Even More Lunch
Jordan would have welcomed a building fire if it meant he could tear his eyes away from the quizzes he was grading. A third of his class had scraped by with Ds. In HPS. In glorified gym class. On a multiple choice quiz. He blinked and glanced at the open door of his office; David, Coach Wyman, stood in the hall beyond, hands in his track pants pockets, giving him a flat, humorless smile.
“Your wife’s here.”
Jordan bit back a frown; the rest of the coaching staff had found it a little too convenient that it was acceptable for spouses to attend the same college, one as a coach, and the other as a student. He wasn’t allowed to date one of his students, but there was no rule against his wife being a student. And none of his colleagues bought his lame-ass story about her transferring to KSU after they were married for a second. They all knew the truth. They all thought he was a skeeze for it.
“Thanks,” he said, and made a little motion for David to continue down the hall.
Instead, the guy turned around and Jordan heard, “Afternoon, Coach Wyman” – Ellie – “I have carrot cake if you’re interested.”
She appeared in the doorway, in short pleated gray skirt, black sleeveless top, and ballet flats, basket of promised carrot cake wedges in hand. Sometimes – when he was struck with the storybook visual, like now – he marveled at how unaffected she was. She was a realist, she was cautious, and she had a temper, but she was sweet, and she liked wearing little ballet shoes and bringing him lunch in his office in the middle of the week. He didn’t ever want her to become as jaded as him.
He didn’t hear David’s answer, but watched Ellie hand him a square of cake on one of Paige’s pink napkins. His answering smile was the kind that set Jordan’s teeth on edge, the kind that reminded him that other men were drawn to that sweet, unaffected air of hers too.
She stepped into the office and eased the door shut behind her. Her smile tweaked. “They still look at me funny.”
That’s because you’re nineteen, he thought. And still a student. But he said, “They’re trying to figure out how to steal you away from me,” as she dropped her basket on the desk and laid a hand against his shoulder.
She kissed him – slippery pink gloss that smelled like sugar sliding against his lips – and was smiling when she pulled back. “I think they’re trying to figure out how you haven’t been fired yet, actually.”
He watched her fold back the cloth napkin that covered the basket and wondered what had prompted so much carrot cake…and what was causing the careful, polite smile she tossed him. That smile meant something, he just didn’t know what.
“Paige made this for a client who, apparently, wanted a cake shaped like a carrot, and not an actual carrot cake,” she explained, setting a piece thick with cream cheese icing before him. “So now we have an eight pound carrot cake at home with no buyer.”
“And I brought you some of that leftover ham; I put it one of those good potato rolls. And there’s chips.” She rifled through the basket. “And a blue Gatorade and…”
“Uh-huh. Hey, baby?”
Her wide eyes – gray that looked silver beneath the overhead lights – turned up to him from beneath her dark lashes, her smile already getting sheepish.
“What are you buttering me up for?” he asked, biting back his own smile.
She pulled a face and dropped into the chair across from his desk, arranging her short skirt with a familiar, unconscious sort of poise. She stalled, and he didn’t mind, because when she reached to tidy her hair, her raised arms pressed her breasts together against the V of her top. “My sister’s staying with us this weekend.”
Her parents were out of town – snorkeling in Maui or whatever Natalie Grayson’s psychiatrist had allowed – and Ellie’s seventeen-year-old sister Nikki couldn’t be trusted to stay alone. That, and she’d totaled her VW the week before, so she was without wheels. Nikki was the worst kind of spoiled little princess, but because Ellie couldn’t leave her sister alone to fend off the wolves- and whatever loser she was dating this week – she’d volunteered to “keep” her for the weekend. “I know,” Jordan said, already hating the thought.
“Well.” Her expression became guilty. “You remember I told you about that collaborative research paper I’m working on in my – ” she rolled her eyes “ – women’s lit studies class?”
“If you’re inviting those bra burners over for dinner, I think I feel the flu coming on.”
“They’re not coming over,” she said with a firm headshake. “But tonight is the only night all our schedules are free, so we’re meeting in the Student Center to work on the paper after class.”
It took Jordan a full two seconds to figure out what that meant. And by that time, Ellie was already wincing and saying, “I need you to pick up Nikki this afternoon.”
He would do it – of course he would, because if she’d come in with a basket of empty sacks and told him to rob a bank, he would have – but he didn’t have to be happy about it. “She hates me.”
“She doesn’t hate you.”
“She makes fun of me.”
“You make fun of everyone.”
He made a show of sulking, slumped back in his chair, arms folded. But he spoiled it by reaching for his cake.
Ellie’s smile was dazzling. “I’ll make it up to you. I promise.”
And that always meant food and sex.
He sighed. “What time does school let out?”