“Ah, now, Battle,” she rubs her hand over my chest while looking up at me, “I think you’ll change your mind when you see what I can do with my mouth.”


I don’t want anything to do with her mouth. I’m fairly certain I’ll never be able to look at pink lip gloss the same way again.

Gently, I take hold of her wrist and lift her hand from me. “Honey, you could suck the center out of a Tootsie Pop and I’d still say no. Not that I don’t appreciate your offer.”

She pouts, but steps back. “You’ve a funny way of showing your appreciation.”

“So I’ve been told. Time to go. Drive safely.”

It’s almost amusing the way she appears so confused and nonplussed. As if she’s never entertained the thought of being turned down. She takes one long look at me, and then collects her things, pulling a t-shirt and tight pants from her bag to toss on. “Why are the really hot ones always g*y?” she says as she hoists her bag over her shoulder. With a flip of her long blond hair, she’s out the door.

I want to sag in relief. Only Gray is busy glaring at me in disgust. I hadn’t noticed him standing close by.

“I cannot believe you turned that down.”

“I cannot believe you’d think I’d take her up on the offer.”

Gray shakes his head. “Fine, you don’t cheat. But some of us haven’t lost our dicks to a girl. I had plans, you know? And they did not include you sending those women home.”

Right. I don’t like to think of what those plans might be. Especially when Gray’s eyes are glassy and he’s slurring his words.

“Look, if you want to get laid, call one of your girlfriends.” Which is a very loose use of the word for Gray. “Don’t take women like that home.”

Gray snorts loudly through his lips. “You think there’s a difference for me?”

“There’s a world of difference, and you know it.” At least one of his hook ups—and I’m beginning to f**king hate that term—doesn’t expect payment. I eye him, considering. Darkness lurks in his expression. Suddenly I realize that his family hasn’t called him. “Want to crash here? We can hang out.”

He waves me off, wobbling on his feet as he does it. “Naw. Not ready to call it a night.”

“I’ll go with you.”

Gray backs away. “No way. Not when you’re in Mother Hen mode. Go to bed. It’s all good.”

Over his shoulder, I meet Dex’s eyes, and he gives me a nod. He’s got this.

“Fine.” I’m not happy about it, but pushing would only piss Gray off. Not something I want to do any more of tonight. As long as I know he’ll get home and stay there, then I’ve got to respect his wishes. I pat Gray on the shoulder. “Happy Birthday, man.”

He glares at me for a moment, pissed off, but then the clouds break and he’s suddenly pulling me into a bear hug. We give each other a punch on the back, and I find myself relieved.

Alone in my room, however, I can’t sleep. The bedside clock says 1 a.m. Part of me is now sorry I kicked the guys out so early. I lay back against a pile of pillows, my bent leg slowly rocking side to side as I stare in the darkness. My phone rests heavy in my hand. Anna has confessed to being a night owl, mostly due to staying up reading. I could be reading as well. My playbook rests on the far side of the bed, and there’s a Jack Reacher novel collecting dust on the nightstand. Instead I run my thumb along the edge of my phone, and my leg swings with greater agitation.

“Fuck it.”

My thumb is swiping the screen and tapping “call” before I can talk myself out of it.

She answers with a husky, “Hello?” The sound courses along my skin in little licks of pleasure.

“Hey.” I settled down further into my bed. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“No. I was just—”

“Reading?” I offer with a smile.

“Yeah.” She sounds vaguely pissed of that I guessed correctly, and my smile grows. She makes a small noise like a stifled sigh. “It’s too late for a booty call, Baylor.”

“Is sex the only thing you think about, Jones?” I rest my head on my bent arm and stare up at the ceiling. “I mean, what if I just want to hear about your night?”

She snorts. “If anyone has had a memorable night, it’d be you. Speaking of which, why are you calling me now? Shouldn’t you be, I don’t know, getting smashed?”

“I don’t drink during the season.”

“Seriously?”

“As a history lecture.” I run a hand over the bare skin of my abdomen and wish it were Anna touching me. “It messes with my performance, and I don’t need the hassle that comes with partying that way. Tonight, I was the designated driver and all around wet blanket.”

“The guys must have loved you.” There’s a smile in her voice.

The darkness surrounding me is warm and close now. “There may have been some grumbles.”

“Poor baby,” she croons without any sympathy whatsoever, “not getting to have any fun.”

“Depends on your concept of ‘fun’.” I like her ribbing and want more.

She laughs, a soft, rolling chuckle that makes my gut tighten. “So what did you do tonight? Or shouldn’t I ask?”

“I’d tell you, but maybe you don’t want to hear.”

“Pfft. That just makes me more curious. And you know it, Baylor.”

I grin before turning on my side. “All right. Some of the guys bought Gray a group of strippers.”

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