“Of course I do.” She reached her hand out to shake his, squeezing firmly. “I’d have to have been buried for the last few years if I didn’t.”

“Really?” Alex said, his eyes going from hers to her smiling lips, and then it dawned on him. “I remember you now.” To his surprise, he caught the slight roll of Valerie’s eyes. “I saw that.” he said.

“I wasn’t trying to hide it.”

Her laugh was sultry—sexy—inviting. Just like that, she had his full attention, and he laughed too, unable to take his eyes off her. They were even bigger this close.

“You don’t think I remember you?”

“Nope,” she said simply and dug into her food.

He watched as she ate without a care, and for a moment, he was distracted by her tongue wiping her bottom lip clean.

He cleared his throat, remembering what she’d just said about him not remembering her. “You wanna bet?”

Valerie shook her head, licking her lips again then wiping her mouth with her napkin. “You’ll lose.”

That amused him. Her entire demeanor toward him, even though she’d just met him, amused him. He’d met plenty of girls in his life. Girls and women of all ages. Even women older than him were a little gun-shy when they first met. This wasn’t at all what he’d been expecting, not from any girl who, as Sarah had said, had been admiring him for years no matter what age. But least of all from a high school senior.

“Does that mean you’re scared?” he challenged.

“Of betting that you don’t remember ever seeing me before?” She lifted an eyebrow, and suddenly, every little thing she did had his undivided attention. “Of course not. But what are we betting for?”

Having never felt so instantly intrigued by someone, Alex decided to take advantage of the moment. He smiled big. “You have plans for tonight?”

Once again she didn’t even flinch. Instead, she lifted a shoulder. Alex’s eyes were immediately on her soft bare shoulder. Even the subtle tug at the corner of her lip got his attention. “I might.”

Their conversation was momentarily interrupted as Sarah coughed suddenly as if something went down the wrong pipe and Alex stopped to ask if she was okay. When he was sure she was, he turned to Valerie, getting right back to where they’d left off.

“You might?” he asked curiously. “What does that mean?”

Valerie shrugged. “All depends if anything better comes up.”

She took a spoonful of food and chewed while smiling sinfully at him. Alex was certain he’d never seen eyes twinkle quite the way hers did at that moment. They were beautiful, and right then, he knew he had to nail his impulsive idea of asking her out.

“Okay”—he smirked, surprised by how badly he suddenly wanted this—“if I win the bet, you cancel whatever plans you have and I take you out.”

“You’re on.”

Perfect. Alex sat forward with what he knew had to be a wickedly triumphant smile because it was exactly how he felt. “What time do I pick you up?”

Valerie and Sarah both laughed. “You haven’t won yet,” Valerie reminded him.

Alex glanced at Sarah then back at Valerie, realizing he’d jumped the gun, but he wasn’t worried. “Oh, yeah, that. Sure, I’ve seen you before. You’re Reggie Luna’s ex.”

Valerie’s blank expression confused him, but curiously, he found himself hoping Reggie was still her ex. She studied him then flicked her gaze at Sarah.

“I never mentioned Reggie,” Sarah said quickly.

“No,” Alex agreed just as quickly. “We played on the same team last year.” Then just for good measure, he added, “You broke his heart.”

Impossibly, her big eyes got even bigger. But he saw her try to regain her composure. “Did I?” She stared at Alex curiously.

“Sure did,” he said, not even trying to hide how smug he felt, but suddenly he wanted to make sure the guy was still her ex and they hadn’t since reconciled or anything. Not wanting to ask outright, he went about it another way. “So, why’d you dump him?”

Seeing her face turn bright red brought on mixed feelings. He’d managed to rattle her, and that should’ve been satisfying, but strangely it wasn’t. Alex had never felt so instantly drawn to someone, and he was sure it had everything to do with her self-confidence. She’d been so comfortable in her own skin from the moment their eyes first met. So seeing how easily the subject of her ex had affected her in just the opposite way was a bit disappointing—irritating.

Angel brought a halt to their conversation when he came over to announce he was ready to leave now that Alex had arrived. Fortunately, Valerie said she wasn’t done eating, and since Alex was nowhere near finished talking to her, he offered to keep her company so Sarah could leave with Angel.

A low moan and a slight movement from Valerie broke Alex from his thoughts of their first meeting. He glanced down at her, and she was still asleep, but the small pinch just between her eyes reminded him of one thing, and he was instantly hard. Valerie had admitted to him earlier this year about often having dreams of them making love and how real it felt right down to the amazing climaxes. He wondered now if that’s what she was doing.

Unable to help himself, he slid down slowly until he was lying next to her and pulled the sheet down below her bare breast. He licked his finger then caressed her nipple. Valerie’s body trembled in that unmistakable way she did when she was aroused.