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I scoff. “You wish, Remington.”

“Yes, that’s my wish. I’ll be wishing that you’d finally come knocking on my door with your crowbar to help me out of my clothes. Then, I could shut you up with my…crowbar,” he taunts, gesturing to his pelvis.

Whoa. That is a very specific retort, and I wasn’t expecting it. I’m not usually surprised off the baseball field, but I’m knocked out of the zone now, entertaining images I shouldn’t, just like I did that time at Rapture.

Maybe I’m quiet too long since Luke flashes me his widest grin, then says, “Guess I won.”

I blink, trying to clear my head. “What were we even playing?” I ask, since I’m still trying to eradicate thoughts of…tools.

“The game we always play,” he says as he claps my shoulder, gripping me hard. Borderline rough. And that doesn’t help slow the onslaught of images either. “Besting my bud.”

And…I needed that reminder. A lot.

We’re playing the game we’ve played since we met one random morning in Central Park a couple years ago. We were out for a run, two athletes in the city, bonding over what it took to get the best job ever done. We support each other through the ups and downs, then trash talk the fuck out of each other.

Trouble is, these casual touches and fiery zingers are putting me in the wrong mood for my date.

Once we reach the lobby and exit the building together, I give him a curt chin nod, eager to leave him in the dust. “Good luck with the crowbar search. There’s a hardware store on Lexington that’s open late,” I say, then flip him the bird—in a friendly way, of course—and walk in the other direction up Madison Avenue on a scorching July evening.

I roll my shoulders, trying to shrug off that interaction with a friend—an interaction that shouldn’t leave me feeling so…frustrated.

Maybe it’s just the summer heat. My shirt is already sticking to me. That has to be what’s irking me. But it was hotter than the equator when we played the San Diego Devils this afternoon, and the heat didn’t bug me as much then.

A few seconds later, Luke catches up to me and sets that hand on my shoulder again. That’s not fair. Not fair at all. “Hey, seriously, Sloan. Good luck tonight,” he says, dropping his brash act.

I do the same, offering a friendly smile. “Yeah. You too.”

“Who’s the guy? I’m getting a beer with some dude I met at the gym,” he continues, a little sheepishly, letting down his guard some more. “You?”

“Some guy I met at my gym,” I say with a laugh over our parallel lives.

“When did dating stop being exciting?” he asks.

Maybe somewhere between my last heartbreak and the string of terrible dates I’ve been on recently?

“I ask myself that question far too often,” I admit. “But I’ve got to improve my attitude if I’m going to have any chance of getting laid.”

Truth be told, I’m not only interested in sex, though I am very interested in sex. But I’d like to meet someone I connect with for real. Someone who’s into the real me, not the guy who bats third and peddles fancy wristwatches on billboards. Too bad I haven’t met a guy in ages who meets those basic qualifications.

Hence, dating sucks.

“I can help with that. Your attitude, that is,” Luke says, and I’m halfway intrigued but then brace myself for more playful insults. Instead, Luke says earnestly, “Tomorrow night when we go out with the guys, whoever had a better date buys a round?”

That wasn’t what I’d expected, but I do like a good competition. “How will we determine who had a better date?”

“Sloan, my friend. There is only one metric of a better date.”

“Sex,” I say, right as he answers with, “A second date.”


Well, there is that.

“Fair enough,” I say, then extend a hand to shake, making sure not to linger too long. “You’re on.”

Maybe a little dating contest will turn my dating fortune around.

I love being right.

Right about when to swing at a curveball and go long.

Right about snagging a scorcher up the middle of the infield.

And right about chemistry at the gym turning into chemistry at the bar here tonight.

I am so going to best Remington in our date contest, and I can’t wait for tomorrow to rub it in his face. Jamie, the cute guy from the gym who has a hell of a smile, is outgoing, flirty, and even easier on the eyes than I remembered from our chat by the cardio machines the other day.

He asked me out shortly after he stepped off the StairMaster, saying, “Gyms are good for working out, but bars are better for chatting. Can I take you out for a beer this week?”

I gave him points then for boldness, and tonight I’m awarding him points for convo skills. Here at the sleek silver counter, he lifts his beer, giving it a serious stare. “Confession: I googled fun facts about beer before our date.”