But I’m not in the mood to watch Hunter hit on Summer. Plus, my entire body feels like one giant bruise.
The Dartmouth game was a rough one. Lots of hits (not all of them clean), lots of penalties (not all of them called), and one groin injury to a Dartmouth defenseman that made my balls shrivel and retreat like a frightened turtle. Needless to say, I’m tired, sore, and cranky.
The music blasting downstairs keeps trying to drown out the playlist pouring from my computer speakers. It’s a weird mix of bluegrass and indie rock, which for some reason lends itself well to this free draw exercise I’m currently putting myself through. Sometimes, when I’m creatively blocked, I’ll lie on my back, sketchpad on my lap, pencil in hand. I’ll close my eyes, breathe in and out, slow and steady, and allow my pencil to draw whatever it wants.
My high school art teacher urged me to try it one day, claiming it’s as effective as meditation in clearing the mind, opening the creative floodgates. She was right—whenever I’m blocked, free drawing does the trick.
I’m not certain how long I lie there, sketching with my eyes closed, but by the time I register that my pencil’s no longer sharp and my wrist is cramping, the music in the living room has ceased, and my own playlist has restarted itself.
Shaking out my wrist, I slide into a sitting position. I stare down at my sketch and discover that I’ve drawn Summer.
Not the season. The girl.
And not the girl with the dazzling smile. Not the laughing Summer, or the Summer whose cheeks go brighter than Red Delicious apples when she’s pissed at me.
I drew the Summer whose green eyes shimmered with pain as she’d whispered the words, “I have substance.”
On the page, her full lips are frozen in time. But in my mind, they’re quivering as she takes a shaky breath. The sketch hints at the tears clinging to her lower lashes, conveying an air of vulnerability that tugs at my heart. But the tight set of her jaw tells you she won’t go down without a fight.
I suck in a breath.
She’s completely and utterly perfect for the character in the new game I’m designing. I’ve been working on the assets for the past few months but haven’t found any inspiration for the female lead, and it’s been slowing my production.
I stare at the sketch for nearly five minutes before forcing myself to close the pad and put it away. The moment my brain snaps out of art mode and into I’m-a-living-breathing-creature mode, I realize not only do I have to piss like a racehorse, but I’m hungrier than that horse and could probably eat it. My stomach rumbles so loudly I’m surprised I didn’t notice the hunger pangs until now.
I take care of the bladder issue first, then go downstairs to scrounge up some food. From the staircase, I hear a wave of laughter from the living room and Hollis’ voice saying, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” Usually when Mike Hollis sounds this excited about something, it’s either the most horrifying thing in the world or unimaginably awesome. No in between with that guy.
Curiosity has me following Mike’s voice instead of turning toward the kitchen. When I approach the doorway, I feel like I’ve been transported back to the eighth grade. A bunch of people are still over. Including my team captain, Nate, who’s rubbing his hands gleefully, urging the bottle on the table to stop in front of him.
Yes, I said bottle.
Either I’m hallucinating, or my college-aged friends are playing Spin the Bottle. They’re on the floor or sitting on various pieces of furniture in some semblance of a circle. Clearly Summer was the spinner, because she’s leaning forward from the couch, watching the bottle. Meanwhile, all the single dudes in the room are watching her. Beyond hopeful.
The green Heineken bottle slows, just passing Nate and Hollis. It nearly lands on Jesse Wilkes’s girlfriend Katie. It spins another fraction of an inch, glides to a stop. And points directly to the living room doorway.
And this is why games like Spin the Bottle and 7 Minutes in Heaven stopped being cool after middle school.
Because when you’re twelve and thirteen, you’re allowed to kiss random boys without worrying about the consequences.
When you’re an adult, there are always consequences.
For example, if I have to kiss Colin Fitzgerald right now? Everyone in this room is going to see how hot I am for the guy.
“Let me spin again,” I blurt out. “Fitz isn’t even playing.”
Katie, a pretty redhead with a wide Julia Roberts-esque mouth, wags a finger at me. “No way! I just had to kiss Hollis—in front of my boyfriend!”
“I wasn’t threatened,” Jesse says easily. “I mean, it’s Hollis.”
“Hey,” Mike protests.
“That’s not the point,” Katie argues. “All I’m saying is, you kiss whoever the bottle points to. No exceptions.”
My gaze shifts to Fitz. He’s sporting what I like to call Exploding Ovaries attire—gray sweatpants that ride oh-so-low on his trim hips, and a tight white T-shirt that shows off his tattooed arms. This fucking guy. He’s a total ten.
Actually, let’s make that a nine. I’m deducting one point for the fact that he looks like he wishes he could hop into a transporter and teleport to Siberia.
His less than enthused expression raises my hackles. Really? The idea of kissing me is sooooo repulsive to him? After our showdown earlier this week when I called him out on his nastiness, he should be clamoring to curry favor with me.
Asshole should be begging to kiss me.
Fitz inches backward. “I’m, ah, gonna grab some food.”
From the other end of the couch, Hunter drawls, “Good idea.” His tone is light, but there’s a hint of darkness behind it.
Like me, Hunter hadn’t seemed too pumped to play this game, although I didn’t see him complaining when he got to French the insanely hot Arielle ten minutes ago. Arielle’s the only other single chick here. Katie and Shayla are both taken, but apparently their boyfriends (Jesse and Pierre, respectively) don’t mind sharing their girlfriends for the sake of the game.
“Freeze!” Katie orders when Fitz tries to take a step.
“I’m sorry to have to break it to you,” she informs him, “but Summer will be kissing you now.”
Oh my God. Where’s Brenna when you need her? If she were here, she never would’ve allowed Katie and Arielle to convince us to play this silly game. Brenna would’ve laughed in their faces and challenged everyone to a shot contest instead, which I’m sure would’ve resulted in lots of kissing anyway. Just not on-the-spot, being-forced-to-kiss kissing.
But nope, Brenna had other plans. Bitch.
“I’ll spin again,” I insist. At this point, I’ll gladly kiss anyone else, even Hollis. Or one of the girls.
To my shock, Hollis sides with Katie. “Naw, babe, a rule’s a rule.” My reluctant, unhappy expression only hardens his resolve. “This’ll be good for you guys.” He glances toward the doorway, where Fitz is frowning at him. “All you two do is fight. Time to kiss and make up.”
Aggravation rises inside me. “Come on, Hollis.”
“See! Even better,” Katie says happily. “You two need to clear the air.”
“With your tongue,” the dark-haired Arielle agrees solemnly.
Nate, the captain of the hockey team, snorts in amusement. Why can’t I kiss him, dammit? He’s tall and built and has amazing, vivid blue eyes.
Before I can blink, Katie is tugging on my hand. My jaw drops as the tiny redhead, who can’t be more than five feet tall, muscles me onto my feet and gives me a little shove.
“You are freakishly strong,” I growl down at her. And I do mean down—I’m almost a head taller than this girl, yet she’s still able to manhandle me.
She grins. “I know.”
Fitz’s wary gaze sweeps the room. “How drunk are you guys, exactly?” He raises a brow at his team captain. “Since when do we play kissing games?”
Nate shrugs and lifts his beer bottle. “Only live once, right?” he says easily.
“All right, babes.” Katie claps her hands. “Kiss and make up.”
I give an outraged squeak when there’s another hard push on my back. I stumble forward, and I’m two seconds from smacking my nose on the doorframe before Fitz’s strong hands steady me.
His touch sends a bolt of heat through my body, and my breath catches in my throat when I notice that his eyes have softened. Actually, no. They may have lost their hard edges, but they’re certainly not soft. They’re heavy-lidded now, gleaming with unexpected heat.
Then he blinks, and the fire is replaced by exasperation.
“Let’s just do this so they shut up,” he murmurs so only I can hear. “She won’t let it go.”
He means Katie, and I think he might be right. Tonight’s my first time meeting her, but within five seconds of being introduced, I concluded that she’s a bossy little firecracker. Don’t get me wrong, she’s fun. But I feel like if you’re friends with Katie, she always has the final say about everything.
“Fine,” I murmur back. “No tongue.”
I see the merest hint of a smile. “No promises.”