I Bet You (Page 24)
I c**k my hip, already feeling rebellious. I’m not afraid to open my door—because Ryker—but I do want to mess with him. “Is this a booty call? It’s past seven.”
“Why are you driving past my house?”
I detect a long exhale through the door, and I picture him pushing his hand through his hair or just shaking his head at me. “Okay, that’s fine. If you don’t want my help in figuring out how to actually play pool before your date with Connor—”
“Wait!” I call out. “Don’t leave! Give me a minute.”
I need Ryker to help me.
I scan the room—it’s a disaster—and like a Tasmanian devil, I tear through the den, straightening pillows and wiping crumbs off the end tables. I pause Twilight and warn Vampire Bill to watch his language. Perched inside his cage, he glares and gives me an Are you kidding? look.
He does and says what he wants.
“Are you going to let me in any time tonight?” comes Ryker’s amused reply. “I don’t care if you don’t have any lipstick on…” His voice trails off, and when he speaks again, it’s deeper. Huskier. “You are dressed, right?”
Dressed! Crap. I look down at my skimpy booty shorts and tank top under my sweater. Well, I am clothed, just not decent. I button the cardigan up from top to bottom, but when I look down, it looks as if all I’m wearing is the sweater.
“Okay, later then.” I hear him scuffling on the porch and his voice is more distant, as if he’s moving away.
Forget changing clothes. I fling the door open. “Wait! I’m here.”
He turns back around and his eyes flare as they take me in, his electric blue gaze lingering on my legs before flying back to my face. He seems to get caught up on my hair and I touch it, knowing it’s a mess, the curls everywhere.
“I take it you aren’t going out?”
I shake my head. “Where would I go?”
He leans against my doorjamb and gives me a cocky grin. “I thought you might be headed to the Tau party. We won our game tonight.”
He tosses an eyebrow up. “You weren’t there?”
“Charisma told me before she left. She went to the party.”
“Ah,” he says, his eyes steady on my face. “So you’re alone? No hot date?”
Only with my notebook.
“Nope. Just doing some writing. How was the game?”
A boyish grin crosses his face, a brightness in his eyes that makes me take in a sharp breath. He’s so hot I can’t breathe. “We beat Ole Miss 23 to 3. Twelve of those points were passes I threw straight to Blaze in the end zone.”
He shakes his head at me. “We beat one of the best teams in the conference and you say nice.”
“You probably prefer playing pool?” He smirks.
I roll my eyes. “Why on earth did I lie to him? It was like my mouth was saying stuff, and I couldn’t stop it.”
He straightens up from his nonchalant pose and shrugs. “You wanted to impress him—because you like him.”
There’s a brisk quality to his voice.
He gives me a short nod, his gaze moving inside the house. “May I come in?”
I open the door wider. “Please.”
He eases past me, and I catch a whiff of freshly showered man, spicy and dark.
“You gonna spray me with that?” His eyes are on my hand, and I follow them to the pepper spray.
Oh! I forgot I was holding it.
I set it on the foyer table. “Sorry. You can never be too sure these days.” I consider telling him about Archer, but I don’t want to cause trouble between Ryker and his teammate.
“What were you writing?” he says nonchalantly as he stalks into my den, and while his back is to me, my eyes run over him, taking in the broad shoulders that taper to his trim waist. I picture the six-pack that is probably under that shirt. I briefly wonder if I’ll ever see his abs. Probably not unless I sneak into the locker room someday. Tonight he’s wearing a fitted black T-shirt and a pair of low-slung jeans that fit his a*s like a glove. I smile to myself. I almost miss his button-down, but this isn’t a bad look on him.
His well-toned athletic butt really is a thing of magnificence, the taut muscles shaped by good genes and working out constantly. I imagine him in shorts and a muscle tank, lifting weights in a gym, sweat dripping as he lifts, curling his bicep—
“Penelope. Are you listening?”
I start, realizing he’s facing me and asked a question.
I blink rapidly.
What did he ask me? Writing! “Uh, nothing. Just toying with some creative writing ideas.”
His gaze is intense and I think I see a glimmer of…heat in his eyes as he considers me. He sees my notebook on the coffee table and picks it up, thumbs through it. I can’t tell if he’s actually reading the pages, but my life flashes before me.
In an instant, I’m pressed against him, my hands tugging my journal out of his hands. I hug it to my chest like it’s the Holy Grail.
He c***s an eyebrow. “Personal?”
I huff and show him the cover. “Did you not see where it plainly says DO NOT OPEN?”
He looks at me.
“What?” I snap.
He shrugs. “I’m just wondering what kind of things you write about. Is there sexy stuff in there, Red?”
“You sure? Your face is flushed and you’re breathing pretty fast. I might have to defibrillate you if you pass out.”
I suck in a cleansing breath as I clutch my notebook. “You didn’t read anything, did you?”
“I didn’t read anything tonight,” he says softly.
I harrumph and tuck my notebook into the desk that sits next to the media cabinet.
“So why aren’t you at the Tau party?” I ask, straightening up to face him, determined to change the subject. “You should be in the middle of a fan-girl sandwich by now, Ryker. You should at least be ‘doing laundry’ with someone.”
He shrugs. “I was on my way home from getting dinner when I saw your lights on.”
Technically, my house is not on the main drag. He’d have to purposely make a few turns to get here, and I’m about to comment on this point—
“S**t! Ryker! S**t!” It’s Vampire Bill, and I send him a be quiet look, but he just blinks back at me, his yellow eyes bouncing from me to the football player.
Ryker appears startled until he sees Vampire Bill, who is perched inside his cage on a narrow table in the den. Ryker glances back at me, a quizzical expression on his face. “I never took you for a bird girl. Maybe a cat or a small dog.”
I huff out a laugh. “I inherited him when my neighbors moved.”
I nod. “Yeah, on moving day, they were going to leave him and let him live in the wild, but he can barely fly, and when he does get off the ground, it’s just for short spurts.” My lips tighten, and I’m feeling indignant all over again remembering the renters next door, a pair of young college girls who graduated two years ago. I came outside when they were debating about which side of the street to leave him on. Of course, I was horrified. I immediately took him in and did my best to be a good bird owner. I even took a class at the humane shelter, which I figure had to be better than what they did for him. I walk over to his cage and give Vampire Bill’s head a little scratch, and he allows it for half a second—until he hops away and glares death daggers at me. “He’s an African Grey and supposedly has the intelligence of a four-year-old. Sadly, he has a personality disorder. He hates everyone.”