“Want me to get you a beer from the fridge?” she asked.

She really was the perfect woman. “No. I’m good.”

I could feel her eyes on me as I lifted the glass of water and took a drink. Beer. Me. Steph. No one else in the apartment. Not a good combination. Or maybe a good one depending on how you looked at it.

Cuddling up against my side, her full breasts pressed against my arm.

I so needed to look at this as a good thing instead of wondering how a couch that I could stretch out on suddenly felt too small.

“So, are you turning over a new leaf or something?” she asked, gaze fixed on the TV as she ran the tips of her nails up and down my arm. I was watching a boxing rerun and I doubted she was that interested. “Are you no longer drinking?”

I laughed under my breath. “Nah. Just not feeling it tonight.”

“Oh.” Steph’s hand moved from my forearm to the center of my chest. “What are you feeling tonight?”

Loaded question, so I said nothing as a glove-covered fist slammed into a jaw. Steph perceived my silence the way she wanted, sliding her hand down the bare skin of my abs. Blood followed the tips of her fingers as they drifted below my navel, reaching the band on my shorts.

My body was into what was about to happen, thickening and swelling, straining up to meet her wandering fingers. And my body knew her fingers well, remembered exactly how skilled she was. But my head wasn’t even in the same ballpark as my cock.

Tipping my head back against the couch, I exhaled slowly. There wasn’t a damn thing wrong with what was happening. Her quick fingers skimmed over my limp hand, smoothing along my hip. The muscles jumped in response. So did something else.

I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply. My heart wasn’t pounding. I was thinking about the meeting I’d have to attend Friday night. And I was thinking about Saturday night and stars when her hand curled around my cock, gripping me through the nylon shorts. A pulse shot straight up my spine as she moved her hand up.

Pleasure swirled low in my gut, and I knew if I let her continue, I would enjoy it. Already, it felt damn good. Always did, but I wouldn’t return the act. Weeks ago, I would’ve, out of pure principal. Give. Take. But now I didn’t care enough to do it and that wasn’t right.

“Hey,” I said, voice gruff as I gently grabbed her arm, pulling her hand away.

Her perfect lips formed a perfect O. “What?”

“I’m not feeling this.” I brought her hand to my mouth and kissed her palm before placing it back on her thigh. My cock was already soft. “Okay?”

Surprise shuttled across her face, and a part of me was reeling in shock. Had I really just turned her down? I had.

Pink mottled her tan cheeks as she turned her gaze to the TV, and I, well, I felt like a dick. Shit. Sitting forward, I dropped my hands on my knees. “You want anything to eat?”

Mute, she shook her head no.

Double shit. “Look, Steph, it’s not you, and I’m being serious about that. I’m just feeling weird tonight. All right?”

Steph glanced at me and slowly nodded. “Okay.”

I let go of my breath in relief. Like I said before, Steph was a good girl and we had history. Things were just different now. She stayed for a little while longer and then she was ready to go. I got up to walk her out. At the door, she turned and stretched up, kissing my cheek.

I laughed. “What was that for?”

Steph shrugged as I closed the door behind us. “Are you going to the frat party?” she asked.

“Got plans,” I told her.

She pouted prettily. “Can’t you skip it Friday night?”

Reaching over, I tugged on a strand of soft, black hair. “You know I can’t, sweetheart. Maybe next time.”

“You suck.” But she smiled as she hip bumped me.

“That I do.”

We headed toward her car and when she caught her heel on a patch of loose gravel, I caught her arm, steadying her. “You haven’t been drinking tonight?” I asked, eyes narrowing. “Right?”

Moonlight sliced over her face as she tipped her head back and let out a throaty laugh. “No.” She smacked my chest. “And what if I did? Are you going to let me spend the night?”

“I’d put your little ass in my truck and drive you back to your dorm.”

Her eyes rolled. “That sounds like a lot of fun.”

We stopped behind her sedan and I pulled her in for a quick hug. “Text me when you get back to your dorm.”

She laughed again, pulling back. “Seriously?”

I shot her a look. “You know I’m serious. It’s late. A lot of people fucking suck in the world, so text me.”

“And if I don’t?”

My eyes narrowed. “You will.”

“Okay. I will.” Steph laughed as she backed toward the driver’s door. “See you later, Cam.”

Stepping back, I watched her pull out of the parking spot before I turned and headed back. Halfway across the parking lot, I looked up toward Shortcake’s apartment. There were no lights on, and I bet she was already tucked away in her bed. Did she wear long-sleeve shirts to bed? Or did she sleep naked?

An image of her naked, her coppery hair spread out around her like a halo, invaded my head.

My cock swelled to life once again.

“Dammit,” I muttered.

It was going to be a long night.

Thursday morning was IHOP morning, or at least that was what Ollie had deemed it when he rolled out of bed and busted up into my room. Snatching my cap off the arm of the couch, I saw Steph’s rubber band on the coffee table and rolled my eyes.

Super important.

Ollie was already outside and I as approached the door, I caught the scent of rain in the air. As soon as I closed the door behind me, I realized he wasn’t alone.

“Avery,” Ollie said. “Cam told me your name.”

Mental note to self: punt kick Ollie in the balls later.

There was a pause and then, “Oh. So . . . um, you’re heading to—”

“Yo douchebag, you left the door open!” I smacked the cap on, rounding the stairs. Below, I got an eyeful of how Avery’s blue jeans hugged her ass. Nice. “Hey, what are you doing with my girl?”

Ollie grinned up at me, but my attention was trained on Shortcake. The girl had to be wearing little or no makeup, because her face was . . . fresh. Natural. I liked it. Her gaze met mine and then flickered away.

“I was explaining to her how I go by two names,” Ollie said.

“Oh yeah?” I caught up with them, dropping my arm over her shoulders. Her feet tripped up, and I tightened my arm, tucking her against my side. In the back of my head, I thought she fit perfectly. “Whoa, sweetheart, almost lost you there.”

“Look at you.” Ollie hopped down the stairs like a frog. “Got the girl tripping all over her feet.”

I laughed, keeping an arm around her as I slid the cap backward. “I can’t help it. It’s my magnetic charm.”

“Or it could be your smell.” Ollie grinned. “I’m not sure I heard a shower this morning.”

I gasped. “Do I smell bad, Avery?”

“You smell great,” she said, and then a red flush quickened across her cheeks. “I mean, you don’t smell bad.”

Instinct told me she meant something completely different. “Heading to class?”

Shortcake didn’t say anything as we walked down the stairs, but her face was pinched as if she was in deep thought about something.


She squirmed away, and my eyes narrowed as she hurried off. “Yeah, I’m heading to art. What about you guys?”

Catching up with her on the third floor, I’d be damned if she got away that easily. “We’re going out to breakfast. You should skip and join us.”

She tightened her grip on her bag. “I think I’ve done enough skipping this week.”

“I’m skipping,” Ollie announced, “but Cam doesn’t have a class until this afternoon, so he’s a good boy.”

“And you’re a bad boy?” she asked.

He grinned at Shortcake, the kind of smile I’d seen him give countless girls. “Oh, I’m a bad, bad boy.”

My skin prickled as I shot Ollie a look. “Yeah, as in bad at spelling, math, English, cleaning up after yourself, talking to people, and I could go on.”

“But I’m good at the things that count,” Ollie replied.

“And what are those things?” I asked as we stepped out under clouds fat with rain. It was going to be one of those days.

Ollie faced us, walking backward. A red truck started to back up, but he kept going, forcing the truck to grind to a halt. I shook my head. He held up a tanned hand and started ticking off his fingers. “Drinking, socializing, snowboarding, and soccer—remember that sport, Cam? Soccer?”

I stared at him. “Yeah, I remember it, asshole.”

Ollie, probably having no idea what he’d just done, spun around and headed for my truck. A muscle started to tick in my jaw. I shoved my hands in my jeans as I glanced at Shortcake. “See you around, Avery.”

Leaving her, I joined Ollie by my truck. Instead of hitting the unlock button to all the doors, I only did mine and climbed in, slamming the door shut behind me.

“Hello,” came Ollie’s muffled voice.

Ignoring him, I turned on the truck. A big, fat raindrop hit the windshield, and I smiled, looking up at the sky.


Slowly, I raised my hand, giving him the finger.

Ollie jumped when the sky opened up in a torrential downpour, howling like a wounded animal. Only when his hair was plastered to his skull did I unlock his door.

He climbed in, shivering. “What the fuck, man?”

“You deserved it.” I shifted into reverse, backing out. One look at Ollie’s creased forehead told me he was racking his brain for what he did. I sighed. “You really need to lay off the pot.”

“If I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard that a million times, but Mary Jane loves me, and she’s the only girl I love.”

Smoothing my hand over the baseball cap, I shook my head. “Fucking hippie.”

Ollie shook his head like a wet dog, spraying the interior with droplets of chilly water. He must’ve knocked something loose in his brain, because he fell back against the seat. “Shit, man. I wasn’t thinking.”

I coughed out a laugh as I pulled out of the parking lot, a car behind Shortcake. “That’s a huge surprise.”

Ollie stared ahead, the normal smile he wore gone. “I forget sometimes, you know? It seems like forever ago.”

Shit, I wished I could forget, especially now, as I watched Shortcake’s car hang a left, heading toward campus.

He glanced at me. “I’m sorry, man. Truly. I know how much soccer meant to you.”

I nodded absently as I turned right, heading for the bypass that would take us into Charles Town. Soccer had been my life since the moment Dad enrolled me in the local peewee league, and over years, I’d honed my skills as a striker, the middle scoring position. I was damn good, too, and it was no secret that when I registered for Shepherd and made their soccer team three years ago, I had no plans on staying here. I was biding my time before I could score a tryout with D.C. United. Soccer was how I met Jase and Ollie. Soccer had been my sanity.

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