The reedy stature and little-boy face of Hunter’s friend made the whole thing hard to picture. Not with the physical state Hunter maintained. “I can’t imagine your partner effectively fighting you back.”
“Like I said,” he said. “I was plastered out of my mind and my coordination was bad. Of course alcohol does have the advantage of being an excellent anesthetic as well.” There was a slight pause, and he hiked a self-mocking brow. “The only problem was it kept wearing off.”
Though his face was composed, his gaze calm, his tone said it all.
“What happened after the cold shower?” she said.
“I sobered up enough to get into dry clothes and sat shivering on the couch, yelling at Booker to get out. He wouldn’t leave.” He looked at Carly, his words matter-of-fact. But his face reflected a moment that was clearly seared in his memory, earning Pete Booker the title of faithful friend for life—till death did they part. “After about an hour of angry silence from me, Booker told me I needed to stop letting Mandy’s defection get to me and start doing something productive, like fight back,” he said, steadily holding her gaze.
The next step was easy to guess. “And that’s when The Ditchinator was born.”
“To keep me busy.”
“And get back at Mandy?”
“An outlet for my frustrations.” A rueful smile curled on his lips. “Booker helped me work on the program. It was originally designed for email. When vacation time was over and I had to go back to work he showed up at the end of each day and we kept adding features, making it more elaborate. We spent a month on the songs alone, each trying to outdo the other by finding the best tune to go with the message.” The tension in his body eased a bit. “Every time I slipped back into my black funk Booker would find another song title that made me laugh. Soon we had so many we decided to list them all as options.”
There was a long pause as Carly stared at him, sensing there was more to the story that he wasn’t sharing.
“And now that the app is so popular you’re laughing all the way to the bank.”
“Trust me,” he said wryly, a brief shadow crossing his face, “no laughing is involved.” He cocked his head, his expression easing a touch. “But I’ll take the money, nonetheless.”
There was a long pause as they stared at each other. In some small way it must provide him with a satisfying sense of comeuppance. No wonder he refused to take it off the market. But this wasn’t the time to discuss her thoughts on that subject again.
Hunter unfolded his arms, providing a better view of his delicious chest. “That’s it, Carly.” His eyebrow arced higher. “Now you know enough of the gritty details to satisfy even your inquisitive nature.” He looked down at the white hat in his hand before lifting his gaze to hers, his tone reflecting that he was done with the conversation. “I appreciate the gift, but it’s time to call it a night.”
Though his expression was still coolly collected, his eyes sizzled with a teasing heat that set her heart racing as he went on. “Unless you’re really going to follow me into the shower...” He paused, letting her fill in the blank, and then turned and pushed through the door.
And as it slowly closed in her face she stared at the sign. Men’s Locker Room. Body on fire, she bit her lip with a frown. Damn him for being the action-hero defender, an honorable guy who was impossible not to like. Damn him for being so darkly guarded, inflaming her curiosity with his secretive air. And damn him for his well-honed chest paired with an unflappable composure—for provoking her with his teasing words and the sexy look in his eyes...and then walking away.
Heart pounding, she let a full minute tick by as she tried to decide what to do next.
Go home now, Carly. You’re done.
But what would happen if she finally called his bluff? She longed to know what he’d do if she challenged him on his sizzling words paired with a frustrating reserve. If she pushed him, would he finally lose a little of that control?
Let it go, Carly. You’re done.
She bit her lower lip, staring at the locker room sign, the distinct feeling of undoneness leaving her feet stuck to the floor, unwilling to leave. Several agonizing moments passed, but ultimately her curiosity was her undoing. Lips pressed in a determined line, the whisper of desire growing louder, Carly pushed open the door and stepped inside.
At the back of the locker room Hunter pulled out his duffel bag and shut the locker harder than he’d planned. The slam of the metal door echoed off the sea of pristine white tile. Mind churning, he set his bag on one of several long wooden benches, burning with a mix of emotions caused by reliving old memories. And by dealing with the beautiful, determined Carly Wolfe.