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“Language,” Mom says.

“A damn game,” I grumble.

“Still language,” she says.

“A game,” I say, annoyed. But my frustration is with the reporter for trying to make something out of nothing.

Okay, it’s not technically nothing, what Tanner and I are doing. But what we do after dark is our business and our business only.

“We’re friends. So what if I go to a game?”

“Well, you did bid one hundred thousand dollars on him,” Mom says gently. “You’re known for being good friends. Two high-profile athletes. I think there are a lot of people who like your friendship and want to imagine you could be more.”

“Yeah, I like our friendship too,” I say defensively.

And I also like our fucking. A lot.

But that’s all. That’s it. We’re not going to become boyfriends. “Also, I already have a boyfriend,” I add.

“Football,” my sister sing-songs, knowing this drill.

“The game comes first, second, and third,” I say, sitting taller. I’m not going to be like my dad, jumping from romance to romance, and barely holding down a job. All he cared about were the ladies he supposedly fell in love with. Look where that got him. To the winner of Deadbeat Dad of the Year every single year. He never looked out for us. Never took care of us. Never helped my mom.

“My agent is meeting with the Leopards’ GM later this week, and that’s what matters. Football deserves all my attention,” I add, because I want them to know I’m not ever going to be like him.

“I know you love football, Luke,” Mom says. “But try to understand that your fans want you to be happy too. That’s where the shipping is coming from.”

I breathe out deeply, trying to let go of this misplaced frustration. Really, what’s the big deal? Reporters speculate. Fans salivate. But ultimately, the media will find nothing.

This late-night fling won’t turn into a daytime romance. Tanner wants a serious relationship. I don’t.

I can’t let this forgetting to take a pic extend past tonight. Once, twice, even three times is fine.

But after that, things could get messy. Feelings could start to spill over into the sex. That’s why I avoid entanglements. I don’t have the time to devote to them.

And I don’t want to risk our friendship by pushing the boundaries too far. Tanner’s the only person who’s ever been able to soothe my career worries.

I can’t give that up, no matter how good I want to look for our sex date tonight.

Since that’s all it can be.




Around nine that night, I hit the elevator button, then step back, checking my reflection in the shiny doors.

Stylish teal-blue T-shirt. Nice jeans. No ball cap, though I did consider one. Put it on, took it off, tried it once more. Tossed it on the floor, muttering, “Get it together, man.”

As I wait, I take a deep breath to settle this healthy dose of pre-date nerves.

What are you worried about? Tonight is a sure thing.

I shake off the stupid worries as the car arrives and I step inside. I played ball today, and we lost our afternoon game. But it’s well in the rearview mirror. When my phone buzzes, I give it a cursory glance, then scan the text from my sister.

Amelia: I’m working on that coffee date! Soren thinks end of next week. He has to travel (me too) but I’ll find a time!

Well, I have to travel too. I have a series in Seattle after the All-Star break. But I don’t want to handle coffee date logistics now, so I don’t reply. I’ll deal with this tomorrow. I tuck the phone away.

Tonight I want to focus on, well, tonight only.

I exit on Luke’s floor. I told him I’d swing by his place first. As I’m striding down the familiar carpeted hallway to his pad, I can’t shake the feeling that this is mega date behavior.

Figuring out what to wear.

Picking him up.

Knocking on his door.

Trouble is, I like it far too much for my own good. I stop and rap my knuckles, doing my best to ignore the thump-thump of my pulse.

When Luke opens the door, I’m floored. By the intensity of my reaction to him—the tingling on the back of my neck, the ache in my hands to touch him, the desire to tell him how good he looks.

Because he looks even better than usual. And I don’t know why. I’ve seen that burgundy shirt on him before, with the short sleeves that show off his arms and the buttons deliberately left open to reveal a smattering of chest hair.

I’ve seen this outfit because he’s worn it on dates. When he likes the guy.


It’s like the breath is knocked out of me all over again.

“Hey,” I finally say. It comes out hoarse.

“Hey,” he echoes, a little rough too. He lifts his chin, drawing a long breath.

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