“Not like mine.”
“Want to do this? A battle of who has the worst problems? I could put together a good argument that centers around high-pressure versus low-pressure situations?”
My eyes grew wide. Damn. That was a good counter.
“If you’re okay with it, then I am,” I said. “Or I will be.”
“Are you sure?”
“Are you repeating everything I say?”
“Are you repeating everything I say?”
He paused, then seemed to surrender. “You’re right. You have the bigger problems.” His top lip curved up. “Satisfied?”
Satisfaction spread through me, warming me, tickling me, and not because I’d won our stupid argument.
I was happy.
In that moment, in his arms, with the slightest glow of light behind us, as he asked me to visit him, as we decided we were more than, I was happy.
And that should’ve scared me to death, but it didn’t. That’s how far gone I was. I’d even take a Valentine’s cardboard cutout of him and gush over it every day.
I nodded. “Okay.”
He held up his hand, his pinkie extended, and I met it with mine. We pinkie swore on it.
Then he grabbed me, rolled me under him, and almost missed his flight.
Grant took me to the airport the next morning. Sophia was still sleeping. Hell, everyone was still sleeping. Reese had gotten me a ticket for the first flight out.
It was four-thirty in the morning, but score—he’d upgraded me to first class. I was looking forward to settling in the land of extra leg space and free booze, except this morning it’d be constant coffee.
They did that, right?
Airport. Me. Grant. And my nerves. There were so many.
I pressed my hand to my chest, willing some of those nerves away. It wasn’t working. They just slammed back against my chest. I felt them mocking me. Who got taunted by her own nerves? Me.
Grant pulled the car to the curb. Since it was so early, there weren’t as many travelers here. The pressure to dump and dash wasn’t as high as it usually was. Grant put the car in park and leaned back in his seat.
He watched me. “You okay?”
The nerves were now pointing and laughing. I jerked my head in a stiff nod. “Yep. Totally great. Superb.” I popped the B.
A faint grin showed, then he yawned. “It’s early. Why’d he get you a ticket this early?”
I laughed. “Right. Like I’m going to complain.”
“Besides.” I reached for my coffee. I needed to inhale it before going through security. “He said something about this way he can pick me up and not have to send a driver.”
We were both joking. Reese had bought me a freaking ticket. It could have eight layovers, and I wouldn’t care. The gesture was kind and giving and just Reese—or the way he was with me.
“I still can’t believe you’re dating Reese Forster.”
Grant rolled his eyes. “Say what you want. I know what I heard last night, and that, my friend, was a couple talk, fight, and makeup. You and him. You guys aren’t just friends.” He leaned forward. “He’s flying you to freaking Seattle. That says a lot. Friends don’t do that, or at least not after seeing you twenty-four hours ago. You know it.”
Yeah. He had a point.
I was still going to fight it. “Friends.”
He scoffed. “Yeah. You and me. We’re friends. You and him, not friends, not like that.”
“You and I kissed.”
He snorted. “Which you told me meant nothing—thanks for the ego boost.”
“Now you have Sophia.”
“Yeah.” I could hear his fondness. “I do. Now I have Sophia.” His eyes focused on me again. “And you have us too.”
I nodded. I knew he was serious. And he was still looking at me.
“We’re going to be gone by the time you come back,” he said. “Do me a favor?”
“Don’t disappear for five years, or six years, or however long it was. Please. You really are a dear friend.”
My throat swelled with an onslaught of emotions. “I know. I won’t,” I rasped out.
Oh, man. More throat burning. I looked away, tugging at the ends of my sleeves. “I told Reese about Damian, about those years. I told him some of the bad stuff. There was good too, but yeah—if I was going to hide and lock down, it would’ve happened last night.”
“That’s what we walked in on?”
“He broke through?”
Gah. Those three words were everything.
I whispered, “He broke through.”
“Then I’m indebted to him. But if he breaks your heart, I’m going to troll all the Seattle Thunder social media sites.”
I looked back at him, flicking away a tear. It was only one. Progress. “As a good friend should.”
He grunted. “Damn straight.”
After a hug goodbye, I went inside, and not long after that I was through security and heading for my gate.
The flight was just as I’d predicted: the extra leg space was heavenly. And it might’ve been the reason I was buzzed off of coffee when we landed in Seattle. I only had a carry-on with me, so no stop needed in baggage claim. When I stepped outside, I wasn’t quite ready for the entire-building mural staring back at me.
Reese. Juan. Three more players in the background. Seattle Thunder painted in big bold letters—but it was the look in Reese’s eyes that drew me in. I mean, yeah, the chiseled jaw and his hair in a small fauxhawk—which was hot on him—but it was the eyes. They were piercing my soul.
Or the chest.
The arms. The narrow hips. The way he was turned sideways and I could see his ass and—honk!
A silver truck had parked in front of me. The driver had leaned over to the passenger side, and those same eyes were smirking at me.
Busted. He knew I’d been checking him out.
I had ovaries. I was supposed to.
When he hopped out, he had on the same disguise as yesterday: a ball cap pulled low over his eyes and a hood over that, but his six-three frame was drawing looks. The curse of the professional athlete. Their build alone had people speculating who they were.
He came over, grabbed my carry-on, and said, “I’ll kiss you in the truck.”
Two ladies were gawking, and a guy was starting to head over, camera in hand.
Reese hooked a hand in the back of my pants and pulled me to the passenger side of his truck. I climbed in as he rounded to his side, he put my bag in the back seat, and we were off. The guy had almost gotten to us, his camera in front of his face now.
Reese hit the accelerator, reaching over and tugging me so I wasn’t looking out anymore. He ducked forward as well.
We got down the ramp and he’d hit the signal to merge onto the interstate when his hand finally fell away.
“I think he recognized my truck.”
“I didn’t think that was such a problem for you?”
“It’s not.” His lips tightened a moment. “Usually. It’s gotten worse since my brother’s shit happened. He got someone to post bail—a sports fan of mine—and now a new story has hit the blogs. He promised the fan they’d get to meet me, and you know how that went down. The woman is furious and blasting my name all over the gossip sites.”
His jaw had clenched. His hands were tight on the steering wheel, and I heard the slight growl under his words.
This was the reason they’d come to our camp. This was the reason he’d needed to shoot hoops for hours on end that first night. His anger was back.
As Reese turned the steering wheel to exit, I glimpsed his bicep bulging through his sweatshirt. There was a rigidness there that hadn’t been present in Minnesota.
I reacted without thinking, catching his hand and pulling it to my lap.
He glanced over, but didn’t pull away or say anything.
I began to rub at the base of his thumb. It was rock hard.
He bit out a groan. “Jesus, that feels good.”
“That’s all stress.”
Another grunt. “Tell me about it.” His eyes fluttered a second, and he seemed to shake himself loose. “Wait. No. Tell me about it. Tell me about your flight. Your dinner. How’s the infamous Janet? Am I ever going to meet her?” He managed a crooked smile.
I filled him in: A caffeine buzz. Okay. Same. And no.
His laugh was a low baritone. “That’s it? You’re not going into any more detail?”
I shook my head. “Nope. My turn of being the center of attention was, like, five states ago. We’re in your territory now.” I kept rubbing over his thumb. “Fill me in on what’s going on with your brother.”
His hand jerked, but he kept it in mine. “It’s a shit show. That’s all I can say.”
“So tell me.”
He cursed, pulling his hand away and rubbing it over his jaw. “I don’t really want to talk about it, to be honest.”
I tried not to feel dejected. I was mostly failing. “I told you about my stuff.”
“And I told you mine.”