He ignored it, bending down so his hands rested on both sides of me, an apology already in his eyes. “Meeting you at camp and the time with you afterward has helped me. It distracted me from what’s happening now.” His eyes softened, and he smoothed his thumb down the side of my cheek, leaving a trail of tingles. “I don’t know how to say this, except that a guy’s gotta…”
He paused again, took another breath. His eyes flashed, a hardness replacing the gentleness before. “Being a pro athlete, you’re a professional. You have to be. This is my day at the office, and along with that comes lines I won’t cross, people I won’t let in, and I put up harsh boundaries sometimes. It’s a high-pressure living, and that means sometimes I’ll be hard, but not with you. Whatever you see from me down there, I’ll never be like that with you. I want you to know that.”
I nodded, speechless, as he twisted around. The buzzer was a constant now, and he pulled on some pants, cursing as he went out of the room.
I was dazed, from all of this.
He had kissed me like he was starving, then shoved inside like he was dehydrated. I loved it—every bit of it—but the warning? That had fallen to the pit of my stomach. What kind of guys were they that had come over?
He brought my carry-on upstairs just before his door opened and we heard someone holler, “Reese?”
There’d been no time to talk, and he’d disappeared after running a hand over his face.
I showered, marveling at his bathroom, then got dressed. It was an hour later when I was ready, and three more voices had joined the conversation downstairs. I couldn’t make out their words, but I could hear them. There was some shouting, curses, and low murmuring too.
“I don’t give a shit!” Reese barked as I left the room.
His bedroom was on the second floor. At the end of the hallway, stairs covered in white carpet swept down to the front door. I could tell they’d gathered in a room off to the side—probably the living room.
And here I was, not sure what to do.
I opted for going back to his bed. After making it, I lie down and dug in my bag for my phone and headphones. Barns Courtney had a new single out. I must’ve dozed, because when I came to, Reese was standing over me, a weird smile on his face.
“Hey.” I pulled the headphones off, sitting up.
A guy stood in the doorway, his eyebrows pinched together and a firm scowl on his face. He was trim, maybe around six feet, in khaki dress pants and a blazer. A Seattle Thunder pin was attached to his lapel.
“Who the fuck is this?” he asked.
Reese ignored him, saying to me, “You fell asleep?”
“Reese.” The guy stepped in the room.
Still ignoring him. “I have to go to the gym. Juan’s girlfriend is coming over to pick you up. She’ll take you to the game. You can hang with her until after.”
Jeez. I was being inducted to the girlfriend circle already? Not intimidated at all here.
“Okay.” I sounded cool and calm, not lying whatsoever.
Reese saw right through me. “You’ll like her. She’s like your friend Hadley.”
That eased a few of the knots.
The guy took another step, his hands clutching the ends of his jacket. “Reese!”
“What?” Reese looked behind him, a scowl on his face now.
There was the guy I first met. He’d warned me. He went from kind to dick in two seconds flat.
It was wrong to be turned on, right? A burst of flutters started in my chest.
The guy pointed at me, his finger jabbing in the air. “Who the hell is this girl? Was she here the whole time?”
Reese was cold. “It’s none of your business.”
“She could’ve overheard everything. Has she signed an NDA?”
Reese’s back was tense. He took a step away from the bed, partially blocking me from the guy’s view. “When have I fucked up?”
The guy was quiet. “Your brother—”
“That’s Roman. When have I fucked up?”
“Then why are you acting like I just fucked up?”
The guy eased back a step, his tone a mild bark now. “Your judgment could be impaired—”
Slap! Right to my face. The guy’s invisible hand left an imprint.
“—and you’ve never had one of your women—”
A second slap, followed by a pow.
“—here before when we have business going on. It’s my job to look out for you.”
“Yeah. Look out for me, not assume I’ve completely lost my mind.” Reese jerked his head toward the door. “I’ll be right out. Got it?”
There was a moment of silence. Then I heard the guy succumb. “Fine.”
He left, disappeared down the hallway, and the front door slammed shut a beat after.
Reese didn’t look at me, not at first. He stared at the door, letting out a soft, “Fuck,” before turning back. Regret flared over his face. “I’m not even going to address that guy, because honestly, you’re going to get more reactions like that. I’m sorry.”
I gulped. “It’s fine.”
“It’s not.” His face was tormented. “And I won’t be around to block it all.” He sat by me, his eyes tracing my face. “Just stay close to Marie. She’ll be here in an hour. She talked about coming early to get to know you a little.”
I was getting a wake-up call here. That guy’s reaction, the camera guy, the mural outside of the airport. Yeah. It wasn’t time for jokes, though I winced. There should always be room for jokes, but okay. Serious again.
I sat up, touching Reese’s leg. “Hey. I got it. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“I’m not sure what to say here, because I don’t want to keep you a secret, but…”
Yes. Invisible writing on the wall. I could read it. I reached, my fingers sliding through his. I gave him a reassuring squeeze. Our roles were switching. The significance wasn’t lost on me.
“I’ll be fine. I’m not a girl who’s going to get upset you’re not telling people about whatever we are.”
His eyes flashed.
I grinned. “I mean, I know we’re having great sex, but well, you know what I mean.”
He groaned, leaning down and capturing my mouth. “You’re more than a screw. You know that, right?”
I almost preened. “The best words ever. Put that on a Valentine’s Day card.”
A grimace, then a chuckle. “Shit. I’m sorry. I…” He leaned back, tilting his head to the side. “We don’t use the big words.”
“Because of me. Because of my baggage.” I squeezed his hand. “So if you think I’m a chick who wants to shout it to the tabloids or anyone that we’re whatever—”
He laughed. “We’ve progressed. Screwing to whatever.”
I lifted a shoulder. “—then you never really knew me.” I waved a hand around. “All of this is a lot, but I’ve got too much damage in me to start getting ideas. You can relax. I’m here to whatever you and hang out. That’s it. But if Juan’s girlfriend isn’t cool, I might ditch the game.”
His eyes widened. “Are you serious?”
“No.” I flashed a grin. “But I might ditch her and watch from the aisle somewhere.”
He groaned, bending down to rest his forehead to mine. His hands cupped my face. “Don’t do that. Marie’s cool, and you’ll hurt her feelings. Then Juan will get mad at me because Marie’s very picky about who she befriends.”
That made her more appealing. I perked up. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” He pressed a kiss to my forehead just as a honking sound came from outside. “Jesus Christ. I’m going to kill that guy.”
“Go.” I shooed him. “Get out of here.”
He backed toward the door. “Marie knows the code to lock everything up, and stick with her after the game. We’ll meet up with you guys.” He turned to jog down the stairs.
I scrambled to my knees. “Good luck!”
“Thanks,” he shouted.
Then the door shut again, and I could hear voices outside.
I couldn’t help myself. I went to the window, watching Reese get in the passenger side of a very expensive-looking car. I had no clue what kind it was, but it screamed money. The gate opened, and the car sped off.
Then it was me, and the realization of the world I’d stepped into hit me hard.
I was fairly certain I’d just crapped my pants.
Reese lied to me.
Marie was nothing like Hadley.
I mean, height and weight she was petite like Hadley, but she had black hair, a lip ring, and had a solid amount of makeup on her face. Also, her arms were crossed over her chest and she was inspecting me like I was an ant under her shoe.
“What are your intentions with Reese?”
That wasn’t even her first question. She’d started off the interrogation Monty Python-style with “What is your name? What is your favorite color?” And we’d progressed from there. I was past the first molehill of questions and she now circled me as I sat at Reese’s kitchen table.
“Uh, my intentions?” I shrugged. “Besides phenomenal sex?”
She kept circling, those arms still crossed tight. “You know what I mean. You’re a funny one, I see.”
I was tempted to snort, but I’d done that after the first four questions. She got tired of it, growling, “You’re not taking this seriously.” I’d been refraining since.
I sighed instead. More appropriate.
“Okay.” I was having déjà vu. This was the third time my cards had needed to be laid out, and I stood.