There was no getting around it. The man sleeping on my couch was gorgeous, even if he thought so himself.
We’d stayed up late rehearsing, then walked Clarence to the park and back in the snow. It was pretty amusing watching him try to catch the fat snowflakes on his tongue as they fell. Aiden, not Clarence. Clarence was too cold to care, and Aiden was too drunk to realize how ridiculous he looked.
After we got back from our walk, Aiden continued drinking. It hadn’t taken much to convince him to stay, although convincing him that meant him sleeping on the couch hadn’t been as easy. It seemed few women said no to him, something he seemed to think should convince me to say yes as well.
Looking at him stretched out on Erika’s white linen sofa this morning in his boxers and T-shirt, his mouth open, his hair sticking up and the scruff lining his jawline thicker than it had been yesterday, I wouldn’t have minded waking up beside him. But Aiden could never be my boyfriend. There was an expiration date on his stay in New York. By this time next year, he wouldn’t even remember me.
I glanced at the clock. I’d been up for an hour. Had made coffee, drank it, and walked Clarence. Sleeping Beauty hadn’t budged, and I needed to shower and get ready to leave. It was Sunday, which meant schlepping back to Bensonhurst for dinner, a meal I usually helped cook. At this rate, I’d be lucky to get there in time to eat.
I perched on the edge of the coffee table and touched Aiden’s arm gently. Nothing. I gave him a little shake. Still nothing.
I shook him again. Damn, he was a heavy sleeper. I rose, stuck two fingers in my mouth, and whistled.
Aiden’s eyes flew open, his arms flailed, and he rolled onto the floor with a thud.
Clarence got to him first and began doggy CPR, which involved licking Aiden’s face. I lifted him off my houseguest, who was currently wedged between the sofa and the table, then moved the table and helped Aiden into a sitting position. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop laughing during the process. The poor guy looked as confused as I’d ever seen anyone look before.
“Are you all right?” I asked, biting the inside of my mouth. It was no use. A loud snort escaped.
“Jesus. You scared the shit out of me.”
“Obviously. I’m sorry.”
He attempted to glare at me but was about as successful as I’d been trying not to laugh.
I sat on the coffee table in front of him. “I can’t help it. It was funny.”
“I’ll bet.” He rubbed his elbow.
“Did you hurt yourself?” I was still snickering.
“Why don’t you pull yourself together? Maybe put some pants on, and I’ll go get you some coffee? I put on a fresh pot before I woke you.”
“Woke me?” He made a face. “Is that what you call that?”
I patted his shoulder as I stood. “Like you said, you’ll live.”
When I returned a few minutes later with his coffee, Aiden was sitting on the couch, looking less hungover than he probably felt. That was the trouble with good-looking people; you couldn’t trust how they were feeling.
While he began to caffeinate, I went back to the kitchen and returned with a glass of orange juice and a couple of ibuprofen.
“Here, take these.”
“I’m fine. All I need is coffee.”
I nudged him. “C’mon, if you don’t have a hangover yet, it’s probably because you’re still drunk. Why live dangerously?”
He took a last mouthful of coffee before taking the pills and draining his juice.
“What’s the plan for today?” he asked.
“I don’t know about you, but I need to shower and catch the train to Brooklyn for dinner with my family.”
He pondered what I’d said, and then shocked the hell out of me. “Can I come?”
No wonder he didn’t have any friends. He had no boundaries.
“Aren’t you sick of me by now?”
“Why would I be sick of you? I enjoy your company, and I’d love to meet your family. I practically know them.”
I snorted. “Hardly.”
“I mean it. We could even work on my script on the way.”
I almost replied that I already knew all my lines, but that probably wouldn’t go over well. Maybe if I was really his friend, I should talk him out of this acting thing. He had the looks for it, but he might want to rethink his long-term goals.
“I don’t know. My family is kind of . . . different. Probably not what you’re used to. Everyone is loud, and they all talk over each other. If you have a headache now, I promise you, by the time dinner is over, you’ll be looking for a way to end it all.”
“C’mon, Franky. It would mean a lot to me to meet your family. I’ll bring wine. Dessert. You name it. You can make believe I’m your boyfriend if you want.”
I drew back. Had he actually said that?
“What the hell makes you think I need a pretend boyfriend?”
He had the nerve to look affronted. “I was just offering. I thought in big families, someone was always asking when you were going to settle down or something. I wanted to help.”
“I don’t need that kind of help. Jeez. If and when I want a boyfriend, I’ll go out and get one. I don’t need you or anyone else to pretend.”
I stormed into my bedroom and slammed the door behind me.
“Listen,” Aiden said as the door opened and he strolled in as if he belonged there, with Clarence fast on his heels.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I shouted.
His arms were stretched out, palms up in supplication. “I’m sorry. Honestly. I think I’m still a little drunk.”
“You’re not drunk. You’re an idiot.”
He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me against his chest. As angry and upset as I was, the warmth of his body and the feel of his arms around me was unsettling—in a good way. My brain said to push him away. Hard. The rest of me was trying not to melt into a puddle on the bedroom floor. It had been a long time since anyone had held me like this.
“If you let me come with you, I’ll be on my best behavior, I promise. I won’t do anything to embarrass you.” His big paw slid down my arm. When he reached my hand, he wrapped his little finger around mine. “Pinky swear.”
I punched him in the chest with my free hand before a laugh burst free. “Fine. You can come. Now let me go so I can take a shower.”
“Thank you,” he said into the top of my head before releasing me. “Will we have time to stop at my place so I can shower and change?”
“If we hurry. The train takes at least forty-five minutes, and if we’re late, I’m telling Nonna it’s your fault.”
“We can hurry, but I’ll get a car so we don’t have to take a train. My treat.”
“It should be, since you’re the one making us late.”
I rooted through my dresser drawer, looking for a clean bra and panties. Aiden remained standing there, looking around my room like he was at some freaking museum.
“Do you mind?”
His cockeyed smile thawed the rest of me. He pointed toward the door. “Sorry. I’ll go drink coffee or something.”
“You do that.”
A small smile played at the edge of his lips. “Can I still go with you today?”
I tried hard not to smile, but he made that impossible. “Yes, Aiden. You can still come.”
His smile widened, and he cocked a finger in my direction. “Sweet. You better get moving, or we’re going to be late.”