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I hold up a finger. “Then he pulls on my jersey, hands me a Sharpie, and asks me to sign it.”

“Oh man,” Tanner says, shaking his head, like he’s annoyed at the guy’s antics on my behalf.

But hold on. Is that the hint of a smile on his full lips?

I peer a little closer. Yeah, he’s still smiling, and that’s got to mean he nabbed a worse date on the leaderboard. He’s always outpacing me. “All right. ’Fess up. How was your date worse than a dude wanting me to sign a football jersey?”

Tanner raises his face, his eyes locking with mine, his smile vanishing. He’s a little surly now, a little intense. I don’t know how the guy does it, but he’s hot when he’s scowling.

Empirically hot, obviously.

Hell, Tanner Sloan is a good-looking guy. That’s just a fact. But add a little irritation to the mix, and he shoots to scorching levels.

Maybe that’s why I like to wind him up. It’s fun to look at smokeshows.

“My date wanted a selfie to show his friends, and he sneaked one in so fast, I didn’t have time to say no,” Tanner says, practically gritting out the words.

“Damn,” I say, frowning as we commiserate in bad-date misery. “I don’t know whose date was worse.”

“I don’t either. All I know is it sucks out there,” Tanner says heavily.

“Aww, is it hard to date as a rich, famous athlete?” Nate asks, the sort of question only a happily married man can ask.

“You know, it kind of is,” Tanner says, a little defiant.

Nate parks his chin in his hand. Bats his lashes. “Tell us more about how rough it is out there.”

Hunter adopts a too-concerned look. “Two handsome blokes with top-notch teams and such pretty faces. Must be sooo hard out.”

“Hey now. It is hard,” I point out. “You never know if someone is actually into you.”

“That doesn’t seem to stop you from trying,” Nate points out.

“Fine, I’m not exactly a saint.”

“That sounds awful. Your sainthood,” Nate deadpans, then looks to Tanner. “And yours too.”

Tanner holds up stop sign hands. “Fine, fine. No one’s playing a sad violin for us,” Tanner admits begrudgingly, but then his tone turns vulnerable, a touch wounded. “But is it too much to want to meet a guy who’s not using me?”

Once again, I wish I could erase what his ex did. “Finn is a prick,” I bite out. Sure, I can rile Tanner up like nobody else, but I also know when to stop and that point is when the conversation turns to his former boyfriend—Finn Michaels. Tanner dated the sports reporter last year. Hell, he’d had a thing for the guy for a while. It was a whole like-attracts-like thing, as in, intense guy digs other intense guy, I’m guessing. But in the end, the career-thirsty journalist was using my friend for access to stories. I wanted to wring Finn’s neck when I found out. Hell, I marched out of our building and stalked my way to Finn’s family-money brownstone, ready to give him a piece of my mind, when Tanner ran up behind me, grabbed me, and calmed me the fuck down.

“He’s not worth it,” he’d muttered on Madison Avenue as the evening crowds streamed past us.

Another only in New York moment. No one thought twice about the athlete wrapping his arms around the other athlete. Helps, too, that I’m not as recognizable as Tanner.

But I was livid over Finn. “He’s a grade-A, top-choice, world-class mass-of-algae pond scum on the inside of a tire swing on a hot summer day,” I’d muttered, raring to go. I’m not even a fighter. I’m not a hockey player for fuck’s sake. But I wanted to fight then.

Tanner had laughed. “Yes. Yes, he is.” But then his smart mouth curved into a sly grin. Tanner always knows how to keep his cool. “But how about we retaliate in other ways?”

Better ways.

Like, this one. My teammates on the Leopards and I don’t talk to the reporter any more for stories. Small world, and I’ve always got my friends’ backs.

“I still hate that guy,” I add.

“Okay, fine. You did have a rough patch of it with the prick,” Nate admits. “And last night doesn’t sound too fun either.”

Hunter reaches for Nate’s hand and threads his fingers through his husband’s. They look at each other, all newlywed-ish. They’re so stinking cute.

“Aren’t they the best?” I say to Tanner, pointing a thumb at our friends.

A hint of sadness flashes in Tanner’s eyes, but then he blinks it away, offering a closed-mouth smile. “The best,” he says, then sighs, like he’s erasing his frustration with a long breath. “Anyway, enough of the dating woes. When the time is right, I’ll meet a dude I like and who likes me.”

Good for him, knowing he wants the real thing. But me? No way. Football is my one and only boyfriend.

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