Page 45 of Eight Dates

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“You don’t want me to?” Nova asked.

Ben met his gaze straight on. “What I want is to drag you up on this bar and suck your dick until you’re screaming. But I can’t do that, can I? Because you made this miserable rule we both hate about these damn dates.”

Nova’s hands clenched into fists like he was trying to stop himself from reaching for Ben. “It’s a story we can tell our grandkids.”

Ben’s heart throbbed in his chest. “You’re going to owe me an amazing night, do you hear me? Like, I’d better be swept off my feet and wooed into oblivion.”

“Whatever you think is going to happen, I’m going to make it even better than that,” Nova insisted. “I—oh, shit.”

Ben followed Nova’s gaze over his shoulder. He twisted his head, then frowned when he saw an older woman with short, dark curls peppered with streaks of grey. She was getting comfortable in the third empty chair at his table and reaching for the menu he hadn’t touched.

“You, uh…want to see what that’s about?” Nova asked. “Maybe he needs a rescue.”

Ben didn’t want to deal with it at all, but he nodded and turned on his heel, heading away from the one man he wanted to be with toward the other, who was starting to show the barest hint of crimson in his flag.

Levi smiled when he realized Ben was coming back, and he gestured toward Ben’s seat.

“Everything good?” Levi asked like it was totally normal to have some strange woman sitting with them.

Ben glanced at her and jumped a little with how hard she was staring. “Uh. Yes? What, um…what’s happening right now?”

“Oh,” Levi said, waving his hand dismissively, “she got stuck in traffic.”

Ben slowly sat, keeping to the edge of his seat in case he needed to flee. He was trying to work out what this was, but Levi was just smiling at him like this was normal. “Listen. I’m an open-minded person, and I’m a huge fan of people living their truths. I have a couple friends who are polyamorous, but it’s just not my thing, and—”

“Poly-what?” the woman asked on the edge of far too loud.

Ben swore he heard a choking laugh behind him, but he kept his gaze on Levi, who was beet red.

“I’m…she’s not my girlfriend. This is my mom,” Levi said, as though that somehow made things better. “Ruth.”

Ben blinked. “Your…mom.”

“Yes,” Levi said with a laugh. “I’m not into all that. Trust me.”

Ben licked his lips, then stared at Levi’s mom. “You’re his mom. And you’re here. On the date. With us.”

Ruth smiled, but it most definitely didn’t reach her eyes as she put her hand over Levi’s and held it. Which wasn’t the—no, yeah, itwasthe weirdest thing Ben had ever experienced. “It’s very nice to meet you, dear. Levi’s been going on and on about this date all week.”

Ben suddenly felt like he was in some sort of fever dream. This couldn’t be real, could it? People’s moms didn’t just go on blind dates with them. That wasn’t a thing. “Uh, it’s a pleasure, Ruth. I think?” Ben said. “I’m just a little confused why—”

“So,” Ruth went on like Ben wasn’t having a full-on crisis in front of her. “Levi says you’re a professor at the university?”

“Yes,” Ben said. The answer to that was so automatic he gave it without really thinking. “I work in humanities.”

Her face fell. “Well. That’s…lovely. Tenure?”

Ben cleared his throat again. “Uh. No?”

Her face fell a little more. “Oh. Well. Are you trying for it? It’s not that professors can’t make decent money, but if you really want to buy a house and start a family in the next two years—”

“Can we just pump the brakes for a second?” Ben said, holding up a hand. He glanced at Levi, who was sitting there like all of this was totally normal, and turned his attention to him. “Why is your mom here?”

Levi frowned. “Well, I told you she likes to play matchmaker, and it’s not like I’d marry a guy she didn’t approve of. This just seems easier than going through some long dating process only to break up six months down the road because you didn’t fit in with the family.”

Ben felt a damn near hysterical laugh bubbling up in his gut. “Right. So. The thing is…”

“Mr. Weiss?” The voice interrupting him wasn’t Nova’s, who was the only person Ben could tolerate right then.