I looked up into his deep gold eyes, became befuddled, and, as usual, blurted out the truth.
“I’m trying to figure out what you are.”
His jaw tightened, but he kept his smile in place with some effort.
“Are you having any luck with that?” he asked in an offhand tone.
“Not too much,” I admitted.
He chuckled. “What are your theories?”
I blushed. I had been vacillating during the last month between Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker. There was no way I was going to own up to that.
“Won’t you tell me?” he asked, tilting his head to one side with a shockingly tempting smile.
I shook my head. “Too embarrassing.”
“That’s really frustrating, you know,” he complained.
“No,” I disagreed quickly, my eyes narrowing, “I can’t imagine why that would be frustrating at all – just because someone refuses to tell you what they’re thinking, even if all the while they’re making cryptic little remarks specifically designed to keep you up at night wondering what they could possibly mean… now, why would that be frustrating?”
“Or better,” I continued, the pent-up annoyance flowing freely now, “say that person also did a wide range of bizarre things – from saving your life under impossible circumstances one day to treating you like a pariah the next, and he never explained any of that, either, even after he promised. That, also, would be very non-frustrating.”
“You’ve got a bit of a temper, don’t you?”
“I don’t like double standards.”
We stared at each other, unsmiling.
He glanced over my shoulder, and then, unexpectedly, he snickered.
“Your boyfriend seems to think I’m being unpleasant to you – he’s
debating whether or not to come break up our fight.” He snickered again.
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” I said frostily. “But I’m sure you’re wrong, anyway.”
“I’m not. I told you, most people are easy to read.”
“Except me, of course.”
“Yes. Except for you.” His mood shifted suddenly; his eyes turned brooding. “I wonder why that is.”
I had to look away from the intensity of his stare. I concentrated on unscrewing the lid of my lemonade. I took a swig, staring at the table without seeing it.
“Aren’t you hungry?” he asked, distracted.
“No.” I didn’t feel like mentioning that my stomach was already full – of butterflies. “You?” I looked at the empty table in front of him.
“No, I’m not hungry.” I didn’t understand his expression – it looked like he was enjoying some private joke.
“Can you do me a favor?” I asked after a second of hesitation. He was suddenly wary. “That depends on what you want.”
“It’s not much,” I assured him. He waited, guarded but curious.
“I just wondered… if you could warn me beforehand the next time you decide to ignore me for my own good. Just so I’m prepared.” I looked at the lemonade bottle as I spoke, tracing the circle of the opening with my pinkie finger.
“That sounds fair.” He was pressing his lips together to keep from laughing when I looked up.
“Then can I have one answer in return?” he demanded.
“Tell me one theory.” Whoops. “Not that one.”
“You didn’t qualify, you just promised one answer,” he reminded me.
“And you’ve broken promises yourself,” I reminded him back.
“Just one theory – I won’t laugh.”
“Yes, you will.” I was positive about that.
He looked down, and then glanced up at me through his long black lashes, his ocher eyes scorching.
“Please?” he breathed, leaning toward me.
I blinked, my mind going blank.