Fitz: You are such an unstoppable flirt.
Dean: And this bothers you?
Fitz: No, it turns me on. That’s the problem. I’m here in my big king-size bed, all alone, without a stitch of clothing on.
Dean: If you think I’m going to ask for a dick pic, that is not my style.
Fitz: If you think I’m going to send one, that is not my style.
Dean: Good. Now we’ve established that, thanks a lot for planting that fantastic image in my head. You in your bed with nothing on, and I can’t fucking make a proper martini now.
I smile. Unbidden, it takes over my entire being. He’s as affected as I am.
Fitz: And on that note, I’ve got business to take care of, and I will see you for tea.
I shut my texting app before I say anything else, because it’s best to leave him wanting more. And I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how he’s feeling right now.
The same way I am.
Also known as the day we make the rules we’re sure we’ll never break.
My morning is packed.
First, a long workout at the hotel gym, where I push myself with weights, crunches, and push-ups.
Then, I hit the streets, AirPods in, blasting my usual hard rock jams as I pound out six miles across the city, soaking in the sights of Battersea Park and the Peace Pagoda.
As the playlist loops, I picture the season ahead of me, the performance I want to have, the stats I want to rack up.
The focus I need.
My contract is up at the end of next year, so it’s a pivotal one. The better I do, the more secure I can make the future for Mom, Emma, Carrie, and Sarah, as well as their kids.
When I finish my workout, I return a call from my agent as I cool down, winding my way through the last few blocks back to the hotel.
“Just curious. How would you feel about an endorsement deal with an athletic wear company?” she asks.
“How would you feel about a lifetime supply of chocolate?” I toss back, since Haven and I made a deal once upon a time that if we hit a set goal, I’d set her up like that.
“Hmm. Let me think on that for a few seconds. Wait. Done. I’m in.”
We review the details as I make my way into the lobby. “You’re the woman. It all sounds good to me.”
“This deal is going to keep you pretty busy when you’re not playing. You good with that?”
“You know me—”
“The no-strings guy.”
“Exactly.” I say goodbye when I reach my room.
Checking the clock on my phone, I pump a fist that it’s nearly teatime. Then I laugh at myself because I deserve to be laughed at.
Good job, man. You’re stoked for tea—first time for everything.
I strip off my shorts and hit the shower.
But Dean’s not the only reason I’m psyched to go to Fortnum & Mason. Being an Anglophile her whole life, Emma’s had afternoon tea on her bucket list for a long time.
After the shower, I get dressed, checking out my reflection on the way out of the bathroom. I look sharp—pressed slacks, button-down. Not too shabby.
I head to Emma’s room down the hall, rapping twice on the door.
When she opens it, she eyes me up and down approvingly. “I haven’t seen you looking so spiffy in a long time.”
I gesture to my clothes. “I have to wear a suit before every game. This hardly counts as dressed up.”
She pats my shoulder. “Right. Sure. This is just like you following the club rules dress code.”
I roll my eyes. “Are you or are you not the one who sent me the link to the smart-casual dress code for tea?”
“Hmm. That does sound like me. But I still know you have ulterior motives for looking so sharp.”
“Yes. I do have ulterior motives. Which you played a part in engineering.”
With a saucy lift of her chin, she says, “You’re welcome.”
She grabs her purse, slings it over her shoulder, then smooths out her pink sundress. “Let’s go, Casanova. I’m excited that you’ve found a man to ask to tea.”
I hold up my hands in surrender. “I didn’t ask him, Ems. He offered. Told you. Your big brother is irresistible.”
She ruffles my hair as we head down the hall. “A legend in your own mind. Though you are aware that we don’t actually need an English person to navigate tea?”
“Of course we do,” I insist as we step into the elevator.
She wags her finger at me. “I’ve only been prepping for this my whole life. I’ve studied every menu for tea in the city and read the reviews. But this will be extra special. I get to go with my brother”—she wiggles a brow—“and his new gentleman friend.”
She gives me a wink as we head out into the lobby.
“Yes, he’s a friend. I came to London to make new friends,” I say, deadpan, as we hit the street.