The Hook Up
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“I have not been moping!”
“Staring out the window,” she insists. “Like some tragic Jane Austen heroine.”
“Austen’s heroines aren’t tragic. They are empowered.”
“Says you. All those repressed feelings and prideful denials.” Her snub nose wrinkles. “Pathetic. Just own your emotions already.”
“Stop trying to change the subject. You kept this from me on purpose. Not cool.”
Iris sighs as she pulls up in front of a big old colonial that’s lit up like summer. People spill from the open door, and a girl, laughing manically, tumbles onto the lawn in a pile of limbs.
We both wince before Iris lifts her pleading eyes to me. “I just didn’t think you’d come if I told you.” She clutches my arm, and her hand is cold. “Forgive me, Banana?”
“You should have taken George.” George is Iris’s twin and my other best friend. He usually goes to these parties with her, watching over his little sister while simultaneously hitting on all available women. It works for them. “Where is he, anyway?” I grumble.
“He says he’s got a headache.” Iris’s mouth flattens in annoyance.
“Suspect.” George never gets sick. He’s practically inhuman that way.
Iris pulls out her lipstick and quickly reapplies while glancing in the review mirror. “That’s what I said.” Her words are muffled as she stretches her lips to get a good coat of glossy red over them. “But what could I do?”
“Not torture me?”
With neat efficiency, she caps the lipstick and plops it into her purse. “Well, where’s the fun in that?” Her eyes sparkle in the low light of the car. “Besides, maybe you’ll see someone you like.”
“Iris…” My warning glare is lost on her because she’s already jumping out of the car with surprising sprightliness, considering her heels. I follow, knowing I’ll regret it.
IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT, and I’m tired. My body hurts from a brutal practice. Not much difference from any other day, only I haven’t been sleeping well and it’s wearing on me. A certain redhead occupies my thoughts to a sleep-depriving degree. When I close my eyes, I picture her. Hell, I picture her with my eyes open too.
Mostly, I think of her in profile because that’s what I see when I watch her in class. The smooth arch of her graceful jaw, the rounded crest of her cheek that plumps when she smiles, the small, delicate shell of her ear. Curves. Anna is endless curves.
In my mind, I map the pale column of her neck down to where it swoops out to one of her best curves: her br**sts. Large. Fuller on the bottom so they give the illusion of pointing upward, and more than enough to fill my hands. Soft. I know they will be.
I’m just enough of a shit that I long for the days when our classroom gets chilly and she wears one of those cotton shirts that does nothing to hide the points of her ni**les pushing against the fabric. Damn, but that sight never fails to make me hard. I’m fairly dying for the chance to peel off her shirt and expose those ni**les that so readily stiffen. I want to know their color, their exact size and texture. She’s fair-skinned, so they might be pale pink, but I’ve seen the shadows those sweet buds make beneath her white shirts, and I suspect they’re a nice tawny rose that will go darker when sucked.
Yeah, I’m a sick bastard. But I doubt any guy would blame me. And I can’t help myself. When I’m not thinking about her br**sts, or the narrow dip of her waist and the rounded curve of her fine ass, I’m thinking about her voice, that syrup-thick southern drawl that makes my skin prickle. I’m in the South now. Accents like hers surround me on a daily basis. Why it is that her voice affects me more than others, I don’t know. Nor do I care. She talks and I want to listen. Endlessly.
I’ve got it bad. Bad enough to be sporting semi-wood in the middle of a crowded room. And she’s not even here.
I take a sip of water, not really listening to the chatter around me. What does she do on her nights off? Frequent clubs? Hang out at a coffee house and chastise unsuspecting men on the unfairness of the glass ceiling? That makes me smile. I love the way her pert nose scrunches up when she’s irritated and her wide green eyes narrow into slits. Like she won’t hesitate to kick someone’s ass if she thinks they deserve it. Totally hot.
The water I’m drinking is warm and tastes of plastic. I set the bottle down harder than necessary. An antsy, irritable feeling grows within me. I don’t want to be here. I’ve heard all these stories and jokes a thousand times before. And while I love my guys, I’m bored. I want to hunt down Anna Jones, rattle her cage, and see what she throws at me. But I don’t know where to start looking. And it pisses me off.
I’m about to tell Gray that I’ll see him tomorrow, maybe hit the sack in an effort to at least try to get some needed sleep, when I feel a familiar tightening in my groin and along my back.
I have no explanation for how or why it is that I know when she’s near. I just do. Like a magnet to metal, my body swivels and my head lifts. And there she is.
Everything stops. My heart in my chest. My brain function. Fuck me sideways. Just someone stick a fork in me. I’m done. She isn’t in her standard t-shirt and jeans, or one of her soft little sweaters. She’s in some strappy top that barely contains her br**sts, those creamy, beautiful br**sts that bounce and jiggle with each step she takes. Those br**sts are going to be the death of me. I’m afraid I’ve audibly groaned.
And damn if I’m not the only one who’s noticed her. Too many eyes are glued to her chest. My hands clench. I’m no different than them, maybe worse, because I’ve made a habit of staring at her. But I’m itching to smack heads, send those eyes forward and off of her. I also have the sudden urge to whip off my shirt and tuck her into it.
She makes her way farther into the room, and I see the skirt. A swishy black thing that clings and sways around her pale thighs. Strong yet soft thighs that I know would feel so good parting for me, that would wrap me up and hold me tight. Je-sus.
A frown mars her face, drawing her auburn brows close and pinching her lips. If there is anything I love more about her than her br**sts, it’s her lips. Deep pink and plump, those lips entrance me. Lips I’ve wanted to kiss since I first laid eyes on them.
She isn’t happy to be here. And she scowls back at a pair of girls who look at her as if she’s an intruder. I know those girls. Sports groupies. “Cock Jugglers” are what Gray calls them. And though it’s crude, it’s fitting. They’ve serviced more than half the team. Ugly experience has taught me to keep far away from them. I don’t like the smirks they’re giving Anna. She shouldn’t be here. We shouldn’t. I want to take her out of here and just drive somewhere. Maybe to that coffee house in my imagination. I’d be happy to have her lecture me on all the ways I annoy her.
Her eyes scan the room as if seeking a way out.
Look this way, I tell her in my head. Look at me. Give me those wide, green eyes. Lock them on to me with that intensity I feel down to my bones.
Look at me.
Look at me.
As if she hears me, her pale shoulders tense, and my body seizes with hot anticipation. Her long lashes sweep upward and, bam, those eyes find mine. It’s like being blindsided, only heat and breathless pleasure overwhelms me instead of pain.
Her full lips part as if she’s taking a shocked breath, and I find myself doing the same. Jesus, I want her. She watches me, a mixture of anxiety and raw excitement gleaming in her eyes. I need to find a way to erase that anxiety. I need to know her better. Nothing on earth is stopping me from going to her.
Adrenaline rushes through my veins and my heart rate increases. Game on.
INSIDE THE HOUSE is just as I feared. Packed, hot, and loud. Guys appear to make it their sole purpose to shout out to one another. Inane music is pulsing through the speakers and bouncing off the walls.
Eyes follow me as I walk by. I don’t belong. They know it. I know it. Girls frown as if trying to figure out why I am here and who invited me, and guys take long looks at my boobs. I’m now cursing my choice of top. And Iris.
Iris, who darts like a minnow through the crowd in her quest to find Henry. The instant she does, he pulls her in and sticks his tongue down her throat. His hands grab her ass to haul her in closer.
Yeah. I don’t have any desire to stand next to them now. My only refuge is to find a beer and a corner to nurse it in. Because of my three-inch boot heels, I hover at 5’10.” High enough to see over most other girls’ heads. High enough that when I move into another room, I instantly spot him. And he’s looking directly at me.
Of course. I am now officially going to kill Iris.
I want to look away, but I can’t. I never can when it comes to him. His mouth hangs open slightly, as if he’s shocked to see me here, which makes two of us; I’m shocked to be here. But then, as if it dawns on him that it’s really me and not a nightmare, his lips quirk up at the corners and a glint comes into his eyes.
I wonder if all my happy parts are somehow connected to his smile because they flare at that expression, going warm and tingly. Which annoys the hell out of me.
Then he moves, walking away from the group of people surrounding him without a backward glance.
Disabled as I am by my uncooperative body, I stand unmoving as he comes for me. His big body cuts through the crowd like a blade. God damn, but he looks fine, his long striding legs encased in worn and faded jeans that hug his thick thighs. His moss brown t-shirt clings to his chest like a love song, highlighting the breadth of his shoulders and the leanness of his waist.
In a room filled with boys, Drew is a man here. Bigger, stronger, and just more. In an odd way, he doesn’t belong here either. But the difference is they want him to belong.
His eyes stay locked with mine the whole time. It’s unnerving. And enough to make my toes curl in my beloved Vogs.
He stops just before me. Way too close for a casual acquaintance. Even with my added height, I have to tip my head back a little to meet his gaze.
“Anna Jones,” he drawls, “fancy meeting you here.” That he appears pleased makes my insides dip.
“Not by my own volition,” I mutter.
His lopsided smile grows. “Who suckered you into coming?”
“Iris, my roommate and soon-to-be resident on the missing persons list.”
A light laugh breaks from him, and his eyes warm. “I don’t know… I’m kind of grateful to her.”
“You can thank her when she stops sucking her boyfriend’s face off. As for me, I’m leaving.”
Baylor’s brows snap together. “Now? You just got here.”
“How do you know? I might have been here for hours.”
He shifts his weight onto one leg, bringing him closer. “Jones, I knew the second you walked in the door.”
“Bull.” I say it reflexively.
But he grins. “I shit you not.”
My skin is too tight, my flesh too warm now. “How is that even possible?”
Another small laugh leaves him. “Seriously?”
And then he does it. His gaze travels down to my chest, lingering there as his nostrils flare, before slowly trailing back up to my face. When my glare registers, he merely gives me a sheepish look as if to say he knows he’s busted but isn’t really sorry for it.
Not that I can totally blame him. My boobs are swelling over the edge of my top. I have the desperate urge to hike the cami up, but I resist and cross my arms under my br**sts instead. The action lifts my cle**age higher. A dare. I think. I’m not sure what the hell I’m doing anymore.
Color tinges the high crests of his cheeks and those hot eyes glide back down. “Okay,” he says thickly, “now I know you’re messing with me.” Somehow, he’s now less than a foot away. The fan of his lashes casts shadows on his cheeks as he peers at me. “But I’m willing to be tortured.”
My arms drop. Nerves flutter in my belly. Yeah, I’ve been with guys. And I like sex. Love good sex, elusive as it is. But flirting with Baylor? I can’t handle it. He’s too much. He makes my mouth dry and my hands twitch with wanting to run them over his taut chest.
The truth is I don’t understand why he persists in talking to me. I’m nothing like his usual women. I’m not even nice to him. Something I refuse to feel guilty about.
“I wasn’t offering,” I say. Not precisely true. Which is why I need to leave. I turn, ready to hunt down Iris, when he moves to touch my elbow with the tips of his fingers. Pure instinct has me evading his reach. I know without doubt that if he touches me, I’m done for.
He frowns at the action, his hand dropping. But it doesn’t stop him from speaking. “Stay.” His voice is a soft caress that rubs over me.
“I’d rather go.” It’s both a lie and the truth. I can’t think straight when he’s near.
“I can’t believe that.” He dimples. “I mean, we get along so well.”
He says it with just enough dry humor that I fight a smile and shake my head. “Let me guess, you’ve never approached a girl who turns out to be not interested in you.”
Baylor cocks his head as though taken aback and then gives his neck a scratch. “Well,” he says slowly, “no, I haven’t.” A wide grin breaks over his face, all charm and dimpled hotness. “I can see that bothers you.”
“Wrong. It simply reinforces my original impression of you.”