn’t feel like they’re being mild, but whatever. I gave the valet my ticket before we even left the restaurant and my truck magically appears, filling me with relief. I press a twenty-dollar bill in the valet’s hand and hold open the passenger door for Sydney so she can climb into the truck. I shut the door just as the reporters descend upon me and they immediately launch into even more questions.
I whirl on them, putting on my most fierce face. “Y’all need to get the hell away from here and leave us alone.”
“Who are you?” A guy with a camera slung around his neck steps forward, his expression defiant. “What’s your name?”
Here’s my chance to set the record straight. My chance to tell the new narrative we’re trying to turn into the truth. “I’m Wade Knox—Sydney’s boyfriend.”
Oh, they all rush forward then, a few of them with their phones poised as if they’re going to record me. The others have their big cameras in hand, ready to shoot about ten million photos.
I tell them we’ve been going out for about a month, that I’m newly drafted with the 49ers and that Fable is an old family friend. They eat up every word I say, asking question upon question until I finally give up and tell them I’m done. Without another word I climb into the truck, settle behind the steering wheel and start the engine.
“Did you really just talk to those reporters?” Sydney asks, sounding incredulous.
“I really just did.”
I turn to look at her. “I told them I was your boyfriend. Fed them a tiny bit of information about myself and that was it.” When she continues to just stare at me, I wonder if I somehow made a mistake. “That’s what I was supposed to do, right? Bait them with new information so they’ll talk about our relationship versus your supposed affair with Drew?”
She seems to mentally shake herself into agreeing. “Yes, of course. I’m sure that was a smart move.”
So why does she act like what I just did was the worse move ever?
“You don’t sound so confident.”
Sydney sighs and I glance in the rearview mirror, noticing that the reporters are surrounding the back end of my truck. If they don’t move out of the way, I’m going to end up hitting one of them. And wouldn’t that suck?
“Now they know your name. They’re going to dig into your background, search for any bit of dirt they can find,” she says.
“They can’t find any dirt on me,” I say with confidence.
Though the longer I think about it, the more worried I become. I don’t have a squeaky clean past, but I don’t have a criminal background either. What if they root up a few vengeful girls who make me look like an asshole? Hell, what if they talk to Des, who’ll say he was my and Owen’s ex-roommate while we were in college and he also happens to be a fucking drug dealer?
Okay. There’s the criminal element. I could look like I’m into some deep shit if they find Des. And then that’ll get me into some deep shit, stuff I don’t want to deal with.
“Trust me, even if they don’t have any dirt on you, they can take something small and make it sound dirty,” she warns. “Don’t forget. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way.”
I look in the rearview mirror again, the reporters still there, lingering around like they want to capture a moment. My gaze drifts to Sydney, who’s sitting in the passenger seat looking uptight as hell. She needs to loosen up. I blame the reporters. I think they make her nervous.
The girl needs to relax.
“Hey,” I say softly, catching her attention. “Come here.”
She frowns. “Come where?”
Crooking my finger at her, I indicate I want her to come toward me. She scoots a little closer, leaning over the center console that separates us and I take my advantage. I slip my hand around her nape and pull her face close to mine so our mouths are aligned.
Sydney flicks her surprised gaze up to mine, but before she can say anything, I silence her.
With my lips.
And holy hell, this girl tastes like absolute heaven, just like I knew she would. I cup her cheek with my hand, caressing her silky smooth skin. Her plush lips are sweet and warm, and undeniably soft. I kiss her once. Twice. The third time, she parts her lips slightly, letting me taste her better, inviting me, but I don’t take my full opportunity. I can’t push her too hard, not with witnesses watching.
What if my actions backfire and she freaks out on me and does something crazy? Like slap my face? Scream at me and call me a fucking asshole? We’d be totally screwed.