(Click here to go to Episode 1)
How does one ignore the fact that in continuing to have the best sex of his life he is also stabbing his best friend in the back?
By ignoring it, obviously. While I relived what I’d done with Esme in the alcove somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred times a day, I never let my mind focus on the fact that Esme and Jeffry were dating. Instead, I worked. Worked like a madman. Every athlete on my roster deserved a personal visit and extra attention. So for the last three weeks that was all I’d done.
Jeffry called for more advice and I gave it. They had another dinner date and a lunch date. Nothing spectacular. No sex.
For some reason that relieved me and I honestly couldn’t tell if it was because it somehow absolved me of something or if it was because she was still mine a little longer.
The guilt gnawed at me regardless. Jeffry was my best friend and I’d slept with the woman he was interested in not once, but twice. From that perspective I was a very bad friend and I’d betrayed the unspoken rules of brotherhood.
But on the other hand I had my own code. An obligation to my lovers. I was there for them no matter what. We shared a trust that only existed because of the understanding that they were safe with me and that our time together was guilt-free. That they could always come to me and I’d be there for them.
Esme had come to me. How could I have denied her?
If I had it to do over a hundred more times, I’d make the same choice. So it was what it was and my only comfort was in that Jeffry and Esme had not taken their relationship to a level that required exclusivity or commitment. They were casually dating.
I shook my head to clear it and focused on the uniformed man standing in front of me. Charley Culpepper. My rookie. The reason I was standing in the Mantas stadium.
“How you doing, Charley?” I clapped the kid on the back.
He was so young. Barely twenty-one, with that youthful innocence to his face still, dark hair that curled around his hat, and bright eyes I’d be able to turn into endorsements in a couple of years.
He shrugged. “Fine I guess. Season is going well. Coach seems happy with me.”
Not exactly the glowing answer I was expecting considering he was having a phenomenal season after having forgone his senior year to go pro.
“Is everything okay?”
He shrugged again. “It’s just different is all.”
“Well yeah. You’re not in college anymore. There’s no hand holding.”
“No kidding,” he grumbled. “It’s a lot more ruthless than I expected.”
Something about his tone . . . it had a desperate edge to it. And that word choice. It didn’t sit well with me. “What’s going on Charley?”
He hesitated, then shook his head. “Nothing. I’ve just got to grow up.”
“You can talk to me, you know. I’m your agent and it’s my job, but we’re friends.”
It was an important part of the business for me. Some agents preferred to keep a solid professional line between them and their clients so there was no emotional attachment, but for me, I needed that attachment to be able to properly advocate for them. I wanted to root for them, to understand them. I needed them to feel like I cared about them even when they drove me crazy.
His eyes pinched at the corners. Whatever was bothering my ballplayer, he was keeping it to himself. For now.
“I appreciate everything you do for me, Mr. Hancock, really I do.”
“You can stop calling me Mr. Hancock.”
He smiled a little. “I should get back to it, Leo. Thanks for checking in with me.”
“I mean it, Charley. You can always talk to me.” As he walked away I had a gut reaction, an instinct, that something was very wrong.
* * *
“So where do we stand?” I nudged Jeffry with my toe. He was facedown on my couch, arms listless at his sides, as he recounted his dinner date with Esme.
My life had reached an all new level of weird.
“I’m a lost cause,” he said into the couch cushion.
“No you’re not.”
He peeked up. “A gorgeous woman asked me for sex . . . and I said no. I’m pretty sure that in the dictionary next to “lost cause” is a picture of me.”
I’d normally agree but at the moment I was so damn happy nothing else mattered. “Well before we petition for your entry in the new edition can you at least explain what happened?”
He lifted his head just enough for me to see his eyes. “I think she might be too perfect for me.”
“What do you mean?” My heart thudded with the weight of my betrayal.
“I become a different person around her,” he sighed, rolling onto his back, throwing an arm over his eyes. “And I don’t like that guy. He’s nervous and weird. I’m a basket case around her and it isn’t getting better. Not like—” he suddenly stopped, clamping his mouth shut.
“Like?” I prompted.
He sighed even more dramatically. “Like with Hope.”
I sat forward. “Hope? As in my new friend who likes to hang out and eat all my food on Sunday?”
He nodded. “Do you hate me?”
“Hate you?” I repeated, lost, excited, and confused, all at once. Jeffry liked Esme, but he also had a thing for Hope?
He sat up and faced me. “Is she off limits?”
If he only knew how idiotic that statement was when directed at me, the betrayer of my best friend. “No. She’s her own person. We’re not anything to each other.”
“But . . . you had sex.”
He shot up off the couch, suddenly furious. “That bonds two people!”
“Not necessarily.” Not in my case. Bonding was very rare. A couple of my dates got under my skin and into my heart. I cared about them and what happened to them, but not enough to be with them. That was different. Caring and loving were not the same thing.
Jeffry’s jaw dropped. “Not necessarily?” he repeated slowly. “Not necessarily?”
“Hope needed to have some fun. To be a little wild. To,” I searched for the right word, “to relax. All I was to her was the dick she rode to get there. Nothing more. It was just that once. We’re friends now.” She was one of those women I cared about because we became friends.
He dropped back onto the couch. “So you’re not upset that I might have feelings for her?”
No, actually. It was the best news I’d heard in ages, not that I was going to tell him why. “You two have been hanging out?”
“Yeah. A little. Dinner, a movie, I helped her when her car had some trouble.” He blushed. “I like being near her. She’s so gorgeous and funny and real . . . in a lot of ways she’s like Esme, only she doesn’t scare the piss out of me.”
“That’s kind of important—to be comfortable with the person you’re with.” Now that he mentioned it, I was baffled by how comfortable I was with Esme, how easily I was able to betray my best friend, all because I wanted to be with her.
Jeffry chuckled. “You know, she might be better off with you, if you were ever interested in dating a woman more than once.”
My focus snapped out of my thoughts of Esme and back to what Jeffry had just said. “What do you mean?”
“She’s got as much fashion sense as you do, but she’s obviously much smarter. Gorgeous, sexy, I don’t know, it was the way she asked about sex last night. It reminded me of you for some reason.”
I was practically falling off the couch from inching forward, as if I could somehow pull the information from Jeffry by moving closer. “What did she say?”
It was probably bad form to look so interested, to feel so hopeful, but I couldn’t help it.
“It wasn’t so much in the words, it was in the way she said it. As if sex were the most important thing in the world. That chemistry and pleasure were somehow fundamental to life. I don’t feel that way. I mean, I love sex, but I also love football and food. I want to have a friend and a sex life. I just got the impression from Esme she was more like you, that sex was super important.” He downed the last of the beer sitting on the coffee table and stood up. “Hey, want me to give her your number? Maybe she’d be interested in one night.”
One night. We’d already had two and I wanted more. Chemistry and pleasure were somehow fundamental to life. That was exactly how I felt.
If you haven’t read:
Episode Nine, you can click here to go back!
Thank you for reading episode 10 of Reckless Kiss! New episodes will release in my newsletter every Tuesday. If you enjoy this story please check out my free book Tease. It has a very similar style, level of heat, and types of characters and I think you’ll really enjoy it.
Some characters from my previous books will be appearing in this serial. If you haven’t already, check out When Lighting Strikes, to read Marie Bancroft Hamilton’s story, Summer Heat, Night Games, and Last Fall to meet more of the Bancroft Sports gang. (But you absolutely do not need to in order to enjoy Reckless Kiss. This book is 100% it’s own story!)