metropolisTamar drew in her bottom lip as his warm breath by her ear sent warm shivers across her shoulders. ”Like what?” She could think of many things that would definitely make the audience go nuts.

“Since I’m still waiting for permission, you could always just give me a little peck. Right here.” He tapped his cheek, doubting she’d follow through with it but enjoying teasing her anyway.

She heard the teasing in his voice and her lips quirked up. Tamar peered up at him and saw the laughter in his gray eyes. Cocking a shapely brow, Tamar turned slightly to face him and her eyes lowered to his mouth. Then she reached for his sleeve to pull him down and closer to her level. Tilting her face, she slanted her lips right above the corner of his mouth. Tamar’s cheeks warmed and she almost closed her eyes as his masculine, inviting scent sought to overwhelm her…then she heard the audible gasps around them. Then she released his sleeve and stepped back, looking back up at him. ”Good enough?”

Dylan licked his lips, concentrating on breathing evenly when he turned his head to look at her. If he wasn’t a man of his word, he wouldn’t have stopped there. He would’ve drawn her into his arms and taken the kiss she’d hinted at. “Woman,” he said quietly. “I need permission. Soon.”

Tamar smirked at him despite her tingling face. ”We’ll see.”

“You’re cute when you blush. Stop tempting me,” he murmured, tracing a finger along her cheek. This was a woman who would play with him when others wouldn’t, he realized. Who would challenge him and keep him on edge, wondering what she would do next.

Tamar nudged his finger away with her cheek and turned to the two gaping students in front of the line. She frowned and their gazes averted quickly, busying themselves with invisible lint on their clothes.

Tongues would be wagging, he acknowledged silently when he followed Tamar’s line of sight. He just couldn’t bring himself to care. This was what he wanted. It had been too long since anything other than football and his family had demanded his attention. It was worth checking out and investing in a little.

They reached the front of the line and Tamar relayed her order before stepping aside for Dylan to give his. Focusing her eyes on the menu even afterward, Tamar hoped that he didn’t intend on them eating here. Whenever she bought food, which was rare, Tamar always carried her meal somewhere private from the mocking and disdainful stares… And that was when she hadn’t done anything but breathe and exist. Now having witnessed her kiss  their golden boy, there was no telling what the mob of students would do, even with Mr. Golden Boy in attendance.

Dylan glanced over at her as he pulled out his wallet and found her steadfastly avoiding the eyes of everyone around them. He was reminded of the article and the way Neecy had spoken about her. He didn’t want to subject her to the stares and whispers the entire time they were together. He wanted her at ease, comfortable with him. Frowning, he handed the cashier the money. “Make those to-go.”

Tamar hid her smile as she watched him. It was as if he could read her thoughts or at least could understand. That alone was enough for her…for now.

“What?” he asked with a smile when he caught her looking at him. He passed her the Fanta before grabbing his own drink and moving along the length of the counter to wait for their food.

She shook her head mutely and merely walked with him, hands in the oversized pocket of her cardigan. Maybe she could get used to this; having someone like him shield her from their scorn. Tamar frowned lightly, slowing to a stop at the edge of the counter. She didn’t want anyone else to feel obligated to her, more than the ones responsible for her.

Dylan accepted the containers of food passed over the counter to him and turned to Tamar. “What’d I do now?” he asked teasingly.

Tamar eyed him curiously, wondering if he was this nice to all his friends. She smiled gently. ”Still trying to figure that out.”

“You’re still smiling so it can’t be too bad. Let’s find somewhere quieter.”

Tamar nodded and walked toward the exit, eyes following them the entire way. Once they stepped out onto the street, Tamar heaved a sigh. ”I feel like I just added another year to my life…” The weight of their stares were not getting any lighter.

“I could throw this week’s game,” he joked, steering her around the building and across the cross. “But that would somehow end up being your fault. Maybe if I play better, that’ll be your fault too.”

”I didn’t think I had that kind of influence. Should I be flattered?” Tamar said in half-teasing, strolling beside him.

“Absolutely,” he said easily. “If you came to the game Saturday night I’d be trying to impress you so I’d play better.”

She raised a brow. ”Is that a hypothetical invitation or a real one?”

He smirked. “Come to the game, Tamar.”

”I don’t understand or like football,” Tamar answered easily.

“But you like me. Shouldn’t you come support your friend?”

Tamar laughed, slowing to a stop as she looked up at him, hands on her hips. ”Who said anything about liking you? I’m just bored.”

“So you were projecting?” he accused laughing. “You’re the one playing games. Quiet girl working on a spring project; get the jock’s attention and make him want her.”

”So did it work?” Tamar blinked up at him, one corner of her lips curled up in amusement.

“I’d give it an A. Maybe an A plus. You’re pretty good at these spring projects.”

She rolled her eyes and laughed. ”I’m glad I rate high on your list, Sinatra.” Tamar pushed around him to walk ahead.

“So does that mean you’re coming to the game?” he asked following after her laughing.

”I’ll think about it,” she called over her shoulder. ”Where are we going?”

“Given the way your last thinking time went, I’m not sure I’m satisfied with that. You okay with heading back to my place?”

Tamar smirked. ”You move fast, Casanova…” Her eyes traveled up his torso and stopped at his lips before moving up to his eyes. ”Lead the way then.”

“I’ll be moving faster if you keep looking at me like that,” he warned starting for Spencer Hall.

Tamar eyed the building, knowing that there would be plenty of staring going on inside. ”You still need my permission, don’t forget that, Casanova.”

“Dang. I was planning on kissing you senseless once I got you in my room.” He chuckled when she rolled her eyes. “Are you thinking about giving it anytime soon? Just so I’m prepared.”

Tamar shook her head, folding her arms across her chest. ”I’m being considerate here, what with you having a game later… Don’t think you can handle the distraction.”

“How generous of you,” he drawled balancing his drink on top of the styrofoam boxes to open the door. “But I think I’m more distracted thinking about doing it again…”

”Doing what again?”

His voice lowered and he focused on her face. “Kissing you.”

Tamar smirked up at him. ”Open your door, Casanova.”

“So you’re going to let me go into the game distracted? You have no sense of school spirit.” He shook his head in mock disappointment as he drew his keys from his pocket and unlocked the door.

Tamar stepped inside, hands still in her pockets. ”I’m doing your team a favor. Maybe someone else can get a chance at fame…” Her eyes scanned the room.

He laughed and kicked the door shut behind him. “I don’t think people are going to see it that way if I choke. Bed or desk?”

”Excuse me?” She choked in laughter, her cheeks tingling at the thought of him pulling her up against the desk.

“Where did you want to sit?” He set the boxes down and turned to shoot her a questioning look.  The blush stealing across her cheeks made him laugh. “You really think I’m wild, huh? We can go with that question too.”

”Food, Casanova,” Tamar muttered, walking over to perch on his bed.

“Too bad,” he muttered as he opened her container and set it before her on the bed. “We can renegotiate later.”

Curling her legs under her, Tamar reached for her food container. ”Nice place, Sinatra. Who’s your interior designer?”

“Are you going to judge me if I tell you it was my sister?” he asked grabbing his own food and dropping down on the bed beside her. “She always manages to change or add something every time she visits.”

Tamar glanced up at him, her lips curled in a slight smile. ”That’s…different.” Sweet. Unexpected.

“She doesn’t give me much of a choice about it,” he grumbled and bit into a quesadilla. “If she comes back and it’s not how she left it, I get in trouble.”

Tamar laughed softly. ”Younger or older?” She cut her enchilada into small bits.

“Four years younger. She’s a senior in high school. A little monster in other words.”

”Sounds like an angel…” Tamar leaned in, elbows propped on her knees. ”I wonder where I’d be with a brother like you…” She mused aloud, eyes twinkling with mirth.

“Did you not hear me? Mon-ster. She gets it from our mom of course. My grounding influence is the only reason she’s a straight A student involved in pretty much everything a girl can be involved in at school.”

Tamar nodded, sobering as she thought of her senior year in high school. Soccer tournaments, Debate team, Spanish symposiums. Choral concerts. ”Must be a busy girl… A handful.”

Dylan smiled lightly. “Yeah, she is but she handles it well.” He paused and that smile faded, thinking about how much better she could have been handling it if he’d managed to follow through with his own responsibilities.

”I’m sure.” Tamar took a bite, licking the cheese off her bottom lip. ”Will she come to this college too?” She tried to picture a female version of Dylan and fought a smile. No doubt the girl would hold on her own among the masses.

Dylan stiffened at the question and set the quesadilla back in the box, reaching for his drink. “Maybe.”

She glanced up at him then. ”Touchy subject?” Her eyes scanned his taut expression and nodded. ”I won’t pry. Don’t worry.”

He glanced over at her hesitantly. “Gonna take it easy on me?”

”I think I should…” She gave a gentle smile.

“I guess I might have to keep you around then.”

”Lucky me,” she drawled, smile still in place.

He sobered, studying her silently. “You’re really something else.”

”That’s what they say,” she answered, smile waning. Tamar  then straightened and returned her attention to the food. ”Ever wanted something so bad when you don’t have it, but when you do, it’s not as good?” Her eyes lifted back to his.

“Yeah. Oh yeah,” he muttered. “What is it for you?”

She twisted her lips. ”I don’t want to hurt your feelings…”

“The popularity? Or is it the attention of the popular kid?” He was surprised by how much that second possibility bothered him.

She laughed. ”No, I meant this enchilada. It looked so much more appealing on Bekah’s plate.” Her eyes danced with laughter. ”What, you’re wanting to rescind your offer already?” Tamar was intrigued that she didn’t want to hear it, especially if he did.

His laughter was a mix of relief and amusement. “You sat there and let me think you were having second thoughts and you’re talking about food.” He shook his head and offered his quesadilla to her. “And you can forget it. I’m not changing my mind. You’re stuck with me.”

<<Chapter 10 || Chapter 12>>

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