Virtuous
Author:M.S. Force

I don’t mention that she should be thanking Cleo, who wouldn’t accept payment for either drink. “I’ll pick you up at seven?”

 

She rolls her plump bottom lip between her teeth. I’m instantly hard and grateful for the coat that covers the evidence of my arousal. Nodding, she says, “What should I wear?”

 

I think about that for a second. “A dress. Maybe a black dress. You’re a New Yorker now. I assume you have a black dress?”

 

“I have a black dress,” she says with a small, shy smile.

 

“Excellent. I’ll see you soon. Fluff, it’s been a pleasure. Take good care of your mom and behave on the way home.”

 

Fluff again bares her tiny—and very sharp—teeth and growls.

 

“I’m so sorry. I don’t know why she’s behaving this way. It’s not like her.”

 

I wink at Natalie. “Not to worry. At least she didn’t ask me for an autograph.”

 

I leave her laughing, pleased with myself and with her and looking forward to this evening with far too much anticipation as I jog back to the park and Hayden’s wrath, sending the text I promised her on the way.

 

He’s pacing the length of the playground when I return. “What the fuck, Flynn? Are you all done seeing to your personal agenda? Can we get back to work?”

 

I ignore the first two questions. “Yep.”

 

“What’s the deal with the girl?”

 

“No deal.” It’s none of his fucking business, but unfortunately, he’s known me forever and can tell I’m lying to his face.

 

“Dude… Seriously? She’s an infant. You’ve got no business dragging a sweet girl like that into your world.”

 

The sad part is, he’s totally right. There’s no place at all for a nice girl like Natalie in my world. No place at all. But I’m fascinated nonetheless and counting the hours until I can see her again.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

 

 

 

Flynn Godfrey asked me to dinner. The sentence runs through my mind over and over and over again on the walk home. I’ve put Fluff down to walk because my arms are aching from holding her for so long. She’s got a new pep to her step, probably because she thinks she’s succeeded in running off Flynn.

 

It also occurs to me on the walk home that preparing for this evening is going to occupy my entire day. By the time I reach the three-story brownstone where I live with my roommate, Leah, I’m wishing I never agreed to go.

 

Fluff and I dash up the stairs to the front door and up one flight to our second-floor apartment. Inside, it takes me a full five minutes to remove all the layers I’ve worn for my walk. By then, Fluff is dancing around my feet, wanting her lunch.

 

I feed her and stand in the kitchen for a minute, feeling stunned and numb as I relive the events of the last hour. Reaching for my phone, I read and reread his text: So nice to meet you, Natalie. Look forward to seeing you later. Flynn.

 

Leah comes in, carrying a huge basket of laundry and bitching about the stink in the laundry room that seems to get worse with every passing day. She is tall and stick thin with long brown hair and blue eyes. I envy her ability to eat anything she wants. She envies my curves. Except for a couple of fundamental differences in philosophy, we get along well.

 

“Tell me the truth,” she says, dropping the basket and coming over to me. “Do I smell like the laundry room?”

 

I lean in and take a whiff of her hair, but all I smell is the salon shampoo she’s gotten me addicted to, even though neither of us can afford it. “You smell fine.”

 

“Remember that episode of Seinfeld? When he picks up his car from the detailer and it smells like BO? Then he starts to smell like BO, and Elaine starts to smell, too, because she’s been in the car?”

 

I wasn’t allowed to watch TV growing up and I was too busy trying to survive in college, so I’ve gorged on television since moving to the city. Leah’s obsession with Seinfeld reruns has worn off on me. “I love that episode.”

 

“That’s going to be us if they don’t figure out what the fuck stinks in that laundry room. No one will want to be around us.”

 

She swears like a sailor when she’s home, getting it out of her system, she says, after a week on best behavior in the classroom with fourth-graders. She encourages me to swear, too, but the few times I tried resulted in hilarity on both our parts. Leah says if I live with her long enough, she’ll eventually wear off on me.

 

“How was the walk?” she asks from the sofa where she’s set up shop to fold the mountain of clean clothes.

 

“It was… You won’t believe what happened.” The story bursts out of me in a flurry of words and hand motions. When I’m done, Leah stares at me as if I’ve just told her I saw aliens in the park.

 

“You’re making this up. You’re fucking with me.”

 

“No, I’m not. I swear to God it’s true.”

 

“You smashed into Flynn Godfrey in the park, Fluff bit his arm, you had coffee with him, and he asked you to dinner?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“You’re fucking lying.”

 

“Leah,” I say, beginning to feel exasperated, “why would I make that up?”

 

“You really met Flynn Godfrey.”

 

“I really met Flynn Godfrey.”

 

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