You’re a bastard. A bastard who had no business manipulating Georgie’s social life. God, though. There was something about her on a date that didn’t sit right. He couldn’t explain it.
Oh no? His body’s reaction to Georgie’s ass in that skirt as she climbed the stairs was a pretty fucking effective explanation, now wasn’t it? There was no sense pretending he wasn’t hoping and praying for that seam running down the middle of her ass cheeks to rip. Fine. Georgie Castle was hot. With a side of cute. An ass built to curve against his lap . . . and freckles. If that combo wasn’t a mind fuck, he didn’t know what was. Where did she learn to walk like that? Or was she walking the same as usual and he was just noticing every tick-tock of her hips, every curve of her thighs and calves?
When they reached the top of the stairs, Travis withdrew the house keys from his pocket and searched for a way to take his mind off Georgie’s butt. “So. A sea salt caramel mocha is the female version of an icebreaker?”
“Rosie, Beth, and I usually kick things off with tequila, but a mocha will do in a pinch.”
Travis slipped his key into the door and nudged it open, gesturing for Georgie to precede him. “Kick things off. Like what?”
“Oh, we’re moonlighting as vigilantes now.”
“Are you?” Travis followed after her, trying to see the apartment through her eyes. He wasn’t lying when he said he’d kept it clean and organized, almost nervous she’d show up and be disappointed. Now, she turned in a circle and gave him a thumbs-up, causing a ripple of satisfaction to pass through him. Damn, he liked seeing her happy with him, especially after the fireplace shit show. He could only grunt in reply, however. “I hope you haven’t been fighting crime at night in your clown costume, because that’s just scary.”
“You say ‘scary,’ I say ‘effective.’”
She went to his freezer and started wrapping ice in a dish towel. Taking care of him in a way he’d always had to do for himself. In a way he’d always wanted to do for himself, abhorring the thought of depending on another person. Why didn’t he mind when Georgie did these things?
“Anyway, clowns aren’t scary. We live to make people laugh.”
“You’re right,” he said hoarsely. “You could never be scary.”
“How do you know?” She twisted the ice-filled towel, approached him, and carefully laid it on his shoulder, causing something to stick in his throat. “You’ve never seen me perform.”
“I don’t need to watch your act to know you can’t pull off scary. You’re nothing but a sweetheart.”
Georgie’s breath hitched at his unplanned words. “Are you forgetting my lo mein fastball?” she murmured. “I’m not sweet.”
Ignoring a mental warning to stop flirting with Georgie—right now—Travis tipped his head toward the makeshift ice pack. “Sure about that?”
She let the ice pack go as if it had bitten her, forcing Travis to catch it with his good arm.
“Okay, I’m going to take off.” She stepped back with an unconvincing smirk, but Travis could still make out the concern in her eyes as she scrutinized his shoulder. “Make sure to ice on and—”
Panic caught him off guard. Over her leaving? A week ago, he couldn’t get rid of her; now she was going to put burn marks on the floor running away. “Hold on. I want to hear more about this club.”
“You do?” Visibly gathering her words, Georgie rubbed her hands down the sides of her skirt. “It’s . . . a fight club,” she said.
“We’re starting our own line of organic hand sanitizer.”
“Phone sex operators?”
“That’s not funny.” His chest was crowded by the urge to laugh for the first time in days. It seemed to be his permanent state around this girl. “Tell me. Or I’ll pay a visit to your mother and ask her to get it out of you.”
Her face transformed with feminine outrage. “That’s cold. You know we can’t lie to her.”
“And she could never say no to me.”
Georgie shook her head. “The old square-jawed smirk. It’s a one-two punch.” With an eye roll, she turned on a heel and stalked off down his hallway. “Where do you keep your Advil?”
“Nightstand. Bedroom.” Travis followed Georgie in that direction, hitting an invisible wall in the doorway to his bedroom. Leaning forward over his nightstand, Georgie’s shape took on a whole new meaning when silhouetted next to his bed. A wave of her hair fell off its perch on her shoulder, making her lips stand out against the dark backdrop. Last time she was in this room, he’d still considered her kind of a pest. Stephen’s sleepy little sister. Now? She’d become the sexy temptation in his bedroom at an alarming rate. That curve of her ass pressed to the skirt zipper, leaving nothing to his imagination. He wanted to drag that zipper down and find out what her butt felt like in his hands. Against his tongue. Wanted to learn the secrets of her body and pleasure more personal ones out of her mouth. And this definitely marked the first time in history he’d been eager to get inside the head of a woman.
“Here.” She straightened and offered him two Advil. “Take these. Promise you’ll call the doctor if it still hurts in the morning.”
He took the pills and tossed them back dry. “You’re not getting out of telling me.”
Georgie groaned up at the ceiling. “The Just Us League, okay? We started a club.”
Travis absorbed that. “You came up with the name, didn’t you? Clever.”
“Right?” She beamed up at him. “I thought so.”
“Seriously,” he rasped, a pill obviously having gotten stuck in his throat. Right? That had to be the reason he sounded like a wrench scraping on concrete. “I love it.”
They smiled at each other for a few seconds before Georgie shook herself. “We all have goals, you know?” Pink spread on her cheeks. “We’re just helping each other reach them.”
“What’s your goal?”
“Maybe I can help.”
She rolled her lips inward, leaving them twice as full when she freed them. Goddamn. “I want to expand my business from a one-woman operation to a full-fledged entertainment company. But first,” she rushed to add, before he could respond, “before any of that is realistic, I need people to stop treating me like a child. If my own family—this town—can’t take me seriously, I can’t expect . . . I can’t . . .”
Travis waited for Georgie to continue when she trailed off, but she seemed to be hypnotized by something over his shoulder. He raised an eyebrow. “You in there, baby girl?”
“I have a crazy idea,” she whispered. “‘Maybe you just need a different way to make them listen.’ Isn’t that what you told me?”
Yeah. He recalled the story he’d told her during their apartment cleaning session. He’d definitely said that. Apparently she’d taken it to heart. He didn’t know whether to be touched or regretful.
“You need the television network to believe you’ve gone family friendly. Travis, that’s me. I’m so disgustingly nonthreatening, I get noogies in the tampon aisle. Too much information, I know, but hear me out—”
“Georgie . . .” Caution crawled up his back. “Wherever this is going, it sounds like a no.”
“If you pretended to date me—”
She clapped a hand over his mouth. “Just long enough for the network to think you’re settling down and definitely not going to swagger out of Britney’s hotel room—again. What would it be? A couple of weeks? Tops?” Excitement made her eyes a bright sea-glass green and he couldn’t look away. “We’d be killing two birds with one stone. You get the commentator gig. My family—this whole town—would stop thinking of me as the pesky youngest Castle kid.”
Travis grasped her wrist, tugging her palm away from his mouth, surprised to find his pulse racing, his breathing unsteady. “Absolutely not.”
“Because, Georgie,” he blurted out. “Your stock will go too far in the opposite direction. You won’t get taken seriously. You’ll be labeled as another one of Travis Ford’s flings. People will be disappointed, thinking you had your head screwed on tighter than that.” He jabbed a finger at her. “You want to look like a grown-up? You will. One that makes bad decisions.”
“Wow,” she whispered. “You have a pretty low opinion of yourself, don’t you? Are you just worried about people thinking I’ve made a bad decision . . . or do you believe it?” Whatever she saw on his face made her eyes go soft. A little sad. “And here I thought you were cocky.”
He brought their faces close, listening to Georgie suck in a breath. “You don’t know a lot of things.”
“I could.” A beat passed. “You could tell me.”
With a concerted effort, Travis stepped away, swiping a frustrated hand along the back of his neck. When had this conversation gotten away from him? Suddenly this girl thought she could call him out? Attempt to examine him? No. Fuck that. He didn’t even have the nerve to examine himself. Bottom line, this ruse she’d proposed wasn’t happening. Not a chance.