I straighten my shoulders, coming to attention. “You’re writing a book?”

She nods. “I write about everything.”

“Well, if it’s anything like football, to even get an agent to meet with you is a big deal.”

Her shoulders slump. “My dad set up the meeting for me.” She shrugs. “I sent him some samples to read, and he called and asked to talk with me. I thought he was going to offer me a big deal with a signing bonus…” She pauses, and her hands twist in her lap. “He only came because he’s friends with my dad.” She swallows and shoots a rueful look at me. “He said my work has promise but isn’t for him. I want to write romance.”

My cock twitches, recalling her romance.

“I’m sorry.” I hold my hands out. “Not sorry that you want to write romance—that sounds great—but sorry he didn’t work out.”

She nods.

“There are other agents,” I tell her. “You just have to find the right one.” I lean over and my lips touch hers, an indulgent graze where my tongue licks her bottom lip. I straighten back up, taking in her scent, lemony and sweet.

We stare at each other until a horn blast makes us both start.

She swallows. “Thank you for the pep talk.”

Right. Back to business.

I shut her door and run around to my side, crawling in and cranking up the engine. I turn right out onto the main drag.

“My house is the other way,” she says.

I shoot her a long look. “I know. We’re going to Cadillac’s so I can teach you how to play pool.”

Her eyes flare. “Okay.”

I reach over and toss her two of my jerseys. “Here, these are clean. You can use one to dry off and put the other one on over your dress. I can see your nipples.”

She flushes.

“They’re pink,” I say tightly.


I clear my throat. “As opposed to being, you know, another color.”

God. I’m an idiot.

She’s silent as she moves around in the cab, drying off. She takes a makeup mirror out of her purse and reapplies her lipstick then dabs at her eyes. From the depths of her bag, she finds a brush and lets her hair down. My senses tingle as she brushes it out, the smell of her permeating the small space. Finally, she’s satisfied with her appearance and takes the bigger jersey, puts her arms in, and slips it over her head.

“How’s this?” she asks, her voice uncertain.

I flick my eyes over at her and my heart stops. I swallow. Her hair is down and curling up around her face. A soft bloom tints her cheeks, and her lips are deep red.

I’d like to pull this truck over and fuck her long and hard—

“You’ll do,” I mutter.


Cadillac’s is a tradition with Waylon students. A dimly lit laid-back place, the walls are lined with photographic memorabilia from old cars and Marilyn Monroe and James Dean headshots. There’s even a signed photo of Elvis on the wall, and it makes me laugh, recalling my ridiculous conversation with Connor. Some claim the original owner was a onetime movie agent who retired to Magnolia in his 60s. That was years ago and I don’t know who owns it now, but it’s a fun place to hang out in, a diner with a long bar and eating area, pool tables, and an arcade in the back with video games and bowling. The diner section is my favorite with its 50s-style car-shaped booths and jukebox.

Tonight’s crowd is starting to gather, lined up at the bar for the Sunday five-dollar steak and potato deal.

“I look ridiculous,” I say with a pout as I follow Ryker to the pool tables.

He also changed clothes, pulling from a gym bag he keeps in the car. As soon as we walked in, he hit the restroom and changed into athletic shorts, a Waylon shirt, and a ball cap. I admit, I’m a bit fascinated by the way his hair curls around his hat. It makes me want to whip it off and run my fingers through it.

“You look great,” he says rather grimly and then mumbles something else, but I can’t make it out.

“I can’t hear you,” I say, double-stepping to keep up with him in my heels. “Why are you being so surly?” He’s been this way since we walked in the place, and my gut tells me it’s because the first person we ran into at the door was Archer.

My eyes drift over to the section of seats where he is now, and sure enough, the asshole is watching us. Anger returns as I recall how scared he made me the other night. Our eyes meet and his are beady and watchful. I frown. I don’t know what his and Ryker’s deal is, but it makes the hair on my arms rise.

Ryker keeps trucking, his long legs stalking to the wall where the pool sticks are. He’s standing there, studying our choices, and I take the moment to appreciate his broad shoulders and the way they taper down to his perfect ass.

He tosses a look at me over his shoulder. “See something you like?”

“No,” I huff.

“Right. I forgot.” He grabs two sticks. “You don’t like football players.”

I exhale.

“Come on,” he says, and I follow him across Cadillac’s until he stops at a table in the far corner.

“I’m starting to feel like a little puppy following you around,” I say as he puts the balls in the rack, arranging them by solids and stripes.

He grunts.

I sigh.

“Nice table,” I comment. “It’s very green.”

I get no comment, so I try again, determined to get him in a good mood.

“Is it actually called a pool table? Or should I say billiards table?”

He looks at me. “Either.”

I put my hand on my hip. “I’m going to call it The Table of Very Green Fabric.”

I see a ghost of a smile cross his face, and I’m giddy. Success.

He walks back around and stands next to me. He looks down at me, and I see when his eyes go to my chest and linger. Yeah, he mentioned my nipple color earlier, and it got me excited, but then we come in here and he’s a stone wall, all brusque and businesslike.

Isn’t that what you want? Distance?

I’m not sure anymore. Maybe I want to be his distraction. I chew on my lip.

“You listening, Red?”

I start, realizing he’s been going on for a couple of seconds.

“Right here with ya.” When I’m not daydreaming…

“In a standard game, you put the eight ball in the middle of the rack.” He points to said item.

I follow his finger. “Huh. The rack is an equilateral triangle.” I glance over at him, and he’s got that damn eyebrow cocked. His dimple flashes.

“I suppose so.”

“Okay.” I nod. “This is good. Math is good.”

He chuckles. “I never met a writer who loved math so much.”

I tap my head. “Smart women are the best. Have you ever dated a girl who even knew what an equilateral triangle is?”

“I never asked them.”

“Because y’all were so busy having sex?”

He shakes his head at me. “You don’t have a very high opinion of football players, do you?”

A long exhale comes from me.


I glance up and he’s studying me intently.

“The truth is my mom got pregnant with me when she was dating my dad. Instead of sticking around, he went off to the NFL.”

He thinks. “Could she have gone with him?”

I shake my head. “I don’t think she wanted to. She never said she did. I guess they just didn’t love each other enough.” I sigh. “She loved it here. She was devoted to her students. She was smart and beautiful and kind…”

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