Parking my car a few blocks down, I walk through the posh neighborhood toward Brienne Norcross’s mansion for the team Christmas party. Although I’ve been with the Pittsburgh Titans for a month and a half, I’m still getting my social bearings. On the ice, I’ve seamlessly integrated as a defenseman onto the first line, replacing Nolan Carrier in a trade that took me from the two-time champions, the Arizona Vengeance.
The trade was a lucrative deal for me. On a personal level, I’m still not sure. My time with the Vengeance was more than meaningful as we were a patched-together expansion team thrust into a competitive league. We defied all odds and won back-to-back Cups, and within those two years, our team bonded like no other.
It was painful to leave.
But trades happen all the time and in this business you can never really set down solid roots. Your fate is mostly in others’ hands.
As I approach Brienne’s house—aglow with thousands of festive lights on the outside that give me a tingly feeling because I fucking love Christmas—I take a moment to consider the similarities between her and the Vengeance owner, Dominik Carlson.
Both owners take a very personal interest in their players. They’re hands-on in their concern for our welfare but otherwise trust the general manager and coaches to make us good. While they’re both incredibly wealthy, they’re also down-to-earth and approachable. Hell, Brienne Norcross is dating our goalie, Drake McGinn. She’s a multibillionaire CEO of an empire and while he’s important to our team, he’s just a regular guy compared to her level of success.
As I trot up the front steps to the massive double doors, I hear music and laughter from within, telling me this is going to be a fun party.
I expected no less because Brienne is just good people.
It’s three days before Christmas and I’ve been hyped up for the holiday for a while now. I decided on renting a downtown condo until I can figure out the city. Plus, my parents are coming in for a visit and to catch a game. I’ve already got my tree up and all the necessary ingredients for my mom to make her decorated sugar cookies that will ensure I have to do double duty at the gym.
I don’t bother knocking on the door but enter a cacophony of raucous laughter and a group of people singing Christmas carols from somewhere in the house. It’s hard for me to focus on anyone in particular because I’m momentarily stunned by the grandeur of Brienne’s home. I understand it was her family home, but it doesn’t fit the sleek, modern woman who is the Titans’ owner. It’s opulent in an old-fashioned way. It reminds me a bit of the Biltmore Estate I visited one summer. Dark-paneled walls and elaborate embellishments grace the ceiling, showcasing intricate designs of flowers, leaves and vines. The floor is marble, the tiles creating a round pattern in the foyer. A chandelier the size of a car and covered in thousands of shimmering crystals hangs above the sweeping main staircase. The furniture looks like the type not meant for sitting and the massive oil paintings look like they should be in a museum.
All in all, it’s far too formal for my taste but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.
I’m nearly bowled over when three little boys whiz by, chasing each other with empty wrapping paper tubes. I grin as Drake’s kids hurtle past a round table holding a translucent vase, nearly hitting it with one of the tubes. My grin goes wider as Drake appears from nowhere and snatches two of the kids by their shirt collars and calls a halt to the other. They all three sheepishly hand over the tubes to their dad whose glare isn’t intimidating at all. I met the little rug rats last week when Drake brought them by the arena.
“Bain,” someone calls out, and I turn to see Stevie with Hendrix holding her hand.
I walk over to them, standing just inside what looks to be a formal parlor. I get a bro hug from Hendrix and a real hug from Stevie. I’ve gotten to know her well this past month, especially since we’ve been hanging at her bar quite a bit in our off time. I admire the spitfire of a woman who isn’t afraid to break up a brawl in her establishment.
And well, Hendrix… he’s fucking over the moon about this woman. I think his days as a single guy are truly over.
“Some house, huh?” I say, glancing around.
Stevie leans into me and whispers, “I feel like I’m in a museum.”
“Exactly my thought.” I glance around, then back to Hendrix and, in particular, the drink in his hand. “Where’re the libations?”
He points across the foyer to another large room that houses more expensive-looking furniture. “There’s an open bar. All top-shelf liquor.” He then points past the staircase. “Dining room is laid out with a buffet. Try the tenderloin. You will not be disappointed.”
“And the shrimp,” Stevie chimes in.
“I’ll hit the bar first. Catch you two later.”
I meander into the other room, stopping to talk to some players. I’ve been able to meet a lot of the significant others since I’ve been here, but not all of them. At the bar, I order Blanton’s neat and tip the bartender a twenty. She hands over my drink and I turn slightly, lifting the glass to my lips.
A thrilling zing of excitement sizzles through me as a woman walks into the room from another entrance that looks to lead from a music room. She’s tall but curvy, her body accentuated by a pair of well-fitting dark jeans tucked into black boots that come up over her knees. The heels are thin pegs of four-inch sexiness. Her cranberry sweater is one of those fuzzy ones that you know would feel like heaven against your skin, and I’m a fucking lecherous dude so I can’t help but notice how nice her breasts look in it.
Dark blue eyes scan the room casually, not as if she’s looking for anyone in particular but just checking out the scene. I’m a sucker for blonds and her long hair, ribboned with highlights, falls over her shoulders.
As much as blonds do it for me, her mouth is catching my attention more than anything. Full lips shiny with gloss, and as she smiles at someone who walks by, I see her teeth are perfectly straight and gleaming white. She could definitely pass for a supermodel and I can only assume she’s a girlfriend of one of the guys… or a puck bunny.
In either case, that would make her off-limits to me, but until such time as I confirm she belongs to someone else, I can’t help but be drawn toward her.
Winding my way through the crowd, her gaze turns to me as I approach. And she doesn’t just meet my eyes but rather checks me out. I’m talking about full-blown, slow visual roam over my face, down my chest, past my hips to my legs and then a leisurely climb back up so that by the time we’re staring at each other, she has me feeling a bit hot under the collar.
And fuck me to high heaven, she bites her lower lip just briefly, as if she’s considering something about me.
I need to know what it is.
When I come toe to toe with her, I can see she’s even taller than I first thought, although those boots have something to do with it. Regardless, I like that she doesn’t have to break her neck to look up at me as I top out at six foot seven. She has to be at least five ten herself.
Pointing upward, I say, “It must be fate.”
She appears confused as her eyes lift to the spray of holly leaves, cranberries and tucked inside… mistletoe. It’s hanging on the archway that opens between the two rooms.
The woman tilts her head, brows furrowed. “Fate?”
“That’s mistletoe.” I point upward again. “It’s good luck to kiss under it.”
Her eyes move around the room briefly before coming back to me, her expression amused. “Now how do you know that’s mistletoe?”
I take a step closer. “My older brother told me about it. Said it was guaranteed to get a girl to kiss you.”
She laughs, tipping her head back, and fuck me… those dimples. When she looks at me again, I extend my hand and she takes it. “Bain.”
“Kiera,” she replies and neither of us pulls away, and she asks, “So I’m just supposed to kiss a complete stranger.”
“We’re not strangers,” I reply, looking pointedly at our palms still pressed together. Her grip is strong, but her skin is soft. Her nails are unpainted and short but well-manicured. “You’re Kiera, I’m Bain. And now we know each other.”
With an almost reluctant sigh, she tugs her hand from mine. “While the idea has merit, I’m not sure it would go over well.”
“Are you here with someone?” I ask.
“You mean, am I here with another man?”
I just stare at her, because that’s exactly what I’m asking. I need to know whether to move on. She shakes her head with a wry laugh. “No way. Happily single.”
“You say that like it’s a creed or something,” I observe with a knowing smirk.
“Oh, it is.”
“Commitment averse?” I guess.
She nods quickly. “No one depending on me.”
“Totally get that. Able to come and go as you please.”
“Taking what I want, when I want it.”
I grin. “We’re like two peas in a pod. Relationships give me the wiggins. But speaking of taking what you want, when you want it… if you want that kiss, I’m more than happy to find a private area.”
Kiera appraises me for a long, silent moment. Then she surprises me by taking my glass from my hand, lifting it to her lips and sipping. She holds the liquid in her mouth, savoring the taste before swallowing. She licks her lower lip and hums with appreciation.
Christ, that’s sexy as fuck.
Handing it back to me, she says, “I’m going to have to decline.”
I never actually expected her to run off with a stranger for a kiss, but I’m curious about her reasoning. “I promise I’m safe.”
“Yeah… I can actually tell you’re a big ol’ teddy bear.” She’s not wrong about that. Despite being a defenseman and participating in my share of brawls, I’m quite the pacifist. Kiera gives me a sly smile, lowering her voice as she leans into me. “But in this instance, I can tell that if you and I engaged in a kiss, it would never be enough. We’d surely find ourselves naked and sweaty in some closet in Brienne’s house.”
Shouldn’t have chosen that moment to take a sip of my bourbon because I almost choke on it. As it is, I’m able to keep my surprise to a gasping cough. She stares back at me, blue eyes sparkling with humor, but I can tell… she’s not joking.
“At the risk of sounding too forward—but somehow thinking I’m safe in saying it—I’m more than willing to leave this party right now if you want to go somewhere and have a drink. Get to know each other.”
“And have sex?” she asks, one eyebrow arching high, but I can hear the teasing in her tone.
“Mind-blowing sex,” I correct her. “But whatever you want to call it.”
She laughs again, taking my glass from me. Her fingers caress mine as she pulls it free and takes another delicate sip before turning it back over. “It’s a shame I have another commitment or I’d take you up on that offer.”
Okay, shocked once again and where I thought I was on equal footing with this woman, I’m clearly not. “Are you serious or joking?”
“Serious as a heart attack.” She inclines her head, her expression genuinely regretful. “It was nice to meet you.”
I’m the guy who’s always the quick-witted flirt, but she’s reduced me to muteness. It’s only when she starts to walk away that I jolt out of it. I take her wrist. “Wait.” She smiles at me with raised eyebrows. “Let me have your number.”
“Want to sext?”
My jaw drops but I recover, offering a sly grin. “I’m really good at it. But I was thinking we’d start with dinner.”
“Kiera,” someone calls out, and we both glance to the foyer to see Brienne standing there with Drake’s kids. Brienne waves her over.
“Sorry,” she says, tugging her wrist free. “Duty calls.”
“Duty?” I ask with confusion.
“Got to get my nephews to bed. I promised Brienne I’d help since she’s the hostess of this party.”
Fuck… this is Drake’s sister.
“Thanks for the banter,” she says. “A shame we’re not able to scratch each other’s itch.”
And once again shocked silent, I can only watch her walk away. When she reaches Brienne and the boys, the ladies exchange words and then Kiera ushers the boys upstairs. I’m assuming to put them to bed.
Something bumps my shoulder and I see Coen standing there.
“What’s up?” I say, my eyes still on the staircase, even though Kiera is gone.
“Don’t go there, dude.”
I turn to face him. “Go where?”
“Anywhere near Drake’s sister,” he says. “He made it clear from day one on this team she’s off-limits.”
“I wasn’t here on day one,” I reply, unwilling to have this woman taken away from me before I have a good shot at her. “So I didn’t get the message.”
Coen shrugs. “Your death, not mine.”
I snort, because that’s being overly dramatic.
Still… I’d take Drake on.
His sister can’t look at me that way, tell me it’s a shame she can’t scratch my itch and not assume I won’t come after her.
“I’m tired, Aunt Kiera.” Jake tugs on my hand and looks up at me. As the eldest of Drake’s three boys at age seven, he’s never the whiner. He’s always helping to take care of his younger twin brothers, Colby and Tanner. But in fairness to him, watching his dad play hockey is exhausting. The boys don’t go to a lot of games, mostly because it makes for very late nights.
But on weekend afternoon games, such as today, Drake likes them in the stands watching and they’re over the moon to be there. Drake has four season tickets right behind the Titans’ goal, where he defends twice during a game—first and third periods. It makes it so he can turn around and shoot the boys a wink during TV timeouts and yes, while it’s cute… they all three go apeshit when he does that and they’re almost impossible to get settled down.
All three of them stood at the glass the entire time, watching their dad stop shot after shot. Unfortunately, two slipped through and the only goal scored by Stone Highsmith late in the third period wasn’t enough to win the game.
Now all three boys are tired and pissy that Daddy lost.
I put my hands to Colby’s and Tanner’s backs, leading them across the family lounge to a grouping of chairs and couches. “Sit here. Your dad won’t be long.”
Once the boys are situated, I unlock my phone and hand it over to Jake. He takes it without hesitation and expertly navigates to the Disney+ app that I keep downloaded with some movies for them to watch. I’m not sure how parents or caretakers of children ever survived without something like this to keep them occupied.
“Do you guys want anything to eat or drink?” I ask. The Titans keep the family lounge stocked with fresh buffet foods and an arrangement of drinks for both before and after the game. This is usually where the players will come to meet spouses and kids or visiting family members. Brienne often comes in before the game, walking around and introducing herself to every single person she doesn’t know.
On days like today, when the boys are here, I expect her to arrive any moment for the handoff. She’ll keep an eye on them until Drake showers and changes, but she’s probably giving a quick postgame interview.
“Cookies,” Colby says with bright, hopeful eyes.
“Carrot sticks,” I reply, and he wrinkles his nose.
“I’ll get you a plate you can share,” I promise.
I know Drake and Brienne are going to take the boys out to dinner, so I put some veggies on a plate along with ranch dip, which will induce them to eat it. I grab water bottles and set them down on the coffee table. They’re all three hovered over my phone, watching Toy Story and ignoring the food.
My stomach rumbles since I haven’t eaten since lunch and I’m not going out with the gang for dinner. Brienne invited me, but I declined, more so just to give them time together as a family. I’m around them so much by virtue of being the boys’ secondary caretaker that I try to give them as much family bonding time as they can get. It’s only been a few weeks since they all moved in with Brienne and I want them to solidify. The boys need to feel stable and settled, especially given the upheaval their mom has caused over the last few years. It appears she’s gone for good since none of us have heard from her in months.
I also declined the invitation to dinner as I’m looking forward to having the evening to myself. The workweek starts early tomorrow, back to my day job and picking the boys up after school and caring for them until Brienne or Drake are home.
Best of all, because there’s food here, I won’t have to cook.
I head back to the buffet line and see a couple checking out the offerings… a man and a woman who appear to be in their late fifties. I haven’t seen them here before, but they have the look of someone’s parents.
“Hi,” I say brightly as I grab a plate from the end.
They both smile at me and the man nods at the silver chafing dishes over Sterno warmers. “This is a nice touch. They did something similar to this in Arizona.”
“Ahh,” I say with a knowing look. “You must be Bain’s parents.”
The super-hot hockey player that I had a very interesting exchange with a few days ago at the Titans’ Christmas party.
“Yes,” his dad says and holds out a hand, his smile popping. “I’m Dave Hillridge and this is my wife, Sheila.”
I shake their hands. “Kiera McGinn. Drake is my brother.”
Dave grimaces slightly. “He had a rough game.”
That he did, facing a whopping thirty-eight shots on goal while we only managed to get off thirty against our opponent. “It’s part of the business, right? But Drake can be pretty circumspect.”
“Not our Bain,” Sheila says, moving in closer to whisper. “He takes it all very personally.”
Interesting. I got a very laid-back vibe from him when we met. Not that you can be mellow after a loss. The spirit of competition runs hot with these guys, but in just those few minutes of conversation, I could tell that Bain is confident and well balanced. I suppose he could still let the weight of defeat rest on his shoulders. He’s a defenseman and his job is to help protect against the shots.
And then it hits me… I could be seeing him again.
Any moment, really, and a thrum of excitement swims through me. I had imagined we’d cross paths again at some point but didn’t think it would be this soon. I rarely go to the games, usually the one watching the boys in the evenings since Brienne has to be here too.
“Have you met him yet?” Sheila asks, and I blink a moment, realizing I’d zoned out.
I manage a quick smile. “Yes, actually. At the Christmas party but only for a few moments.”
“He’s single, you know,” she says slyly, and her husband rolls his eyes, muttering under his breath.
I see Brienne and Drake walking through the lounge door and I set the plate down on a table. “I’m sorry… but my brother just walked in and I need to hand over his kids. It was really lovely meeting you.”
“We hope to see you again,” Sheila says. “We live in Virginia, so we plan to come to as many games as we can. We’re so happy to have Bain back on the East Coast.”
“I look forward to seeing you both again.”
I gracefully step away, my heart racing a bit that Bain’s mom would just come right out with the matchmaking. I have no desire for that and what little I’ve come to know about her son, he’s not into that either.
I smile internally as I head over toward the boys to round them up, remembering the conversation with Bain. He and I seemed very much alike, neither of us interested in anything serious. I’ve had amazingly bad luck finding someone to have a fling with since moving here… maybe he’s the one.
Granted, I’ve been incredibly busy between work and the kids, but now that Drake’s seeing Brienne, the boys are with her on the nights he travels to away games. I meet my brother at the couch and step into him for a hug in commiseration. “Sorry about the loss, bro.”
He squeezes me. “Thanks.”
My eyes go to Brienne and I share my empathy with her as well. It’s her team, so the loss stings just as much. She smiles wanly, her hand reaching out absently to tousle Colby’s hair. He tips his head back and smiles at her. My heart does a flippity-flop because Brienne used to be terrified of kids. Now those boys adore her and she’s going to make a wonderful mom to them. There’s no doubt in my mind that Drake will be proposing. There was a time when I never thought he would marry again because of how bad his first marriage had become. But Brienne is a one-in-a-million woman and I know he’s never going to let her get away.
“You sure you don’t want to come to dinner with us?” Brienne asks.
“Yeah… come eat,” Drake says.
I shake my head. “No offense to you or the rug rats, but I want some ‘me’ time. I’m going to hit that buffet, fill my belly, then go home and binge-watch some TV while drinking wine.”
“That does sound nice.” Brienne sighs.
There are more hugs, mainly extra squeezes from me to my nephews who are by far the most important things in my life. I promise we’ll go to the indoor trampoline park when I pick them up from school tomorrow, which, for the moment, makes me their favorite aunt.
Well, I’m their only aunt, but if I had rivals, I’d be the best.
By the time they’re walking out the door and I’m back at the buffet table, I see that Bain’s parents are gone. Disappointment settles in as I’d looked forward to at least laying eyes on him. Maybe slipping a saucy wink his way.
The room is mostly cleared out. Kirill’s family is visiting and they’re all eating at one of the tables on the other side of the room. Waitstaff hustle around, cleaning up empty plates and glasses. They’re starting to close down the food stations.
I quickly walk through, grabbing grilled pork chops, mixed vegetables and my weakness… fresh rolls with whipped butter. I settle down at the nearest table and scroll through my phone while I eat.
I tear off a piece of crusty bread and don’t even bother to use the knife. I drag it through the soft butter on my plate and pop it into my mouth just as a shadow falls across my table.
I lift my head, eyes widening to see Bain standing over me. He’s freshly showered and wearing a dark navy suit.
Jesus… he’s tall. He towered over me the night of the Christmas party and I had on some major kick-ass heels to add to my height.
My mouth is stuffed full of butter and bread, but I manage to mumble a quick hey before frantically chewing.
He smirks and pulls out a chair. I swallow my food as he plops down next to me. Before I can bring my napkin to my mouth, Bain’s finger touches the corner of my lips. I don’t need a mirror to know there’s butter there.
I almost pass out when he glides the pad over my lower lip and then pushes it into my mouth. I react on instinct, sucking gently on the tip of his finger, and my breath stutters when I see his eyes darken with desire.
He pulls away. “Are you going to slap me if I tell you the image of my finger in your mouth inspires a million dirty fantasies?”
I look around wildly. “Where are your parents?”
Bain throws a thumb over his shoulder. “Out in the hallway. I told them I wanted to say hello to you. My mom mentioned on no fewer than three occasions in twenty seconds how pretty you were and that I should ask you out.”
I’m barely able to follow his train of thought. I’m still lost in how turned on I was when he put his finger in my mouth. We’ve barely spoken a total of five minutes and I’m ready to crawl onto his lap and do dirty things.
“So, what do you think?” he asks.
“What?” My mind is muddled, my tongue thick.
He smirks, knowing he’s discombobulated me. “A date.”
I need to get some semblance of control. I take my napkin, dab at my lips to give myself a second to think. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Bain’s eyes flash with mischief. “Because your brother would kill me? I was already warned off by Coen at the Christmas party when he saw me staring after you.”
Something warm unfurls in my chest. The fact that Coen could parcel out that Bain was attracted to me just by the way he stared tells me that his look was hot and covetous.
“My brother has nothing to do with it,” I manage to say.
“Then why not go out with me? I can guarantee a good time.”
“I bet you could,” I murmur. “But the truth is… you couldn’t handle someone like me.”
“Oh, baby… I could handle you with one hand tied behind my back. Actually, both my hands tied behind my back. I’d only need my mouth.”
I suppress a groan at the fantasies he’s just inspired. “I don’t date.”
“Funny,” he muses, rising from his chair. “Neither do I. But I’d make an exception for you.”
I want to say yes, but I sense that this man is trouble with a capital T. He’s the type of man I could get addicted to and I’m just not willing to let myself fall like that.
At least I think I’m not.
He could be worth a taste.
“Are you going to the New Year’s Eve party at Stevie’s bar?” I ask.
Bain grins, his dimples popping. “I was considering it, but it’s a definite if you’re going.”
“I’m considering it.”
“Okay, then,” he says, taking a few steps backward, once again thumbing at the door. “Got my parents waiting and have to go. Maybe I’ll see you New Year’s Eve.”
He stops, gives me a wicked smile. “You know there’s a tradition when the clock strikes twelve, right?”
“I’ve heard mention of it.”
Bain doesn’t respond, just points at me. “I’ll tell you more about it on New Year’s Eve.”
“If I go.”
“Yeah… you know… if I go too. Still not sure.”
“It’s definitely a maybe,” I say, suppressing a laugh.
He winks at me, his grin absolutely charming, and pivots away, walking out of the lounge.
I stare after him, maybe the same way he did after me at the party. One thing I know for sure—both of us are showing up at that party.
I had told Kiera that I might come to the New Year’s Eve party at Stevie’s bar, but there was no maybe about it. I was already committed, having been part of a plot to get Hendrix to pull his head out of his ass, which, fortunately, he did.
The question remains, will Kiera show up? Our banter was fun, the teasing and flirting ranging from mischievous to point-blank acknowledgment of mutual attraction. I walked away from her pretty sure we were destined for a hookup but as I sip my beer and watch the clock tick away the minutes, I’m not so sure anymore.
“You seem distracted,” Hendrix says.
“You don’t,” I reply, taking in my friend. Just two days ago, he was a fucking mess, having parted ways with Stevie over a massive misunderstanding. I’m talking about betrayal, drama and intrigue, but Hendrix was being too stubborn to see past what he thought had happened. Coen, Stone and I took it upon ourselves to make him see the truth—that Stevie did not betray him—and the only way to do that was to goad him into it. We had a very loud discussion about spending New Year’s Eve in Stevie’s bar, which made him go berserk.
He called her a traitor.
We assured him she was not, finally forcing him to be curious enough to learn the truth of what happened. And now here we are, nearly the entire team hanging out to ring in the new year.
Hendrix’s gaze sweeps the bar, landing on Stevie. She’s not working tonight, but every once in a while, she steps back there if the bartenders get a little too busy. She can’t serve alcohol while she’s drinking, but she helps by cleaning glassware and cashing out customer tabs.
“It looks like you two are back on track,” I observe.
“Thank fuck she’s a forgiving soul,” Hendrix says dryly. “I was such a dick to her that a part of me still isn’t quite sure if I really have her.”
I note that Stevie has her eyes on Hendrix as she expertly pours a draft, offering him a soft smile. I clap him on the shoulder. “Oh, you have her all right.”
Hendrix’s expression becomes dopey as he smiles back in her direction and I roll my eyes. Never did quite understand a man getting so caught up in a woman like that, but what do I know? I’m young and still playing the field. My facial expressions range from amusement to twisted pleasure, but never that lovesick, besotted visage.
“Maybe I should make a bigger overture?” he muses.
“Bigger than getting her diary back from that douchebag reporter?”
Without taking his eyes off Stevie, he asks, “You think that was enough?”
I don’t answer him, though, because my attention is caught on something far more important.
Kiera just walked in.
Leaving Hendrix’s question unanswered, I step away, winding through the crowd toward her.
Only to veer hard left to the bar when her fucking brother walks in behind her, holding hands with Brienne.
Well, shit… that puts a crimp in my plans, which were to flirt with and seduce Kiera so we could go home together tonight. Having her brother here will make that difficult but not insurmountable.
At the bar, I order a beer and once it’s in hand, I walk over to the pool tables. Two of them have doubles games going on, but on the third, some of the guys are playing individually. I set my beer on a high-top table and watch Camden and Boone play nine-ball. Foster and Kirill join us and for the next hour, we take turns going up against each other. It’s a fun night, using this time to bond with my new teammates. We single guys are definitely congregated together with a few of them scoping out the women in the bar.
I keep half an eye on Kiera as she moves around, talking to different people. She’s clearly comfortable among the players and I wonder if she’s dated any of them. I know Drake just came to the team this season, so it stands to reason Kiera’s been here no longer than that. Truth is, I don’t know much about her other than I’m extremely attracted to her.
Attraction shouldn’t be the only thing that has me scoping her out and it’s not. Just the small verbal exchanges we’ve had have been fun, quick-witted and flirty with an underlying crackle of sexual tension. I’m fucking drawn to her beyond anything I’ve felt before and I’ve had my share of beautiful women.
Maybe it’s that she’s unattainable because she’s not falling all over me and because her brother is a roadblock. Maybe I just need to fuck her once and get it out of my system. While we teased about a date, I don’t want that, and according to her, she doesn’t want that either. I think we’re both on the same page.
Now I just need an opportunity to spend some time with her tonight.
I’m watching as Foster and Kirill play a game of pool. Camden and I are chatting at the high top and fortuitously, Kiera is playing doubles with Stevie on the next table over as they take on Drake and Hendrix.
Unfortuitously, with Drake standing right here I can’t so much as start a conversation with Kiera, so I’ve got to be content with watching her.
Lusting after her, really.
She’s sexy as fuck tonight in a pair of jeans with rips in the thighs and knees and a pair of brown winter boots. She’s wearing a loose white button-up blouse that’s tucked in and capped off with a brown leather belt. All that glorious blond hair hangs over her shoulders and spills down her back, but my favorite part of her ensemble is that her top three buttons are undone. Every time she’s at the far end of her pool table and bends over to take a shot, I get a nice peek at the swell of her breasts.
Of course, everyone has the same view as I do, but when I glance around, no one is looking the way I am. I’m assuming that’s because her brother is looming beside us, or maybe I’m just a fucking pervert but this woman is driving me crazy.
And if I didn’t know any better, I’d think she’s intentionally giving me a show because every once in a while, her gaze will cut to me as if she’s making sure I’m watching.
“Your shot,” Kiera says as she hands Stevie her pool stick.
The match-up is interesting. I know for a fact that Stevie is an incredible player and sadly, Kiera is not. Their pairing does stand up well against Drake and Hendrix, who are both decent.
“I’m going to get us another round,” Drake says to his sister.
When he walks off, my heart pounds as Kiera meanders over to me. With Camden on the other side of the table, and Hendrix and Stevie in the vicinity, I cannot enact any hard-core flirting, but I do manage to stake my claim. “Glad to see you here tonight.”
“Goes both ways,” she says, her eyes pinned on Stevie as she goes on a run.
She cleanly sinks the five and engages in her own flirting with Hendrix. I don’t begrudge them because I want to do the same.
Laughing, Stevie moves to Hendrix and fists his shirt. She pulls him in close for a swift kiss, but he doesn’t let her pull away. I can’t quite hear the words, but I can see his mouth moving against hers and I can read his lips.
I love you.
“Disgusting display, isn’t it?” Kiera murmurs as she leans my way.
“I can barely stand to look,” I quip, and we grin at each other. She thinks Hendrix and Stevie are cute, same as me, but the PDA isn’t something either of us particularly like. That’s the way of it for those of us committed to the single life.
Hendrix releases Stevie and says, “Put us out of our misery.”
And she does.
Just as Drake returns with beers, Stevie runs the table and cleanly sinks the eight ball. “Damn,” he mutters, handing over drinks. He then pulls out his wallet and hands Kiera a twenty.
“You thought I’d be a liability to Stevie, didn’t you?” she says, then kisses the bill.
Drake snorts. “I thought Hendrix and I would at least have a fighting chance with you as Stevie’s partner.”
“Want to go double or nothing?” Kiera asks her brother, and there’s no mistaking the taunt. I can tell these two are close, but there’s also rivalry.
“No fucking way,” Drake says, his gaze moving to Brienne playing pool on the next table over with some of Stevie’s regular customers. “Going to go watch my girl play.”
Kiera turns back my way, her eyes flashing victoriously as they briefly go to Camden, but then come to rest on me. “Come on… who wants to play?”
The question was addressed to both of us, but I’m faster on the draw. “I’m in.”
As I’m fishing money from my pocket to pay, Drake gives me a frigid glare of warning.
I try to keep my smirk on a low boil. “Relax, dude. It’s a game of pool.”
“Don’t pay him any attention,” Kiera drawls with a grin. “He’s mad he just lost twenty dollars to me.”
“You in?” I ask Hendrix but he shakes his head, pulling Stevie to him.
I move around the table, squatting to put four quarters into the slot to release the balls.
Kiera comes to stand at my side. “Looks like it’s just you and me.”
“What I’ve been angling for all night.”
She hunkers down, making a show of helping me put the money in. “I like the way you watched me.”
Christ. Those whispered words pack a fucking punch and I have to stand up to move away from her because if she keeps talking that way, I’m going to have to drag her into the bathroom and I’m sure her brother would not like it.
I move to the high top and watch as Kiera racks the balls. Camden’s gone and Hendrix and Stevie are wrapped up in each other.
Kiera’s eyes lift to mine as she hovers over the table, knowing her shirt is open and I can see straight down it. I don’t avert my gaze but take what she’s offering.
When she’s done, I grab my pool stick and line up the cue ball. Kiera comes close and I twist my neck to talk to her. “Do you mind?”
She gives me an innocent look.
“I can’t concentrate when you’re that close,” I grumble.
“Why ever not?”
“You know why,” I say and attempt to ignore her as I bend at the waist to break the rack.
Kiera moves even closer, resting her hip on the table. My eyes cut over to her brother, but Drake is fully involved with Brienne and not watching.
My gaze goes to Kiera. “You like distracting me.”
“Turnabout’s fair play. You putting your finger in my mouth kind of threw me off stride.”
I can’t help but laugh and it breaks some of the sexual tension. I pull back the stick, slam it forward with surety and the cue ball decimates her rack. Two solids and a stripe sink into the pockets.
It’s still my shot, but I take the opportunity to address the elephant in the room between us. “You going to let me come home with you tonight?”
“I am,” she says, and tension I’d been carrying all night seeps out through my pores, leaving me languid and mellow.
“Good,” I reply and turn for the table, but another thought strikes. I again glance over at Drake, satisfied his attention is still focused on Brienne. When my eyes are back on Kiera, I say, “I know we’ve been doing a lot of flirting and teasing, but I’m really not looking for a relationship. Whatever this is between us… it’s just casual, right?”
Kiera scrunches up her face. “Please… the thought of a relationship makes me slightly nauseated. This is nothing more than getting our rocks off. Then we’re going our own way.”
Hmmm… not sure how I feel about this being a onetime-only thing, but I’ll worry about that later. “Sounds like we’re on the same page, then.”
Suddenly, the jukebox is turned off and someone calls out, “It’s almost time.”
Stevie has televisions all around the bar and the volume is turned up. There’s one right across from us on a wall-mounted bracket broadcasting a show in Times Square to watch the ball drop. The timer on the top left of the screen shows about thirty seconds until midnight.
Pity that I can’t kiss Kiera as the New Year rings in. This thing with us has to be on the down low. Couples pair off, moving toward the TVs with their arms around each other. I ignore it all and walk around the table for my next shot, which I miss.
I hand the stick to Kiera and enjoy watching her instead of the countdown. She’s a horrible player, but my eyes would rather be on her than anywhere.
Everyone in the bar chants the numbers. “Ten… nine… eight…”
She misses and by the time she’s handing me the stick, it’s New Year’s and everyone is cheering, blowing toy horns and kissing.
I accept the pool cue from her, my hand closing over hers and not letting go for several long moments as we stare at each other. I hope she sees in my eyes that I’ll make up for it later… this inability to claim her mouth as the new year rolls in.
We can’t kiss but we’re touching, and for some weird reason, I can’t remember another New Year’s Eve party I’ve been to. I also intrinsically know I’ll never forget this moment because it’s the lightest of foreplay before I delve into something that’s going to be combustible later on.