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“Don’t you wish you could be here to find out?” I teased, which was promptly followed by another groan.

“I didn’t think I could feel worse about not making it tonight, but I should have known,” he said. “What else are you or are you not wearing?” was the next question.

I grinned. It was nice to know I could drive him mad from across the country after he’d just endured a good ten hours of training. I scanned my body again. Shoes? A tie? And then I realized that a picture was worth a thousand words.

“It’s kind of hard to describe,” I began. “Why don’t I snap a photo and I’ll send it to you.”

“I like that plan.” Sounded like he had a devilish grin on.

So did I. “Okay, I’m going to hang up and then I’ll text you the picture. Sound good?”

“Sounds . . . great,” he said.

As soon as I ended the call, I kicked my heels back up on the table. Adjusting the tie so it wound down the center of my chest, I bent my arm over my head and grabbed the top of the chair. Sampling a few expressions on the camera screen, I settled for the one I figured Jude would like the best: a soft smile topped by expectant eyes. Snapping the picture, I double-checked to make sure he’d get the what-I-was-or-wasn’t-wearing picture. The whole picture.

Yeah, it was hot.

Typing in a quick message that read, WISH YOU WERE HERE, I hit send before I could talk myself out of it. The message delivery button pinged, and I’d barely had a chance to sink my teeth into my lower lip when my phone rang.

Jude’s picture popped up on the screen again. That was fast.

I let it ring a few more times before answering.

“So,” I answered, “what do you think of the tie?”

His breath was racing again. “What tie?”

I laughed; he sounded serious.

“Oh, you mean the tie that’s buried between that beautiful chest of yours?” His voice was nothing more than a whisper. “If I wasn’t so seethingly jealous of it, I might actually like it.”

I ran my fingers down it again. “Well, I got it for you, so I’ll make sure to bring it next week. I know you’ve got a total of one tie to your name, so now you’ll have two.”

“And the first thing I’m going to do is tie you up with it and screw you until we’re both blue in the face.”

Yeah, I felt those words all the way down to my naughty parts.

“Jude,” I warned, “it might not be the best time to be discussing bondage and screwing when you’re surrounded by your teammates. They’re going to think we’ve got some kind of pervy thing going on.”

“Would they be wrong?” There was a degree of teasing in his voice, but only a fraction of one.

“Yes,” I emphasized, “they would be. We don’t do whips, chains, or whatever other things are out there. I’m a sex purist.”

“Did you just use the words sex and purist in the same sentence?” he said, sounding offended.

“That would be an affirmative,” I replied, taking a sip of water to cool myself down.

“Please, Luce, for the love of all my manly pride and ego—please don’t ever use the words sex purist to describe what we have again. I mean, what’s next? Are you going to be comparing us to vanilla ice cream?”

“No,” I said, finding it amusing that he was so insulted. When it came to what Jude and I did between the sheets, or straddling the recliner, or up against the wall, or bent over the hood of his truck, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, there was no room for complaint. But I had to have a little fun with him. “I’d say our sex life was more in line with French vanilla, if I had to assign it a flavor.”

“That’s it,” he said, determination blossoming in his voice. “I’m introducing you to French vanilla’s naughty cousin, rocky road.” The background noise suddenly began to fade as I could hear the echo of his cleats jogging down a hall.

“Ryder, what crazy-ass scheme are you up to now?” Did I even want to know? One of the many things I loved about Jude was his ability to keep me in suspense. He was the definition of spontaneous, and I’d surrendered to it somewhere along the way.

“French vanilla,” he repeated, sounding offended as he continued his jog. “I’m insulted.”

“Jude, come on,” I said, shaking my head. “Have you ever heard me complain? Because a whisper of a complaint has never even crossed my mind when it comes to you and me and—”

“Our French vanilla sex,” he interrupted.

I covered my mouth to contain my laugh. “What are you up to? The suspense is killing me.”

“I already told you,” he answered, as the clopping of his cleats stopped. “I’m introducing you to French vanilla’s badass cousin.” A shrill creak dimmed into a low moan—it was a sound I was familiar with.

“What are you doing out in your truck?” I asked, leaning forward in my seat. This conversation had taken a turn from the devastating to the intriguing in two minutes flat. “You are not planning on driving across the country in that beater, are you? Because you might think that piecer has another hundred thousand miles in it, but you’ll be stranded before you cross the California state line.”

He huffed. Jude took serious offense when anyone tried to take a crack at the second love of his life: his rust bucket of a truck that was so worn with age you couldn’t tell what its original make and model had been. Jude may have wanted a fancy new truck someday, but this one would always hold a special place in his heart.

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