I Bet You (Page 34)
I lean over to Ryker and whisper, “At least his manly bits are okay.”
Connor eases down in the chair then looks up and sees us, his eyes bouncing back and forth.
I wave at him.
“You should go check on him,” Ryker says, and I nod and take the few steps to Connor’s side.
I pat him on the shoulder. “Hey…you. Are you okay?” He blinks as if confused, and his eyes go from me to Ryker, who’s behind me in the background. Connor comes back to me and takes in the jersey and high heels I’m wearing. “You’re wearing Ryker’s jersey.”
I nod. “Yeah.”
“I didn’t know you were here.” He pauses. “You told me you were busy all week.”
I nod, choosing to not comment on that. “Are you going to be able to walk?”
“Yeah, yeah, just…it got the drop on me, ya know?” He laughs as one of his friends claps him on the back.
He grimaces and rubs his inner thigh. “I’m fine. Probably just a bruise. Where did that ball come from anyway? Did you see?”
Great. We’re back to that again. I bite my lip.
One of his friends points to the far back table where we were playing. “I think it came from that direction.”
I laugh. “But you’re okay, so that’s good, right?”
He nods. “So, you guys came together?”
“Just as friends,” Ryker says as he takes a step forward to join us. “I found her in the rain with a flat tire.”
“Oh.” Connor’s head turns back. “That sucks.”
Ryker continues. “As a matter of fact, I need to run, but I think Penelope wants to stay.”
I scowl and turn around to stare at him. “What? No, I should go too.”
“I can take you home,” Connor says. I turn back to him, and he’s got a hopeful look in his eyes. He pauses as I frown. “Only if you want to stay…maybe we can play a game after I sit here a bit?” He chuckles in a good-natured way, and I feel horrible all over again for being the shooter.
“I think I’m done playing pool,” I say.
“Oh,” Connor says, his voice unsure. “We can grab some beers?”
“No, I really think I should go—”
“Yes, she’ll stay,” Ryker interjects, cutting me off.
Color rises in my cheeks, and I turn to him as Connor is distracted by one of his buddies who’s come over to hand him an ice pack.
“I can answer for myself, Ryker,” I hiss.
“Don’t be stubborn,” he says.
“You’re the stubborn one.”
His teeth grit as we stand there and look at each other. “You should stay.”
“Because you need to be with Connor.” There’s an uncertain look on his face as he takes his eyes off mine and looks at him.
I’m distracted as Connor seems to catch his breath and stands up. He talks to a waitress and points over at me.
“I’m going, Penelope,” Ryker says adamantly.
Connor joins us, his gaze on me. “Come on, the waitress said she’d get us a table before they’re all gone. You staying?”
Before I can say yay or nay, Ryker has pivoted around and stalked away from us.
He pauses near the door when Archer calls his name and says something. Ryker says something back and the crowd that hears him goes silent, their glances bouncing between the two football players. I inch closer to see what’s going on, part of me wanting to see if Ryker is okay, but before I can, he’s gone, slamming the door so hard behind him that the glass wobbles.
Archer turns back around, his eyes shifting from me to Connor, an expression of satisfaction on his sharp face. He lifts his drink in my direction; I give him the middle finger.
Connor takes me home later in his sparkling silver Mercedes-Benz G-class SUV, which is as solid and practical as he is. I hadn’t realized he was rich, but after a few questions I discovered he comes from a long line of wealthy cotton farmers in Tennessee—who also happen to own pool halls. Weird, but then admittedly I hadn’t known much about him at all except for what I’d observed from afar. He also informed me that he wants to be a video game designer, which didn’t fit at all with my image of him as a doctor or lawyer, but I guess you never really know someone until you spend a couple of hours with them at Cadillac’s.
The sleek leather interior inside the luxury car is spotless, without books or football jerseys or the scent of sexy man. A collection of chess pieces hangs from his rear-view mirror. The inside smells just like him, that sharp twang of cologne I remember from prep school. I glance over and half expect him to be wearing a pink Polo shirt with the collar popped, but instead, he’s sporting his usual jeans and a Waylon shirt. He’s taken his cap off though.
I’m quiet on the ride. I can’t keep my mind from turning to Ryker and how he left me with Connor.
We’re destined to never be anything but friends.
“Your mind is a million miles away,” Connor says as he turns down the street to my house.
I look over at him and study the curve of his face. He really is handsome.
“Ever heard of Twilight, Connor?”
He grimaces and huffs out a derisive laugh. “Who hasn’t? I dated a girl who was huge into romance books. Pretty much a waste of time.”
I c**k my head. “Why’s that?”
“Skews your view of love. Everybody knows that. There’s no perfect hero. And the sex is not even close to how it really is.”
“Romance doesn’t skew. It broadens your horizons.”
“Seriously?” He laughs but then sobers when he sees the expression on my face.
“I want to be a romance writer someday. No, I take that back—I will be a writer.”
He eyes me warily. “Oh, s**t. Sorry.”
“Yeah. Out of curiosity, if I asked you to watch Twilight, would you?”
He smirks. “Truth?”
He throws me an eyebrow waggle. “Only if I knew I was getting something at the end.”
“I don’t think I know you at all,” I say musingly.
“But I’m looking forward to getting to know you, Penelope.” His voice is soft, and his eyes leave the road briefly to drift over to my face. “I mean, the night’s still young if you want to watch that movie of yours…” He grins at me.
I don’t smile back.
Instead, I look down and study my clasped hands. By now, I’m sure my lipstick has faded, so I pull out my tube and reapply. I inhale a deep breath, gearing up. “There’s something I have to tell you.”
He glances at me. “What’s that?”
“I lied about playing pool. I don’t know a pool cue from a fishing rod. In fact, I’m probably a much better fisherman. I wouldn’t know what an eight ball was if I didn’t have the big one that tells your future when you shake it. I lied because I was nervous, and I wanted you to like me. In retrospect, it was stupid, and I’m sorry I misled you.” I let out a huge breath I didn’t even know I was holding. “Damn that feels good.”
His eyes flare, and he’s silent as he pulls up to my house and puts the car in park. The vehicle idles at the curb as the silence between us swells. I can tell he’s gathering himself.