Authors: C.J. Fallowfield
“Jesus, Sky, you’re hardcore. You
just pushed me to break my own record, and I’m still third on the leaderboard,”
“No hard feelings?” I asked as I
reached out to shake his hand.
“I’m gonna sulk for days, but
we’re having another best of three next time we come down here. I can’t let a
girl show me up,” he replied, peeling a twenty dollar bill out of his wallet
and handing it over to me. I grinned, then accepted Josh’s hand as he pulled me
out of the booth and high-fived me. I laughed and shimmied my backside as I
twirled around in a victory dance, and then lost my balance and fell flat on my
ass when the air was sucked out of my lungs. Nate was leaning against the air hockey
table next to us, his broad biceps bulging in a loose-fit black tee, tight gray
jeans clinging to his muscular thighs, and those sexy, undone black army boots
gracing his feet. I focused on those instead of looking up at his face. I’d
imagined his face so many times this last week, I didn’t want to be
disappointed to discover that real-life Nate didn’t live up to fantasy Nate. I
saw the boots approaching and stifled a groan as he crouched down and held out
his hand to help me up.
“You ok, Sky? You went down with
quite a bump.” God, even his voice did things to me. Things I’d never
experienced. Things I desperately wanted to experience.
“That was nothing, trust me. I
fall over all the time and that doesn’t even rank as a tumble. I must have gotten
dizzy from spinning around too fast.” I tried ungainly to scramble up on my
own, but landed flat on my ass again, making him laugh.
“Take my hand, or I’ll be driving
you to the emergency room,” he ordered. I did as I was told, his larger hand
wrapping around my small one and nearly making me melt on the spot. If the
Nevada heat was hot, it had nothing on Nate Hudson’s touch.
He stood, pulling me up with him
so fast I fell against him and took a sharp, shocked inhalation. His body was
solid. Pure muscle, warm and hard and …
Oh my God
, he smelled so good,
almost edible. He was a ninja of the senses. Sight, sound, scent, touch, everything
assaulting me but taste, and
, in this moment, did I need to taste
him. I needed to feel his mouth on mine. The memory of those bronzed abs I’d
seen last week had me quiver, and I tried to dampen my dry lower lip with my
tongue, but it was as if all the moisture in my body had suddenly been rerouted
to my pussy, which was throbbing unnaturally. I felt giddy as he clasped my
shoulders and gently pushed me into an upright position. I slowly let my gaze
run up from his broad chest, over the hollow of his throat and his Adam’s
apple, that chiseled masculine chin, those soft and sexy lips, and up to his
stunning lime green eyes. Crap, fantasy one, reality ten. He was so much better
looking than I’d remembered. Had it gotten even hotter while we’d been in here
playing? All of a sudden I was finding it hard to breathe.
“Hey,” I squeaked.
“Hey,” he chuckled.
I hadn’t been able to stop
thinking about her all week, and here she was, virtually in my arms, until I’d
done the gentlemanly thing and let her go. I’d felt her heart pounding wildly
in her chest as she tried to catch her breath. Was that just from the fall, or
was she reacting to me, because I sure as hell was reacting to her. I had to
focus on my team coach to make sure my second brain, the one located south of
my belt buckle, didn’t start thinking for himself and stand up looking for some
attention. Was it wrong to be unnaturally jealous of my brother and cousin? They
got to spend the day with her, making her laugh, talking to her, looking at
her. I wanted that. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t just want to
get her underneath me to blow off some steam, I wanted to know her.
“You whooped Billy’s ass, huh?” I
observed, more than impressed. Billy had plenty of smarts. You wouldn’t know it
to look at our family, but somehow we’d all gotten the brain gene. For her to
beat him at his favorite game was quite a feat. Josh and Billy already had
quite a rivalry when it came to their grades, it was going to be interesting to
see how they handled her academically. But that was all the handling of Sky
they were going to do. I could see the way they were both looking at her, they
were interested in more than friendship.
“I have my moments, but I
probably just got lucky. He’s a great driver.”
“We need to talk, you haven’t
answered my question,” I reminded her.
“What question?” Josh
interrupted. “Sky was about to go head-to-head with me on the pinball machine,
best of three.”
“Just something I asked her last
week, none of your concern,” I shot back, giving him a look that clearly said
to drop it. She’d already bruised my ego by not giving me an answer last week,
the last thing I wanted was for her to shoot me down in front of these two. I’d
never hear the end of it. “Billy, rack up the pool table, we can play while
they do their thing.”
“Sure thing, Nate,” he answered.
I found it hard to focus on the
game, as my eyes kept drifting over to where she stood next to Josh, laughing
and talking. I’d never seen him so at ease with a girl before. It made me feel
kinda bad, but not bad enough to walk away and let him date her. If we were going
to get technical about it, I’d seen her first. Billy was doing his usual thing,
chalking up his cue as he pondered his next move, so I took the time to rake my
eyes up and down her body. She had her back to me, so it wasn’t like I had to
do it surreptitiously this time. Jesus. Until I’d laid eyes on her, I had no
idea curves could be so appealing. The way her waist nipped in, then flared out
to her voluptuous hips, that ass of hers covered by the denim that looked
painted on, sent all the blood rushing to my cock. She looked back over her
shoulder at us and caught me staring. I didn’t back down, just gave her a wink,
which made her bite her lower lip as she smiled shyly back, her cheeks going
that adorable shade of pink I remembered, before she looked away.
“She doesn’t want to date. Wants
to focus on her studies.”
“What?” I forced myself to stop
looking at her and turned around to face Billy.
“I’ve seen the way you’re looking
at her, like a lion looks at its next meal. You need to back off and let her be.”
“So you can ask her out? Seems
you’re only bothered because you like her, Billy. Josh too. I say we let the
lady make up her own mind.”
“You already have your pick of
all the women in this town, Nate. What chance do Josh or I have if you’re
hanging around? Go be with your baseball groupies and leave us be,” he snapped,
flashing me a glare.
“You been taking your meds, Billy?”
“What’s it to you, you’re not my
dad,” he bit. I narrowed my eyes and took a calming breath.
“No, I’ve never tried to be, but
it is my responsibility to look after you and your ma. Josh mentioned you got
one of your headaches earlier. Everything ok, do I need to be worried?”
“Josh overreacts, I’m fine,” he
muttered, as he finally bent over and pocketed one of his stripes.
“I need to know if you’re not,
Billy. You’re family. It would break your ma if something happened to you, or
“You think I don’t know that?” he
“Take it down a notch, I’m not picking
a fight. I’m just saying I’m concerned and I’m here for you, ok cuz?” I watched
as he shook his head and huffed out a deep breath with a nod.
“Sorry, Nate. Just a bit tired,
that’s all. I’m fine.”
“Then let’s go as soon as they’re
done, you need to rest and I’ve got a shitload of studying to do.”
“Nate?” Billy looked up and held
my gaze, the look of annoyance leaving his face and one of concern settling on
it instead. All of a sudden he didn’t look like an eighteen-year-old, he looked
like a vulnerable child again.
“You talk to me, Billy,” I said
softly. “You’re having problems, I’m here for you.”
“Just … don’t tell Sky, ok? I
don’t want her to know. People treat me different when they know.”
“Billy, if she’s going to be
hanging out with you, she deserves to know.”
“It’s bad enough I get the
sympathy looks from Mom, you, and Josh. Don’t make me get them from her as
well. Promise me you won’t tell her,” he pleaded. I sighed and pinched the
bridge of my nose. I couldn’t imagine being in Billy’s shoes, how hard it must
“Fine, but only if you promise to
keep up with your meds and talk to me when you have an episode.”
“Deal,” he beamed, then drew his
fingers across his lips and tipped his head to the side to indicate we had
company. I looked around to find Josh looking like he’d just won the state
“Three out of three, my record
stands,” he grinned, tossing his hand in the air for me to high-five him.
“So, just driving that’s your
specialty?” I chuckled, as Sky shot him a hot-as-hell glare.
“No, just pinball that’s my
weakness. I play a mean game of pool, too.”
“I’ll take you up on that
challenge another day. It’s time we were getting home.”
.” Josh made a face
as he drew out my name in a whiny voice.
“I’ve got a ton of studying to do
if I want to be ahead of the curve for the next semester, and it’s your turn to
do the chores tonight,” I reminded him. “I’m just gonna finish up this game
with Billy and we’re going, ok?”
“Fine,” he sighed.
I was acutely aware of Sky watching
as I played, and grinned as I saw her, in the reflection of one of the machines
opposite, checking out my ass as I bent over the table to miss the black, much
to Billy’s joy as he sank it and won. As we left the arcade, I grabbed her
elbow, forcing her to stay back as the boys carried on walking.
“You have an answer for me yet?”
I asked, searching those gorgeous tempered chocolate eyes for any indication
that I hadn’t imagined her attraction to me.
“I … I told you I’m not looking
to date at the moment, Nate. I’m really flattered, obviously, as you look …
like that, but …” She broke off and shook her head.
“You think I’m outta your league?”
I asked, surprised. Did she really have no idea how stunning she was?
“Well, yeah!” she laughed,
clasping her hands in front of her as she nervously wrung her fingers. I
quickly stepped up close to her, lifted my hand, and curved it around the base
of her neck as I looked down at her.
“It’s you who’s out of mine, Sky,”
I murmured softly, fighting the urge to dip my head and take her mouth in a
bruising kiss that would have her begging me for more. “I’ve never dated a girl
like you. In fact, I don’t really date, but for you I’m prepared to make an
“Nate,” she breathed. I felt a
shiver run down my spine to hear my name in that breathless tone. She was
definitely interested, but for some reason I could see fear in her eyes.
“Ok, I hear you, but there’s
nothing wrong with us spending time together, like you have with Josh and Billy
today. How about I pick you up and we take our bikes up to Bootleg Canyon
tomorrow? It’s a great bike trail, and I know you like to bike.”
“I … just the two of us?” She
blinked rapidly as I nodded my head, and I could see the rise and fall of her
chest, matching mine. I reluctantly let go of her and stepped back a little to
give her some space.
“Just to hang out, no different
to you hanging out with the guys today. What do you say?”
“I need to check with my parents
first, in case they have plans.”
“So check and let me know. What’s
your number?” I asked as I pulled out my phone. She hesitated for a moment,
then read it out. I tapped it in and sent her a message, pleased to hear the
muted sound of her phone muffled in the pocket of her jeans. At least she
hadn’t given me a fake number. That was a start.
“There, now you have mine as well.”
“Nate, you coming or what?” Josh
hollered from up the street, a look of annoyance on his face. I nodded and we
started to walk toward them, side by side.
“How did your practice go today?”