I’d stepped into a full-fledged party, and going through the crowd, I didn’t have far to go to get in the kitchen. A few girls were coming in the side door, gave me the stink eye, but quickly moved on. I heard one whisper, “There he is! Told you!”
Her friend got excited. Both squealed and I was forgotten.
I did take note of their outfits, because it was so not what I was wearing. They were in halter tops, the kind that had ruffles above the boobs and just underneath, and that was pretty much it for the top. Their jeans were plastered to them. Sleek hair. Makeup on point, and bright red lipstick.
Me. I had on Stone’s shirt and my jeans. Granted, my jeans were also plastered to me, but looking at those girls, I knew my jeans didn’t have the whole sexy look they were pulling off. And don’t get me started on my hair. I’d pulled it up into a quick braid before coming up, but to my credit, it was a messy fishtail braid. Go me. Fishtail braids were always trending, or they should be. They were awesome, which according to Dent, I was fucking awesome.
But back to those girls. As I was pushing into the kitchen, I saw where they were going and who ‘he’ was.
But I already knew. Of course, I knew.
Stone was leaning against the counter, a water in hand, and he had one arm crossed over his chest. Wyatt, Noel, Nacho, Dent. They were all standing and lounging next to him as if they were all buds. Stone was listening to some other guy talking who was using lots of hand motions, and the girls were on the outskirts, whispering to each other. They weren’t the only girls. There were others. Mia, for one. She was curled up next to Wyatt. Her head on his shoulder and his arm around her waist. Noel and Savannah were wifed up, too. He had his arm around her shoulder, but his head was leaning forward, listening to whatever the one guy was saying.
Stone’s eyes caught me, and he raked me up and down. A faint grin tugged on his lips.
Before I knew what was happening, he’d said something to the guy. He came over, and just like that, no one else was allowed in our group of two. I went to the cupboard and started pulling everything out I needed. He set his drink on the counter, his back to the rest of the room, and his one hand rested on my back.
“Tell me what to do.”
“What?” I pulled out the flour. “You’re going to help me?”
“Why not?” His grin was wicked. “Old memories, you know.”
Old memories. I almost laughed at that, but saw he was serious.
“I’m here to spend time with you, not them. Not going to lie. I’m looking forward to the pizza, too, but as soon as they’re done and cut, we’re going to my place.” He leaned in, saying into my ear, “I thought maybe I might’ve missed out on the college parties. I didn’t.” His hand moved up my back, rubbing between my shoulders. He gestured to the rolling pin I’d pulled out. “Tell me what to do.”
Nicole shoved her way through the crowd, coming to the other side of me. Her face was flushed. Her breath was tequila and she was swaying, just barely holding onto the counter. “You’ve left your room. You’ve joined society. We need to take a shot for this!”
She whooped, screaming, “I need my tequila.”
Dent laughed, swooping in. He bent, tucking down, and as he stood, she was over his shoulder.
She shrieked again, but was laughing.
He smacked her ass. “Excuse us. Nikki’s gotta do good on a bet we had between the two of us.”
“Oh my God! No!” Her laughter was clearly saying she was fine with whatever he was talking about. “I want to hang out with Dusty. She never leaves her room—OH!” Her eyes were gaping, taking in Stone. Yeah. She was that drunk. She screeched now, trying to scramble upright. “HOLY SHIT! STONE IS HERE! HOLY SHIT!”
Stone shifted closer to me. “Take her out of here?” He was not talking to me.
Dent nodded, burping. “On it.” He snagged a beer on his way out, and Nicole kept shrieking the whole way until a door closed.
I stiffened. “You don’t think he’s…”
Mia clipped out, still in Wyatt’s shelter, “He’s putting her to bed. It’s a wasted Nicole night tonight. Dent’s the only one who can get her to actually go to sleep when she’s like that.”
But I looked at Stone, he shrugged and bent close. “Don’t worry about it. Dent seems like a good guy. Crazy with his flirting, but he seems on the up and up.”
“You know this how?” I shoved a bowl into his hands.
He smiled, actually enjoying that. “It’s a guy thing.”
Wyatt started laughing. So did Noel.
Savannah was trying to hide a grin.
Mia was just staring at me, a blank expression on her face. Then she announced, for everyone to hear, “I’m sorry I was a bitch to you. It’s what I do. I’m a bitch. Char’s a bitch, too. Be glad you never actually met her.” And with that said, she pulled away from Wyatt, grabbed her beer and went out to the backyard.
“Well, then.” Savannah giggled softly, resting her head on her boyfriend’s chest.
Wyatt belched out a laugh, grinning widely. “And on that note, I better go make sure my ‘bitch’ girlfriend is okay.” He opened the fridge, grabbing another beer, and saluted the rest of us. “Onward, my merry pirate friends.” He backed up, and just before he was going to step out onto the patio, he held his beer up to Stone. “Fucking kill ’em on Monday! KINGS RULE!”
A huge cheer echoed around him from the entire house, “KINGS FUCKING RULE!” And the second verse to the chant, “THEY DON’T TAKE NO COURT! RULE KINGS RULE!”
Stone was grinning, measuring out the flour we’d need. “Why do I suddenly feel like I’m living the life of Animal House mixed with a lot of Friday Night Lights?”
Noel barked out a laugh, his hand wrapping more firmly around Savannah’s shoulders, pulling her so she was plastered against his front. “Because you are, but it’s better. It’s more awesome.”
Nacho burped. “No. Reeves is more awesome!”
They were all drunk. Jury hadn’t been out, but I knew the verdict was in. Every single one of them was drunk.
Stone just laughed, shaking his head. He bumped into me. “Tell me what to do.”
So I did.
In the middle of that crazy and hectic kitchen, Stone and I made seven pizzas together. My housemates and their boyfriends stood guard. Mia and Wyatt came back in. Even Lisa emerged, and Nacho had his arm draped around her.
People would come in. Word had gotten out Stone was in attendance, but if they lingered too long, my housemates shifted and literally pushed them out of the kitchen. There were autographs he signed. He posed for pictures, but he never strayed too far from me for too long. And once the pizzas were done, Stone threw them on the counter. He cut a few slices of one, putting them on a plate, then tossed the pizza cutter to one of the guys.
His free hand went around my waist. “Okay. Your turn. We’re out of here.”
No one argued, but Stone didn’t give them time. He was dragging me downstairs, through my room, and true to his word, within ten minutes (that’s how long I had to quickly pack a bag), we were up through my side exit and heading to his truck.
A few people in the backyard yelled out his name, but Stone only raised a hand, throwing a general holler back. He didn’t stop until we were both in his truck and he was backing out of there.
It hit me halfway to his house.
That night, I was happy. I was actually happy.
Then the smile wiped from my face.
Stone went in the next morning to the stadium, but he was back a little after noon. And he wasn’t alone.
I was in the kitchen, about to start making food, when in walked the cornerback and quarterback for the Texas Kings. I had a spoon in my hand and it dropped. The clatter seemed to last forever, and all the while, Stone and Jake Bilson and Colby Doubard stood there, waiting for the spoon to stop clattering.
I wanted to avoid watching Stone’s games last year, but the truth was that I hadn’t.
It was almost unavoidable because his team became one of the best last year, and they were already exceeding their reputation this year so far. Because of that, everywhere I went they were on ESPN or any sports network or channel in a bar, a restaurant, even one time when I was waiting to do my laundry. The desk clerk had highlights playing and there’d been a perfect pass from Colby Doubard to Stone on replay.
I was completely aware of Colby Doubard. All six-foot-three inches, two-hundred-forty pounds of one of the bigger quarterbacks in the league. And I knew this because they talked about it a lot on ESPN. He looked lean on television. He didn’t look the same in person. He was large, and after Stone, he was probably one of the best looking guys I’d seen. Ever.
And don’t get me started on Jake Bilson.
Black. Shorter, around six foot even. He and Stone were almost the same size, both lean. And those dark eyes were literally smiling while he was trying to hold back a blinding smile. I instantly liked him. I mean, after being speechless and being awestruck.
“Dust, this is Colby and Jake.” Stone did the introductions and both stepped forward, shaking my hand.