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Saved by the reporter.

What a weird thought.

“Of course,” I say, then Reese officially introduces her and we head a few paces away from the greenroom. There’s a woman in a hoodie with her, angled behind a tripod with a camera perched on top.

As Trish sets up next to the woman in the hoodie, Luke emerges from the greenroom, looking my way. Trish directs me on where to stand, and then it’s on.

With the camera rolling, the news host jumps right in, waggling her phone. “So, enquiring minds want to know—will this guy be bidding on you tonight?”

Does she know about the dare? Was she at Gin Joint?

Out of the corner of my eye, I steal a glance at Luke, who’s obviously listening in from several feet away. Looks like he’d be ready to pounce if he had to. Like he did with Finn when he learned about the slimeball’s tactics.

“Who do you mean, Trish?” I ask innocently, since I’m not going to give her a bone she hasn’t already dug up.

Her phone’s in her hand, so she spins it around to show me a social feed.

Jamie. Fucking Jamie.

He posted the selfie from the other night with the caption. Scored a date with Twenty-One and he is fine!

On the one hand, it’s a compliment. On the other, he’s a dick.

I want to roll my eyes, but the camera’s on me, so I keep my cool. Flashing a smile I don’t feel at Trish, I shake my head. “I don’t think so, Trish. He has some selfies to shoot tonight.”

Luke snort-laughs, then turns away.

But I still wish I knew what to expect from my friend tonight. I have zero idea if Luke will take Nate’s dare. Or if he’ll pretend Nate never threw it down.

I don’t know what I want him to do either.




I have one of the best seats in the house.

Reese likes the guys to sit in the front row, so it feels like we’re fully a part of the lineup.

Or maybe she likes it because we’re so loud. A bunch of guys who play sports for a living are not wired to be quiet when their buddies strut their wares onstage for the city to bid on.

I’m in front of Nate and Hunter. Jason McKay’s here too, with his fiancé, Beck. They’re rival quarterbacks in San Francisco and getting hitched after the All-Star game at the end of next week. I’ll be able to slide in and slide out of their nuptials, like Indiana Jones grabbing his hat.

Which is maybe a more fitting analogy than I’d like. But if the hat fits…

Before the auction starts, Jason leans forward, pats my shoulder. “Maybe you can find a date for my wedding here. You’d probably have to bid on him to go with you, but hey, it could work.”

I snap my fingers like I just remembered something. “That’s right. I forgot to get you a gift. Note to self: Order rush delivery on the giant two-headed dildo and send it to Jason McKay at the Hawks Stadium. Signature required.”

Beck snickers. “That’s a nice gift.”

Jason grumbles, “Yeah. I want that now.”

With a smug smile, I turn my focus to Luke as he takes the stage, greeting the crowd like the charmer he is, rolling into an opening monologue before he offers up the first prize. It’s his go-to guy on the Leopards—the team’s star receiver.

“Cruz Sanchez is one of my favorite targets. Let’s show them what the Leopards can do,” Luke says to the brawny receiver and the crowd.

It’s our cue to make some noise.

Jason hoots from behind me.

I holler.

Reese will be so damn happy.

Luke smiles, clearly appreciating the call-and-response. Soon, Cruz goes for a pretty penny.

When Luke introduces Cohen next, we whistle even louder, like construction workers. As the bidding escalates and a woman in expensive stilettos who looks to be twice his age wins him, I shout, “That’s how we do it on the Comets.”

Cohen dips his head and just grins. Bashfully.

Luke makes his way through the rest of the lineup, feigning annoyance when North Rhodes hits the stage. “This guy has two interceptions on me, so take him. Just take him off the stage now,” Luke says, pretending to shoo the guy who has his number on the field far, far away.

North just shrugs amiably. “You keep throwing them to me, I’ll keep picking ’em off.”

Luke growls, narrowing his brow, and my skin heats up.

What the hell?

That’s a weird reaction to a growl. Maybe I’m just feeling protective of my bud.

As Luke charms the audience with some jokes, I check the time on my watch, since I’m up soon.

Reese catches my eye from the wings, and nods to say it’s time. I’m the last guy, and it’s good to be the one to bring it home.

After a boisterous group of women wins North—dude is going to have his hands full on that date—I’m backstage, waiting, ready to go on after Luke finishes auctioning off Vargas.

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