I laugh, shaking my head. “No. Not at all. One, he’s not my type. Two, he’s actually pretty serious about someone, so I was just taking the piss out of him, and he’s not even around to defend himself. Poor fella.”

“Why is he not your type? What’s your type?”

I rake my eyes over Fitz. “Well, I happen to prefer a little rugged charm.” I take a beat. “Or a lot, for that matter.”

“Perfect answer.” He grabs the menu, and as he looks at it, something occurs to me. Fitz is the first guy I’ve brought to this place where my friends congregate.

The whole time I was with Dylan, I never brought him here.

Never wanted to.

I kept him and other hookups separate from the people in my life I see nearly every day. Maybe because this place and these people feel like mine. I’d want to keep these friends in the inevitable breakup, so it was simpler not to let my worlds collide.

No need to intermingle.

Though I just did.

But Fitz and I have a natural split coming our way on Thursday. That must be why I’m comfortable with him being here.

Since he’s leaving, this place will always be mine.

Fitz taps the menu. “What do you recommend? I have to admit, I haven’t heard great things about English food. Outside of scones, of course.”

“Which you missed in your overzealous haste earlier today.”

“You missed the scones too,” he points out.

I arch a brow, taking my time. “No, Fitz. I didn’t miss the scones one bit.”

“You have such a dirty mind, and I love it,” Fitz says, dragging a hand over his scruff. I can still remember how it felt against my thighs.

Something I don’t need to think about right now.

And yet . . .

“And when you do that,” I say, gesturing to his jaw, “you cause the filthy thoughts to multiply.”

His eyes seem to spark with dirty delight, and he lets out a low hum of appreciation. “You like my beard.”

“You know I do,” I say, then manage to veer the conversation back to the original topic. “And to answer your question—Sam doesn’t offer typical English bar food. He was a chef before he broke into the bar business. He’s a Yankee, like you.”

“Ha! I knew it. So English food is terrible.”

I roll my eyes. “That’s not what I said.”

Fitz wags his finger. “Then why did it take an American to fix it?”

He’s deliberately trying to get under my skin, and I love it. All I can do is laugh.

“So, you admit the food here sucks?” he presses.

“Hello? Who is disparaging my fine cuisine?” The interruption comes from Sam, who’s off the phone and has joined us at our end of the bar.

I hold up my hands in surrender, then gesture to my date. “Sorry, mate. We’ll have to bar him for casting aspersions.”

Sam hooks his thumb in the direction of the door. “Time to go.”

Fitz clasps my shoulder. “His fault, man. He didn’t defend you.”

“Yes, I did,” I say.

“No, you didn’t. You only said he was a chef. You didn’t say his food was great.”

“His food is great.” I practically shout it.

“Maybe I need to kick out Dean,” Sam suggests.

“You would never.”

“Seems like he might,” Fitz says.

Sam grins, tipping his head toward the man next to me. “You from California?”

Fitz grins. “San Diego. Born and raised.”

He and Sam exchange a thoroughly American fist-bump thing. “I grew up in New York but lived in LA for ten years. What brings you here?”

Fitz explains about Emma and her art program, and the two of them chat about tacos and burritos, beaches and surfing, hitting it off instantly.

Resting an elbow on the bar, I watch their volley, listening to their laid-back way of speaking, all those dudes and mans and bros.

“I miss the beaches something fierce, bro.” Sam sighs a little wistfully.

“I don’t get much beach time these days, being in New York. But when I go home, I soak up the rays.”

“Your job is the opposite of the beach, isn’t it?” I chime in.

“What do you do?” Sam asks.

“I play hockey.”

Sam’s mouth falls open, and a long “Ohhhhhh” falls from his lips. “Dude! I knew you looked familiar. That last game—you guys killed me.”

“Trust me. It killed us too. We did not want the season to end like that.”

“But this year, you’re going to go all the way?”

“Only way to go.”

“Get us the Cup, man. Get us the Cup,” Sam says, pounding his fist on the bar.

They knock fists again, and Fitz turns to me. “You didn’t tell me Sam was a hockey fan.”

“Shockingly, we’ve never discussed hockey before.”

“Well, discuss it now. I can talk about hockey all night,” Fitz says, and I laugh because I’m sure he can, but he hasn’t brought it up once to me. And I kind of love that he’s not one to push his passions on someone else, and that he has plenty of other things to talk about too.


Tags: Lauren Blakely Romance
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