Heat flares in my chest.
“I’m gonna have to call bullshit on that,” I say as the cat rubs his face against Luke’s cheek.
He’s still stroking the cat. “Yeah, maybe you’re right. Maybe he likes me.”
He’s not the only one.
“Elsie’s all set to take care of them and get them high?” I ask, trying to focus on practical details, not how I’m feeling like I understand a cat suddenly.
“She is,” he says as the critter climbs down Luke to settle on his lap, pawing at his stomach. “Oh, man, he can’t play the piano on me.”
“Dude, you’re shirtless with a cat. What were you thinking?” I ask, chucking. That’s friendly, right? I’m sort of ribbing him.
“I don’t know,” he says, then tries to settle the creature. Cooing at him, stroking his chin, petting him. Melting me, and that is not fair.
Soon, the cat is curling up on his lap. “Does he have the loudest purr in the world?” I ask.
Luke smiles dopily, like he’s proud of the feline’s noise box. “Yeah, he does.”
It occurs to me I don’t know why Luke called. He hasn’t said, and we’ve only been talking about the cat. “So, what’s going on?”
“I just wanted to make sure you were okay. You said you were fine, but I wanted to check.” Luke’s cheeks go the slightest shade of red.
My heart thumps at both his reaction to his own words and to his actions. He doesn’t usually call to see if I’m good. No one does. I like this feeling of being cared for. “Not my best game, but what can you do?”
“Stay grounded. The next game will be better,” he says, quoting me back to me.
“Sounds like good advice.”
“Someone smart shared that with me. And it helped me, Tanner,” Luke says, then yawns. “Anyway, I know you expect the best all the time, so I didn’t want you to be beating yourself up over the game. You’ll do great in Seattle.”
My next series is up the coast right after the wedding. And for the first time in thirty-six hours, I relax. “Thanks. I’m okay,” I say, my limbs nice and loose as I stretch out on the couch.
Luke mirrors me, sliding down on his sofa, his golden skin on display, looking thoroughly lickable. I’d like to run my tongue down his chest right to his abs, then under the waistband of those boxer briefs. I’d like to give him a slow, leisurely, goodnight blow job.
A thank-you-for-checking-in-on-me BJ. Then send him off to dreamland on the aftereffects of an orgasm.
Another yawn clobbers him.
“Go to sleep, Luke,” I say, even though I don’t want to let him go.
“Yeah. I probably should.” But he makes no move to hang up.
“What time is your flight?”
“Too early for me. Eight a.m. I think I get in at six a.m.”
I laugh at his math. “Bet it’s more like eleven.”
“That too,” he says, sounding slurry.
“I’ll be waking up then if I’m lucky,” I say.
“Perfect. You can pick me up at SFO and drive me to Napa. Thanks for offering.”
I smile stupidly. But the logistics do make sense. We’re both heading to Wine Country around the same time. “You just want to see my McLaren,” I say, since I’m picking those hot wheels up tomorrow.
“Yeah. That’s all. I just want to see your McLaren.” His sleepy smile says he wants to see me.
“Can’t wait to show it to you,” I say.
But what I mean is I can’t wait to see you too.
But there is no McLaren. I’m at Elite Rentals near the airport, and the flummoxed brunette at the luxury and sports car rental agency apologizes for a third time.
“Again, I’m so sorry, Mr. Sloan. There’s been some kind of booking error. Normally this doesn’t happen,” she says, twisting her chunky gold bracelets round and round her wrist. “I can make some calls though. See what the soonest is we can get one.” Her hair is slicked back into a tight bun, and she quickly tugs at it too. “Would that work for you?”
This poor woman is going to send herself into a frenzy. “Honestly, it’s fine,” I reassure her for the third time. “I’ll take whatever you have.”
Sure, I’d have loved a hot, sleek sports car. But you don’t always get what you want.
“Let me just try one more time. We have a sister agency in San Jose,” she says. “I can hopefully get one in an hour.”
But Luke lands in forty-five minutes and I want to be there for him when he walks out of the airport. “That won’t be necessary. Whatever you have is good.”
With a frown, she peers at her screen. “I have an Audi,” she says, like she’s handing me a lukewarm beer.
“That’ll be fine.”
Fifty-five minutes later, I’m parked at arrivals, fiddling with my playlists. Do I want to play my favorites from Outrageous Record, Lettuce Pray, and Stone Zenith, or do I want to play a road trip playlist, with open-highway-type tunes? What will set the friendship mood better? I already texted Luke that I was here, and he replied and let me know that he’d landed, so he should be walking out the door any second.