Then I rushed out the door and down to the beach. I had only three days to relax before diving back into school. Hopefully I could still make the best of them.
Although I stepped out of the shower a little calmer, I still had no game plan. What the hell was I supposed to do with this girl? Dad told me to be hospitable, so feeding her would be a good start. Can't really go wrong with dinner.
I threw on some pants and took a quick inventory of the fridge and pantry; I didn't feel like going to the store again if I could help it. Corn tortillas. A bag of frozen shrimp. Rice. Salsa. Avocado. Seafood tostadas and Spanish rice? That was nice, right? Even if it wasn't, she probably wouldn't care; somehow I doubted there was good Baja-style food in London. But what did she like to drink? I scrounged around more and found a bottle of white wine from God only knew when. Sure, whatever. That was always a safe bet for female-friendly booze.
I screwed around in the kitchen for a little longer, setting a pair of plates at the breakfast bar so we wouldn't have to eat where I'd just spread my neighbor's legs. Then I cut up a lime, squeezed it into a nice cold Corona, and crashed in front of the TV. I had to talk to Avery eventually, but I sure as hell didn't want to ignite another screaming match. I'd wait to start cooking until she came out of her foxhole.
Just when I thought she'd died in there, I heard footsteps padding down the hall. I twisted around on the couch. “Hey, you—”
What was I saying again?
Avery was wearing a bikini. Not the most scandalous bikini I'd ever seen—far from it actually, since things got pretty crazy on southern California beaches. But it was sexy as hell. This was a girl who knew how to pick clothes that showed off her curves perfectly.
I didn't even try to avoid staring at her. What man could resist a sight like that? But at the same time, I wasn't some stupid frat boy who couldn't read the atmosphere. She was probably still gun-shy from earlier, and the last thing I wanted to do was start that argument again. So I kept my comments to myself and just said, “Don't stay out too late. Dinner will be on the table at seven, whether you're here or not.”
“Oh. Uh … okay. Thanks.” She seemed surprised, but didn't waste any time hightailing it out the door.
I considered an impromptu jerk-off session, starring Avery as a beach girl pin-up, then opted for a second beer instead. She'd probably forget her purse or some other damn thing and freak out at the sight of a man holding his own dick.
A little after six, I turned off the disappointing college football game on TV and started cooking. Just as I had brought the rice and tomatoes to a simmer, the front door opened. Right on time … she was more obedient than I'd expected. Or maybe she was just too hungry to care about making a point.
“Hey,” she said as she disappeared down the hall. A single word wasn't great, but I'd accept that as progress.
The shower turned on, then off; her bedroom door opened and shut. When I heard her footsteps again, I called, “Dinner's ready.”
“Did you sterilize the table?” she called back. “Is there anywhere else in this place I should avoid touching?”
Evidently she'd gotten her sass back while she was out. With forced calm, I replied, “I wiped it down. And we're not eating at the table, anyway. Use your damn eyeballs.”
She scoffed—that quiet, sneering throat-catch that apparently came pre-programmed in every college girl. I could almost picture her rolling her eyes, but the bar stool scraped as she sat down at her place setting anyway. I resisted the urge to make a smart ass remark and opted to just serve the food instead.
For almost ten minutes, we both focused on our meal in silence. At least her outfit wasn't quite so distracting anymore; she had changed into leggings and a white collared shirt. “Food okay?” I finally asked.
She nodded. “Yeah, it's great. Thanks.”
Another minute went by before I said the first thing that popped into my head. “You sound different.”
Her brows crinkled together. “What?”
“From when we met at the ranch. You sounded sort of British-y.”
“Oh … huh. I didn't think it would change back so fast.” She scraped up another spoonful of rice. “I guess it's because I'm surrounded by SoCal accents again.”
After another round of awkward silence, I put down my fork. Fuck it. This was getting painful. We needed to talk about our living situation, and if she was going to pretend like nothing was wrong, then I'd just have to bring it up myself. “Avery,” I said flatly. She looked up, and I continued, “I know our conversation earlier didn't go that well.”
She snorted. “That's for goddamn sure.”