- Available: September 5, 2019
The room was a sea of red cups and intoxicated twenty-somethings. Part of the crowd moved to the trendy hip-hop music blaring from the speaker system, while others tried to hold conversations by yelling.
Blake tightened his grip on his own cup, the distinct crunch of ice that meant his beverage was nearly gone, and slid his gaze around the crowd.
This wasn’t his scene. Not anymore. Ten years ago, when he’d been in full throttle frat-boy mode, it had been his life. Until the day it abruptly hadn’t, then he’d avoided these parties at any cost since.
But he’d made a promise to drop by a friend’s twenty-eighth birthday bash tonight, and so here he was.
Fifty minutes to go.
Then he could bail without guilt.
“I’m having trouble believing it. You actually came.”
Blake turned at the deep voice and smiled at his approaching friend, the birthday boy himself.
“Wasn’t about to miss your party.”
“Right.” Jack shook his head, his brows furrowed. “You just don’t come to these things.”
“Not really my scene.”
“Yeah I know.” Jack gave a slow, knowing grin that was lethal to the female population. “How’s your new place going, anyway?”
“It’s good.” Blake nodded, jamming his hands into the pockets of his jeans, thinking about his apartment just out of Seattle. “Real good.”
And real quiet. Before he’d gotten his own place three months ago, Blake had lived with three other guys. They’d first met in the fraternity but had bailed on the frat after their sophomore year to rent a house together. Calling those guys his friends was an understatement. They were like brothers.
“Yeah, I bet it must be nice having a honey pad all to yourself.”
“It’s pretty sweet.”
Blake rolled with the friendly dig that he was popular with the women, since it would be hard to dispute it. There hadn’t been a whole lot of honeyscoming and going lately though. Not while he’d been finishing up training as a paramedic at Harborview.
“I’m looking into my own place, too,” Jack admitted. “Need my own space.”
A flash of tan skin and red dress caught the corner of Blake’s eye, but he kept his attention on his friend. There were half-naked women all over this party, and he’d already checked out more than a few. So far, no one had drawn his interest.
The sound of a husky feminine laugh had Blake’s ears pricking.
While still trying to listen to Jack talk about his new job, he turned nonchalantly to glance behind him and found the girl in the red dress. She was a tall, curvy brunette with legs a mile long and a smile that screamed confidence. A legit goddess that half the guys at the party were clustering around.
The laugh sounded again, and Blake realized abruptly it hadn’t come from her. Puzzled, he shifted his gaze, and that’s when he discovered the woman standing next to the goddess.
It was the word that came to mind when he checked her out. She was much shorter, almost scrawny, with blonde—almost brown—hair and arms that were folded over a pair of small breasts. No sexy dress for this one, but a pink-checkered flannel, skinny jeans and brown leather boots that hugged up her calves. Unlike her friend, she didn’t ooze sensuality. Instead, she embodied the image of girl next door.
She and her friend seemed young. Maybe still in college, even. Which wasn’t all that weird since most of the crowd seemed to range from their early to late twenties.
As if sensing his stare, she lifted her head and their gazes locked. She seemed to trail off from whatever she’d been saying to the guy standing next to her, and her lips parted slightly.
Her gaze slid from Blake’s head to his toes, and those dark-brown eyes took on a considering look.
“Pretty sure you haven’t heard a damn thing I’ve said in the last minute.”
Blake winced and turned back to his friend. Jack had a brow lifted, before he cast a glance to where the women were.
“Ah, I see what happened there. She’s super hot.”
It only took a second to realize his friend was talking about the brunette. She was gorgeous. No man with a dick and a heartbeat would disagree. And Blake couldn’t deny that at some point in the past few years, he probably would’ve tried to get her to go home with him.
Tonight, there wasn’t the slightest temptation. Checking her out had almost felt clinical. Somewhere, somehow, it had all gotten a little stale. Boring. Getting the hot girl had never been a novelty for him. It was a given. They were drawn to him like a magnet.
Especially when they realized his career choice. Or maybe because of it. Before he’d gotten certified to be a paramedic he’d been strictly a firefighter.
Either way, the girls went a little nuts over it. And he was a guy who didn’t like to get too serious. They always assumed they could change him. Fix him. They were always wrong.
Another husky laugh—almost bawdy now—rang out, and he felt his gaze drawn to the plainer girl again. It was usually girls like her, the one standing in the shadow of the goddess, who had enough sense to stay clear of him. Seemed to realize right off the bat that he was a player and no woman would ever change him.
Which was why it was a little surprising when she slid another considering glance his way and then gave him a slow smile.
Kristen could sense the commitment-phobe in the man from across the room. From the lazy grip on his beer, to the calculating look in his gaze as it slid over the women in the room.
Oh, this guy was hot as hell, and he knew it.
He looked closer to thirty than twenty. His biceps appeared as if he spent every free minute lifting weights. He had an angular face that was sexy and rugged, and dark hair that was just a tad longer than conventional. It was the kind of a hair that a girl wanted to slide her fingers into her while being kissed senseless.
While he was currently looking at her, those blue eyes had initially been on her friend Tori. Which was pretty standard given Tori was the hot one. But she’d caught him glancing her way more than once now, which was both cool and surprising.
Her heart quickened, and an idea she’d been playing with gained momentum.
Maybe he was the one.
She lifted her cup and took another sip of the lukewarm beer. It tasted like piss. Whoever had been in charge of the alcohol had definitely gone for cheap instead of quality. It wasn’t making her want to drink much for courage.
Sidling closer to her friend, Kristen nudged her in the side and whispered, “Bathroom.”
Tori glanced down at her in surprise and understanding flickered in her eyes. She gave a nod and moved away from the group of men surrounding her.
They found a bathroom, slipped inside, and locked the door.
“I found him.” Kristen’s confession came out on a nervous rush.
Tori arched a brow in clear skepticism. “I haven’t seen you talk to anyone yet.”
“Well, I haven’t, but he’s incredibly hot.”
“And that’s a requirement?”
Kristen bit her lip and considered that question for a moment, then gave a little nod. “If I’m going to do it like this? Then yeah, absolutely it is.”
Her friend made a nearly silent harrumph. “Which one was he?”
Kristen grabbed the door handle, opened it and peeked her head out. He was exactly where he’d been a few minutes ago.
Tori peaked her head out too. “Not the one in the gray T-shirt with the amazing biceps?”
“Totally that one.”
Tori ducked back in and closed the door. She placed her palms on the bathroom counter and leaned back, giving Kristen a narrow-eyed look.
“Well, you nailed picking the hottest guy here.”
“Nailed being the key word. Or it will be later tonight.” Kristen’s lips twitched in amusement, even as her stomach swirled with nerves. “Go big or go home, right?”
Tori gave a soft snort. “Yeah, but if his dick is anything like his biceps, I think you may regret that go bigpart.”
Just the imagery of those words had Kristen’s knees going weak.
What the hell am I doing?
She clenched her fists and drew in a deep breath. She knew exactly what she was doing.
“So what’s your plan?”
Kristen gave a slight shrug at the question. “Go out and talk to him. Flirt. Make it clear I’m interested in having some fun. I’m sure it’s not that hard.”
“It shouldn’t be. Men are ridiculously easy. Just be careful, okay? Guys like that eat girls like you for dinner.”
“I’m counting on that.”
Tori gave a choked laugh. “You have an incredibly dirty mind for a virgin, you realize that, right?”
“I do realize that. And it’s going to waste.” Playing with a strand of hair, Kristen gave a slight smile.
Her dirty mind was the result of hanging with mostly guys and having two brothers. She’d met Tori in high school biology and they’d become best friends while dry heaving during dissections.
“Are you going to tell him?”
“About my lack of experience? No way.” Kristen shoved a hand through her hair. “Going by Paul’s reaction, virgins are the anti-Christ.”
“Right. Paul. The whole reason you’re doing this. Your guy friend at UNLV you’ve been crushing on since your junior year.”
“He likes me. I really think he does.” Kristen’s pulse quickened as she mentally brought up the image of his smiling face. “But when I suggested we try going out, he shut me down. He was so sweet and said asking me out had crossed his mind, but he won’t date a virgin—”
“Which is a lame thing to say, but I guess I understand. They can get weird, or clingy.”
“Stop it. I wouldn’t be like that.”
“You never know.” Tori shrugged. “How did he even know you were a virgin?”
“It just came up one night while we were partying with a group of friends.”
Just the memory of how he’d so casually rejected her, with his reasoning basically being a hymen, sent a wave of embarrassment through her.
Being a virgin had never seemed like a stigma until that moment.
“So you sleep with the hot guy at this party and lose the virginity. Then this Paul guy will be all over you like white on rice?”
“In theory. Or my theory.”
“And what if you do get attached? It’s not a groundless assumption.”
She met her friend’s pensive gaze. “Get attached to the guy who’s going to help me lose the hymen? He’ll be a pawn. A means to an end.”
“Super romantic analogy right there. Maybe don’t spell it out to him like that. And just a side note, your hymen is probably gone by now. You aretwenty-two.”
“I know.” Kristen sighed. “And I’m not going to tell him any of this stuff. It’ll just be a one-night stand where we basically know nothing about each other.”
Tori rolled her eyes. “This has got to be the most screwed-up, convoluted way of getting together with a crush.”
She wasn’t wrong. “I’m not even going to try and argue with that.”
“Okay, well, promise me this. If there’s no chemistry between you and Mr. Biceps out there, you’ll walk away.”
Kristen remembered the way she’d felt a rush of warmth as his gaze slid over her. The way she’d gotten a little breathless when she imagined kissing him.
Chemistry wasn’t likely to be a problem. “I promise.”
Tori slid away from the counter and squeezed Kristen’s shoulder. “Well, then let’s get another beer in you for liquid courage and do this already.”