There’s that dry sense of humor again. How is it possible to go from wanting to tear his clothes off to relishing his laugh?
But that seems par for the course around Dean.
The voices are drunken, unsteady, but working their way up the stairs.
Stepping away from him, I pick up the fallen bat as a group of twentysomething women bursts onto the scene, chatting with each other. A bartender follows them and glances our way. This wasn’t going to stay private for long anyway.
“Here you go,” I say, passing off the bat to a blonde.
She glances at me and blinks. “Hey, aren’t you that guy from . . .”
She snaps her fingers, trying to place me. “From, ugh . . . it’s on the tip of my tongue.”
She’s American and maybe a hockey fan, but it’s hard to say.
My preferences are no secret, so I’m not trying to hide. Nor do I think Dean is. But I’d rather not chat with a fan while I’m sporting this kind of wood.
“Nah. I get that a lot though. Go knock in some homers, ladies.” I wink at them as I head to the stairs, Dean behind me.
“Does that happen a lot? Being recognized or almost recognized?”
I shrug. “Sometimes. Not as much as basketball or baseball players though.” I gesture to my face. “Since we wear masks and all.”
“Yes, I am aware of that aspect of hockey. Masks and all,” Dean says, imitating my voice.
I shoot him an appreciative grin. “Ooh, aren’t you so very cheeky.”
“Charming, Fitz. I’m charming. Get it right,” he says, then his tone turns serious, and he tips his forehead to the roof, indicating the girls. “But what I was getting at about being recognized is, did you deny it’s you for a reason? Are you in the closet?”
I bust out laughing as we bound down the stairs, shaking my head. “Not in the motherfucking least.”
Dean wipes a hand across his forehead. “Good, because I do not need to deal with that.”
“Nor do I. Been there, done that, not interested. Closet’s not my thing.”
“Ditto. For a second, I thought maybe you came to England to avail yourself of opportunities to be . . . out of the spotlight.”
“It’s not a secret.” I flash a grin. “I’m kind of known for it, as one of a handful of out players in the NHL.”
The smile on his face tells me it’s hella good, and I’m damn glad he’s in the same sitch. But it’s good to make sure. “I assumed you’re out too. But if that makes an ass out of you and me, maybe tell me now.”
He laughs. “You might be an ass on other counts, but not on that one. I don’t care if anyone sees me turning you on. As I clearly do.”
I roll my eyes, stop at the bottom of the stairs, and grab his waist. I wrap a hand around his hip. “You love to give me a hard time.”
Dean’s gaze drifts down to my jeans and back up. “Seems I’m quite good at it too.”
“And that’s why I said ‘I get that a lot’ to the blonde. Because I’m still insanely turned on from the way you attacked my face, and I didn’t need anyone else seeing what you did to me.”
His eyes take a stroll again. “Yes. You seem to be rather affected.”
“Understatement of the century.” I let go of him and head into the bar, where I gesture to the exit. “Let’s get out of here.”
“I’m still not going back to your hotel.”
“Tease,” I say as we edge our way onto the street.
“What? Didn’t you like just kissing me, Fitz?” he asks, all mock-coy, since he knows I loved it.
But I’m a big believer in saying what you mean and meaning what you say. “I loved every single, solitary moment of it,” I tell him, and Dean swallows roughly, then scrubs a hand across the back of his neck like he’s processing that.
“The feeling is mutual,” he says softly.
Pride suffuses me. “I’m going to convince you to check out the thread count of my hotel sheets tonight.”
He laughs, runs his hand over his short hair, then mutters, “Why am I not surprised?”
“Oh, I have plenty of surprises left for you. And when you come over I’ll show you.”
We come to a stop on the street.
Dean chuckles, but when he looks at me again, that damn mask is back. He glances at his watch. “Listen. As much as I would love to accept, I do need to get to work tonight. It’s getting on.”
I study him and wonder if it’s true or if it’s an out. Wonder if he’s playing hard to get or if he is hard to get.
Because as much as I like the chase, I do have my limits.
I want Dean.
But I also want him to want this thing between us as much as I do.