“Call me Josh, please,” he said, leaning forward until she had no choice but to look at him. A mistake, as she knew it would be, because that handsome face of his should require some sort of license to carry. “May I call you Kenzie?”
She shrugged. “Normally only friends call me that, but I suppose since it’s on my sign…”
Well hopefully you’ll consider me a friend eventually. And yes, my sister has issues with comic books and what she calls ‘low-brow’ entertainment in general. As for girls like you…that’s my fault, I’m afraid. The women in my family are brought up to be smart, but to stay in their place. If they step outside the boundaries at all, they’re dealt with swiftly and harshly. The last time I brought a woman home who refused to respect what the family expected from women, they ate her alive – out of jealousy, I presume.”
Kenzie shook her head. “That doesn’t make any sense. They choose to put up with those constraints. It’s just…wrong, on so many levels.”
He bobbed his head noncommittally. “Technically, yes, it’s a choice. But presumably, you were raised in an environment where you were encouraged to make that choice. The women in my family – our social circle, really – are raised with the knowledge that if they step too far out of line, they’ll be ostracized from all their family and friends, and cut off from the life they know. If you think about it, it’s not an easy thing to just give all that up when you can find ways to play along and still remain in the life you’ve always known. And everyone does it, to some extent. I’ll bet even you respect some social or familial boundaries just to stay in your family’s good graces, don’t you?”
MacKenzie considered that as the car rolled to a stop outside the luxurious Fairchild mansion. The driver opened Josh’s door first, which annoyed her more than it should due to their current conversation. As she turned to get out, Josh was there, holding out a hand to help, and she took it, feeling a jolt of awareness at the touch of skin on skin.
Of course that’s why he got out first, she realized. To help the poor, helpless female who had to be kept in her place. The thought stuck with her like a grain of sand rubbing the wrong way as he crooked his arm and she took it naturally, as if she couldn’t walk herself up to the door.
“I can feel you thinking,” he whispered, grinning when she frowned up at him. “And maybe you are playing right into the same old outdated patriarchal moves that smart girls such as yourself should know to avoid. Or maybe…” he stopped, pulling her to the side of the door as another couple walked past and through the door, both giving them an inquisitive look as they went past.
“Maybe I just wanted you close,” he said, his penetrating stare making her weak in the knees. “Maybe I was using those social niceties to touch something forbidden, even if just for a few minutes.”
MacKenzie was speechless. She stared, trying to decide how to react if he wanted to strip off that mild-mannered-businessman persona and fly her off to his ice-caves or something. Would it make her a horrible sell-out to her gender if she did?
Did she even care?
A loud, irritating squeal sadly characteristic of said gender broke the spell, and they both turned to see Mandy flying toward them at top-speed. How she did that on four-inch heels was anyone’s guess, but MacKenzie braced for impact as her friend ran up and pulled her into a hug.
“You’re finally here! Say thank you to Josh so we can go – I have about a zillion men I want you to meet so we can make fun of them later, and the caterer made some canapés that are to die for, and Mom is having a fit that they aren’t the recipe she wanted. Thank God for that, since her recipe sucks.” Mandy wiggled her fingers and grinned at Josh, grabbed MacKenzie’s hand and pulled her through the door before MacKenzie could say anything at all.
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