From the Author
K Smooth, she now realized, had not been adequately captured by the Newsweek feature. Maybe she'd have a story after all.
Riley glanced around and for the first time realized how late it was. Almost all the other patrons had left.
"They won't ask us to leave," Shawn assured her, leaning over the table and lowering his voice. "Even if we stay till four in the morning."
"That must be nice," she said. "Knowing that the world will bend to your will just because you're famous."
"I don't know about 'the world'," Shawn said. "A few restaurants in Manhattan maybe."
Riley laughed. "All the same, I should go. Thank you for this, for talking to me on such short notice."
"Don't get all businesslike on me now. Let's get some coffee or something. I think there's a Starbucks a few blocks over."
Riley hesitated for only a moment. "Okay."
Shawn took care of the bill, and tipped everyone, even taking a minute to thank the chef before they walked out into the night. His stride was slow and he walked close enough to her that their fingers occasionally brushed. He smelled like clean, fresh soap. In the air between them was something heavy and unspoken. Riley could see her breath in front of her as they walked and it was cold enough for her to want to shove her hands deep in the pockets of her coat, but she didn't.
A couple walking in the opposite direction with a cocker spaniel on a leash recognized him and with saucer eyes, stopped dead in their tracks. Shawn deftly avoided looking in their direction, pretending to find something interesting in a store window.
"Very good," she laughed, when they were out of earshot. "Nice pass interference."
"Pass interference is was what you were supposed to do," Shawn said. "But you just left me wide open. I'll show you how this works. Next time, you block me like this."
He came closer, so close his chest was almost pressed against her and she had to look up to see his face.
"How was I supposed to know?" she said, trying to slow her breathing. "Some celebrities love talking to their fans."
Shawn grimaced. "Celebrity." He hunched his shoulders as though the very sound of the word made him cringe. "All I do is make rhymes. I don't know anything about being a celebrity."
"Yeah, yeah. How about all the free drinks, the big banner with your name on it in the club? And all those women fawning over you. Looked like celebrity treatment to me."
"A'ight, you got me there. But that's all external stuff that gets projected on me by other people. Doesn't have anything to do with me - Shawn Gardner - the regular guy."
"Do your other interviewers fall for that? That's a really nice line. In fact, it sounds like you've used it before."
He looked down at her, trying to muster a straight face, but before he could get a word out they both dissolved into laughter.
"You like that?" he said as they started walking again. "Brendan made that one up. I thought it had a nice ring to it . . ."
"Oh it does. So now I know what Brendan thinks about you being a celebrity," Riley said. "But what about you?"
"What I think is that . . . it's cool being me."
"Thank you," Riley said. "A little honesty."
"Here's some more honesty for you," he said, his voice different. "I don't even like coffee. I just don't want you to go."