Not that I’d tell him that.
“I may buy out a whole store,” I said instead, waving the credit card at him.
He laughed, and Roman clapped him on the back, and then Teagan was hauling me out of the house.
“Where are we headed?” I asked once I was behind the wheel. It wasn’t like I knew any place to buy a fancy dress—the most lavish I ever went was a flowy skirt from my favorite vintage shop.
“Oh,” she said. “I know the best boutique, and there is a legit Cuban place right next to it that is amazing.”
“Sounds perfect,” I said, and let her enter the address into my phone.
Armed with Nixon’s credit card, his car, his starving baby in my belly, and apparently one of his dear friends, I found myself wondering why I didn’t feel more awkward about it all. But nothing about Teagan screamed forced, nor did the car or the money. It was easy to fall into this lifestyle.
Like I’d somehow always had been meant for it.
* * *
“I thought you said this was a preseason cocktail party?” I said, my pulse spiking as Nixon’s driver pulled up to the curb of a historic building in downtown Raleigh.
“It is,” he said, tilting his head.
I pointed out the window. “There is a red carpet, Nixon.”
And cameras. Loads of them.
Nixon shrugged. “Our events coordinator tends to make every function a publicity event. Its proceeds will benefit my brother’s fiancé’s charity foundation. It’s also a chance for the team to get together and let loose before the grind really starts.”
I raised my brows at him—he practiced non-stop, and when he wasn’t doing that he was working out. I swear, the man threw passes in his sleep. And the grind had yet to start?
“Are you sure about this?” I asked, gesturing to myself. “To being photographed with me. I mean, I’m not exactly a model.”
“I know who you are,” he said, his dark eyes trailing the length of my body. They lingered on my tummy for a few seconds before he returned his gaze to mine. “And I’m not hiding you. I know we’re still figuring this whole thing out, Liberty, but until we do, I want you by my side.”
Warmth surged across my skin, and suddenly I was thankful for the strapless black number Teagan had helped me pick out. “Don’t let me fall, okay?”
That crooked smile shaped his lips as he reached for my hand. “Fast reflexes, remember?” He grinned. “I promise, I won’t let you fall,” he said, and then he was ushering me out of the car and into a frenzy of lights and shouting voices.
“Nixon! Who are you wearing?”
“Nixon! What does offense look like this year for the Raptors?”
“Who’s on your arm tonight, Nixon?”
A stream of questions, all yelled in our general direction as Nixon smiled and waved for the cameras.
“This is Liberty Jones,” he said, patting my arm which was looped around his. “And I’m wearing Armani. Offense looks tight.”
And that was that.
He hurried us through the doors, past a grand marble-floored entryway, and into a giant ballroom filled with way more than a handful of Raptors. No, there were athletes and celebrities and models and wait staff and more, all dressed in finery so shiny it almost hurt my eyes to look at.
Music filtered from hidden speakers in the ceiling, beckoning several couples to dance on the space designated in the center of the room. Standing high-top tables draped in cream linen lined the walls around the dancefloor, most occupied by one gorgeous Raptor or the next. A full mahogany bar dominated the right corner of the room, and Nixon guided us toward it. I let out a sigh of relief when I spotted Teagan next to Roman, and that was Hendrix freaking Malone on his other side. Holy hell, the wide receiver for the Raptors was even more stunning in person—blond hair, crushing blue eyes, and a body of chiseled muscles that surely made him one of the fastest in the NFL. Would I ever get used to the insane amount of celebrity-worthy attractive men that naturally came with Nixon’s world?
Did I want to get used to it?
Because, honestly, while I could appreciate the buffet of sexy NFL stars, none held that thrall like Nixon did. None made me want to lose all my well-placed safety nets and fall into a charged whirlwind of uncertainty and risk just to get another taste of him.
I shook off the weakness in my knees at the mere thought of Nixon’s lips against mine again, and smiled at Teagan.
“You look stunning!” Teagan said by way of greeting when we reached them.
“Thanks to you,” I said, beaming at her. “I love that you went with the blue,” I said, pointing to her beautiful off-the-shoulder dress. “It brings out your eyes. You look gorgeous.” Heat bloomed on her cheeks, and she waved me off, her eyes finding the floor. I’d seen that many times in my studies—deflection and unacceptance of a compliment. Usually that meant—