“You don’t have to slow down,” I told him. “I can keep up.”
Niall Stella shook his head. “Sorry?” he asked, feigning innocence. So one: he was trying to be polite and not point out that my far shorter legs were struggling to keep up with his. And two: he was a terrible liar.
“You’re like eight feet tall with legs that are twice as long as mine. Of course you’d walk faster than me. But I can keep up, I promise not to slow you down.”
A hint of a blush warmed his cheeks and he smiled. “You were nearly falling down there for a moment,” he teased, motioning behind us. My heart was racing, and it had nothing to do with sprinting down the streets of New York.
“I was trying to be smooth and pretend that didn’t happen,” I said, laughing. I was glad he kept his eyes forward, because my grin was so wide it was about to crack my face in half. “Forget the fancy shoes, next time I’ll wear my Nikes.”
“Those aren’t bad,” he said, nodding toward my boots. “Quite nice, really. I remember Portia would wear the highest heels, even when we’d travel. She’d—” He paused, glancing over to me as if just realizing I wouldn’t know any of this. “Sorry. Won’t bore you with the details of all that.”
Even in profile, I could see the way his brows drew together in a frown. He clearly hadn’t intended a stroll down memory lane, but I couldn’t deny the secret, dark part of me that delighted in the slip. That he’d let himself get into that comfortable place where he’d let his walls down, for just a moment.
“Portia was your wife?” I asked, keeping my tone conversational, light. Definitely not showing that I was hanging on his every word. He’d mentioned her on the plane, but hadn’t ever said her name.
We walked a few steps before he nodded, but didn’t add any more. I’d only seen the ex—Mrs. Stella in passing, but hadn’t known it was her until she was gone, and it was too late to scrutinize every detail. I’d heard stories, little bits here and there, but never much. There seemed to be some kind of unspoken rule about gossip in the office: a little is encouraged, but too many details would just be poor taste.
We passed a trio of beautiful bronze and verdigris green headless statues in front of a towering skyscraper, one set on one side of the building, and two on the other. “Those are supposed to represent Venus de Milo,” I said, pointing them out. “They’re called Looking Toward the Avenue.”
He followed my gaze. “But they have no heads,” he noted. “They aren’t looking anywhere.”
“I hadn’t really thought of that,” I said. “Lovely breasts, though.”
Niall made a sound as if he was choking.
“What?” I asked, laughing at his expression. “They are! The city actually gets a lot of complaints about them.”
“The breasts or lack of heads?” he asked.
“How on earth do you know all this? You said you’d never been here before.”
“My mom had this sort of romanticized fascination with New York. I could be your tour guide and bore you with lots of random stuff.”
“That sounds like an amazing time,” he said, but his tone was strange. Was he being sarcastic, or—
I stopped dead in my tracks, and Niall Stella had to turn. “What is it?” he asked, looking on ahead, as if he could make out whatever had caught my eye. “Is everything all right?”
“Radio City Music Hall,” I gasped, continuing on with quicker steps now.
“Iconic,” he agreed with a hint of amused confusion in his voice, easily keeping up with me as I practically sprinted closer.
“They do a Christmas show here every year and my mom is going to die that I’m this close.” My gloves made it nearly impossible to grasp on to anything as I fumbled in the pocket of my jacket in search of my phone. “Will you take a picture of me?”
You’d have thought I just asked him to draw me in the nude.
“I can’t—” he said, and then shook his head, looking around us. “What I mean to say is, we can’t just stand here.”
He didn’t say “undignified” out loud, but his face was screaming it.
I looked around where we stood, at the scores of people doing that very same thing. “Nobody’s paying any attention to us. We could probably make out on the sidewalk and people would just walk right by.”
His eyes grew wide before he sighed and pulled out his phone. “I’ll do it on mine and send to you. Your case is covered in hideous girly rhinestones.” A tiny smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. “Look at me. I’m far too masculine for such a thing.”
I’d had a taste of it last night, but I was still blindsided seeing it again: Niall Stella was polite, brilliant, refined, and contained, yes, but Niall Stella was capable of being a guy, and he was a total flirt.
I knew I was pushing my luck, but damn, he looked so cute standing there, a sea of tourists rushing by while he opened the camera app. He might have been protesting but the expression on his face when he snapped the first picture made him look a little . . . charmed?
“Right,” he said, and turned the phone to show me. “Quite lovely.”
“Okay now, you come here.” He crossed toward me and I took his phone, examining the photo. “Let’s get one together,” I said, holding his phone out in front of us.