Home > Hook Shot (Hoops #3)(7)

Hook Shot (Hoops #3)(7)
Kennedy Ryan


He’d held me that way before. Other guys had, too, and it never bothered me. It actually turned me on, but that time was different. I forced myself not to struggle and claw for Chase to let me go. Rationally, I knew he wouldn’t hurt me, but the panic wouldn’t listen. When we were done, none the wiser, he lit his usual post-coital joint, but I ran into the bathroom and collapsed on his shower floor, sobbing uncontrollably.

I can’t do that again.

“I don’t know how long it will take me to sort this stuff in my head,” I finally answer Chase, forcing myself out of the troubling memories.

“Like . . . mental stuff?” he asks, his glance wary, like I may be hiding a butcher knife in my sundress.

“Wow, you make me want to pour my heart out,” I say, sarcasm dripping along with my hands. “I need that towel.”

He steps aside and watches while I dry the last of the water from my hands. Before he can continue the inquisition, I jerk open the door, only to stop short. Kenan leans against the wall in the small passageway, muscle-corded arms folded over that powerful chest. His long legs are crossed at the ankles.

It’s a big ship, and I’ve been able to avoid him for the most part tonight. He poses a threat, and doesn’t even know it. It’s like he’s walking around with a bomb strapped to his chest, completely oblivious that someone’s out there with a thumb hovering over the trigger. A six foot-seven-inch bomb of lean, explosive danger.

There’s something regal about his bearing that goes beyond height. Beyond the thick, slashing brows, mahogany skin and high-sculpted cheekbones. The strong chin, and the extravagance of lips so full in a face so lean and spare. It’s inside of him. An assurance. Confidence. Esteem. I felt the force of it each time we met, and I ignored it. I had to. His posture is indolent, but his eyes—dark, intelligent, alert—fix on Chase over my shoulder.

“Everything okay?” he asks, his voice a warning rumble.

I don’t know what he heard or how long he’s been here, but I do believe if I say no, he will knock Chase into next week. And as much as I kinda think Chase deserves it, we can’t have that.

“We’re cool,” I answer, glancing over my shoulder at my once-upon-a-fuck buddy. “Right, Chase?”

“Uh, yeah.” Chase’s pupils flare and he shifts like he’s grappling with his fight-or-flight instinct. With a man as big as Kenan, fighting really isn’t a smart move, so I’m guessing Chase is all flight right now. “We’re cool.”

He pushes past me quickly and heads back to the party without another word.

“You sure you’re okay?” Kenan asks, a frown puckering over probing eyes.

“Positive. Chase and I have an understanding.”

“You’re dating him?” he asks, his tone neutral, but not fooling me. He cares what I say next. I’ve never experienced such instant chemistry as I did with Kenan, but as vulnerable, as empty as I’ve been feeling lately, maybe as I’ve been feeling for a while, he’s not what I need. I need simple. Easy. And this man is neither of those things.

“We were never dating.”

“Oh, I thought—”

“We were fucking,” I correct. “But not anymore.”

A muscle ticks along the chiseled line of his jaw. “I see.”

He pushes off the wall, stepping closer. Everything in me wants to shrink back. Not because I fear him, but because I fear myself, my response to this man.

I stand my ground, enduring the intoxicating scent of him and the wash of warmth when he’s so close his massive body eclipses the world past his shoulders.

“So does that mean the way is clear if someone else wanted to take you out?” he asks, his voice a strong, gentle hand stroking my skin.

“No, that’s not what it means.” I look up to catch his eyes and refuse to look away even when the cartilage around my knees starts to marshmallow. “It means the opposite. Road block ahead.”

“A road block?” He looks down, so far down at me, one brow quirked, questioning.

“You can’t get through, but there are alternate roads. A detour.” I nod my head toward the party. “Amanda, for one, seems like she’d enjoy being your alternate route.”

“Nah.” He shakes his head. “She’s not my type.”

“Oh, pretty, blue-eyed blondes with big breasts not your type?”

“Used to be.” He barks out a short laugh. “I was married to one for a long time.”

I’m quiet, choking on something. A woman couldn’t be more opposite of me than blue-eyed and blond. I don’t even know this man, so it shouldn’t sting that he belonged to someone else, that he chose someone so antithetical to me.

“Well, if you change your mind, Amanda’s a road I’d call . . . well-traveled,” I say, going to step around him. “So wrap it up tight if you ever do ride.”

“Like I said, I’m not remotely interested in Amanda,” he says. “I’m very interested in you. I’m in New York all summer. Let me take you out.”

“Detour,” I remind him and follow the path Chase took a few minutes ago.

“There you are,” JP says when I re-enter the room, but he’s looking up and over my shoulder. “We couldn’t start without the guest of honor.”

When Keir explained Hook Shot, I immediately tensed at the possibility that I might be randomly paired with and asked to kiss Kenan. I would have probably bowed out of the game. I have before at some of these parties, but I overheard Kenan talking with Vale, and am almost positive I heard him say “boot.” Besides, JP was walking around with the button in his hand, barely trying to hide it. The most JP will give me is one of his famous air kisses.

We reconvene in the main saloon to play. After a few rounds, it’s actually fun. That’s the thing about these games. We all groan and pretend we hate them, but there’s something exhilarating about shaking off the cloak of responsibility, the daily adulting, and playing like kids again if only for a night.

Amanda and Yari both drew a thimble. They knock back their glasses of tequila and then slam them on the table in the center of the room with gusto, both hissing and wiping their mouths with the backs of their hands. When it’s time for their kiss, they laughingly make such a show of it to the great enthusiasm of all the guys.

“More!” Chase yells. “Don’t stop now. It was getting good.”

We go through a few more rounds, sitting on low couches lining the walls, eating and getting drunker by the minute. I try to tune out, to ignore the compelling presence of the man who doesn’t quite fit in here, doesn’t quite belong with this tribe of crazy creatives, but who manages to seem as comfortable floating with us tonight as he would standing at the free-throw line.

I guess there’s still a free-throw line. They could have abolished it as far as I know or care. I follow basketball not at all.

I’m aware of Kenan, though. My senses pique and my skin prickles every time something lures his reluctant laughter out of hiding.

“Your turn, Lo,” Vale says, cheeks still pink from her kiss and liquor.

I step to the table. A bottle of tequila and two shot glasses are the only things cluttering its surface. With a flourish, I hold up my tiny silk bag to show everyone, and then slowly extract the gold button.

“Okay, so who am I kissing?” I search the room until I find JP and wink at him. “Let’s do this.”

JP winks back, his eyes shining the way they do when a design comes together, but he doesn’t move.

JP doesn’t move, but to my alarm and horror, Kenan joins me at the table and holds up a button. My eyes dart from him to the button. I could have sworn I heard him say he had the boot, and I could have sworn JP had the button. Right now, I could just swear. Just cuss. The very lining of my stomach seems to quiver with Kenan so close.

But I won’t back down in front of everyone. And I certainly won’t back down in front of him. It’s just a kiss. It can be quick and harmless and over in no time.

With deceptively steady hands, I grab the bottle and fill my shot glass to the very top. I slide the bottle his way without once looking at him. My hands may look steady, but I’m vibrating inside. With fury. With frustration. Dammit, I can only admit this to myself, and I swear myself to secrecy—vibrating with anticipation. I can’t have this incredible tower of a man, and I will not under any circumstances give myself to him.

Kenan seems too good to be true. Those are the worst men because, from my experience, they usually aren’t true. With all I’m sorting through, I don’t need that not true shit right now. Actually, ever. I’ve had enough people in my life who I thought I could count on, but in the end, proved I couldn’t.

No, I can’t have him and he can’t have me, but we can have this kiss. This one little kiss. The trick is to control it. A little pressure. A little tongue. A tiny taste, then get out.

With my battle plan in place, I meet his eyes over our shot glass rims and, on the crowd’s count of three, we knock our drinks back together. The fiery liquid scorches my throat. I give an “ahhhhhh” and slam my glass down. Kenan does the same, and we face each other across the table.

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