Brent and Troy stood in the lobby of Daniel’s building, still talking about the Mets game that had ended an hour earlier. Daniel had come downstairs under the pretense of seeing them off, though Brent suspected he was just growing anxious for Story to arrive. Troy grew surlier by the second as he waited for a call from Ruby to tell him she’d gotten to his place, just around the corner from Daniel’s Upper East Side apartment. As for Brent? He should have headed back to Queens an hour ago, but knowing Hayden made up the trio of girls, he’d begun inventing excuses to stick around.
“Why don’t you two Nancys turn your phones off and go to bed? I guarantee they wouldn’t keep you waiting so long next time.”
Troy snorted. “That method won’t work with my girl. She’d have me for breakfast.” He paused. “Come to think of it, your plan might not be half-bad.”
“Excellent advice, Brent.” Daniel shook his head. “This must be why you’re beating off the women with a stick.”
Brent didn’t take the bait, falling silent as he thought of Hayden for the tenth time that hour. If she called him right now and asked him to come over, he’d be knocking on her door before she hung up the phone. He wouldn’t have the willpower to resist. Alternating images flashed in his head as though projected on a movie screen. Hayden in her tight skirt and stockings, eyeing him with distaste. Hayden swollen-lipped and rumpled, giggling into her pillow. Hayden awestruck as a busload of students applauded her efforts. Which one would she be tonight if he went to her? He didn’t give a damn. He just wanted to see her, but he’d fucked his chances their first night together. Even when he’d helped her repair the bus, she’d made it perfectly clear his hands weren’t welcome on her body. But God, the idea of not touching her again made him feel sick and anxious.
Daniel, perceptive as always, jumped all over his failure to issue an idiotic comeback. “Uh-oh. Someone’s holding back.” His expression turned disbelieving when Brent still didn’t respond. “Whoa. Since when do you ever hold back?”
“Since you two started telling your girlfriends every damn thing,” Brent said, thinking fast. “I feel like I’m part of the Babysitter’s Club. You two are like Stacey and Dawn.”
“First of all, you know way too much about the Babysitter’s Club,” Troy interjected. “Second, I call bullshit.”
“Complete and utter.”
“That’s my cue to take off.” He slapped them both on the back. “I hope they show up this century.”
No sooner were the words out of Brent’s mouth than a cab pulled up along the curb. It was like watching the clown car portion of a circus act. One door flung open and Story stumbled out onto the sidewalk, still singing an a cappella version of Love Shack.
Hayden and Ruby tumbled out after her, doubled over with laughter, each latching onto Story’s arms. “We’re just going to get her upstairs,” Ruby called to the cab driver. “We’ll be right back.”
On either side of him, Daniel and Troy crossed their arms over their chests as all three girls stumbled and swayed their way toward the building, beginning the chorus of Love Shack all over again. When they caught sight of the men, they ground to a halt so quickly, it was almost comical.
Story blew a strand of hair out of her face. “Busted.”
Daniel stepped forward. “I thought you were grading papers?”
“I was at one point…then we went to Brooklyn.”
“Ruby,” Troy growled.
She threw up her hands. “I’m completely innocent. They came to me.”
“You’re in big trouble, hustler.”
“The good kind or the bad kind?”
While the two couples bickered on the sidewalk, Brent locked gazes with Hayden and felt a sucker punch of heat low in his belly. Flushed with intoxication, she looked almost exactly as she had after climaxing around him that first night. Her guard was down again. Why did that get to him so bad? She felt the same urgent need, too. He could tell by the way her lips parted, sucking in a quick breath at whatever she read on his face. Just as quickly, though, she broke their connection, entering herself in the fray.
“This is all my fault. Please don’t be upset with them. I dragged them out and made them stay way later than they wanted to. Blame me.” She hiccuped. Brent struggled against his smile. “They yammered on about you two peaches the whole time and against all odds, they have answered your booty calls. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be heading home.”
Brent didn’t even have to think about it. “I’m driving you.”
“That won’t be necessary,” she countered.
“You can take the ride or I can follow you. Either way, we’re going to talk.”
“There is precious little for us to talk about.”
He arched a meaningful eyebrow at Hayden, who seemed to realize then that all eyes were on them. She’d been adamant about their friends not finding out about them and he wouldn’t break that rule tonight. As strong as the urge was to lay claim to her in front of everyone.
After a moment of contemplation, she stomped down the sidewalk. “Fine. Drive me home, Flo.”
She spun around and marched in the other direction, blowing kisses to Ruby and Story as she passed. Their boyfriends momentarily placated, they both pretended to catch them in midair. “Good night lovelies, it’s been real.
Two minutes later, he’d boosted Hayden into his SUV and was driving cross-town toward the West Side. Facing the window, she refused to speak to him. Every time they reached a red light, he couldn’t stop himself from looking over at her, remembering what it had been like to have all that pent-up hostility explode around him. When her head fell back against the seat, exposing her smooth throat, Brent had to look away before his eyes could track down over her breasts. He’d have to touch them then, and he wasn’t taking advantage of this situation. He desperately wanted to pull over and drag her into the backseat as it was.
Even at this time of night, traffic hindered their progress, but they made it to her town house in under ten minutes. He rounded the SUV to open her door and she practically spilled out into his waiting arms. With a sigh, he hooked one forearm under her knees and carried her up the stoop leading to her door. He wouldn’t lie—something about the task, taking care of her, filled him with male pride. “Keys.”
“Hmm. Oh, yeah.” Hayden rummaged clumsily through her purse and handed him the set. “I played darts tonight.” She yawned. “I played darts in Brooklyn.”
Brent blinked down at her. Obviously, in her inebriated state, she’d forgotten to be angry with him. Supporting her against his chest, he unlocked the door and pushed it open. “Yeah? How’d you do?”
“Abysmal.” She wrinkled her nose at him. “Maybe I should have pictured your face. I’d have hit a bull’s-eye for sure.”
“Ha. I thought for a second there you’d forgotten to hate me.”
“Nope. I was just pacing myself.”
He snorted. “Too bad you didn’t have the sam
e idea with the tequila tonight.” Brent carried her to the bedroom and set her down on her feet at the edge of her bed.
“How do you know I drank tequila?”
“There’s a lime stuck to your shoe.”
“No way.” She doubled over at the waist to inspect her high heel and collapsed against him with laughter. He steadier her once more, unable to hide his amusement. Goddamn, she was cute as hell like this. When they went out as a group, she normally relegated herself to a strict four-drink minimum. She looked up at him then, all breathless, eyes dancing with humor, and Brent’s fight-or-flight instinct kicked in. Her gaze had landed on his mouth and in her intoxicated state, she hid nothing. She wet her lips, moved closer with the clear intention of kissing him. The tenderness he’d been feeling was fast dissipating, replaced with pulse-pounding need.
No, you came here to talk to her. Brent swallowed hard and stepped back. “Uh-uh. Not tonight. Not when you’re like this.”
“Like what?” He gave her a look, but it only seemed to make her more determined. “Come on. Isn’t this why you brought me home?”
“No.” She gripped his shirt and pulled him closer. As she rose up on her toes, the tips of her breasts grazed his chest and he groaned. “I’m not doing this, Hayden.” Still, when her lips ghosted over his, then returned to sink into a hot, silky, openmouthed kiss, Brent’s resolve slipped. He traced her lips with his tongue, starving for the taste he’d been craving for days. She felt soft and willing in his arms, enticing him beyond belief. He wanted with every fiber of his being to boost her up onto the bed and ride out the urgent need, remind her who would always take her home and why.
He opened his eyes to look at her, hoping a visual reminder of her current state would bring him to his senses, but when he saw how tightly her eyes were squeezed shut as she kissed him, something twisted in his chest. She looked as though she were savoring him in equal measure, sending his determination into a tailspin. It took her fingers working his belt buckle to snap him back to reality. He broke the kiss and gently held her away from him.