I don’t belong at this fancy restaurant, and my only comfort is that Maddox doesn’t fit in either.
Not when he is wearing sweatpants and a hoodie-the only thing he had with him to the game. The rest
of his stuff is in the back of his car.
I eye his chest, and even though his muscles are hidden behind the fabric and some cheesy slogan
from our college, they are still visible. Firm and snug. Maddox is in peak condition. 1
My cheeks turn molten when his eyes catch me looking, and I stare at the floor instead. We finish our
drinks in silence. There is no sign of our food, and the atmosphere is thick
“They usually aren’t this slow,” Maddox comments. “Maybe they burned our food or something.”
“I bet it would still taste good even if they burnt it. I’ve never eaten at a classy dinner before. The chefs
here could probably serve me dog shit, and I would still like it.” Maddox chokes on his drink and laughs
tears. “Did prim and proper Michelle just say the word “dog shit” in a sentence?”
I shyly smile at him. “I’m not good at handling alcohol.”
He pushes his drink towards me. “If I had known alcohol could unwind you, I would have bought you a
drink long ago. Here, have mine too.”
“Are you trying to get me drunk?” “Maybe?” I narrow my eyes at him and blush. “You’re a terrible
influence. Please don’t try to inspire me to become an alcoholic.”
“You don‘t have to drink. That’s not why I brought you here.” “You don’t want me to drink?”
Warm blue eyes move over me. “No. I want you to eat with me.”
I go still and let my eyes roam his face. Maddox tilts his head as if trying to read whatever is in my
expression. Whatever he sees has his features warming up around the edges.
Humor fills his gaze. “Are you afraid of eating with me?”
“No.” I’m lying
Maddox and I are supposed to be like snow and salt. But I’m already in over my head. He disarmed me
when he kissed me, and now I’m sitting here like a toothless tiger.
His rare moments of showing me gentleness and sly humor are dangerous. I’m eating from his hands,
but I know I can’t get used to it because he might pounce on me like a cat at any moment.
Maddox, after taking home that football victory, is suspiciously flirtatious. He persuades and cajoles. He
could probably charm a manager-seeking Karen at the supermarket into admitting she was in the
But I know he will turn back into his angry self tomorrow. This is an illusion; therefore, I can’t allow
myself to let my guard down. “Then just enjoy the food and don’t overthink,” Maddox says and shrugs a
massive shoulder. Ah, there it is. The I-don’t-give-a-fuck expression is back on his face. I can finally
slump my shoulders in relief.
“Will do…” I say in a low tone. “Will do…”
The food comes, and Maddox and I talk about on-the-surface stuff. We don’t go too deep. He asks me
weird stuff, like my favorite color and what kind of flower I prefer, we talk about music, and I relax.
But when I dig into my dessert, Maddox throws a question that makes me uncomfortable.
“Do you have any contact with your parents at all?” The world seems to slow down, and it feels like
someone has placed a heavy weight over my chest.
“No…” I hesitate. I’m not sure if I can trust Maddox, but I don’t have any other friends to talk with. “They
picked alcohol over their own daughter, and they refuse to get help. So I decided to cut them off.”
“And you’re fine with that?”
Jesus, does this guy just ask whatever he wants and expect people to give him honest answers?
Maddox is the king of unfiltered questions and intense eyes.
“I don’t see another solution, and I’m tired of them asking me for money even though I’m a poor college
student. I have a scholarship, and rent is cheap since I live with two other girls.”
“How do you pay for rent?”
I grimace and squirm in my seat. I don’t like the questions, but… I’m trying to give Maddox a chance to
get to know me, Call me silly, but I think we could become friends.
“I had a part-time job, but… The working hours didn’t suit me, so I’m searching for a new one, “I blush
when I catch myself sounding like a beggar. “Anyway, let’s t-talk about something else!”
“I think I understand you better now. Your parents. Did they mistreat you or something? Is that why
you’re so timid and easily frightened?”
Well, I suppose my dad hit me a couple of times, but my real fear comes from when Thomas raped me.
I couldn’t do anything, and I still suffer nightmares.
Sometimes I wake up screaming…
My eyes stare out into the distance. “Yeah, that’s probably why I’m so timid and easily frightened.”
“We need to work on your self-confidence.” I snort. Maddox Daniels said “we” as if we are on the same
team or as if we are friends. It’s endearing, but the big guy doesn’t look amused when he catches me
laughing and smiling at him.
His nostrils flare. “What?”
“Nothing,” I shyly bite back a smile. “It’s just that…”
“Yes?” He drawls.
I breathe a laugh before talking. “I sometimes can’t tell whether you like us hanging out or if you hate it.
Now you’re wearing a frown and telling me we need to work on my self confidence and…”
I’m unsure where I’m going with this, but whatever I said changes the demeanor on Maddox’s face.
The flare is gone, and he sighs.
“I wouldn’t hang out with you if you were a bad company,” his eyes rake me up and down, merciless,
yet not as cold as usual. “You’re weird and silent, but I have a feeling there is more to you than meets
I smile. “You think so?”
“Yeah, I bet you keep all sort of secrets… Like, what is your favorite hobby? And for the love of God,
don’t say studying.”
“I wasn’t going to.”
He rolls his eyes. “Bet you were.”
1 sink my teeth into my lower lip. “Okay, I totally was, BUT you’re right! There is more to me than meets
the eye-I’m excellent at cooking and baking! I love both.”
“No shit?” Maddox leans over the table. “Then why the hell haven’t you baked me cookies yet?
I snort, and words form on my tongue, but I don’t dare say them.
I want to step out of my comfort zone and throw sass back at Maddox. I’m shy and… Timid, But
Maddox’s eyes are challenging me right now, and I take the bait.
Here goes nothing
“Ask nicely, and maybe I will bake you some,” I finish my teasing sentence with a wink of my eye.
Maddox stares at me, and my heart races. Did I go too far? Did I sound too flirtatious?! My lips quiver
and tears form at the back of my eyes. I’m thinking too fast, and my pulse is ticking against my neck.
My mind is already plotting on changing my name and moving out of town.
WHAT THE HELL HAVE I DONE?! I OFFERED TO BAKE MADDOX COOKIES!
MICHELLE, YOU SLUT!
I flirted with Maddox and rendered him speechless!
I stare at Maddox, barely daring to breathe when he opens his mouth to speak. Here it comes, Maddox
calling me too forward for offering to bake him some cookies.
“I would love some cookies.”
I blink. “Y-you would?”
He smirks. “Why are you making this weird? You’re entirely red in the face and look like you’ve seen a
ghost. Calm down. It’s just some cookies.”
I shove out the sound of wedding bells from my head and mentally slap myself. Calm down and listen
to wise, old Maddox, Michelle. It’s just some cookies. I force a smile. “I will bake you the best cookies