Brayden looks at me. “Your hornball brother is right. If you’re interested in the hot chick, you should go talk to her.” He takes a breath, and when he speaks again, his tone is uncharacteristically gentle. “It’s been almost three years.”
“I’m not talking to anybody.” But I want to. My stomach tightens with guilt and shame at that. “She’s not my type anyway.”
And yet I’m sitting here wondering if those smiling pink lips taste as sweet as they look, wondering how it would feel to have them wrapped around my cock while my hands are buried in her hair. In other words, I’m being a fucking creep.
She’s too sweet. Stay. Away.
Brayden smacks a hand on the manila folder in front of him and nods. “Shall we call this meeting to a close, boys?”
“Let’s,” Jake says. “This place is packed tonight, and Ava’s gonna kill me if I don’t get back there to help real soon.”
They all stand, but when I keep my ass in the booth and my gaze on Nic, Jake nods at me. “Life’s too short, brother. Eat the steak, drink the beer, fuck the girl.”
“You should have that embroidered on a pillow,” Brayden mutters.
“Ethan doesn’t know how to fuck anymore,” Carter says. “It’s been so long, his dick’s probably fallen off.”
“Have you seen the way he looks at her?” Jake points a thumb at me. “That’s not the face of a dickless man checking out a woman.”
“Fuck off, all of you,” I say, but there’s no conviction in my voice.
My brothers are the types who can spot a girl in a bar, decide she’s theirs, and make it happen. I’ve never been like that. When they were living out their glory years picking up chicks and probably playing fast and loose with some STDs, I was madly in love with Elena and proposing marriage. My wife was the only one for me. She was my high school sweetheart, my first love, and my rock through med school. We lost our virginity to each other. We shared all the most important firsts.
My brothers are wrong about how long it’s been for me. I haven’t been celibate, but the sex I have had has been rare, secret, and too often disappointing. I’m not interested in a relationship—fuck no, never again—but the feel of a woman’s body under mine, greedy hands, skin on skin . . . It’s been too long. In the three years since Elena died, I’ve only seen women who wanted what I wanted—sex, companionship, no strings, no expectations. Contrary to stereotypes, there are plenty of women who aren’t looking for love or picket fences, but I can’t imagine the sweet thing at the bar would be down for such an arrangement.
I wave to Cindy, our waitress, and tap my coffee cup, signaling that I’d like a refill. She winks at me and heads to the bar. I lean back in my booth, trying to decide what the fuck I’m doing and why I’m still sitting here.
Nic watches as Brayden and Carter go out the door and Jake returns to his post behind the bar. Then her gaze settles on me and she bites her lip. I don’t know if she’s trying to be sexy or if she’s just accidentally irresistible. Either way, it’s working. Her teeth sink into her plump bottom lip, and the sight makes something shift in my chest. My mind flashes with an image of her doing that in a very different context—more pleasure, less uncertainty.
She might not be my type, but the chemistry between us is so potent that I can feel it across the crowded bar.
“No bourbon tonight?” Cindy asks, refilling my mug.
“I’m on call.”
She nods, familiar with my crazy schedule. “Well, it’s too bad you can’t have a little liquid courage because Jake told me to tell you that if you don’t go talk to her, he’s going to slip her a note like he did with Teresa Remington in the seventh grade.”
Huffing, I shake my head. I remember that. I was so hung up on the tiny blond cheerleader that I got tongue-tied every time I tried to talk to her. Eventually, Jake took pity on me and slipped a note in her locker. Do you like Ethan Jackson? Y / N Circle one.
Teresa gave me the note back in earth science, her cheeks bright red, the Y circled with a little smiley face above it. It turned out that Teresa and I didn’t have much in common, but the skills she taught me under the bleachers served me well into my high school years.
Our note-writing days might be behind us, but I wouldn’t put it past Jake to do something to hook Nic and me up. I grab my coffee and make my way to the new girl before Jake can play matchmaker and give her the wrong idea of what I’m after. A sweet thing like her is going to have expectations, and nothing can happen between us if we’re not on the same page.