The jab to my ribs caught me off guard. I glanced down as the enchanting brunette from last night’s rehearsal dinner linked her arm through mine. She’d been introduced as the girlfriend of Boston College’s golden boy, starting quarterback Hunter Sterling, which translated meant: you can look, but don’t touch.
The petite beauty with brilliant green eyes capable of bringing a quintessential playboy such as myself to his knees wasn’t the bridesmaid I’d been paired with, but who the fuck was I to question fate?
Tucking her against me like a football I had no intention of fumbling, I inhaled whatever coconut product she’d applied to that sexy body of hers as beads of sweat formed beneath my tux. I slipped a finger behind the strangulating collar and gave it a tug.
Love the destination wedding idea. Hate that I’m expected to wear a penguin suit when it’s heat index level: hell.
Hades during a heat wave had nothing on Puerto Rico. That had to be the reason why I was finding it a chore to simply . . . fucking . . . breathe.
The tiniest bit of movement to my left piqued my curiosity again.
She raised her chin; the emerald weapons of mass destruction were puffy and glistened with fresh tears as they bounced back and forth between my own eyes, which had no right drinking her in like they were. Even in four-inch heels, she barely topped out at five seven—without the stilts, she’d be at least a foot shorter than me.
With a matter-of-fact voice, she said, “Sorry to disappoint you, Sawyer Jackson, but you’re stuck with me for the duration of this wedding and reception.”
Her dark tone was in stark contrast to the flawless, uplifting vocals that’d earned her one standing ovation after another at the karaoke bar last night.
I was anything but disappointed. She’d clearly misread my reaction: awestruck by her allure.
A woman had never left me speechless before.
Searching for a way out of the mindfuck I’d found myself in, I turned my gaze to the couple standing in front of us, arm in arm.
“Shouldn’t you . . .” I managed to whisper.
Less than twenty-four hours ago, we’d rehearsed for this very moment. Except Kennedy had walked down the aisle with her boyfriend—who was projected to be the number-one overall pick in this year’s NFL draft—and I had been partnered with the voluptuous blonde bridesmaid who now dangled off said QB’s arm.
Before Kennedy could explain the impromptu swap, the band kicked off, and my job as a groomsman beckoned.
Throughout the ceremony, I should have been focused on the couple at the altar—one of my best friends was marrying the love of his life, the sappy fuck—yet I hadn’t been able to tear my eyes away from a certain damsel who’d appeared to be in distress.
Yeah, her smile was a facade, all right. And for some reason I couldn’t quite figure out, I needed to know who or what had made the woman with the voice of a goddamn angel cry.
Why do you even care?
It wasn’t that I was a total ass—I swear—but I also wasn’t one to dwell on the emotional sensitivities of women. Unless it was my mother or sister, of course.
As a twenty-five-year-old professional football player, I was more than content to live the cliché life of a rich-as-fuck bachelor, or as the media liked to call it, being a lady-killer, a manwhore, or a real catch—depending on the day and what gossip site indulged your guilty pleasure.
My gaze lay briefly on my former partner, and I tried to recall her name.
Melanie? Maybe it was Melody or Melissa.
Anyhoo, her collagen-injected smirk was as artificial as her tits. The same tits she’d kept shoving in my face from the moment we’d first met yesterday until she’d disappeared a few hours after I’d turned her down.
I’d considered taking those bags of silicone to bed tonight. But in the light of a new day, it wasn’t me she was eye-fucking, it was the douchenozzle standing in front of me.
It didn’t take an FBI profiler to figure out who’d wronged Kennedy.
Hunter Sterling was a tool.
At least the chicks I hooked up with knew where we stood, and unlike Hunter, I’d never allowed anyone to consider herself my girlfriend. I didn’t date anyone long enough to warrant the “what are we?” talk.
The mere thought of such a categorically balls-shriveling chat gave me the willies.
After the bride and groom’s destiny was sealed with a kiss, we were shuffled from the hotel terrace overlooking the ocean to the best air-conditioned ballroom that Condado, Puerto Rico, had to offer. Kennedy sat silently beside me at the bridal party table, and I’d noticed she was on her third glass of wine—which seemed peculiar, considering I hadn’t seen her ingest as much as a drop of alcohol last night.
Like an elite stalker in the making, I’d watched her that closely.
After downing the last sip, she set her empty glass off to the side and turned in her seat, locking her eyes on mine. “You play football too, right?”
Not only could Kennedy sing like she’d been born with a microphone in her hand, but her speaking voice was equally as melodic.
She was straight-up mesmerizing.
I rested an elbow on the table and leaned closer. “How much do you know about football?” I aimed for personal and engaging, and hoped I didn’t come across as condescending.
She arched a perfect eyebrow. “Enough—it’s consumed my life for the past two years.”
My dick twitched behind my zipper.
Gorgeous, emotional, and feisty—a dangerous trio. Check yourself, man.
Answering her original question in a way that wouldn’t piss her off took effort. Chicks usually gushed over my successful career, but if I’d learned anything about Kennedy Quinn in the short time I’d known her, it was that she was unlike any chick I’d met before.
“I’m a tight end for the Miami Mavericks.”
I wanted to add: “Third overall draft pick four years ago, Offensive Rookie of the Year, First-Team All-Pro, Pro Bowler, and I’ve led the league in receiving yards for a tight end ever since.” But I didn’t think she’d be impressed if I did.
Her soft mouth transformed from a straight line to a partial upward curve.
“How do you know Seth and Abby?” I asked, shifting focus to the newly hitched couple who’d gathered us all here.
Before answering, she reached for the wine that had miraculously appeared. As her full lips latched on to her glass, I experienced a vision of all the debauched things I wanted those lips to do.
I blinked and looked at my uneaten churrasco.
Get ahold of yourself, man.
“Abby and I have been friends since kindergarten.” Kennedy’s throaty voice brought my gaze back to hers. “How about you? Have you and Seth been friends since the days you wore Spider-Man underwear?”
Is that a hint of playfulness?
Normally, I would have fired back with something along the lines of: “Who’s to say I’m not still wearing Spider-Man underwear? Wanna find out?” But my slick self had apparently taken a sabbatical.
“I met Seth freshman year at Clemson—we bonded over being the only two freshman recruits to make the starting roster. I transferred away my sophomore year, but we’ll be brothers for life.”
It was no surprise she didn’t ask why or to what school I’d transferred. If she assumed my relocation to The Ohio State University had been a calculated football move, she’d have been correct.
Kennedy nodded, then took another seductive draw from her glass. My zipper showed no mercy for my hardening cock.
You need professional help.
I grabbed my water goblet and chugged until all that remained was a pile of ice. Wiping my mouth on the back of my hand like an uncivilized Neanderthal, I blurted out, “Isn’t Sterling your boyfriend?”
Her cheeks turned pink, and I immediately regretted being so selfish. Anyone with even a touch of common sense could see this was a delicate matter and not something she’d want to discuss with a practical stranger—and definitely not a stranger with a dick. But when she licked her lips in a nervous gesture, I couldn’t help but groan on the inside and forgive my own transgression.
Slapping on the best goddamn poker face I’d ever seen, she replied, “Hunter was my boyfriend, until I walked in on him with his stupid fucking face between Melody’s stupid fucking legs.”
I was right—it was an M name.
Wait. Whoa. What?
There was too much to process, and the word “fucking” rolling off Kennedy’s pout was fucking with my brain.
See, much more natural coming from me.
But it was too late. Dirty thoughts involving Kennedy and fucking showed up like a landlord on the day rent is due.
I coughed, or more accurately, I choked on my own saliva.
“Sorry,” she grumbled. “I shouldn’t be so crass.”
“When? Where?” I wanted to add: “Why?” Because in a million years, I’d never come up with a reason for that mutant to cheat on her.
Kennedy released a heavy sigh, sat back in her chair, and smoothed her napkin over her lap. “Last night. At the bar.” I thought that was all I’d get, but she continued, “When everyone was getting ready to leave, I couldn’t find Hunter. I figured he’d gone to the restroom, so I decided to do the same. You can imagine my surprise when I walked in the ladies’ room and found . . .”
She made motions with her hands as though there were no words to describe the horror she’d faced. Still trying to figure out the severity of Sterling’s brain damage, I sat there without reaction.
Her face pinched into a tiny scowl. “Is this when you go all bro code on me and take his side?”
It was hard not to laugh, or at least crack a smile—fuck all, was she adorable.
Shaking my head, I wiped the evidence of amusement off my face. “Hell no, he’s not my bro. He’s an asshole.”
And that’s when Kennedy Quinn smiled so goddamn bright, I thought the Rapture was imminent.
“I think we just became best friends, Sawyer Jackson.”