Standing in front of Sullivan’s door, Clint straightened his tie for the fifth time. His trip to the heart of the Mariner’s home turf had yielded some massive and pleasant surprises that he was eager to share with his sometimes-prickly traveling companion. After he knocked on the door, he heard a muffled, “One moment,” and took to rocking on his heels while he waited. He smoothed out his surprise new duds, ensured he’d done all the buttons on his shirt properly, and made sure his fly had been zipped. Check. Check. Check. Should he button the sport coat or not? What was protocol? A quick hand through his hair again, and then a surreptitious nose cleaning, just in case.
Calm down, man.
When Sullivan’s door opened a few moments later, Clint had to bite back a wolf whistle. A pair of driving shades and that baseball cap really added to her image (not that she was bad to begin with), and his pulse raced. This might be harder than he’d thought.
Man up, Clint, he told himself. “Are you ready to go, Sully?”
She gave him a slow once over. “I know I didn’t give you enough money to buy that. Where’d you get it?”
He shook his head. “Some store.” He could tell she was hardly satisfied with the answer, but ignored the follow up question in her eyes. “Let’s try again. Are you ready to go? It’s five.”
She glanced at her watch. “Go? Where are we going?”
He grinned. “You are hungry, yes?”
“Maybe,” she said cautiously. In reply, her stomach gurgled, “Absolutely I’m hungry, you idiot,” and Lindsay blushed crimson.
Clint pretended not to notice the sound, and jerked a thumb toward the stairs. “C’mon. Even if you’re fine, I’m dying for something better than the burgers from the joint next door. I was thinking about something, you know, upscale. Just the two of us. Think of it as part of me paying off my debt.”
She cocked her head. “In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been watching a dwindling budget lately. And, besides, I’m not dressed to go anywhere nice.”
Clint turned and jogged for the stairs. “No worries,” he called back to her. “Dinner’s taken care of, and I’ve got your evening wear sorted out, too. Let’s go!” He was down the stairs and in the lobby in under a minute. She appeared seconds later, frowning—probably glaring behind those shades—and demanding answers.
“That’d be telling,” he replied with a smirk. She was leaning forward, eager for whatever it was he was holding back. Or maybe she was actually eager to rip his head off because she was infected by the Touch. Either way, there was no reason to delay. He strode through the front door of the motel, and then turned to hold it open for her. Sullivan approached sinuously, too much the way a big cat would close on its prey. Realizing the problem, Clint released the door and stepped aside, only to realize a new problem. A moment later, the door took Sullivan full in the face.
“Sully!” Clint sprang for the door and yanked it open, even as she staggered backwards. “Man, Sully. I swear by everything holy that I didn’t mean to—”
She silenced him with a hand, while rubbing vigorously at her nose with her other hand. “That’s twice you’ve hit me with a door! What is your prob— never mind. I’m not bleeding, am I?” She didn’t wait for an answer before turning back toward the lobby and striding for the ladies’ room.
Clint buried his face in his hand, and then looked behind him. Good. His surprise was still there. “Sully! You look fine. If you need a mirror, there’s one here in the limo.”
She missed a step, and then stopped. Carefully, she looked back over her shoulder. He saw her gasp slightly, and then turn all the way around. She looked back and forth between the restrooms and the waiting luxury car. Finally, her shoulders dropped slightly, and walked carefully toward the limousine. Clint opened the car’s door immediately, dismissing the driver with a nod. Sullivan approached slowly, and shot meaningful looks both at Clint and at the car door.
“What?” he asked. “Hey, that was an accident.”
She gave him a look. “And so was the thing in the hospital.”
“Yes. So was the thing in the hospital. But do you really think I’d slam a car door on a woman?”
She crossed her arms over her chest, and cocked her head.
Clint blushed slightly, and gestured at the door, and said, “Look, Miss Sullivan. I promise I’m not going to intentionally injure or humiliate you. This? This was supposed to be a nice surprise and it hasn’t exactly gone the way I planned it. Bear with me, please? I promise I’ll do my very best to make this as enjoyable for you as it has been for me. Okay?”
Sullivan hesitated, but at last put one foot forward, then the other. Then she sped to the limo and climbed inside without so much as a glance at Clint. Her passage was so close that a faint whiff of her perfume caught his nose. Clint breathed deeply, and let the scent linger in his mind, resolving to get her a bottle of whatever that was as a “thank you” gift, once he got a job again. He really did owe her big. Hopefully, tonight would help.
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