“So what did you tell him?” A good deal of our business is the buying and selling of collector’s items: action figures, comics, graphic art. Joe has a good eye for stuff but doesn’t really have the same background in the scene that I do. The official rule is that if Joe isn’t sure whether he should buy something, he tells the person to come back when I’m here. In the first few weeks, he rarely knew what to buy and what to leave, but he’s a quick learner and I no longer panic that he’ll let something unbelievable slip through our hands.
“I told him we get a lot of kids in here and it’s not our thing.” He shudders visibly and then does a slight double take. “Why are you so dressed up?”
I can practically hear his eyebrows go up. “ ‘A thing’?”
Sliding my eyes over to him to give him a mild glare, I squat down, and cut open a box of office supplies. To be fair, I don’t ever have things.
Joe steps into my peripheral vision and then bends down until his face is about five inches from mine. “A thing?” he repeats.
“For fuck’s sake,” I grumble, handing him a few boxes of pens. “A thing up in L.A. tonight with Lola.”
The three seconds of silence that follow communicate a good deal of incredulity. “Is it a date?”
“Are you sure it’s not a date?”
I reach up, sliding a new box of business cards onto the counter. “Pretty sure.”
“Because lately she’s been looking at you like she might want—”
I cut him off. “It’s not a date, Joe.”
The bell rings and I hear someone walk in, heels clicking on the linoleum floor.
“This is the last time I’m going to ask you,” Joe whispers. “Are you sure it’s not a date?”
I open my mouth to say something sharp, but stop when I hear Lola ask, “Where’s Oliver?”
“On his knees under the counter,” Joe says breathily, and I look up to see him smiling widely down at me.
I shoot Joe an annoyed look. “Down here,” I tell her, and wave a roll of receipt tape over my head. “Just putting some stuff away.”
“Uh-huh,” she says, leaning over the counter so I can only see her face. I realize how utterly fucked I am if I think I can play it cool tonight. She looks bloody gorgeous. “Hi.”
I put the last roll of tape away and almost swallow my tongue when I stand and finally see the rest of her. Lola wearing leather pants should be illegal. Couple that with shoes I would happily die impaled on and a top that hints at everything underneath but shows nothing? I have zero chance of not making a fool of myself in one way or another tonight.
“You look amazing,” I tell her, and without thinking, walk around the counter, lean in, and press a kiss to her cheek.
She doesn’t react as if what I’ve done is out of the ordinary, just smiles and says a quiet, “Thank you.”
Her eyes slide to where my wallet and keys rest on the counter, but I’m not done taking her in yet. Her hair is up in a high ponytail, sleek and black. Her bangs cut straight across her forehead, and her makeup isn’t heavy, but I can tell she’s wearing it. Soft black lines her eyes, pink flushes her cheeks, and her lips are an unholy, nearly sinful red.
My words come out sort of shaky: “You look really pretty.”
This time she laughs. “Thanks,” she says, adding, “again. London helped. I swear giving the two of us makeup is like giving a monkey a hammer.”
When I step away to grab my things, she makes a show of slowly looking me up and down. I follow her eyes as they linger on what I’m wearing: slim trousers, simple, dark button-down shirt. I even polished my boots for this woman.
“Damn,” she says. There’s appreciation in her voice and I realize that we’ve always done this—flirted, dropped subtle innuendo—but it’s never felt this loaded before.
“I’m glad you approve,” I say. “I’m parked around the corner.”
She follows me out, saying goodbye to Joe. And then she takes my arm and smiles up at me. “I definitely approve.”
I’VE ALWAYS KNOWN Lola to grow quiet when she’s thinking about something that’s troubling her. I assumed that the reason she doesn’t tend to talk out her problems the way Harlow and even Ansel do is that she wants to take the time to sort through it on her own first. But when she brings up the conversation with Austin in the car, and wants me to list some of the pros of his ideas, I lock up, wondering whether the reason she likes to take so long before talking about things is that she doesn’t always trust her own judgment.
“I’m not sure I could argue the merits of either suggestion,” I hedge, merging onto the 5 North freeway.
“Just for the exercise,” she says. “Why might it be better for Razor to be from another planet?”
I sit quietly, thinking on the question. But my mind reflexively fights it; they’re both shit ideas. Quinn shouldn’t be made into a sexual creature. Razor isn’t an alien. There’s no reason to change it.
The tires trip easily over the road and Lola stares out her window while she also thinks about it. It’s these easy moments where I seem to plummet deeper in love with her.
“I guess it could allow them to do something cooler visually?” she muses after a few minutes of silence. “Some more creative way to flash back to his life before without just a panel shift.”