Home > Tempting Fools(9)

Tempting Fools(9)
Author: Darien Cox

Finally, he moved, one foot kicking the car door closed behind him, then he leaned against it, arms folded across his chest. “Oh,” he said. “It’s you.”

“So you do remember me.”

“I know who you are. You’re still here? What happened to your date?”

“I…that’s not important. I came back because—”

“You came back?” His lips curved into a soft smirk, eyes twinkling with amusement, and I got the feeling he was mocking me. Maybe his personality was similar to his dunk clown persona after all.

“Yeah, I came back.”

“Why?”

“Because you said something about me having a table for three. And, well, I did have a table for three. But you shouldn’t have known that. And, you called me Squirt, which is a childhood nickname of mine. Remember saying those things?”

“Nah.” His wild hair was blowing in his face, and he reached up and tucked it behind his ears before slipping his hands in his pockets. “I talked a lot of shit up there today. Can’t remember what I said to everyone.”

“But you just said you remembered me.”

“What do you want?”

I flinched, his coldness taking me aback. I understood now how Bonnie felt earlier when she said she was humiliated. Embarrassment always made me angry, so I responded in turn. “Okay, look Miss Cleo, I don’t know if you’re playing games with me or if this is all just a big coincidence, but—”

“Miss Cleo?” He pushed himself off the car and took a step toward me, those striking eyes narrowed.

“She was a phone psychic that—”

“I know who Miss Cleo was. Why’d you call me that?”

“Oh.” Heat climbed my face. “I was looking for you and the guy working the dunk tank said you were headed to do psychic readings at a party.”

His brows shot up and that sly smirk returned. “You went looking for me?”

A breeze lifted his hair again, and I got a whiff of shampoo or maybe cologne, and he was too close now. I took a step back, quietly drawing a shallow breath. “Those things you said earlier. Coincidence, or do you know something about me? Have we met before?”

“We’ve never met.”

“So just a coincidence then.”

“What else would it be?”

“Well, I don’t know! But if it’s a coincidence, it’s a pretty damn strange one.”

“Oh.” He nodded. “Are you asking if I read you, psychically?”

“No.” I huffed. “I don’t believe in that shit.”

“I see.”

“No offense.”

“Relax, I wouldn’t have been able to read you regardless.”

“Well, of course you wouldn’t.”

His eyes widened. “Of course I wouldn’t? What you mean by that?”

“Psychics are con artists.”

“Really.”

I shrugged, feeling like I was sinking into a hole. Like earlier in the restaurant with Bonnie, when garbage kept pouring out of my mouth. Except this time my heart was beating too fast for some reason. “Nothing personal. Everyone else in this part of town is to a degree, I’d guess.”

“A con artist, you mean.”

“That’s right.”

He chuckled softly. “Wow. Who the fuck do you think you are?”

I felt a strange triumph at his words, even as I knew I was crossing a line. Logic dictated I should walk away now, before things escalated. But like earlier when he was in the dunk tank, his eyes compelled me to hold his gaze, a challenge I couldn’t refuse. I held my ground, trying to ignore the way my pulse raced, because it was more excitement than fear, like I wanted to argue with him. “Okay sorry,” I said. “Do you prefer another term than con artist? Manipulation engineer, maybe?”

His mouth dropped open. “Excuse me?”

I truly wasn’t sure why I was being combative—this wasn’t like me at all. Sure, I argued with people I knew well, and could be a dickhead, as my kids reminded me often. But I did not know this man. Maybe it was the envy again. He was interesting and alluring in a way I’d never be, so the only way I could feel on equal footing was to drag him down to my level. To sling some mud at his shiny perfection. I wasn’t proud of these thoughts; they were beneath me. But even though he was no longer hurling insults from the dunk tank, this man was naturally provocative, and I was undeniably provoked.

“Sorry,” I said. “Do you want me to talk slower?”

Orion laughed hard then, a deep, musical sound, head falling back. Even though I knew he was laughing at me and not with me—and even though there was a good chance he might punch me soon—I couldn’t help being charmed by his full smile, the even white teeth, the way his dark eyes danced with humor.

The laughter trailed out of him, and he looked me over. “You got a set on ya, huh?”

“A set?”

“Set a balls. Okay, sure, pal,” he said. “I’m a con artist. A damn good one. And the rest of the con artists in this part of town are the ones who prop up the economy so everyone else can have their fancy beach houses and agreeable property values. So go fuck yourself with that judgmental shit.”

“Look, I wasn’t judging—”

“Sure, you were.” He poked a finger into my chest, but it was more playful than aggressive. “But see, your opinion doesn’t matter to me, so it’s all good. You are wrong about one thing, though. I do get psychic impressions. What I meant was I just wouldn’t have been able to read you.”

“Me in particular, huh?”

“Your aura is too scratchy.”

I chuckled, but my curiosity got the better of me. “What’s that mean?”

“Like…” He lifted his hand and made a quick, jerky motion with his thumb and forefinger. “If you take a pencil and scratch it back and forth on the paper. All those scratchy little lines. Or maybe…” His eyes darted back and forth over my head. “Maybe more like Pigpen, from Charlie Brown.”

“What?”

“Pigpen. The one who walks around with that cloud of dirt and dust and shit all around him. That’s you. You got a Pigpen aura. Too filthy to see anything in there.”

“I have a…filthy aura.”

“Yeah.” He snickered, and leaned back against the car door again. “So see, I couldn’t have known nothing about you, even if I tried. Pigpen.”

“You are…” I chuckled, shaking my head. “You’re something, I’ll give you that.”

“Thank you.”

“Wasn’t a compliment. I don’t believe a word you’re saying.”

He shrugged, but said nothing. I waited, but silence followed. He didn’t speak, but stared directly into my eyes, that challenge there again, but with a bit of humor still lurking. He was now an owl that wanted to toy with his prey before striking, but I was definitely still the chipmunk.

And it was time for me to leave, because despite my wise mouth, this weird, bejeweled clown made me uneasy. It was in those dark eyes, something quiet stirring that said, “Go ahead. Push me too far. I dare you.” And I wasn’t quite bold enough to accept the invitation.

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