Dylan smiled a little to himself as he made his way into the Underwood residence hall after a long day of classes and practice. His body was sore and begging to lie down in a soft bed. Still, he’d showered and left his room almost immediately for Tamar’s dinner. No sore muscles or assignments would keep him from whatever she had planned. The offer had surprised him and he was curious as to what she had in store. He took several stairs at a time until he reached the sixth floor and knocked on the door of Tamar’s room.

“I still can’t believe you–” Bekah trailed off at the sound of the door. She and Tamar glanced across the room and she smiled, returning her attention to Tamar’s hair gathered up in a loose but controlled ponytail.

“He’s here,” Tamar pushed out a breath as she tapped her fingers on her thighs, impatiently waiting until Bekah finished tying her hair in place.

Bekah giggled as Tamar checked her reflection, wearing a simple navy-blue top that skimmed the top of her waist and slim-fitted high-waisted canary-yellow jeans. “Stop fidgeting, you look nice. Check the food. I’ll open the door.”

“Oh right,” Tamar shuffled to the small kitchenette and tugged down the handle of the toaster oven to check the deep-dish pan. “It’s not burnt!” she called just as Bekah pulled open the door.

“Hey Dylan…” Bekah said congenially, eying Dylan from head to toe. This was going to be some interesting dinner for sure. “Don’t worry, I was just leaving.” She stepped away from the door to let Dylan enter. “How’s my partner in crime, by the way?” she asked him while pulling up her purse to her shoulder.

Tamar turned to face Dylan with a demure smile. He looked comfortable and nice in his simple polo and jeans that did everything to show his toned physique. “Hey.”

He laughed at Bekah’s assurance but couldn’t deny it was what he wanted to hear. He still felt selfish with Tamar, wanted alone time with her as much as possible as he got to know her. “Still as nosy and interfering as always. I’ll make sure the two of you never see each other again.” He turned at the sound of Tamar’s voice and froze. The outfit was simple, different, and yet still her. Somehow she managed to make it look better than the dresses he’d seen women wear for a night out. The wild curls were swept off her face and although he liked it loose and free, he found he liked the ponytail too. “Hey pretty girl,” he greeted starting toward her.

Bekah caught the look on Dylan’s face and knew it was her time to step out. She winked at Tamar and tiptoed out of the room, closing the door behind her quietly.

Tamar managed a smile when she noticed his eyes take her in. This outfit had been Bekah’s idea, pushing away Tamar’s choice of a simple white and pink thrifted dress that flowed to her ankles. Her cheeks pinkened recalling Bekah’s words that she needed to stop hiding her pretty figure and to give Dylan something to think about all night. She bit her bottom lip, watching Dylan cross the room toward her and suddenly felt shy under his open gaze. “How was your day?” she asked lamely, lifting her eyes as he stood before her.

He didn’t want to talk about his day. He wanted to talk about how speechless she made him with her beauty but the words left him. “I melt every time you look at me that way. It never fails. Any time, any place. This burn in me is the coolest thing I’ve ever felt. I melt.”

“I’m guessing it was good?” Tamar teased softly as she closed the gap between them, wanting very much to kiss him. Nervousness flew out the window when he started singing in that low, husky baritone. She came willingly to him, placing her hands on his to steady herself as she rose on her bare tiptoes and leaned in for a kiss.

He kept his hands underneath hers, returning the sweet kiss without hesitation. This made his day. Coming to her and just…being. His hands itched to draw her up but in the same breath, he was content. She had no idea just how good to him she was. “Missed you. You look beautiful,” he told her quietly.

Face tingled under his soft praise and Tamar lifted her eyes to look into his, seeing the truth plain there. She smiled gently and squeezed his hands before lowering back on her heels. “Thank you. I missed you too.” She then tugged on his arm, steering him toward the bed. “Have a seat. I’ll make your plate.” Quickly, she padded across the room, pulling out the dishpan from the oven. “In the mood for a movie?” she called over her shoulder, folding back the foil cover.

He sank down on the bed with a soft groan. It felt too good to sit. “A movie too? You’re really spoiling me tonight. I might get used to it.”

Tamar paused, glancing over at him when she heard the half-audible groan. She smirked, pulling her eyes back on the steaming lasagna. “Are you hungry hungry or just hungry?” she asked, already dishing out a square onto the plate.

“I’ll eat the plate if you don’t need it back.”

She laughed, dishing out another hefty square. “Poor baby. They worked you hard, didn’t they, Big Man on Campus…” Grabbing a fork from the dish drainer, Tamar returned to the bed and extended the plate. “Dinner is served.”

Dylan’s expression was almost reverent as he accepted the plate. “You are an angel,” he breathed. “Get your plate so I don’t feel bad.”

“Let me put in the movie first…” Tamar pulled out her laptop and typed in her password to a loaded screen for the Avengers movie. Perching the computer on the space beside him, she ambled back across the room to prepare her own plate. “Hard day on the field?”

“If I’m missing an arm tomorrow, don’t worry about it.” He forked a chunk of the lasagna and nearly inhaled it. “Nothing a solid few hours of sleep and hot water won’t fix.”

Her lips curled up in a smile as she walked back to the bed, scooting to lean on the wall on the other side of the laptop. “Few? As in eight right? I hear that’s the healthy amount of hours for a normal person.” She cut the lasagna into smaller pieces and forked a bite into her mouth. Her free hand tapped a key to start the movie.

“Closer to five. We’re reviewing film at six.” He looked at the screen and then at the food before he  leaned back to look at her. “Is this the calm before you explode because of something I don’t remember doing?”

Tamar slowed at chewing and blinked at him. “Hmm, what do you mean?”

“The dinner, the movie…” She was asking about his day, catering to him. He wasn’t sure what to do with it. Sure women hung all over him, were willing to buy him things to get his attention, but this was so simple and yet so much…more.

A slight frown wrinkled her brow as she swallowed the food. She glanced down at his food and then at the screen, then back at him. “You don’t like action movies? Is the food not good?” Inwardly, she cursed Bekah for convincing her not to cook rice which she’d planned ahead of time before her cousin lugged groceries for the pasta dish instead.  “Is there not enough cheese?”

Dylan blinked. “You won’t see this food in about two point five seconds. It’s delicious. I’ve been wanting to see The Avengers and haven’t found time…”

She tilted her head curiously. “Then what’s the problem? What did I do now?”

“Nothing. There’s no problem if you aren’t upset.” For a man used to doing the catering and spoiling, being on the receiving end was…different.

Tamar laughed, releasing a sigh of relief. “For Pete’s sake. Why would I be upset and spent all this time getting pretty and cooking for you?” She shook her head. “You men are so… difficult.”

“People don’t usually…do this kind of thing for me. I thought…forget it. Thank you, pretty girl.”

“Well, I’m not like other people… Did you forget?”A smile tugged at her lips as her eyes skimmed over his face. “You’re welcome. Eat your food and relax. I’m not anywhere upset with you.”

He didn’t have to be told twice. He settled his back against the wall and continued eating, savoring each bite of the baked pasta. He was so used to frozen dinners or ramen noodles if his mom or Crystal hadn’t stopped by. He rarely had the energy or concern to put together anything more than that. A movie with Tamar over dinner was the best alternative and again he was reminded of what he’d gained when he’d decided to fight for her friendship.

Shaking her head in contained mirth, Tamar pushed play and sat back to eat her pasta. At some point, she scooted off the bed to bring back two bottles of water and sat back quietly to watch the movie in companionable silence between them.

<<Chapter 13 || Chapter 15>>