My date is late.
Now, I’m not a total bitch. Usually I’ll give guys a five-minute window. I can forgive five minutes of tardiness.
At seven minutes, I might still be somewhat receptive, especially if the lateness is accompanied by a heads-up call or text informing me he’s going to be late. Traffic is an evil mistress. Sometimes she screws you.
At ten minutes, my patience would be running thin. And if the inconsiderate ass is both ten minutes late and didn’t call? Thank you, next. I’m walking right out the door.
At fifteen minutes, shame on me. Why the hell am I still at the restaurant?
Or, in this particular case, the diner.
I’m sitting in a booth at Della’s, the ’50s-themed diner in Hastings. Hastings is the small town I’m calling home for the next couple of years, but luckily, I don’t need to call my father’s house “home.” Dad and I might live in the same town, but before I transferred to Briar University, I made it clear I wouldn’t be moving in with him. I already left that nest. No way am I flying back to it and subjecting myself to his overprotectiveness and terrible cooking again.
“Can I get you another coffee, hon?” The waitress, a curly-haired woman in a white-and-blue polyester uniform, eyes me sympathetically. She looks to be in her late twenties. Her nametag reads “Stacy,” and I’m pretty sure she knows I’ve been ditched.
“No, thanks. Just the bill, please.”
As she walks off, I pick up my phone and shoot a quick text to my friend Summer. This is all her fault. Therefore she must face my wrath.
ME: He stood me up.
Summer answers instantly, as if she’s been sitting by her phone waiting for a report. Actually, forget “as if.” She totally has. My new friend is unapologetically nosy.
SUMMER: OMG! NO!!
* * *
* * *
SUMMER: What. a. dick. I am so so so so sorry, Bee.
* * *
ME: Meh. Part of me’s not surprised. He’s a football player. They’re notorious douchecanoes.
* * *
SUMMER: I thought Jules was different.
* * *
ME: You thought wrong.
Three dots appear, indicating she’s typing a response, but I already know what it will be. Another long-winded apology, which I’m not in the mood to read at the moment. I’m not in the mood for anything but paying for my coffee, walking back to my tiny apartment, and taking off my bra.
Stupid football player. I actually put makeup on for this jerk. Yes, it was just supposed to be an evening coffee date, but I still made an effort.
I bend my head as I rummage around in my wallet for small bills. When a shadow falls over the tabletop, I assume it’s Stacy returning with my check.
I assume wrong.
“Jensen,” drawls an insolent male voice. “Got stood up, eh?”
Ugh. Of all the people who could’ve shown up right now, this is the last one I want to see.
As Jake Connelly slides into the other side of the booth, I greet him with a suspicious scowl rather than a smile. “What are you doing here?” I ask.
Connelly is the captain of the Harvard hockey team, AKA, THE ENEMY. Harvard and Briar are rivals, and my father happens to be the head coach of the latter. He’s coached at Briar for ten years, winning three championships during that reign. The Age of Jensen—that was the headline of a recent article I read in one of the New England papers. It was a full-page write-up about how Briar is killing it this season. Unfortunately, so is Harvard, all thanks to the superstar across the booth from me.
“I was in the neighborhood.” There’s an amused gleam in his forest-green eyes.
The last time I saw him, he and a teammate were lurking in the stands of Briar’s arena, scoping us out. Not long after, we kicked their asses when our teams played each other. Which was tremendously satisfying and made up for our loss against them earlier in the season.
“Mmm-hmmm, I’m sure you just happened to be in Hastings. Don’t you live in Cambridge?”
“So that’s an hour away.” I give him a smirk. “I didn’t know I had a stalker.”
“You got me. I’m stalking you.”
“I’m flattered, Jakey. It’s been a while since someone was so besotted with me that they drove to a whole other town to track me down.”
His lips slowly curve into a smile. “Look, as hot as you are—”
“Aw, you think I’m a hottie?”
“—I wouldn’t spend the gas money to come here just to get my balls put through the wringer. Sorry to disappoint.” He runs a hand through his dark hair. It’s a bit shorter now, and he’s rocking some scruff that shadows his jaw.
“You say that as if I have any interest in your balls,” I answer sweetly.
“My metaphorical balls. You wouldn’t be able to handle the real ones,” he drawls. “Hottie.”
I roll my eyes so hard I almost pull a muscle. “Seriously, Connelly. Why are you here?”
“I was visiting a friend. This looked like a good place to grab some coffee before I drive back to the city.”
“You have a friend? Well, that’s a relief. I’ve seen you hanging out with your teammates, but I assumed they have to pretend to like you because you’re their captain.”
“They like me because I’m fucking terrific.” He flashes another grin.
Panty-melting. That’s how Summer described his smile once. I swear, the chick has an unhealthy obsession with Connelly’s chiseled good looks. Phrases she’s thrown around to describe him include: hotness overload, ovary explosion, babelicious, and mackable.
Summer and I have known each other only a couple of months. We pretty much went from strangers to best friends in about, oh, thirty seconds. I mean, she transferred from another college after accidentally setting part of her sorority house on fire—how could I not fall hard for that crazy girl? She’s a fashion major, a ton of fun, and is convinced I have a thing for Jake Connelly.
She’s wrong. The guy is gorgeous, and he’s a phenomenal hockey player, but he’s also a notorious player off the ice. This doesn’t make him an anomaly, of course. A lot of athletes maintain an active roster of chicks who are perfectly content with 1) hooking up, 2) not being exclusive, and 3) always coming second to whatever sport the dude plays.
But I’m not one of those chicks. I’m not averse to hookups, but numbers 2 and 3 are non-negotiable.
Not to mention that my father would skin me alive if I ever dated THE ENEMY. Dad and Jake’s coach, Daryl Pedersen, have been feuding for years. According to my father, Coach Pedersen sacrifices babies to Satan and performs blood magic in his spare time.
“I have lots of friends,” Connelly adds. He shrugs. “Including a very close one who goes to Briar.”
“I feel like when somebody brags about all their friends, it usually means they don’t have any. Overcompensating, you know?” I smile innocently.
“At least I didn’t get stood up.”
The smile fades. “I wasn’t stood up,” I lie, except the waitress chooses that moment to approach the booth and blow my cover.
“You made it!” Relief fills her eyes at the sight of Jake. Followed by a gleam of appreciation once she gets a good look at him. “We were starting to get worried.”
We? I hadn’t realized we were partners in this humiliation venture.
“The roads were slick,” Jake tells her, nodding toward the diner’s front windows. Rivulets of moisture streak the fogged-up panes. Beyond the glass a thin stripe of lightning momentarily illuminates the dark sky. “Gotta be extra careful when driving in the rain, you know?”
She nods fervently. “The roads get really wet when it’s raining.”
No shit, Captain Obvious. Rain makes things wet. Somebody call the Nobel Prize judging committee.
Jake’s lips twitch.
“Could I get you anything to drink?” she asks.
I shoot him a warning glare.
He responds with a smirk before turning to wink at her. “I would love a cup of coffee—” He squints at her nametag, “—Stacy. And a refill for my sulking date.”
“I don’t want a refill, and I’m not his date,” I growl.
Stacy blinks in confusion. “Oh? But…”
“He’s a Harvard spy sent here to get the goods on Briar’s hockey team. Don’t humor him, Stacy. He’s the enemy.”
“So dramatic.” Jake chuckles. “Ignore her, Stace. She’s just mad that I was late. Two coffees, and some pie, if you don’t mind. A slice of…” His gaze travels to the glass cases at the main counter. “Oh damn, I can’t decide. Everything looks so tasty.”
“Yes you are,” I hear Stacy mumble under her breath.
“What was that?” he asks, but his slight smile tells me he heard her loud and clear.
She blushes. “Oh, um, I was saying we only have peach and pecan left.”
“Hmmm.” He licks his bottom lip. It’s a ridiculously sexy move. Everything about him is sexy. Which is why I hate him. “You know what? One of each, please. My date and I will share ’em.”
“We most certainly will not,” I say cheerfully, but Stacy is already hurrying off to procure some stupid pie for King Connelly.