Let's Get Textual (Page 20)

I devour another nugget before glancing up at the door, which is still wide open. Zach’s standing there, a huge smile across his face.

“Crap. I’m the worst host ever—though I am a surprise host.” I throw him a look as I set the bag of food down and cross the living room to properly greet him.

“Hi,” I say.

“Hi.” He rocks back on his heels. “I’m surprised you walked that far away from your food.”

“Thank you, for the food, I mean. I really appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome, Delia. Do me a favor?”

“Sure.”

“Hold this for me while I go grab a few things from my car.”

He hands me a leash, and at first, I don’t understand it.

Then it dawns on me who would need a leash.

“You brought Marshmallow!” I drop to my haunches and peek around the door frame.

It takes everything in me not to squeal and scare the sweet baby goat when I see him. I gingerly stick my hand out, trying to coax him closer to me.

He takes a few hesitant steps then eventually totters closer, placing the tip of his chin in my outstretched hand. He pushes his head deeper into my palm and tears spring to my eyes. I feel like a blubbering fool, but he’s so damn precious.

I gather him up and stand, holding him close to my chest.

“You have him?”

I nod. “And I’m never letting go.”

“I’ll go grab his cage and toys. Be right back.”

“What the hell happened?”

“This goat is the devil!” I point at the offending creature, holding Zach’s surprised gaze with a furious one of my own. “I let him down for two seconds—two seconds. I wanted barbecue sauce for my nuggets so I set him down, walked into the kitchen, grabbed the sauce, and returned to this!”

“How did he eat a cushion that fast?”

“I don’t know!” I wave my arms around in frustration. “I mean, I might have turned my back for more than two seconds because I put on a pot of coffee, but it wasn’t for more than two minutes, I swear!”

Zach laughs, and I have the urge to punch him.

“You’re seriously laughing right now? You’re the worst.”

“Best, and I’m only laughing because you’re kind of adorable when you’re all flustered. Do you literally pull at your hair? It’s a mess.”

He strides farther into the apartment, setting Marshmallow’s cage down and carefully placing a drink carrier full of coffee on the table.

Smiling, he reaches out and brushes a stray hair out of my face. “I’ll buy you a new couch.”

“You will not.”

“I will too. Don’t argue. I should have warned you not to leave him alone.”

“Zach.”

“Delia.”

Then he’s kissing me, and I’m letting him.

I want to fall into his touch, want to let myself go under his spell.

But there is a cute little goat currently running around my apartment, and I need to focus on that before he eats everything in sight.

Pulling away, I sigh. “I don’t want to stop kissing you, but I also don’t want you to have to refurnish my entire apartment.”

“Oh crap.” He hurriedly grabs Marshmallow and puts him in his cage before he can do any more damage. “Take a nap, little buddy. I know you’re tired from that car ride.”

I point down at the coffee. “For me?”

“Yes. I brought you your favorite.”

“You’re too good to me.”

I grab the coffee and take a sip before reaching for the food again. This time I’m patient enough to rifle through the bag and separate the two orders of nuggets and fries.

“Thank you again. You have no idea how much I needed this.”

“It’s no problem. Besides, I kind of missed you.”

“You did?”

He steals a fry from my carton. “Yes.”

My toes tingle at his confession. I love the way he makes me feel so special with such a simple declaration.

We eat in silence for a few minutes, watching Marshmallow fight sleep.

“I can’t believe you brought him.”

“He wanted to meet you.”

“He’s so cute—way cuter in person than the photos.” I bump his shoulder with mine. “You are too.”

“You’re not too bad yourself.” He finishes off his last nugget, chews, and swallows. “So, what are you studying?”

I huff and throw myself back on the couch, amping up the drama. “Economics. That s**t is no joke. I don’t understand half of it.”

“I do.”

“You do not.”

He levels me with a stare. “Hi, owned my own business and sold it for way more than it was worth. I can help with economics.” He stands, extending his hand to me. “Come on, let’s get to work.”

With a heavy sigh, I allow him to pull me off the couch.

“What about Marshy?”

“He’s fine. He’ll make this weird noise when he wakes up, but he should be out for a couple hours.” Zach tugs on my hand. “Lead the way.”

I direct him down the hallway and to my room.

I do my best to push my dirty bras and random socks under the dresser and the bed, but I think he notices anyway.

His eyes roam over the small space. “This isn’t what I was expecting. It’s so…”

“White? I know, but we can’t paint. I mean, we can, but we only have like four shades of white to choose from. I guess since they have so many college kids coming through here, it’s easier to tell them they aren’t allowed to paint than deal with the hassle of it.”

“Smart on their part. I do like that you tried to dress it up with the teal.”

“Girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.”

He takes a seat on my messy bed, pulling the open econ book onto his lap. “This what you’re working on?”

I nod and take a seat next to him. “Unfortunately. Anything familiar to you?”

“Oh yeah. I can breeze you through this. I have a trick to remember all these names for everything.”

We make ourselves more comfortable on the bed, lying on our stomachs with the book propped up between us.

It feels like hours later, but what Zach’s explaining is finally starting to click. I’ve already worked through two of the example problems in the book, plus one Zach created.

With his help, I think I could ace the upcoming tests.

“What’s with all the studying anyway?” he asks during a coffee break.

“Our professor enjoys pop quizzes, and I have a feeling there’s one coming next week since he assigned a bunch of reading everyone groaned about. I also hear he likes to do a round of testing around Thanksgiving and since it’s not that far off, I figured I’d need to do well on these quizzes before then.”

“I knew I kept you around for something. You’re a smart cookie.”

“Dude, cookies sound so delicious right now.”

“Food-w***e,” he teases.

“Guilty.” I yawn. “I’m tired of studying. Let’s do something else.”

“We could have a naked pillow fight.”

“Something less pervy.”

“We could watch Hemlock Grove, you know, since you put it on a hiatus because you were getting creeped out.”

“Are you really even watching that s**t? It’s weird!”

“So weird and so good.”

I nod. “So good.”

I clap my hands together and roll off my bed, getting to my feet in one swift movement. “Okay, let’s do this. I’ll grab the popcorn—”

“Food-w***e.”

“—and you load Netflix and check on Marshy. Ready, break.”

“Wait, wait, wait. Are we allowed to snuggle during this Netflix marathon?”

“Hmm…I’ll allow it.”

“Naked snuggling?” he says, waggling his brows and stalking toward me.

I pat his chest. “Don’t push your luck, stud.”

“Well, well, well. What do we have here?”

The sudden flash of a bright light wakes me. Then the sudden loss of my pillow wakes me up even more.

Zach springs off the couch, ready for action.

“S**t, Zoe. I was about to karate chop your a*s,” I hear him say.

I peel my eyes open to find Zoe standing in the doorway, hands on her hips and a devious grin across her lips. Zach stands still, shoulders tense, and he’s ready to pounce.

“Nice boner, Zach.”

He falls back on the couch, pulling a pillow into his lap. Glancing down at me, he says, “Your friend is the worst.”

“I told you so.”

“And what exactly were you two doing? Huh?” Zoe pesters.

“Sleeping, hence the embarrassing boner reveal,” Zach answers.

“I’m with him. We must have crashed out.” I check the clock hanging by the front door. “Oh crap, we’ve been asleep for three hours. It’s after eleven now. Don’t you—”

“So sorry to interrupt, but is that a baby goat?” Zoe throws her purse down in the middle of the floor and squats in front of Marshmallow’s cage.

“That’s Marshmallow. You scrolled through our texts about him.”