I answered without bothering to look at the screen. “God, Julia! I’m not in here f**king the piece of man cake!”
“Oh . . . hi.” Shit. This could not be happening to me.
“I’m glad to hear that you’re not . . . f**king . . . man cake?” Joel said, laughing tightly.
I pressed my hand to his lips and gave him the dirtiest look I could manage. “Look, I can’t really talk right now.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry to bother you on a Sunday, but I couldn’t stop thinking about you. And I don’t want to get anyone in trouble or anything, but right after you left I checked my e-mail and there was a confirmation for delivery of your flowers.”
“Really?” I asked, feigning interest. My gaze was locked with Bennett’s.
“Well, it seems they were signed for by Bennett Ryan.”
I watched as several expressions passed over her face at once: embarrassment, annoyance, and then . . . curiosity? I could vaguely make out a man’s voice on the other end and felt the caveman begin to awaken. Who the hell was calling her?
Suddenly, her eyes narrowed, and a tiny voice inside told me I should be nervous. “Well, thank you so much for letting me know. Yes. Yes, I will. Okay. Yes, I’ll call you when I decide. Thanks for calling, Joel.”
She ended the call and slowly put the phone back into her purse. Looking down, she shook her head, a small laugh escaping before a wicked smile graced her mouth.
“Is there anything you’d like to tell me, Mr. Ryan?” she asked sweetly, and for some reason it made me even more anxious. I racked my brain but couldn’t think of anything. What was she talking about?
“That was the strangest conversation. It seems that when Joel checked his e-mail this morning, he had a delivery confirmation for my flowers. You’ll never guess what it said.”
She moved one step toward me, and instinctively I moved one step back. I didn’t like where this was going. “It turns out that someone signed for them.”
“The name on the slip said Bennett Ryan.”
Fuuuuuck. Why the hell did I sign my own name? I tried to think of a response but my mind was suddenly blank. Obviously, my silence told her everything she needed to know.
“You son of a bitch! You signed for them and then lied to me?” She landed a hard shove on my chest, and I had a sudden instinct to protect my balls. “Why did you do that?” My back was now against the wall and I was frantically searching for an alternative exit.
“I . . . what?” I babbled. My heart felt like it was going to claw its way out of my chest.
I needed an answer and I needed it fast. Running my hands through my hair for the hundredth time in the last five minutes, I decided it was probably better to just come clean.
She took out her phone and appeared to be texting someone.
“Not that it’s any of your business, but I’m telling Julia to just go on without me. I’m not leaving here until you tell me the truth.” She glared at me and I could feel the anger coming off of her in waves. I briefly considered telling Emily what was going on, but she’d seen me follow Chloe; I was pretty sure she’d figured it out by now.
I met her eyes and let out a deep sigh. There was absolutely no way I could explain myself and not sound like I’d lost my mind. “Okay, yes, I signed for them.”
She stared at me, her chest heaving and her fists balled so tightly that her knuckles were white. “And?”
“And . . . I threw them away.” As I stood facing her, I realized that I deserved every bit of her anger. I was being unfair. I was offering her nothing but still standing in the way of someone who could possibly make her happy.
“You are f**king unbelievable,” she growled through clenched teeth. I knew she was doing everything she could to keep from lunging across the room and pummeling me. “Explain to me why you would do that.”
Here was the part I didn’t know how to answer. “Because . . .” I scratched the back of my head. I hated that I’d let myself get into this situation. “Because I don’t want you to go out with Joel.”
“Of all the asinine, chauvinistic—who in the hell do you think you are? Just because we’ve had sex does not mean you get to make decisions in my life. We aren’t a couple, we aren’t dating. Hell, we don’t even like each other!” she yelled.
“You think I don’t know that? It doesn’t make any sense, okay? But when I saw those flowers . . . come on, they were f**king roses!”
She looked as if she were ready to have me committed somewhere. “Are you on some sort of medication? What does the fact that they were roses have to do with anything?”
“You hate roses!” When I said this, her face fell, eyes soft and dark. I rambled on. “I just saw them and reacted. I didn’t stop and think about it. Just the thought of him touching you . . .” My fists clenched at my sides and my voice trailed off as I tried to regain my composure. I was getting angrier by the second: at myself for being weak and letting my emotions get out of hand, again, and at her for having this f**king inexplicable hold on me.