He grinned. “I doubt that.”
“You’re a little full of yourself, Hunter.”
His grin widened. “You know my name now, that’s not fair. Now you have to tell me yours.”
Realizing I had the upperhand on him, I couldn’t help a small smile from breaking through. “Sorry, that’ll have to remain a secret. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to—”
“My boy!” said a male voice.
“Gary!” Hunter responded. Sensing an opportunity in Gary’s distraction, I tried to make my escape but Hunter’s hand remained firm around my shoulder. I moved but he hugged me closer to him, my face mooshing into the soft cotton covering his chest. I caught a whiff of his just-been-fighting scent and my brain fried for a moment.
Gary appeared by my side, shook Hunter’s hand, and they bumped shoulders.
“Congrats on the win. Didn’t look like you even broke a sweat out there. Looks like all that practice defending takedowns paid off.”
“Couldn’t have done it without you man,” Hunter said.
Gary noticed my presence and eyed Hunter’s arm around my shoulder. “Lorrie! Didn’t expect to see you here. I thought you were going back inside.”
“Lorrie huh?” Hunter looked down at me with a grin that made my heart skip a beat.
Shit. He knew my name now.
“It’s such a pretty name. Here I was referring to you in my mind as Dorothy. Looks like I was somewhat close.”
Double shit. He had a nickname for me as well. Except ‘Tim’ was nowhere close to ‘Hunter’.
“So how do you guys know each other?” Gary asked.
My stomach dropped. Not only did Hunter know my name now, he was going to spill about how he saved me from committing suicide last week. It would draw more attention to me and wreck my attempts at a normal semester.
Hunter looked at me carefully then turned to Gary. “I was out jogging last weekend. I slipped on the ice and fell flat on my ass. She rushed over to see if I was okay and we got to chatting.”
I was shocked that Hunter had just lied to Gary. Why was he covering for me? And at his own expense?
Gary laughed. “I’ve been telling you man. You gotta work on your footwork.” He laughed again and slapped Hunter on the shoulder. “C’mon let’s go inside, I’ll buy you a drink. Although you should really be the one buying with all that prize money you just won.”
We made our way through the crowd. Hunter kept his arm around me, holding me close so I wouldn’t get lost—or run away. When we made it into the clearing, a pair of blonde girls with large br**sts and slim waists approached. Hunter turned away to hide his face.
“Gary? Gary Wilkins? Oh my god we’re like your biggest fans!”
Gary grinned and opened his arms. “Why hello ladies. It’s always great to meet my adoring fans.” He turned to us. “Sorry guys, I’m going to have to catch up with you later. I have some important business to attend to. You understand.” He winked at us.
Hunter and I walked off toward the bar and I looked over my shoulder to catch a glimpse of Gary laughing with his arms around both girls. The two girls had their hands all over his shaved head, relishing the smoothness beneath their fingertips. I had a feeling those girls were going to get a very special “autograph” by the end of the night.
Hunter suddenly stopped. “How are you feeling?”
I froze, thinking he was referring to the day he saved me from becoming an ice cube at the bottom of Lake Peepee. “How am I feeling about what?”
“About getting a drink. I’m not really that thirsty right now. I’d rather walk and talk. You interested?”
“I’m flattered but I really have to get back to my friends . . .” The thought of returning to Justin almost made me gag. It would be uncomfortable but at least it was an uncomfortableness I could handle. I had no idea how to handle being around Hunter Jensen, especially now that I knew he was a badass cage fighter.
His expression turned tender but serious. “I’m not going to bite ya know.”
I’d just seen him uppercut a guy’s mouth guard out so I didn’t know how to react to this side of him. “I never said you would. What makes you think I have that impression of you?”
“Because you’re trying to avoid me.”
I laughed. “No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are Lorrie.” Hearing my name uttered from his lips sent a jolt through my system, heightening my already strong awareness of him. “You ran from my apartment. And now you’re trying to give me the slip. What’s the deal? Do I smell bad?”
I had to suppress a grin at his line about smelling bad. If anything, he smelled good. Strong, musky, manly. Which was strange. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I did know that a guy wasn’t supposed to smell as good as he did after working up a sweat. My mind swirling, I decided to go with a standard brush-off line. “It’s not you. It’s me. I can’t explain it, it’s complicated.”
He narrowed his dark eyes. “If it’s not me, then why do you act this way only around me? I noticed you didn’t have the same reaction around Gary.”
I wracked my brain for an answer. “Gary’s friendlier.”
Hunter smiled. “Hey, I saved your life, lent you my clothes, made you tea, and let you shower at my place. And you’re saying Gary is friendlier? Psh, and here I thought you were polite.”
“I am. I’m politely stating facts.”
“Alright, since you don’t think I’m such a friendly guy, I’m gonna have to charge you for my hospitality.”
“See? Proved my point.” I folded my arms across my chest but I was eager to settle my debt to him so I wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore. “So what do you want in return?”
“You’re going to have to join me on my cooldown walk. I usually go alone, but this time I want company. Unfortunately that means you’re going to have to ditch your friends.”
I frowned. “That’s not very nice.”
“I’m Mr. Not-So-Nice remember?” A smile played at the corner of his full lips. The combination of boyish charm and rugged brawler was becoming too difficult to resist.
“Alright, fine. We’ll walk, but just to make us even. Then I don’t owe you anything, okay?”
“Sounds good.” His smile turned into a wide grin. “Go tell your friends you’re ditching them.”