Home > Hook Shot (Hoops #3)(8)

Hook Shot (Hoops #3)(8)
Kennedy Ryan

“Let’s get this over with.” I flash a wide smile and false bravado to my friends. “I’m gonna blow his mind, folks.”

They answer with wolf whistles and catcalls, emboldening me. The tiniest quirk of Kenan’s mouth is the only clue that he might find this all amusing.

Instead of leaning across the table like everyone else has done so far, he steps around the table until he stands directly in front of me. My quips and quick humor wither under the intensity of his stare. He leans down until his lips are only a breath above mine. He slides his hands down my bare arms and grasps my elbows to pull me up, eliminating the last few inches separating our lips.

It starts with the lightest pressure, barely a kiss at all. His lips rest against mine. Him, demanding nothing. Me, determined I won’t give him anything, but with a slight shift of his head, the new angle deepens the contact, opens my mouth. It’s a petition to enter, to taste, to sample. My lips barely part, but my sigh grants permission, and he doesn’t hesitate, cupping my face, tugging gently on my chin, opening me and probing inside, slowly and languorously with fiery, liquored licks. When his tongue brushes the roof of my mouth, a thousand fingers, everywhere at once, stroke my arms, my spine, my neck, my legs. Not even the most hidden parts of me remain untouched by sensation. Every inch of me is stimulated. I gasp, and he immediately dives deeper, like he’s chasing the secrets tucked under my tongue and sealed in the lining of my mouth.

I don’t know if the growl is his, if the whimper is mine, but all the things that would keep this tame—my friends watching, our inhibitions, propriety—melt in the wrath of this heat, like we’re kissing under the sun. Rusty cogs inside of me, oiled by tequila and passion, start turning in ways long forgotten, if ever known before. Mindlessly, I strain up, push my hands over the width of his shoulders and wrap my fingers around his neck. He’s too far, and I want to be close. He splays his hands over my back, completely encompassing as he pulls me into the shelter of his body. He bites my lip and I lick into the tangy well of his mouth. God, he’s delicious. I’ve never tasted anything like him. Never felt anything like this.

With each second, it intensifies. We intensify. Our hands grip tighter. Our mouths grow desperate. The breaths come fast and short through our noses because I won’t release his mouth and he won’t let mine go. This kiss is a dark corridor, twisting and turning, luring me deeper. I can’t find my way out, and if someone opened a door offering escape, I’d slam it in their face.

“Get a room!” someone calls from the crowd. Others laugh.

It startles me. Wrenches me from the false privacy we created with our lips, our tongues, our mouths, our moans. It’s like a flashlight shone on us, exposing me.

We jerk apart, our ragged breaths intermingled. It’s not that I’m self-conscious about what my friends have seen. It’s what he has seen—that I’m not immune to him.

From above, he searches my face. For what, I don’t know, but with the little bit of dignity I have left, I lower my head, hiding from him.

“Well, uh . . . who’s next?” Keir asks, obviously nonplussed, but trying to recover.

I take advantage of the attention shifting to the next players. Swiftly and on unsteady legs, I leave the saloon and head up to the observation deck without sparing Kenan a glance.

The vibrant New York skyline never gets old. I let the beauty of the night — the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge’s trail of lights—comfort me. The evening air calms my racing pulse and the faint breeze lifts my hair, cools my burning cheeks.

I look up at the stars accusingly, like they’ve orchestrated this. It’s too much of a coincidence, this man surfacing just as I’m starting to deal with tough things from my past. I search the indigo sky for an answer, for confirmation of this cleromancy, but there’s no shooting star. No cosmic crisis reflecting the turmoil beneath my skin. Not even a cloud or a strike of lightning.

“Here you are,” Yari says, joining me near the rail. “You and Kenan shoulda charged admission for that.”

“It was a game, Ri,” I say, side eyeing her. “Don’t make it a big deal. It wasn’t real.”

“With that man down there looking like a snack, I’d make it real if I were you.”

“Remember this . . .” I draw an air square around my V-zone. “. . . is a no-dick area for the foreseeable future.”

“If that man looked at me the way he looks at you, I’d reconsider.” She goes quiet for a second. “You like him, don’t you?”

What gave it away? I ask silently. The vacuum cleaner kiss?

I don’t answer. There’s a connection between Kenan and me. I knew it the first time I saw him. I felt his eyes on me the whole time in that hospital room when I visited August. I had to force myself not to stare back.

Me crying in Chase’s shower, the inexplicable emptiness I’ve been feeling—they’re symptoms of a bigger issue, something I haven’t talked about even to Yari. Something I haven’t really dealt with. It’s been chasing me for years and it’s finally catching up. I can keep running or I can turn around and face it, conquer it. I haven’t decided what I’ll do yet, but I know I don’t need a complication like Kenan while I figure it out.

“Ahem.”

The clearing throat draws my attention and Yari’s, too. Kenan stands at the top of the stairs leading to the lower deck.

Our eyes collide in the semi-darkness. The glittering Manhattan skyline casts a warm glow, adding to the air of intimacy building between us, even with Yari standing watch.

“Um, well this is awkward,” Yari says with a chuckle. “Imma . . . go. See you down there, Lo.”

Kenan steps aside for her to pass, but doesn’t look away from my face.

“How did you get that button?” I lead with the thing I want to know most. “JP had it. So how did you get it?”

He crosses the deck between us in a few measured steps.

“I told him I’d do the watch campaign if he’d give me the button.” There’s no apology in his voice, nor in the look he gives me.

“Why did you do that?”

“Because I wanted to kiss you.”

His admission, frank, honest, snatches my breath, but I disguise it. Look away, down. I turn my back on him and face the night-darkened waters instead.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” I tell him.

“It was a game, Lotus,” he says from far too close. From right beside me, but I lift my eyes to the still-silent sky above. “You didn’t have to play.”

He touches my arm lightly, but I jerk at the contact—electric and molten. He glances from my arm to my face.

“But you did,” he says. “You played because you wanted to kiss me, too.”

The truth floats between us on balmy summer air, and I can’t draw an easy breath. I bite my lip, debating what I should tell him—how much to reveal.

“That’s true.” I meet his eyes. “But it doesn’t make a difference about what happens next.”

“I’d like it to happen again, preferably without a roomful of people watching,” he says, wry humor curling the edges of his sensual mouth.

I flash him a rueful smile. “I don’t think so.”

Disappointment skitters across his face before he tucks it neatly away. He’s a man of control, discipline evident in the powerful, sinewy arms JP loves so much. In the flat stomach and the unyielding line of his mouth. His body is a well-conditioned machine—a fire-forged weapon in the battles he fights on court. How would it feel to demolish that control? I bet I could do it, but not without being crushed myself.

“Do I get an explanation?” he asks.

“Maybe I’m just not attracted to you.”

He quirks a brow, skepticism etched into the strong planes of his face. “At the risk of sounding arrogant, we both know that’s bullshit.”

“Okay then I’ll keep it real. I’m off dick right now,” I say abruptly, really hoping my crassness scares him away.

“Oh.” He nods as if I said I’m giving up dairy instead of dick. “Well what about the rest of me?”

“What?” I’m at a loss for half a second. I’m supposed to be the one throwing him off. “I don’t know about the rest of you.”

“My point exactly. You could get to know the rest of me over the summer and we can discuss my dick later.”

In spite of myself, my lips twitch. He twitches back, but the humor slowly drains from his expression. “Look, I won’t pretend I’m not attracted you. I think I’ve made that abundantly,” he says, allowing a self-deprecating smile, “and embarrassingly clear.”

I watch, waiting for him to go on.

“But my life’s kind of a wreck right now,” he says. “I don’t know how much you know about me.”

He pauses, caution in his unspoken query.

“Very little,” I admit. “I don’t follow basketball at all.”

Something like relief crosses his face before he shutters it. “I’m glad you don’t know a lot about me,” he says. “That means I can tell you myself. Not tonight, though. Suffice to say I’m coming off a very messy, very public divorce.”

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