It wasn’t as if she wasn’t trying. She really was! Charlie was doing all she could to concentrate and not make even more of a fool of herself than she already had.
But Royce was not helping!
What he should have done when he came in this morning was blush, stammer, and maintain a comfortable distance, drawing close only when they were both sure they wouldn’t explode with embarrassment. It was a reaction that, while not entirely true to Royce’s character, she felt she could handle in a moderately civil manner. But, naturally, that was not what was happening here. He grinned at her, he toyed and teased her, and now he had her tilted back and looking at nothing but his smiling face. He was… confident. Not annoyingly so, but…he was smiling more, being almost more playful than she had ever seen him before. Not that she was complaining at all- her inner voice, in fact, was rejoicing- but it was certainly different.
After he teased her about her death-by-meatball threat, she tried to think of a witty comeback to throw back at him, struggling for even a pathetically minor triumph in the wake of her embarrassing behavior. Unfortunately, her brain was having a little trouble working with her face being quite so close to his as it was.
“I would then poke you with the fork that was oh-so-cleverly hidden beneath the meatball," she mumbled. Forks were considerably more dangerous than meatballs, but it lacked the confident punch she was going for. He chuckled in response, and she found herself momentarily distracted by the way his eyes danced merrily as he looked down at her.
Confident wasn’t the right word, she realized.
This time, as she stared, Charlie paid more attention to what she was looking at. He wasn’t smirking, he was smiling. And his actions were a lot more… unreserved. Suddenly, she realized that almost every other time she had spent with him, he had been quite cautious and careful, always watching her carefully as if he were making sure he wasn’t crossing some invisible line. For the most part, she had chalked it up to his paranoia about Alexander Crown (which, to be honest, she was still curious about), but now she guessed she was witnessing for the first time a Royce without caution. Rather than confident, he looked…
That line of thought only made her blush, and she turned away before he could read anything in her eyes. But… still, she wanted to know…
“Um,” she began, trying hard not to look at him. After all, his face was very close, and with her other side battling for control, who knew what would happen. “So… you seem… kind of different today. Almost… happy?”