Those Three Little Words
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I knocked up my best friend's sister.
Figured I would get straight to the point because how it happened is a mere snippet of the story I have to tell. The real meat and potatoes is what happened after.
Let's start with how she decided to inform me and Pacey the news . . . together. Imagine that nightmare. I was going into what I thought was a hockey marketing meeting and then BAM! I'm going to be a dad and my best friend/teammate is attempting to imprint my face with his fist.
It wasn't pretty.
Threats were tossed around, friendships were revoked, and then I was marched up to her apartment, suitcases in hand, and forced to live with her so I could take care of her every need. Given how much I've pined for the girl, you would think that wouldn't be a hardship. Wrong.
This is my one shot to win my teammate back. Pacey is the only family I've got, so hooking up with his sister isn't a mistake I can make twice . . . despite the fact that she's pregnant with my child.
But with every mood swing, every pair of pants that doesn't fit right, and every late night run to find the perfect donut, I'm finding it harder and harder not to fall for my best friend's little sister.
Especially when she kisses me...
Release date: April 5, 2022
Print pages: 558
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Those Three Little Words
I’m a fun guy.
Some might say . . . neat.
A solid, trustworthy good time.
If you’re looking to have an amusing night out, I’m your man.
Just good old-fashioned fun.
I learned from a young age that life is short, and you have to fucking enjoy every second of it. So my rule is to say yes.
Say yes to as much shit as you can.
Hornsby, want to go to the pub down the street and get wasted with the locals?
Hornsby, do you want to go skinny-dipping in the coach’s pool—when he’s home?
Hornsby, do you want to fly to Vegas on our day off and run up the poker tables?
That’s a hell yes.
Living in the moment, that’s my motto, and up until now, that motto has served me well. It has taken me places I never thought I’d go. It has presented me with opportunities I never thought I would have.
But . . . and that’s a big but, a huge one.
This time, my yes has come back to bite me in the ass.
You see, it all happened on my birthday. We had an off day, high from a big win against the Calgary Barnburners. It was Valentine’s Day—yes, I’m a Valentine’s baby—and we went to the best singles bar in the city that would be crawling with women.
The drinks were flowing.
The conversations were engaging.
And I was by no means calling it a night anytime soon.
That’s when she walked into the bar.
In a hot pink dress that clung to every inch of her curvy body, she styled her platinum-blonde hair into long, silky waves, and the lipstick staining her gorgeous lips matched the color of her dress. There was no doubt about it—she was a total smokeshow.
Every guy she came within a ten-foot radius paused what they were doing to give her a very blatant once-over.
Unmistakably the hottest girl in the bar.
And as she saddled up next to me, unaware of my presence, it felt like the music stopped as she gently placed her clutch on the bar top. Casually, she leaned toward the bartender, her manicured nails drumming along the wood top as she sweetly asked for a gimlet with two lime wedges.
I was entranced.
I was hooked.
I was stolen for the rest of the night.
My mind wanted one thing.
She had my attention, and no one would steal me away.
No one would stop me.
Because in all honesty, I’ve had my eye on her for a while, ever since I met her two years before.
And that night . . . it was my chance. All excuses, all restrictions, they were tossed to the curb as I laid down the best tool at my disposal to get her to talk to me: it was my birthday.
And fuck, did we have a night. I can still remember the way her dress slid off her body as I held her in my arms. I can still vividly recollect that her lips tasted of lime and danger. And I can still smell her intoxicating perfume floating around me as I drove into her, one pulse after the other until we both came at the same time. Multiple times.
It was one of the best nights of my entire life.
But it had to end because we agreed it would be a one-night thing. So that morning, she slipped away undetected, and we both went back to our daily routine. Eat, sleep, and breathe hockey.
Was it the best birthday present I could ask for?
Did she fulfill my every goddamn fantasy?
More than I could ever have imagined.
And if she came up to me and asked for more, would I oblige?
I would be hard pressed to say no.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a fairy-tale story of how my one-night stand turned into a romance for the ages, though.
Nope, that would be far too easy. This story, well . . . it exposes me as the man that I am. The man I feel to my very core. This is the story of how I wear the title “Ultimate Fuckup,” because not only did I accidentally get the girl in the hot pink dress pregnant . . .
But I broke bro code.
Because the girl in the hot pink dress is the sister of my teammate . . . and best friend.
TikTok Question: If you had a daughter or sister, which one of your teammates would you want her to stay away from?
Silas Taters: Ah, Hornsby for sure.
Halsey Holmes: Hornsby.
Levi Posey: Is that even a question? Hornsby.
Eli Hornsby: Are the guys saying me? Of course they are. *shakes head* Honestly, I’d probably say myself as well. Me or Taters.
Silas Taters: Hornsby said me? That fucker. Too much of a dick bag to say himself.
Pacey Lawes: Who do I want my sister to stay away from? All of them. They’re all idiots. They know they’re not allowed anywhere near her. But if I had to pick one person in particular? That’s easy. It would be Hornsby. There is no way in hell I’d ever allow him to even look at her in that way. Ever. And he knows that.
“Why are we going to this bar? You’re not even single,” I say to my best friend, Blakely, as I pull on the hem of my dress for the twentieth time since we climbed out of the Uber. The dress was cute on the hanger. It was cute on me when I stood still in front of the mirror. But now that I’m walking the streets of Vancouver, nothing about this dress is cute. It keeps riding higher and higher on my thighs. It would be the ultimate success if I skate away from this night without showing off my underwear.
“Yes, but Perry is out of town, and it’s fun being your wing-woman.”
“I didn’t even want to go out tonight,” I say. “It feels ridiculous to go out on Valentine’s Day as a single person.”
“It’s not ridiculous.” Blakely loops her arm through mine and pulls me in close to her side. A half a foot taller than me, Blakely is a five-foot-ten beauty with chestnut-brown hair, emerald-green eyes, and a smile that only falters when she’s been wronged. She’s my work wife, best friend, and skin-care expert who’s determined never to look a day over twenty-one. “The best time to go out is when you’re single because you can hook up with someone just looking to fill a void.”
“Ah, yes, because being someone’s void filler really screams good time,” I say sarcastically.
“Could be a good time if you allowed it to be. Don’t you think it’s time you start dating? You got the promotion you’ve worked so hard for, so it’s time you relax and have some fun.” She is right. I’ve worked my butt off for the past two years, and there have been many long days and few party-filled nights.
“I don’t need a man to have fun.”
“Facts,” Blakely says. “But getting out of your apartment is necessary. And I didn’t want to pull this card on you, but best friends have needs too, you know, and coming out with me tonight is a need.”
“Wow, you’re going there?”
“Of course, I am. I can’t have you grouchy tonight. We need to have fun. Can you do that? Have fun?”
I sigh dramatically. “I think I can manage such a thing.”
“Good. Now, when we enter the bar, I want nothing but good spirits from you. And if you just happen to meet a guy, so be it, but that won’t be our end goal. Our end goal is to just have fun, maybe do some dancing, and of course people-watch as they navigate this romantic night as singles.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I say as we reach the bar that Blakely has not stopped talking about.
According to her, on Valentine’s Day, the place is decked out in red with balloons, streamers, and singles ready to mingle. Not to mention appetizers are passed around by catering staff, the music is “fire,” and it’s an exclusive invite list, so not just anyone can join the party.
It sounded like fun when she told me, and now that I’m committed, short dress and all, I might as well enjoy the night. I started as an intern for the Vancouver Agitators and worked my way up to the in-house social media coordinator, specializing in TikTok. And I love my job so hard.
I get to hang out with professional hockey players and make them keep up with TikTok trends, troll fans on our social media accounts, and watch my brother play the sport we’re both in love with.
So I might as well celebrate, let loose, and have some fun.
When we reach the door to the bar, a very large and gruff-looking man holding a clipboard greets us. His brow is turned down, and as we draw closer, he slowly takes us in. “Name,” he says in a brusque tone.
“Blakely White and guest.” She bounces on her heels and smiles at me, clearly excited about our night out.
The bouncer looks through the names on his clipboard, and just when I think he can’t find my friend’s name, he makes a slashing mark across his paper and then steps aside while releasing a velvet rope.
“No smoking inside. Eat as much as you want. Have fun,” he says in such a monotone voice that I wonder how many times he’s said that already this evening.
Hand in hand, Blakely and I enter the bar, and I’m immediately struck by the hundreds of balloons pressed against the already low ceiling. Different colors of pink and red, the balloons are the main focus of the decorations, but they don’t deter the observing eye from the crepe streamers hanging from one end of the bar to the other and the glitter scattered all over the floor. The balloons alone would be a nightmare but attach the sweaty, dragged-around glitter from the floor, and that doesn’t scream good time to me.
But despite the nightmare craft pepper clinging to my shoes, the dimly lit atmosphere is filled with peppy music and brimming with boisterous laughter. Not to mention, some suits in here are catching my eye. This might be entertaining after all.
“Over here,” Blakely says as she moves us toward the back of the bar, past the drinks and appetizers being passed around, and through a throng of people. “I’m hoping some high-top tables back here are free that we can sit at.”
She weaves us through the crowd and around a corner to a much larger room where high-top tables with stools are scattered throughout the space, and the noise is a few octaves lower.
“Ooo, I see a table. Go grab us some drinks, and I’ll claim squatter’s rights.”
The bar is crowded, so I’m not surprised when I receive an elbow to the ribs and a bump to the shoulder on my way to get our drinks.
When I reach the bar, I lean on the slick black top and observe the liquor choices, debating what I should go with just as a female bartender steps up in front of me. “Killer dress,” she says.
“Aw, thank you.” I glance down at said dress and then back up at her. “It’s rolling up my thighs like that’s what it was made to do. Could not be more annoying.”
She winks at me. “My guess is, that dress will do you some favors. What can I get you, hon?”
Little does she know, I have zero interest in getting involved with anyone tonight. Maybe a little flirting, since there are some options here, but nothing serious.
“Uh, my friend always orders a Malibu Bay Breeze with a cherry, so I’ll get that for her, and I’ll have a gimlet with two lime wedges.”
“Coming right up,” the bartender says. She moves around, grabbing clean cups and plucking the correct liquor bottles while eyeing her pours. I’d never be able to bartend, trying to remember the intricacies of every drink ever mentioned while keeping the intoxicated patrons happy. Way too much for me.
“Gimlet, huh? Never would have pegged you as a gin drinker,” a husky, deep voice says, coming up to my side.
I know that voice.
I think almost everyone in Vancouver knows that voice.
Turning to my right, I come face to face with Eli Hornsby, the best defenseman in the game of hockey who just happens to play for the team I work for, the Agitators. But more importantly, he’s Mr. Prince Charming, the sexiest hockey player in the league, and the . . . horniest. He’s easily the most attractive player on the ice, a flirt, and the object of every hockey fan’s affection—even the men. He’s menacing with a stick in his hand but will captivate you with his charismatic smile—a smile that still contains all of his teeth. And of course, one of my brother’s best friends.
“Hornsby, wh-what are you doing here?” I ask, a hitch in my voice, because not a moment goes by when I’m not intimidated by this man and how insanely hot he is.
Also, I’m a little shocked to see him here. A singles bar on Valentine’s Day doesn’t really seem on brand for him. Then again, he is the biggest player on the team, so he might be out and about on his night off, trolling for someone to hook up with.
Now that seems on brand.
“Oh, you know, just celebrating the day I was born.” He leans against the bar and takes a sip of the beer in his hand. Casual, in control, and I’m sure aware of how good he looks in his navy three-piece suit.
I don’t know anyone, and I mean ANYONE, who wears a suit better than Eli Hornsby.
I’ve posted a few slow-motion videos of him walking into the arena, highlighting him as the best dressed on the team. His signature cigarette pants paired with no socks and dress shoes is what grabs everyone’s attention, not to mention the way he fills out his suit jacket, his biceps tugging on the fabric when he brings his to-go cup of coffee to his lips.
He’s a thirst trap I have no problem posting.
But now that said thirst trap is standing in front of me, staring into my eyes, I feel my nerves spike with the urge to either pet his chest or run to the toilet to throw up. Two very opposite reactions, but two very accurate ones.
As casually as possible, I place my hand on the bar and attempt to lean into the wood, mirroring his relaxed position. But where he is the quintessential poster child for how to act appropriately in social settings, I am praying to Cupid himself my dress doesn’t curl up like an old-fashioned window blind and slap me in the face while simultaneously flashing my underwear to the hot hockey player.
Oh God . . . what underwear did I put on today? Why can’t I remember such an imperative detail?
“Are you, uh . . . okay?” he asks, bending at the knees to look me directly in the eyes.
Oh crap, I haven’t said anything.
“Yes, fine. Just great.” I snap my fingers aggressively at him. “Oh, that’s right. Today is your birthday. I posted a TikTok about it.”
“Yes,” he says, eyeing me suspiciously. Probably trying to decide if he should be wary of approaching fingers of the snapping variety. “You posted a boomerang video of Posey slapping me in the ass with his hockey stick.”
I did. It was really funny. I chuckle to myself, a snort begging to be let out, but someone is looking out for me because I’m able to keep it together. “I thought it was a fitting tribute since the fans seem to enjoy your recent bromance.”
Levi Posey, the team’s bruiser. Large, bulky guy with the biggest heart of gold. He’s an absolute demon on the rink, but outside of the arena, he is as soft and gooey as they come. The most sensitive on the team, who has a penchant for bologna sandwiches and slapping Hornsby on the ass with his stick before the start of every game. It’s become a treasured tradition among the fans.
“We share one milkshake, and everyone thinks we’re practically engaged.” Eli rolls his eyes.
Ahhh, the milkshake. It was the most precious thing I’ve ever seen. Eli and Levi were at a Children’s Hospital event together, and they were given a milkshake with two straws. Locking eyes, they held the drink together, and each took a straw into their mouths. The show they put on was public relations gold. The media team has used it as much as they can. It was even a Top Ten on ESPN.
“It was damning. You are now forever connected at the hip.”
“Could be worse.” He grins. Ooof, that smile. My hand that’s not on the bar rattles by my side from one glint of his pearly whites. “I could have been caught sharing a milkshake with your brother.”
“Pacey would never share a milkshake with you,” I say, and before I can stop myself, I add, “He would claim you have some sort of infectious disease he doesn’t want to contract.”
Pacey, my brother, is the star goalie for the Vancouver Agitators. He’s the heart of the team and has some of the quickest reflexes in the league. Recently, like . . . a few months ago, he fell in love with a girl named Winnie who just happened to stumble into him during a rainstorm. Long story, but he was bewitched immediately. I don’t blame him because she’s all kinds of cute and fun. I love hanging out with her, and I’m hoping we’re going to hear wedding bells very soon. I’ve told Pacey many times that he needs to propose. He claims he has plans but is waiting for the right moment. My guess is after the season, when the guys go to Banff, Canada, for some relaxation, Pacey will propose. He’s a sentimental guy like that.
But hold on a second. My mind wanders back to what I just said. Uhh . . . did I just tell Hornsby—to his face—that he was diseased? Infectious. Not worthy of milkshake sharing? What on earth was I thinking? I’m pretty sure most of America would want to share a milkshake with him. I mean, I would share one. But here I am, acting like a toddler parroting their parents by repeating what Pacey has said to me.
“I’m not diseased.” Eli’s face scrunches up. “Your brother likes to make up lies so he has a chance to live up to my beauty,” Eli says, making direct eye contact with me and batting his eyelashes foolishly. “But for the record, I don’t have any diseases. I just want to clarify that.”
I hold up my hands. “Hey, what you do on your own time is your business.” But I know a lot of what he does on his own time involves women.
Many long nights.
And always short goodbyes.
The bartender sets my drinks down and then glances back and forth between Eli and me. She smirks and says, “Shall I put your drinks on the hockey star’s tab?”
Normally, I’d say no because I don’t like to blur the lines with work and my free time, but for some reason, and out of an attempt to match his teasing, I smile at Eli. “Yes, I’d love that.” Then I smirk at the bartender. “Thank you.”
She winks. “Of course.”
Well, now that I have boldly put my drinks on someone else’s tab, it’s time I take off before I sweat through this dress. I start to walk away when Eli steps in front of me, blocking my retreat.
“Uh, if I’m paying for your drink, the least you can do is talk to me a little longer. Don’t you think?”
Uh . . . talk with him longer. That would actually be the last thing I’d want to do. Why, you ask?
Because he intimidates me. Because coming out tonight was supposed to be fun, and even though Hornsby is a great guy, I just don’t feel super comfortable around him. This is going to sound really bad, I realize that, but he’s just too . . . pretty. I’m not in his league—not that he would ever be interested in me—but I like to keep my interactions with him to a minimum, especially since he’s a giant flirt. I don’t need my little romantic brain thinking that this overtly attractive alpha male is the least bit interested in seeing me naked. Nope, it’s better to let ourselves down easy and not even jump into that realm of thinking.
Therefore, we need to find his friends and scoot him over to their company, not mine. “Did you come here alone?”
“Posey came with me, but he took off within five minutes, claiming he had an upset stomach. Frankly, I think the whole singles bar thing really freaked him out.”
Now Posey is someone I could hang out with. Yes, he’s handsome, but he’s also slightly more down to earth. A sparkling glint doesn’t bounce off his teeth every time he smiles like it does with Hornsby.
“Aw, why? He’s so loveable. There’s potential for him to find a really nice girl.”
Hornsby’s brow creases. “He finds enough girls. That’s the problem. He doesn’t like all the attention.”
I give him a look of disbelief. “This coming from the biggest player on the team.”
His eyebrows shoot upward, nearly kissing his thick hairline. “You think I’m the biggest player?” He points at his chest, feigning shock. Is he kidding? I don’t think he’s the biggest player. I know he is. Everyone knows it. The team, the management, the fans. It’s no secret that Hornsby gets around. I asked Pacey once if Hornsby ever felt bad about going from girl to girl, and Pacey said no because he’s always upfront and honest with them. They know what they’re getting themselves into with him—one night and that’s it.
Call me crazy, but that kind of attitude—one night and that’s it—smells distinctively of universal player status.
And I’m ready to tell him that, to stamp him with my label, when his beautiful eyes short-circuit my brain, turning it into a pile of useless, wrinkly mush.
“Uh, ahem . . . I’d like to say . . . well, ooo, is it hot in here?” He shakes his head, smiling. “Yeah, didn’t think so, but as I was saying, I well, I heard, you know how everyone talks, that you are, uh, that you . . . well, that you are easily the biggest player on the team.” The drinks in my hands feel like they’re about to slip out of my grasp and crash to the floor as my palms sweat like they’re trudging through the depths of the Amazon.
Isn’t it obvious?
“Everyone.” I grimace.
He brings his drink to his lips, studying me the entire time, his uncaring disposition rolling off him carelessly. To have that much confidence, I couldn’t even imagine. “You shouldn’t listen to other people’s opinions.”
“Are you saying it’s not true?” I roll my teeth over the corner of my lip, and his eyes immediately fixate on the movement.
When his gaze connects with mine again, he says, “I’m saying it’s not currently true.”
Okay . . . good to know.
I honestly don’t know what to do with that or where to go from here. I just want to have a drink with my friend. So, to let him off the hook, I say, “I don’t know what you’re trying to prove, but you don’t need to prove anything with me. I’m not allowed to put players’ personal lives, as in hockey players, not the philandering kind of player that you have been described as tonight, on TikTok unless approved, so your extracurricular activities are safe with me.”
There, maybe he just wants some reassurance that his horny ways won’t be splashed all over an app accompanied by a trending snippet of music.
Although . . . it would make a good post . . . no, I’d never do that.
“Not trying to prove anything.” His eyes travel down my body and then all the way back up, his gaze feeling like an infrared light examining me for any inconsistencies. Trust me, he doesn’t need a special laser sight to spot them. With a step closer, he says, “Just looking for some company. Are you really going to make me spend my birthday alone?”
Well, isn’t that just a kick to my flimsy escape plan?
Blue-green eyes lock with mine as I take in his beautiful face. He’s so disgustingly proportionate. From his lips to his nose to the strong, angular curve in his jaw, he’s perfect. Actually freaking perfect. Pair that with his towering height, broad, muscular shoulders, his athletic prowess, and his charming disposition and he’s a tough one to say no to.
“It’s not my fault you chose the wrong person to spend your birthday with,” I say, attempting to figure out why on earth he’d want to spend the night in my company.
I’m no one in his world. Sure, I can make a mean quesadilla, and if you were to ask me what season of New Girl a certain episode is from, I’d be able to answer you. And not to toot my own horn, but this girl knows how to sew a button, a lost skill among the ages. But other than that, there’s nothing special over here, at least nothing of Hornsby’s caliber.
“True, but I’m choosing you now. Are you really going to turn me down?”
Uhhh . . .
I’m trying to, but failing magnificently.
I’d like to state it’s not my fault. Just look at him. I’d love to see any one of you say no to him. Go ahead, give it a shot.
Yeah . . . that’s what I thought. Impossible.
Goodbye girls’ night.
I had plans, you know, of talking to Blakely about my latest waxing experience—which was a nightmare—and asking her what she thinks of that period underwear you see advertised all over the place. Oh . . . and how I spent two hours the other night watching this beautiful Turkish baker plow her fist into proofed bread dough over and over again.
That is not the kind of conversation that should be had in front of a man like Eli. Nor should he obtain humiliating information like that about me.
Also, I’m not sure he would have a valuable opinion on period underwear.
But it seems Hornsby has other plans, and honestly, I’m not a beast. I can’t just leave someone on their birthday . . . alone. So it seems this duo of Blakely and me has become a trio.
“Turn you down?” I glance to the side, spotting Blakely buried in her phone. I swallow hard. “I guess I’m not.”
A full-on, mind-melting, panty-splitting smile spreads across his face, and that one look, full of flirtatious promises, makes my legs quiver. Pulse. Possibly spread if I wasn’t standing.
I have no intentions of ever hooking up with Hornsby or any one of Pacey’s teammates for that matter, but he’s chosen me to be his bestie tonight, so that’s that.
Without another word, he wraps his arm around my shoulders, and together, we head toward Blakely, who looks up from her phone just in time to catch us walking together.
I’ve seen that grin before.
That grin doesn’t look promising for me.
The gears are grinding in her mind . . . her evil, evil mind.
When I set her drink on the table, I can tell I’m not going to like what comes out of her mouth next, and that drink will most likely be consumed by me, not her.
“Eli Hornsby, isn’t it your birthday?” she says, the ease in her voice making me envious. She’s always had an easy time talking to the players, whereas I nervously sweat in the corner and respond to their questions with weird grunting noises until I warm up. You would think being around hockey players my entire life would have prepared me not to be a nervous wreck, but that is not reality. At least not when it comes to Hornsby.
“It is my birthday.” He sets his drink on the small, circular table.
“Well, Happy Birthday,” she says. “And I hate to do this because celebrating your birthday seems like a lot of fun . . .”
Uhh, hate to do what?
Why is she standing from her chair?
Why isn’t she lifting her drink to take a sip?
Why the hell is she putting her purse strap over her shoulder?
“But Perry called, and he came home early to surprise me. I’d love to see where this night takes us, but my Valentine is requesting my presence.” She pouts her lip, but it falls flat on me.
I don’t believe her.
Not even for a second.
“You’re just going to leave?” I ask her, panic laced in my voice. I give her a look, the best friend look that says, “Please, Jesus, don’t leave me alone with him,” but because she’s the evil wench that she is, she deliberately doesn’t translate my plea.
“Yes, but you have Hornsby here to keep you company and possibly be your wingman.”
“Wingman?” Hornsby says. “Are you looking to hook up with someone, Penny?”
“What? No!” My cheeks flame with embarrassment. “No, I didn’t even want to come out tonight, but Blakely convinced me. I was fine with just hanging out at my place and eating a gallon of ice cream . . . errrr, I mean pint, a pint of ice cream.”
*Whispers* I actually meant what I said. A gallon. A full-on gallon of creamy, delicious milkiness. Possibly even with some sprinkles or chocolate fudge. Definitely cherries.
But of course I’m not going to admit that in front of Mr. Rock-Hard Body.
“She needed to get out. She hasn’t even celebrated her promotion yet,” Blakely says.
“You haven’t?” Hornsby asks. “Well then, it looks like we’re going to be ordering another round.” He turns his attention to Blakely. “Don’t worry, I’ve got your girl. I’ll make sure she has the best evening of her life.”
To my horror, Blakely winks. “I’m hoping you do.” She then leans into me and gives me a hug while whispering, “Please end up in his bed tonight and tell me all about it after.”
“Are you insane?” I say through gritted teeth just as she pulls away.
“I’ll miss you too, but we’ll catch up at work.” She boops my nose with her finger. “Love you.” And then she turns to Hornsby. “Take good care of my girl.”
“I will,” he answers as he lifts his glass toward her. And then, before I know what the hell just happened, I’m left alone with Eli Hornsby, sharing an intimate table in the back of the bar while romantic music plays above us. “Take a seat, stay a while,” he says, pushing out a stool for me with his wing-tipped covered foot.
Wow, just wow. I can’t believe Blakely did that.
And to my demise, there’s not much I can do. I’m not strong enough to set my drink down and walk away without a word. I have to see the man at work, for goodness’ sake. My only out was Blakely, and my ex-best friend just left me.
I have no choice.
Succumbing to the trickery, I take a seat and then bring my drink to my lips. Blakely is going to get an earful from me tomorrow. Best friend card positively revoked. She will need to earn that back with lots of presents. Pretty, glittery presents . . . and cash. Yes, I will require cold-hard cash from her to even get back in my good graces. She will need to fan the cash in my face while telling me why I am all sorts of accomplished in button sewing. The price you pay for leaving me.
At least fifty dollars . . . in ones, just to make it annoying.
Maybe ten dollars in quarters.
Five dollars in nickels.
All placed in a jar that is labeled “I’m sorry” with a heart on it. Said jar should be presented to me while she hands me my favorite coffee drink—skinny vanilla latte—a new glittery notebook, and a matching pen. Yup, that will be her penance. Even with that, she’ll still be on probation. I’ll just consider letting her talk to me.
“Hey, are you okay? Are you really that angry?” Eli asks, pulling me from my thoughts of murderous ways to get Blakely back. “Because you seem like you’re ready to fist-punch that drink across the room.”
I stare at Blakely’s drink, considering doing exactly that. A swift punch of it across the room feels satisfactory.
“Irritated,” I answer.
“Irritated because you’re left with me for the night or irritated because your friend is the one who dragged you out tonight and then ditched you?”
“Both,” I say before I can stop myself. “I mean . . . the last one, not both. I don’t mind being here with you. You’re . . . fine and all.”
“Fine and all?” Eli says, looking insulted. “Just fine? You know a lot of people would feel excited to share a drink with me.”
“Yes, of course. All of the people. Including me,” I say, backtracking. “Very excited.” I tap my drink to his. “Cheers to being excited about spending the night together.” I take a sip as a smile passes over his lips. “Wait, I didn’t mean spending the night together like that, you know, like the way you like to spend the night with women . . . naked. I just meant mutually together in a nonsexual way. Strictly platonic. We don’t have sex. That’s not something we do. We barely talk, so sex is definitely not something we do.”
Jesus, Penny, stop talking.
I take a large gulp of my drink.
But then . . . I keep going.
“Not that it would be bad sex,” I continue for God knows what reason. The nerves, and that three-piece suit—and the no socks, his ankles seem so dreamy—the combination is shaking me to my very core. “I’m pretty good at sex—at least that’s what I convince myself of. I mean, probably not as good as you because it seems like you get a lot of practice in, if that’s what you want to call it. I’ve had a few partners, one long term, and he was pretty good. We enjoyed sharing a little romp, you know.” I elbow him as he just stares at me, his expression full of humor. “Anyway . . .” I blow out a long breath. “You’re probably wishing you walked away with Blakely.”
“No.” He continues to grin. “This is right where I want to be. You are more than entertaining.”
“I’m babbling. That’s what happens when I’m nervous. I babble. And oh God, I can’t believe I just told you that I’m nervous. Not that talking to you about my sex life is better. I just wish that you would stop me from talking so I don’t keep going on and on like this.” When he doesn’t say anything and instead takes a sip from his beer, I say, “Please say something, anything. Put me out of my misery.”
He chuckles, a deep throaty sound that vibrates through my bones. “Why would I want to do that when clearly this is the best company I’ve had in years?”
“Because you’re cruel.”
“Nah, I just like seeing you squirm, which makes me ask, why the hell are you nervous?”
Yeah, why are you nervous, Penny?
Oh, I don’t know, maybe because he’s a six-foot-four piece of studliness, and I’m not used to being this close to perfection. Maybe because Blakely wants me to bed this man, and now that’s all I can think about. Maybe because I wasn’t planning on being on my best behavior tonight, but here I am, trying to be professional . . . ehhh, professional would not be the correct term, especially after the sex talk.
“I don’t know,” I say instead. “Are you nervous?”
“No, why would I be nervous?”
“Uh . . . the pressure of Valentine’s Day?” I shrug.
“Never celebrate it, you know, because I’m always celebrating my birthday.”
“Right . . . right.” I glance at my drink. “You know, I think I’m going to need another one of these.”
“Then drink up.” He winks, and I swear my uterus flutters.
What on earth is happening to me? Is it because it’s Valentine’s Day, and the added romance in the air is playing with my head? Because I’ve had one-on-one’s with Eli before. Granted, they’ve been quick, and I had a task, but still, I didn’t stumble around like I am now.
Not to mention, when I’d look him in the eyes while working, he never studied my lips or grinned the way he is now, nor did he ever give me a once-over.
So what’s so different about tonight?
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