Wearing Thunder warm-ups and a Thunder sweatshirt, a cap pulled low and his hood up, Reese was still easy to recognize. He saw our van and paused, then turned toward us, raising his hand.
“Hey, strangers.” He smirked and bent down to see inside. “Oh, wow. You have a full vehicle.” Angling his head, he saw me and his smirk grew. “All the way in the back. That’s my little psycho.”
The rest of the van started laughing.
Lauren’s eyes were saucers. “How do you—you know—” She looked at me and then at Reese. “What is happening right now?”
He took pity on her. “Hi. I’m Reese. I know these crazy people.” He nodded. “And I’m liking the vehicle digs. I should get something like this. I can get a driver to take me around. More branding for the team. Right?”
I was done waiting for someone to get out first.
I started forward, and Trent opened the door for me.
Lauren began to climb out, but he held her back. “Maybe we should park and all come in then?” he suggested to Grant.
I almost sagged from thankfulness. They were giving us just a moment of privacy.
Reese moved, and as if we’d practiced it, he held his arms out and I jumped into them.
I barely registered Hadley’s surprised gasp, or the fact that Trent shut the door behind me. I was just focused on Reese’s arms and the way he carried me, like I was a doll again, inside the building, away from any more prying eyes.
Once inside, he walked right to the elevator. “I’m assuming they’re coming up?”
I took him in. He hadn’t showered, so the tips of his hair were still wet, pressed under his hat, and he reeked, but he’d just run maybe two miles and scored forty-two points. That made up for any smell. I was also eager to get in that shower with him.
Once the elevator door closed, Reese’s mouth was on mine.
“Fuck,” he breathed out, his lips opening mine. “I have missed this.” His hand slid down to my waist, lifting my jersey and stroking up my naked back. “You taste so good. Smell fucking good. I want your friends to go away forever. Right now.”
I wanted the same, but I didn’t have a joke. We had three more floors to go, so I tugged his mouth back to mine.
He set me down on my feet once we got to my floor, but his hands didn’t move off me. Not as we walked down the hall or as I unlocked the door, and once it was shut? It was the elevator 2.0 except a whole lot more insistent.
Reese was on me.
He hoisted me up, and my legs wound around him. He rocked into me, groaning into my ear. He caught the lobe in his teeth and murmured, “Once they’re gone, we are boning long and hard. I’m so glad I chose to come here first.”
I moaned, searching for his mouth, and we didn’t part until we heard feet shuffling outside, then a knock. Someone rang the doorbell.
Grant called through the door, “Yeah, we can hear you guys. Let us in before the rest of the hallway does too.”
Reese buried his head in my neck, smothering a laugh.
I was beyond embarrassed. My entire neck was red. I could feel my face heating, and as I reached for the door, Reese kissed me on the neck, saying, “I’m going to wash super fast.”
But he’d already ducked into my bathroom.
Not the guest bathroom in the hallway, but mine. In my bedroom.
I was so screwed.
Smoothing my hair, I opened the door and cleared my throat. “Heya, guys.”
Grant came in first. Knowing eyes. “Nice.”
Sophia followed with a thumbs-up. “Doing great!”
Owen rolled his shoulder. “Sorry. Tried to stall as long as we could.”
Hadley was beaming and bouncing up and down. “I have to pee. It’s my fault.” She darted around the others, grabbing the bathroom first.
Trent and Lauren brought up the rear.
“Sorry,” Trent mouthed.
I lifted my shoulder. It was what it was.
Lauren’s eyes hadn’t diminished in size, and she was giving me a whole different look than before, as if seeing me anew.
I didn’t like it.
My bedroom door was closed, but we could hear the sounds of the shower.
Grant sat at the table. “Got some booze?”
Owen sat next to him. “Or food?”
Lauren’s hand gripped Trent’s tightly. “Are we staying here?” she asked in a loud whisper.
Trent’s eyes met mine. I shook my head. No way, not after her reaction.
He mouthed Janet’s name.
I held up my hand. It wouldn’t matter. She’d see Janet anyway.
As if we’d had a whole telepathic conversation, he sighed and said, “No. We’re staying at Janet’s.”
“Yeah.” Grant spoke up, raising his hand. “I’m not trying to be a dick, but in the spirit of protecting my friend, you can’t say shit to Janet.”
It took a moment before Lauren realized he was talking to her. When she did, she looked around. Everyone was watching her. No one was laughing. Or grinning. Or looking any way other than deadly serious.
The door opened behind me. Hadley stepped forward, not her usual happy self. She charged right up to Lauren and said softly, but so damned clearly, “Janet cannot keep her mouth shut. You tell her one thing, and she’ll tell forty others by the end of the night. You want us to protect you when she rips you to shreds—because it’ll happen—you do us a solid now.” She motioned to me. “Don’t say a word about Charlie and Reese. Charlie isn’t hanging out with us because she has a friend in from out of town. That’s it. You don’t know who the friend is. She was someone from college. That’s all you say to her.”
She stepped back, all sunny-like now. “Do we have martinis here?”
Lauren turned to Trent. “Excuse me?”
Trent groaned. “Thanks, Hads. I was going to ease into the whole thing about Janet being a gossip.”
Hadley and Sophia both made exasperated sounds.
Hadley went to sit on Owen’s lap. “Right. There’s no way to ease into that conversation. We love Janet. We accept her for who she is, but we also know when to keep our mouths shut. This is one of those situations.”
The shower turned off.
A different headache began forming at the base of my neck.
Janet. I’d have to see her tomorrow. She’d not been subtle, wanting to know all about Damian the last time I saw her. I had escaped without much slipping, but it was hard under pressure.
The door opened. Feet padded down the hall. I smelled him at the same time I felt his warmth, then an arm curved around me, pulling me back into a very strong chest.
He propped his chin on top of my head. “The whole gang’s here, with a new friend. Trent, you got a girlfriend you never mentioned?”
In some ways, it was the best icebreaker.
Everyone relaxed, and Trent shook his head. “Right. I’m the one with the gir—”
“We’re friends,” I cut him off.
“Who bone,” Reese added.
I tried to turn in his arms, but he tightened his hold. His laugh reverberated near my ear, as everyone else laughed.
He started rocking me from side to side. “So what’s the news with the camp upsets?”
“What?” Lauren asked. It was about the only thing she had left to say.
Trent chuckled, putting his arm around her shoulders. She whispered something to him, and he responded, moving his mouth to her ear.
“It’s good,” Owen said. He nodded to me. “Mostly waiting for Charlie to make her decision.”
Reese knew I hadn’t decided. He’d reminded me of his offer a few times. I felt his attention now and looked up. “Nothing’s changed. I’m still thinking it over.”
He swallowed, some of the carefree demeanor I’d noticed he kept when my friends were around slipping a little.
He squeezed me tighter, saying just over my ear, “Yeah.”
Grant frowned. So did Trent. Owen looked away, adjusting his shoulder.
Hadley and Sophia both seemed to sober.
Lauren was the only one unaffected, for once.
Grant broke the tension. “So.” His eyes moved between us. “You don’t want her to take the job?”
Reese shifted, coming out from behind me, but he kept his arm on my shoulder. “Would you? Knowing what she’s gone through, where she currently is, and knowing she might be working with you guys, but she’ll be working for that board?” His smirk was hard. “No offense, but your board still sucks. I was not impressed with them.”
Lauren looked completely lost.
Owen’s mouth tightened.
“Right.” Grant’s gaze found mine.
Okay. Yeah. This was on me.
I broke free from Reese, hooking my hands in my sleeves. “It’s my decision. I have to decide on a few things, you know that.”
“But what about money?” Grant asked. “I mean, you wouldn’t be making a ton, but rent and stuff is way cheaper in Fairview than here.”
I moved into the kitchen. “Again, it’s my decision. And I’ve not made it yet.”
“You said yourself you can’t afford to stay here much longer…” Grant followed me.
I turned. “And that’s my business!”
Reese moved to stand in the kitchen doorway, resting his shoulder against the frame, but his eyes were not nearly so relaxed.