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“That’s deep,” he said softly.

We sat together in silence, watching the show and pondering the philosophical implications of Bridezillas.

During a commercial break, Hunter shrugged then went to the kitchen and came back to the couch with a large heart-shaped box in his hands.

My pulse skipped a beat. “Is that . . . for me?”

He narrowed his brows and looked at me funny. After pausing for a second, a light flashed across his eyes, and he grinned mischievously. “. . . Maybe.”

“No, it’s not,” I said, realizing the ruse. “Dude, did you forget it was Valentine’s Day already?” I asked, annoyed that he led me to assume he got me a V-Day present.

Hunter ran his hand through his wet hair and a few drops of water fell onto his shirt, forming dark spots. I caught a faint trace of his body wash and it smelled really good. As weird as it was, I found he smelled equally good sweaty as he did fresh.

“My stomach forgot.” He opened the box, picked out a chocolate and popped it into his mouth. “Mmm yummy. Nothing like some post-workout carbs.” He chewed a few times then handed me the open box. “Want one?” he said, his mouth full.

Just looking at the assortment of chocolates made my mouth salivate, dimly reminding me of Pavlov’s slobbering dog from psychology class. Thanks to Daniela’s joke at the beginning of the semester, I couldn’t remember the real reason Pavlov’s dog was famous. “Are you sure I can have one?”

“Sure, of course. I can’t eat ‘em all myself anyway. Someone gave them to me this morning.”

“Who gave them to you?” I asked curiously, pinching a circle-shaped milk chocolate with an almond on top.

“This girl came up to me in the Barnyard, gave me a box of chocolates, and invited herself over. I said no but kept the box of chocolates.” He popped another caramel-drizzled candy in his mouth and continued chewing. “Mmm soo good.”

“I’ve seen a proposition for a threesome and now a chocolate bribe.” I thought about the sordid implications. “Have you ever thought of becoming a male gigolo instead of a fighter? You could make some good money.”

“Nah, I don’t often get material bribes. It’s one of the perks of Valentine’s Day,” he said casually. “Besides, I don’t like the idea of being used for sex, so being a gigolo is out of the question.”

I wrinkled my forehead. “But you’re okay with using girls for sex?”

“No, I’m not okay with that. Like I said before, I’m always upfront about the arrangement.”

“I see.”

We continued eating chocolates for a minute, wet chewing noises filling the silence between us. It still made me uncomfortable to think about Hunter getting a blowjob from two girls.

“Speaking of receiving V-Day gifts,” he said. “Don’t you have guys doing the same to you? You know, random guys coming up to you and giving you chocolates? I thought that was what Valentine’s Day was all about.”

I groaned at his teasing. “I hate to break it to you, Hunter, but I’m not exactly as popular with the opposite sex as you are.”

“Hmm? Why not?”

“I don’t know. You’re the guy, you tell me.”

“I don’t see why you wouldn’t be popular with guys. You certainly are—” He looked me up and down. “—titillating. Have you had a boyfriend before?”

Feeling comfortable enough with Hunter to discuss my dating history, I gave him an honest answer. “Yes, I’ve had a boyfriend before. Well, three to be exact.”

His eyes widened. “Three?”

“Yeah, why does that come as such a surprise? Are you showing your true opinion, that you really think I’m unpopular?”

He swallowed the contents in his mouth and got started on a third piece. “No, I just don’t really like hearing you’ve been with other guys. I’m a little jealous, that’s all.” He smiled at me and rubbed my thigh briefly.

I laughed at the thought of Hunter being jealous. “Yeah, sure,” I said sarcastically, affectionately slapping his thigh in return. It was hard to tell if he was teasing or being serious. “Fortunately, you have nothing to be jealous about. I’m single on Valentine’s Day. Yay!”

“That makes the two of us. We can celebrate together, Snorrie.” He held a caramel cube up and I clinked it with my butterscotch square for a toast. Then we both popped them into our mouths.

“How come you don’t have a Valentine’s date?” I asked, mouth full like Hunter’s. Our friendship had apparently matured far enough that manners were out the door.

He shrugged. “Nobody wanted to be my Valentine.” He gave me that adorable puppy-dog face he’d given me before at the cafe—the one that made me want to reach out and pet him on the head.

“You got chocolates from someone though.”

“That doesn’t count.” The bride on TV fretting about her dress size was getting obnoxiously loud so Hunter picked up the remote from the coffee table and turned down the volume.

“Sure seems like it does. You probably just turn down all your Valentine’s dates. We both know you have a lot of fans that like to watch you fight.”

“You know me Lorrie, if I spent Valentine’s Day with one of them, it would give them the wrong idea.”

“What’s the wrong idea?”

“That I want to date them, hang around with them. You know I pretty much only like hanging around with you and Gary.”

“Won’t people get ideas if I’m here with you?”

“Sure, other people can think whatever they want about you and me hanging out. Are you okay with that?”

“Well, I don’t like the gossip, but I don’t let it bother me. Usually. That time about the kittens was different.”

“That’s fair.” He looked at me earnestly. “Hey, you got some chocolate on the edge of your mouth.”

I tried wiping it with my finger but wasn’t confident that I got it.

“No, you missed it.” He reached his finger up and gently brushed the corner of my lip. I was uncomfortably aware of his body being so close to mine. I could feel the heat from his legs through the layer of clothes separating us.

I cleared my throat and pulled away.

“What’s wrong Snorrie? Afraid of touching me?” He sucked the chocolate that had been on my mouth off his finger.

“No,” I said casually. I didn’t trust my voice enough to say anything further so I just stayed silent and looked at the TV. It was stupid, but maybe Valentine’s Day was getting to me too. I felt lonelier than usual, and being this close to Hunter wasn’t helping.

I saw Hunter flash a wicked smile at me from the side of my vision. He lifted his hand to the side of my neck and brushed away a strand of hair. His hands were warm and soft against my skin, I flinched back, afraid of him seeing the effect he had on me.

Hunter kept dragging his fingers against my neck using just a feather-light touch. I rolled my head, trying to avoid his touch. I knew where this was going.

“Wait, you’re not ticklish, are you Lorrie?”

“No! Of course not!”

“Okay, I guess then you don’t feel anything when I do this right?”

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