“Hi,” a deep smooth voice says into my ear.
I spin around.
“I’m Sawyer Mills,” he says, offering me his hand. “Nice to meet you, uh?”
“Aspen,” I say, laughing. “Aspen Andrews.”
I take his hand, liking a little too much how it feels in mine. “Great game today.”
He takes a step back and stares at me. “You watched it?”
“I may have caught a minute or two,” I lie.
He gives me that sexy smug smile of his before he nods to his friends across the bar. “Would you care to join us?”
I narrow my eyes at him. “Wouldn’t that be awkward?”
“Having a drink with me and my friends is what we’d planned.”
“No, not that,” I say. “I mean with that girl over there.”
“What about her?”
“You’ve been with her.”
He looks across the bar, studying both girls. “Which one?”
My jaw drops. “Oh, my God. You don’t even know?” I reach around and grab my wine, taking a healthy drink. “Just how many girls have you been with?”
He shrugs. “Enough that I need to hire you so I can save my job.”
I shake my head in disgust. Then I finish my wine and pick up the other one. “Fine. Let’s go save your job.” I plant a smile on my face as we walk around the bar. “It was the redhead,” I whisper to him on the way over.
“Good to know.”
Sawyer has me sit on the bar stool he was using, then he introduces me to the group.
“Nice to meet you again, Aspen,” Conner says.
I don’t miss the fact that the redhead drapes herself possessively over him. “I thought you weren’t into this,” she says.
I give her an innocent shrug and then greet the rest of the guys.
Brady and Caden greet me as if they’ve never met me.
None of the other guys seem suspicious about me being here. I breathe a sigh of relief. I can’t believe we pulled it off.
I feel Sawyer’s arm come around me and I stiffen. My eyes close briefly at the feeling. I have to remind myself he’s playing a part. I take another sip of wine.
Sawyer orders another round of drinks for everyone.
I have to pace myself. I took a muscle relaxant earlier because my fingers were cramping up again. Nature of the business. Playing piano for hours on end does not come without a price. And alcohol and my new muscle relaxants do not mix.
I let the third glass of wine sit untouched on the bar as we all joke around and laugh and enjoy the evening. I realize I’m having a lot of fun with him and his friends. Even with Carly and the redhead here, I’m having a good time. Plus, they pretty much have stayed busy shoving their tongues down the throats of their conquests.
Just before midnight, Caden signals Sawyer and Sawyer nods.
“We should call it a night, guys,” Caden says. “We’re leaving for San Diego tomorrow.”
The guys all open their wallets and throw cash on the bar. I’m sure there is more than enough money to cover all the drinks. In fact, I’ll bet the bartender just made a killing in tips.
We walk out of the bar as a group. Sawyer puts his arm around me and gives me a squeeze. “Aspen,” he says a bit too boisterously. “Care to join me? There’s a great hotel just down the street.”
The redhead snorts loudly. “I’ll bet there is,” she says.
I step away and look at Sawyer like he disgusts me. “You buy a girl a drink and you expect her to sleep with you?”
“That’s usually how it works, yeah,” he says, sounding like an arrogant asshole.
“Not with this girl,” I say, noticing that everyone is watching us.
“What makes you so special?” Sawyer asks.
“Maybe I should be asking you that,” I say. “You think because you’re a famous ball player you can just have anything you want? Well, it doesn’t work like that. You want a quick lay, go find someone else.” I fish around in my purse until I find what I’m looking for. I had scribbled out my phone number on a scrap of paper earlier in preparation. “You want to take someone out for a nice dinner and conversation, call me. Otherwise, don’t bother.”
He takes the scrap of paper from me, looking dumbfounded as I walk away.
I try not to smile as I pass by Caden and Brady who both wink at me and laugh silently.
I turn the corner and walk right into Bass.
“Shit, Penny, that was awesome. I saw it all go down from here.”
“Bass! You scared me.” I swat his arm.
“I know you don’t think I was going to let you walk home alone after midnight,” he says.
Of course he wouldn’t. But then I look back at the group of guys walking the other way and I think of how they were okay with it.
“Plus, Sawyer texted me earlier telling me he was going to put you in a cab if I couldn’t be here to walk you home.”
Bass nods. “But I got the idea he’d rather have me here, and now I see why. You walking away was far more dramatic than him putting you in a cab.”
“I wasn’t aware he had your number.”
“He got it from me on Monday. Maybe he’s not so bad after all,” he says.
I turn around and see the redhead getting in a cab with Conner. Then I think about all the other redheads Sawyer must have been with. All the blondes and brunettes. How many of them are there, I wonder?
“Yeah, he is,” I say, threading my elbow with my best friend’s before we walk home.
I wake up when the flight attendant comes by and tells me to prepare for landing. I love it when we take the red eye. I can sleep anywhere, and it gives us a full day of free time which we rarely get during the season.
As we taxi up to the gate, I pull out my phone to check the time, calculating how long it will take for me to get home, shower and eat breakfast. Then I send a text.
Me: I’ll pick you up at noon.
Aspen: Noon? I thought we were doing something tonight. It’s barely nine AM.
Me: Were you sleeping?
Me: Then what’s the problem?
Aspen: What if I have other plans today? You don’t own all my time, you know.
Me: You have other plans? You don’t want to go shopping with me?
Aspen: No, I don’t have plans. I’ll go with you, but it would be nice if you would ask me instead of tell me.
I roll my eyes.
Me: Aspen, will you go shopping with me today?
Aspen: Yes, Sawyer, I’d be happy to. See you at noon.
~ ~ ~
“So, what are you shopping for?” Aspen asks as we walk down the sidewalk.
“I’m not shopping. You are.”
“Didn’t you read the contract? It says I’m to buy you clothes so you can play the part.”
She looks down at her t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. “My clothes aren’t good enough for you?”
“Uh, they’re fine,” I say, looking at her jeans that fit her curves like a glove. “I guess I just thought being a girl, you’d like more shit to put in your closet.”
She laughs. “I’m just kidding, Sawyer. And you don’t have to buy me anything if you don’t want to. You’re already paying me a lot of money. But my closet is pretty bare and I suppose if we’re going to be seen together, I should get some stylish stuff.”
“Stylish stuff that I’m paying for.”
She shrugs. “Okay, I’m not going to argue. But I’m telling you right now, I’m not getting shorts or skirts that show my ass cheeks.”
“How about a little thigh – is that okay?”
“Nothing above mid-thigh. And I won’t get any tops that show too much cleavage or risk a wardrobe malfunction.”
“Do you negotiate everything?” I ask.
“I just don’t want to come off looking like those girls from the other night,” she says.
“Right. No slutty clothes. Got it. We should look for a few formal dresses, too. There are some benefits we’ll need to attend.”
“I have plenty of dresses. We have to dress formally for performances.”
I raise my brows at her. “Performances? I’m envisioning a black dress that starts under your chin and hits the floor.”
She laughs. “Yeah, I guess I might want to buy a few. The ones I have might be a bit conservative.”
“Lead the way,” I say, pulling my hat down low on my forehead.
She watches my movement. “Do you always get recognized?”
“Not if I keep my head down and don’t make eye contact. But, yeah, it happens a lot.”
We turn the corner and cross the street, heading towards a major department store.
“What did your friends think of me?” she asks.
“Nobody said anything.”
“They are used to me picking up girls, so Wednesday night was no different.”
“They weren’t surprised that I turned down your offer?”
“No. It’s happened before. Rarely, but it’s happened.”
She rolls her eyes melodramatically.
“Spencer made a comment about it being for the best considering the fact that I’m walking on eggshells at work.”
“What do you think they’ll say when they find out you took a girl out twice?”
“I’ll take a lot of flak. They’ll ask when the wedding is and shit like that. But it will blow over in a few weeks, I’m sure.”
We reach our destination and I hold the door open for her, ushering her inside quickly after I see someone snap our picture.
“Where are we going tonight?” she asks, sorting through a rack of blouses. “What should I look for?”
“We’re going to dinner at Eleven Madison Park.”
Her mouth opens and I reach out to close it. “You’ll catch flies,” I joke.