What goes up must come down, right? That’s a scientific truth, but it doesn’t apply to my erection when Nova’s around.
I cleared my throat, painfully aware of my erection and praying Nova wouldn’t notice. With her hand on my arm, I just couldn’t help getting turned on. She makes me feel every inch the tongue-tied geek who needs to hold a textbook in front of his crotch while walking.
“Anytime,” I say in answer to Nova telling me she’ll never forget what I did. “I mean … I hope there’s never another time you’re in a situation like that, but anytime you need help I’d be glad to help you.”
She smiled sweetly, her hand still on my arm.
“You remind me of one of my favorite anime characters,” she said.
Wait a minute. Did she just say …? This woman just kept getting hotter.
“Me? You like anime?”
Her grin widened and her eyes sparkled. “I love it.”
“So do I. Which character do I remind you of?”
“Takuma Ichijo. I mean, you remind me of him in looks.”
She was blushing a little, which put me at ease. I felt like my face had been burning since the moment I laid eyes on her earlier tonight.
“Vampire Knight,” I said, nodding.
We launch into a conversation about anime, and I’m impressed by how much Nova knows. She’s a really big fan. I never would’ve thought such a beautiful woman would have common interests with a dork like me.
It got late, and players started leaving the restaurant. When I asked for the bill for Nova and I, I found out Wes paid it, which was nice of him.
“Don’t be a stranger,” Ben said to me before he left the restaurant with his wife.
Then they both hugged me, and Nova too, and Ben said, “You’re one of us now, Seth. We may need our mascot to start traveling with us.”
I knew from his grin he was kidding about that part, but I was starting to feel like the Mavericks players were my friends, which I never imagined when I got hired to dress up as Ricky the Raven.
“Sorry about my dad wanting to have a beer with you,” Nova said as I drove her home. “Hopefully he won’t be as weird as he was in front of Rosa tonight.”
“Was it me or were they flirting?”
She cringed and then laughed. “I got that vibe, too.” Pointing to the right, she said, “This is our exit.”
It took almost half an hour to get to the small trailer park Nova had been directing me to.
“You can just let me off here,” she said as I pulled into the park. “I’ll walk the rest of the way.”
“I don’t mind driving you.”
She waved a hand. “Seriously, just right here is fine.”
I wondered if she was self-conscious about where she lived. The place was nothing fancy, but I wasn’t the kind of person who cared about any of that.
“There’s no way I’m not taking you right to your front door,” I said. “After what happened to you … it’s really got me thinking. I suggested to the professor I’m a TA for that we need a system for female students who want an escort back to their dorm or car after a night class.”
“You did?” She smiled and then reached over and squeezed my hand. “Thanks for that. It makes me feel like … I don’t know, maybe something good can come out of a bad situation.”
My cheeks flamed from the tent pole in my crotch. At least it was dark and she hopefully couldn’t see. I just couldn’t help getting hard when she touched me. I was more than halfway to becoming the 40-Year-Old virgin, and I wasn’t used to any woman touching me, let alone one as beautiful as Nova.
“Left here and then take the right immediately after,” she said.
I followed her instructions.
“It’s the one right … there.” She pointed at a worn double wide mobile home that had the neatest-kept yard in the park.
“I like all the big trees here,” I said. “You must get lots of shade.”
“We do. One of my favorite things to do in the summer is sit underneath that big tree in the back and read.”
“What’d your favorite book ever?” I asked, putting the car in park.
I didn’t want this night to end. I was prepared to ask her about everything from her favorite book to her favorite breakfast cereal if it gave me a little more time with her.
She looked at me, her mouth open in surprise.
“You mean … one? One book? I can’t possibly pick just one. I could maybe put together a top 100 list.”
“Okay, not your favorite book then, just a recommendation. Tell me the name of one book I should read.”
She didn’t hesitate before saying, “Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.”
“I’ll look for it in the school library.”
“It’s amazing.” She tucked her hair behind her ear and said, “Also I need to give you my number.”
“You do?” My voice cracked like a pubescent kid’s as I said it, and I was mortified.
“Remember? My dad wants to take you out for a beer.”
Pushing my glasses up, I said, “Oh, right.”
“Also, how are you going to ask me out if you don’t have my number?” She grinned at me.
“I … what? You want to go out with me?”
“I’d love to.”
My question was hypothetical, but she answered it and…
“We’re going on a date?” I asked, careful to keep my voice even. “An actual date?”
“I hope so. Tell me your number and I’ll send you mine.”
Be cool, Seth. Don’t make yourself look like an idiot.
I recited my number and my phone’s text alert—a guy saying, “Eureka!”—sounded.
“I hope you still want to go out with me after my dad takes you out for a beer,” she said.
She smiled and opened the car door. “Good. I’ll talk to you soon, Seth.”
Wasn’t I supposed to open her door for her? I unbuckled my seat belt and scrambled out of the car, but by the time I got over to her, she was already halfway up to her front door. She gave me a puzzled look.
“I thought I’d walk you,” I said. “To the door, I mean. If that’s okay?”
“That’s great.” She gave me one of those smiles that made me feel like I was about to melt.
Nova dug around in her bag for a key ring, with just a single bulb from the front porch for light. I took my phone out of my pocket and shined the flashlight to give her more.
“Thanks,” she said, finding the keys, unlocking the door, and opening it.
“Okay.” I waved. “Have a good night, Nova.”
“You too. See you soon, Seth.”
After she closed the door behind her, I practically floated back to my car. I couldn’t believe I had just asked Nova out, and that she’d said yes. Once I was out of her neighborhood, I gripped the steering wheel and let out a primal yell.
I had a date. A date with the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on. She also happened to be the coolest, sweetest woman I’d ever met.
Somehow, I still had to teach classes and work on my research when the weekend ended. How, though? I wouldn’t be able to think about anything but Nova.
“I saw you looking at my daughter the other night,” Duke said from the barstool next to mine five nights later.
It was five nights after the game I’d met Nova, Duke, and Rosa at. Duke had texted me the day after asking if I could meet up for a beer Thursday evening at a little tavern not far from him and Nova’s home. And here I was, nervous as hell as I nursed the bottle of beer in front of me.
“No, sir,” I answered quickly. “I mean, I looked at her, because it’s rude not to make eye contact when someone’s talking to you, but I wasn’t, I mean…not in a leering sort of way.”
“Relax, kid.” Duke smiled and wrinkles appeared in the corners of his eyes. “I’m glad you’ve got eyes for Nova.”
This felt like a trap. If I admitted to Duke that I thought his daughter was attractive, he might shove me off the stool and try to fight me.
“I mean, she’s obviously a great woman,” I said hesitantly. “We like a lot of the same things and work at the same place.”
Duke’s expression turned serious. “Look, Seth. If you want to date Nova, you’ve got my blessing. I expect you to pick her up for dates, bring her back home, and pick up the check. If all you can afford is a sandwich and a walk in the park, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. But here’s one thing I won’t compromise on—you’d better see my daughter for the kind, hard-working, honest, and beautiful soul she is. She’s special. And if she doesn’t light you up from the inside out, you’re not good enough for her. Do you get my drift?”
“The Duke!” a burly man in a Harley shirt booms out, walking over.
“Hey, Johnny boy,” Duke said. “What’s new?”
Johnny shrugs. “Just getting in a little peace before I go home to the old lady. How ‘bout you, man?”
“Spending some time with my new friend Seth,” Duke said, gesturing at me.
“Hey, Seth, nice to meet you,” Johnny said, clapping me on the back. “You keep an eye on this guy, okay?”
I laughed along with the two of them, still feeling like there was about a twenty percent chance things could turn and I’d get my ass kicked. Once Johnny was gone, I took another sip of my beer and turned to Duke.
“Sir, Nova is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. She’s also clever and sweet. She’s smart and just as beautiful on the inside as out. I can hardly even breathe when I’m around her. I never would have thought she’d accept a date with a nerd like me. She was the one who kind of asked me out, I guess.”
Duke grinned, drained his bottle, and said, “You can date my daughter, Seth. And stop calling me sir.”
“Yes, sir. I mean, Duke. Yes, Duke.”
He tipped his bottle into the air and shook it, the bartender looking our way.
“Another round, Pete,” he said.
I picked up my bottle and took another swig, not sure how I’d drink two beers when I wasn’t even halfway finished with the first.