cafe“Whole class staring instead of listening to the lecture. I guess I am popular after all,” Tamar finally sent the text just as she exited class an hour later.

Dylan laughed as he cut across campus, keeping his greetings short as he worked toward the plaza where students hung out and ate between classes. “Did you give them something to stare at? I’m headed for the Hub. Meet you there?”

”Hmm, it doesn’t take much to find something to look at. Yeah, give me a minute. Walking…” She pressed a hand to her unbound hair blowing in the wind and wrinkled her nose as she crossed the street toward the Hub.

Satisfied she would show up, Dylan took the opportunity to place a phone call. Chris Johnson had just come on the line when he spotted Tamar crossing the street. He smiled, watching her fight with her hair, and started toward her. “Chris, it’s Ramsey. An article ran this morning about a friend of mine. Tamar Malek. I want it pulled.”

“Ramsey, that–”

“Pulled, Chris.”

“It already ran.”

“And it won’t be printed in any additional papers. In fact, nothing else about Tamar Malek will run without my checking it out. Right? I’d hate to have to start doing my post game interviews with The Fine Print.”

She spotted Dylan on the phone, his jaw tense from where she was standing. Deciding to give him privacy, Tamar slowed her steps in front of the building. Her gaze flicked over him before shifting away, not wanting to be caught looking at him. Her eyes lowered to her Doc Martins shoes and she rocked on her heels, smiling wryly. To think this day had started out so poorly.

“Got it,” Chris said simply. “I’ll get it taken care of.”

“I appreciate that, Chris. One more thing. I’m sure this wasn’t something you had planned. Who gave you this?” he asked, motioning Tamar over before high-fiving the tall man that came walking out of the building.

Tamar glanced up to see Dylan gesturing to her, phone still by his ear even as he greeted yet another. By God, he was too popular. She shook her head against his wordless invitation to come in, smile still in place.  The warm air was too inviting to leave it. In turn she gestured back to him to come out to meet her.

That smile sucker-punched him in the gut. Dylan almost didn’t notice the silence that filled the line for a few moments before Chris spoke. “Ramsey, you know sources are important.”

“I’ll make it easy for you,” he said, regaining his voice and walking toward Tamar. “Neecy?”

Tamar’s brow raised as he stood and strode toward her. She tried to keep her eyes on his face and not on his toned physique filling nicely in his clothes.

“She might have had something to do with it,” Chris said carefully.

It was enough for Dylan who was growing increasingly preoccupied with watching Tamar. The way her eyes were dancing over his body made it hard to focus on anything else. “Thanks again, Chris. Send Steph for this week’s interview if you can. She does good work.” Without waiting for a response he ended the call and smiled fully at Tamar. “How’d you like your debut as a popular girl?” he asked teasingly.

She pulled her eyes from his broad shoulders and back on his face. Tamar felt her face warm at the teasing glint in his eyes. ”It wasn’t too bad for one day but I’ll let you keep that title.” She eyed his phone in hand. ”Busy?”

“Nah, just sharing a few words with the right people. See something you like?” Dylan couldn’t resist the additional question.

Tamar laughed despite her pinkened cheeks. ”Still deciding on that.” She tugged rebellious stands of hair from her face and tucked them behind her ear. ”How was class?”

His eyes roamed over her face, distracting him from her question. The ivory complexion of her skin made her eyes stand out in sharp contrast. The wild curls framing her face only made her that much more exotic. She was beautiful. How had he missed it the first time? “I see a lot of things I like,” he told her quietly.

Tamar bit her bottom lip as her face warmed under his open perusal. She smirked once she caught his gaze and wrinkled her nose at him in teasing. “Let’s get some lunch. I’m famished.”

“The Hub is your buffet,” he said tearing his gaze away for a moment and gesturing grandly. Those eyes were going to get him in trouble. “What do you want?”

Tamar peered over his shoulder at the building before looking back at him. ”Enchiladas. Been craving them since two days ago when Bekah–” she cut the rest of her words, realizing she was already talking more than she’d expected. ”What do you want?”

“Since Bekah what?” He placed a light hand at the small of her back to steer her through the crowd . And maybe just to touch her for a moment. “Mexican is fine.”

”She had Mexican with her lab partners and forgot to bring some for me,” Tamar mock-pouted, marveling that she didn’t stiffen at the feel of his fingers resting lightly on her back.

“Some cousin,” he muttered playfully as he opened the door for her.

“Yo! Ramsey!” No sooner than they’d entered the building, a young man dressed in a pair of jeans and a shirt identical to the one Dylan wore, walked up to meet them.

“Hey G-man,” Dylan greeted, returning the quick handshake.

“What’s up? You game for some extra practice later?”

Dylan looked over at Tamar and shook his head. Practice already took up a chunk of his time. He wanted the chance to spend some time with Tamar now that she wasn’t fighting him every step of the way. “Not today. I’ll get back to you on it.”

Tamar raised a curious brow at the boy facing Dylan. From the spiked hair to the tennis shoes on his feet, he looked like… She glanced up at Dylan quickly, sensing his hesitation. ”You don’t need to change plans for me. There’ll be other days to hang out.”

The young man looked from Dylan to Tamar with piqued interest. Dylan merely shook his head. He wondered when she’d last had someone that had made her a priority. “I’m not changing anything. I’ll shoot a text your way when I’m free, G. Keep working on your speed until then,” he suggested, nudging Tamar forward.

“Will do. See you at practice.”

Tamar peered up at Dylan but kept her comments to herself. If he tried to draw attention to her by being so considerate of her…it would only make it harder to handle. Pushing away the hesitance to follow, Tamar allowed him to lead her towards the Mexican cantina, her nostrils teased and tantalized by the sweet, smoky scent of the southern cuisine.

“There’s always time for extra practice,” Dylan told her as they joined the line looping around the stretchy barriers. “I want to focus on something different.”

Tamar shrugged a shoulder.”If you say so…” She acquiesced, knowing there was little point in arguing with him. For now, Tamar would try to sit back and enjoy the ride.

“I do. Just smile and say ‘thank you, Dylan’.”

She snorted a laugh, tilting her head slightly to peer up at him. ”Two enchiladas and a small Fanta.” Then she flashed her teeth in a wide grin. ”Thank you, Dylan.”

Students in line ahead of them discreetly and some not so much looked back at the odd pair. Some were already whispering among themselves, brows furrowed in confusion.

He dropped his head back and laughed, his focus on her to the point he missed the flutter around them. “It’s like that? If I hadn’t already planned to pay, I’d make you pay for that.” He looked up at the menu then and caught a few of the pointed stares. Instead of rolling his eyes, he smiled harder and leaned in closer to Tamar. “Don’t look now. I think you’ve got an audience, popular girl.”

It wasn’t the staring that caught her off guard. No, she was well aware and almost immune of their blatant disdain for her. It was the proximity of his warm, sturdy frame against her back and his masculine scent that almost sent her teetering over the edge. Tamar blinked to regain focus and let out a soft laugh. ”Lucky me…” She drawled, imagining the heads rolling in objection.

“Wanna give them something to watch?” he asked mischievously in her ear.

<<Chapter 9 || Chapter 11>>