Gazing around the posh lounge of the swanky hotel, Kylie Michaels hugged herself against her discomfort. "Why am I here again?" she asked her best friend, Reesa. Of course, she knew the answer. She would support Reesa in any endeavor, especially one aimed at growing closer to the man she'd been seeing for a while now.
And what a man Marcus Winters was!
Reesa gave her a small smile, her nerves obviously on edge, too. "Because you love me, and I'm here for Marc's press event. He told me to bring a friend, if I wanted. And I know I haven't exactly been around as much lately."
Guilt laced her voice, but Kylie couldn't blame her. She still couldn't fathom how a woman like Reesa, so dead set on bashing men with reputations like Marcus Winters', had somehow ended up dating the soccer star. Of course, in Kylie's eyes, he was a god, everything a woman could want in a man, and she'd been following his career for some time now. In fact, she had to admit to feeling a tad jealous of her friend. It was obvious to anyone who bothered to take note of the two when they were together that Marcus worshipped the ground Reesa walked on.
Kylie loved Reesa, and again, she couldn't blame Marcus for his feelings, either. But she also wished she had some luck with men every once in a while. She had a successful career as a graphic designer, had plenty of friends and an active social life, lived in a pretty nice – if small – Upper Manhattan apartment, and didn't feel she lacked anything in terms of looks and personality.
But unlike Reesa, who hadn't cared a bit up till now if she ever found someone to spend her life with, Kylie wanted nothing more than to settle down with a man who adored her and whom she could likewise cherish. She wanted a family, and she had started to grow impatient. She'd gone through a string of potentials, but every guy she dated turned out to be all wrong for one reason or another. Take Brad, for example, the guy she'd met the night Marcus Winters had strutted into their lives. He was nice enough, and he was loyal. But he was also a puppy dog, needy for attention and bordering on codependent. And he was a little too nice.
He'd at least lasted three weeks.
"There he is." The excitement in Reesa's voice brought Kylie back to the present, and despite knowing Marcus belonged to her best friend, she couldn't help but ogle his rugged handsomeness. But as she let her eyes roam his body, something caught her attention from her peripheral. He wasn't alone. He was talking to someone else, and as she turned her gaze to the other man, Kylie felt like a half ton weight had just slammed into her chest.
The guy's smile radiated, showing gleaming white teeth framed by a sunbathed face that was smooth and angular with perfect symmetry. His blond hair was just shaggy enough to make him look like the quintessential bad boy, and if she wasn't mistaken, he had the brightest blue eyes she'd ever seen. She let her eyes wander and take in the rest of him, which only added to the instant attraction. His broad shoulders showed strength, and his narrow waist drew her attention. She wanted him to turn around so she could get a good look at his rear in those tight jeans, but she noted the strong legs and realized he had to be one of Marcus' teammates.
Kylie knew the moment Marcus spotted Reesa. His eyes lit up, and his smile spread slowly over his face. He nudged his friend – Kylie should have known his name but couldn't seem to grasp hold of it - and they changed direction, heading toward her and Reesa. That probably wouldn't have been intimidating, except the blond god chose that moment to take note of her. His eyes locked with hers, and his smile faded slightly before spreading again with a very different expression surrounding it. One she couldn't read.
She reached back and fiddled with her dark brown ponytail, suddenly wishing she'd taken a little more time with her appearance. Then again, at least she'd worn a pair of leggings that hugged her curvy hips and a v-neck shirt that accented the swell of her breasts. "Who's that?" she asked, trying not to move her lips.
Reesa shot her a curious scowl and then made an 'O' with her mouth. "You mean Jordan?"
Jordan Dennison. The name came to her just as the two men joined them, Marcus leaning into Reesa for a kiss. She didn't know him well, but she'd made it her business to memorize the names of all the Seattle Sounders simply because they worked with Marcus on a day to day basis. She really was a big fan.
Now, she thought her hero worship might have to shift.
"Hello, Kylie, it's good to see you again." Marcus gave her a devastatingly charming smile and leaned in to kiss her cheek, very European. Her heart beat a little harder and faster, and her cheeks heated at the attention. But she shifted her attention quickly to Jordan, who gave Reesa a cordial hug and kiss on the cheek. Marcus seemed to notice and slapped a hand on Jordan's back. "Kylie, meet my best friend and teammate, Jordan Dennison. But you probably knew that." He chuckled as she felt her cheeks flush hotter. "Jordan, this is Reesa's best friend, Kylie Michaels."
Marcus stepped back toward Reesa, and Jordan came toward her, taking her hand and brushing his thumb over her knuckles as he lifted it to his lips, never losing eye contact. "It's a pleasure to meet you." The words rolled off his tongue with a thick Australian accent, and Kylie nearly swooned at the feel of his breath tickling along the back of her hand.
Knowing she was grinning like a fool, Kylie cleared her throat and managed, "I think the pleasure is all mine."
"Shall we?" Marcus winked at her as he offered Reesa his arm, and Kylie wondered what that was all about. The guy had charm oozing out every pore, and it tended to cloud her thoughts so she could never quite read him.
He started walking toward the large conference room with Reesa in tow, and Kylie took a step to follow them. But Jordan's hand curled around her bicep lightly and stopped her. Even if he hadn't held her back, the way his touch seared her skin would have made it impossible for her to keep going. "Wait, darlin'. Allow me to escort you." The twinkle in his eyes reminded her of the sun peering out from behind a cloud when an early morning storm cleared. And as she realized how badly she was romanticizing it, how poetic she made that sound in her head, she wanted to slap herself across the face.
But she didn't balk at his offer. Even if Kylie knew better than to expect someone like Jordan Dennison to show any interest in her, she would take what she could get. And at the moment, it thrilled her to walk into a place full of press cameras on the arm of a sexy, famous sports star.
And a girl could have fantasies, couldn't she?
"Marcus is really into your friend," Jordan said lightly, keeping a short distance behind the other two as they entered the bright lights and loud noise. He leaned in close to her ear to be heard, as if he wasn't several inches taller than her, and the warmth of his breath made her shiver with delight. "Do you think she's as over the moon as he is?"
Granted, this was not the conversation she'd imagined having with a man she couldn't stop stripping with her mind, but it would do. At least they were talking. "She is. She just doesn't know it yet." She glanced at the scowl on Jordan's face and added, "Reesa has some trouble admitting her feelings sometimes. She's very quiet and composed, and she doesn't like feeling out of control."
His brows relaxed. "Ah, I see. Well, love is nothing if not being completely out of control." He laughed and patted the hand she had resting in the crook of his elbow. "But in my life, there's a lot I don't have control over, including what these people think of you and me. Are you ready to face that?"
Kylie hadn't considered that aspect of this situation, and her stomach awoke with nervous butterflies. She didn't let on, though, beaming at Jordan. "As long as no one accuses me of being a paid escort, they can think whatever they want."
His laughter was deep, came from his gut, and it made people turn to look at them. Reesa arched a brow in question as they all sat at the table in the wings, where Marcus would wait until he took the stage. Kylie just shrugged. She'd never considered herself to have the best sense of humor, but so far, Jordan seemed to genuinely appreciate it.
"You know what?" As Jordan lounged in the chair next to her with his ankle propped on one knee and his arm thrown casually across the back, he scooted closer and leaned over, as if they were having an intimate conversation. Kylie preened under his attention. It wouldn't last, so she would bask in it as much as she could.
Turning and gazing at him with open adoration – as much for their public audience as out of honesty – she asked, "What?"
This time, his eyes roamed up and down her, raking her over slowly, and Kylie nearly squirmed. Instead, she clenched her hands so tightly in her lap her knuckles hurt and her nails dug into her skin. When he met her gaze again, his smile grew, and his eyes seemed to glow with a light of their own as they danced with mischief. "Nothing against your girlfriend, dear, but I feel pretty damn lucky right now. I've got the hottest girl in the room sitting next to me, all because of happy circumstance."
Kylie considered the possibility he was blowing smoke up her ass, just to give her a thrill, but somehow, she didn't believe it. No, the way he looked at her proved he really thought she was hot. She supposed that wasn't too hard to believe. After all, plenty of guys had lusted after her in the past. She'd simply mistaken lust for something more, something that involved emotions instead of libido.
Tonight, she wouldn't make that mistake. She would take everything at face value, and she'd enjoy it. Didn't she always preach to Reesa to live in the moment? Yes, she would follow her own advice and set an example for her friend. If something came of it, and she ended up going home with Jordan for a quick one night stand, she wouldn't expect anything more. And if she didn't get that invitation, she might be a little disappointed but wouldn't let it get her down.
"You really think I’m hot?" she asked. So, she was fishing now, and it didn't matter. She doubted she'd ever see him again.
Jordan looked taken aback by the question. "How could you not realize how incredibly sexy you are?" It sounded so much better coming from him in that amazing accent. "Kylie, sweetheart, I can't keep my eyes off you."
The sincerity in his tone made her blush, and she ducked her head, suddenly shy in a way she hadn't been since her awkward preteen years. "Thank you," she told him, her voice quiet. Finding her boldness, she told him, "I'm sure you realize you're pretty easy on the eyes yourself."
"I've heard it a time or two, but I'm glad to hear it from your mouth." Now, he sat up and leaned in so his lips almost touched hers. "A mouth I'm really eager to taste."
Kylie inhaled sharply, her eyes going wide and her panties creaming at the look on his face, like he'd just found the perfect steak he wanted to devour. His gaze fell to her lips, and she knew he meant every word he said. She needed a fan. Knowing she couldn't stand the heat crawling along her limbs and gathering between her thighs, she forced a laugh. "Why do I have the feeling you're a playboy who says that to a lot of girls."
He shook his head slowly, never breaking eye contact as he grew serious. "You've got me pegged all wrong, love. I never say anything I don't mean."
No matter how hard she tried, Kylie couldn't look away, and Jordan seemed to challenge her with amusement. It wasn't until someone tapping the mic and the quieting of the crowd drew their attention that Jordan turned away, and Kylie released a hefty breath. She glanced out the corner of her eye as the MC took the stage, finding that, while he'd turned to face the front, he hadn't moved away from her at all. She swallowed hard, feeling like her heart pressed at her throat, and then nearly whimpered as she felt his touch on her thigh. He rested his hand there, just low enough not to be indecent, and she thought she might hyperventilate.
Reesa shot her a look over her shoulder, and her friend's eyes widened, her brows shooting up to her hairline, when she noticed the intimate contact. Kylie tried to send a silent plea with a simple look. What am I supposed to do? Is this okay?
But Reesa just smiled and winked, turning back to whisper something to Marcus that made him smile just before he was called up to speak. Kylie couldn't concentrate on the whole song and dance, something regarding the children's cancer charity that Marcus had gotten heavily involved with recently and some sort of carnival or festival they were having in Central Park as a fundraiser. It didn't matter tonight. She knew Marcus was a philanthropist, and she applauded him for it, but her focus was elsewhere.
Mostly on the tingling heat that crawled from the spot where Jordan's hand rested on her very thin leggings to the juncture between her thighs. She had never reacted so quickly and easily to a simple touch, especially from a guy she'd just met. But something about Jordan seemed dangerous and exciting, aside from his smoking hot appearance and his enticing accent. Just knowing he found her so attractive worked magic on her, and that made every other sensation heightened.
"I'll be at that event," Jordan whispered. When had he turned and pressed his lips to her ear? Kylie couldn't breathe, couldn't move, as he let his mouth linger there, his breath floating down and across her cheek. It was almost too much, and if Marcus hadn't been in the middle of a passionate plea for support, she might have excused herself and gone to hide in a stall in the ladies' room.
Instead, she sat frozen, until he spoke again and his whispers melted her until she thought she might puddle to the floor. "You should come to the carnival and see me. Of course, I'd like to see you come a lot sooner, in a much more private place." As he said it, he let his fingers crawl just an inch higher on her leg.
Kylie's lips parted, and her eyelashes fluttered down to her cheeks as arousal coursed through her and gave her a buzz, like a shot straight to her veins. He was still there, in her ear, and when his tongue flicked out against her ear, she had to press her lips together to keep from moaning out loud. Luckily, Marcus finished right then, and several things happened.
The crowd erupted with applause, shielding everyone's ears from the tiny squeak she couldn't hold back, and thankfully, Jordan sat up and clapped with everyone else, then stood to greet Marcus as he came down with a pat on the back and a handshake. It meant he broke contact entirely, and Kylie's shoulders slumped as she gasped for air. Why hadn't she remembered to breathe?
At the same time, she shivered, the places where he'd touched her instantly cold and wanting. Oh, yes, she had every right to fantasize now. In fact, she was certain she would get everything she could dream of and then some when the formalities were over.