Home > Come As You Are(10)

Come As You Are(10)
Author: Lauren Blakely

I punch the air. “Keep going.”

She studies me more closely. “You’re something mysterious. You’re trying to fly under the radar. Am I getting warmer?”

More like hot. “Yes.”

Her brow knits. “You want to go unnoticed, at least for the moment.”

I tense, hoping she’s not putting two and two together as to my identity. Absently, I raise my hand to my glasses, wondering if they give me away. But then I remember. I’m wearing my contacts tonight, something I rarely do.

She snaps her fingers. “I know! You’re a stealth start-up,” she says, using the term for a new company that’s keeping quiet.

I raise my arms in victory, a thrill racing through me. “Everyone else has guessed code ninja or SEO ninja, but you’re the first person all night to get it right. I am, indeed, a stealth start-up.”

Admittedly, donning black pants, a black shirt, and a black eye-mask might have made it challenging to guess. But then again, the angel figured it out, and all without the missing start-up button.

“Your lips gave you away.”

She recognized me from my lips? I furrow my brow behind my mask. “What do you mean?”

“Your mouth,” she says, raising her fingers dangerously near to my lips. “I could tell you weren’t a ninja because your lips aren’t covered. Ninjas cover their mouths.” I relax again since she was referring to my clothes. “Only their eyes show. But you’ve covered most of your eyes, and you’re showing only your mouth and your chin. That’s how I knew you had to be something other than a ninja.”

“I could kiss you for that,” I blurt out. I take a step back and hold up a hand. “I’m sorry. That was probably terribly inappropriate.”

A smile slowly spreads across her lips. “No, it wasn’t inappropriate. It wasn’t inappropriate at all,” she says. Something in the way she takes her time with each word tells me she wouldn’t mind being kissed. That gives me one mission and one mission only: keep talking to this angel.

But before I can ask her a question, she reaches into her purse, grabbing at something. She holds out her hand. It’s in a fist. “Is this your start-up button?”

She opens her hand to reveal a red button.

Laughing, I take it from her hand, and slip it into my pocket. “You found my start-up button. Maybe that’s why no one knew what I was. Or maybe you’re just a genius.”

“I prefer to think genius.”

“I’d offer to buy the genius a drink to keep the conversation going, but the drinks here are free . . .” I let my voice trail off, inviting her to pick up the thread if she wants to.

She smiles coyly. “I wonder if you could come up with another way to keep talking to me.”

And she wants to, so now it’s my turn. The music shifts from hipster rap to something slower, smoother. One of those songs I never know the name of but you hear on trendy TV shows before a hot couple kisses. I nod my forehead toward the speaker. “I planned that,” I say as I hold out a hand.

She laughs. “No, you didn’t.”

“But you have to admit it’s good luck, like the button. Care to dance?”

Her lips twitch in a sexy smile. “Yes, I care to dance.”

I take her hand and lead her to where the chandeliers cast patterns of light across the hardwood floors. The dance floor is surprisingly crowded, but I don’t notice who’s here since I’m not actually looking at anyone but the hazel-eyed angel. I twirl her once, and when I tug her closer, her eyes sparkle.

“You know how to dance,” she says, a note of surprise in her voice.

“I’m not just a clever costume-maker and a producer of the finest knock-knock jokes.”

She leans her head back and laughs, exposing a gorgeous throat that I want to kiss. Yes, this is instant attraction. But then, that’s exactly how some attraction can be. And, perhaps, how it should be.

“One, your costume skills need work,” she says, giving me a pointed look as we move in time to the music. “Perhaps you should enlist the help of a crafty costumer for your next ball, at least to sew on the buttons so they don’t fall off. Two, tell me a fine knock-knock joke.”

“One, I will take that as a yes to enlisting your help next time I go to a masquerade ball. Also, side note, are there more? Are masquerades like a thing around town?”

“I hope they are, and if so, we’ll have to find them.”

We. More. Next time.

We haven’t even had a first time, and we’re already talking seconds. This is new for me too, but I like how instant this attraction is for her as well. “And two,” I add. “Knock, knock.”

She gives a coy smile. “Who’s there?”


“To who?”

“To whom,” I say, like a grammar policeman.

She laughs. “Have I mentioned how much correct grammar turns me on?”

I wiggle my eyebrows and yank her closer, so we’re inches apart. “No, but have I told you I never let my modifiers dangle?”

“And do you also know how to conjugate properly?” she asks in a purr.

“Even better. I can conjugate improperly too.”

She raises a hand and fans herself. “Now you’re getting me truly turned on.”

She likes me, she’s flirting with me, and she has no idea who I am. Yes, this mask was a brilliant idea in my list of brilliant ideas. The music picks up speed, and I twirl her around once more.

“Seriously, how did you learn to dance?” she asks again. “And don’t say YouTube.”

“Because that’s where everyone learns everything these days?”

She nods. “Or Instagram. That’s where I learned you can slice cake incredibly well using dental floss.”

“Why not just use a knife?”

She shrugs. “I suppose it’s for those times in your life when you desperately need to slice a cake and don’t have a knife handy.”

“Hmm. So, if I’m traveling and I need to slice a cake in my hotel room, I’d use the floss rather than call room service for a knife?”

She nods. “Clearly. What else would you do? Also, you have such pretty teeth. I would imagine you have lots of”—she slows, takes her time, and nibbles on the corner of her lips—“floss.”

My breath hitches. “How is it that you’re able to say ‘dental floss’ and make it sound naughty?”

“I suppose it’s one of my many talents. So tell me, Non-Ninja, where did you learn to dance?”

“Don’t laugh.”

“I’ll probably laugh.”


She laughs sweetly. “Seriously?”

I nod. “I figured I needed a life skill beyond math, numbers, and computers. I learned how to dance online.”

She curls her hands over my shoulders. “You’re a nerd.” The words come out as if she just said I was a rock star or a pro quarterback. She says it with affection and, honestly, a whole lot of desire.

“Shocking, isn’t it, that I’m a nerd?”

“A hot nerd, to be precise,” she adds.

I bring her closer. “So are you.”

“You’re a very hot, witty nerd.”

I’m damn close to kissing her on this dance floor. But I’d rather get her away from everyone else. I lean in to whisper, “Same to you, you incredibly sexy hot nerd I want to kiss.”

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