“I try to make it a policy not to fuck the cheerleaders.” Hendrix took a sip of his beer. “They get all clingy, and I don’t have time for that bullshit. It’s not like I can revoke their field pass or anything.”
“Right. And how exactly did that policy apply with Vanessa Patterson?” I nodded toward the gaggle of women holding drinks instead of their usual poms.
Hendrix cringed. “She’s why the policy exists. Shit, don’t make eye contact.” He looked away, but it was already too late. They were headed this way.
“Hey, guys.” Jackie got a little too close for comfort, and I turned sideways so it was my arm she brushed up against, not my chest. “You feeling in the holiday spirit?” Her fingers trailed down my arm.
Bile rose in my throat.
“Not particularly.” I glanced from her fingers to her face, and she got the message, dropping her hand.
“I could change that, you know.” Her voice lowered, and she bit her lower lip expertly. It had the opposite effect that Liberty’s unconscious lip-biting had on me.
Liberty did it every time she wanted to get her mouth on me like she couldn’t stop her lips from moving on their own.
Jackie did it so I’d notice her surgically plumped lips.
Fuck, how fake was she? How fake was all of this? The only women I recognized as genuine were Teagan and Savannah, both of whom were across a very crowded ballroom.
“What do you say, Nixon? Wanna give the whole quarterback and head cheerleader cliché a go?” she whispered
“Not sure if you’ve noticed, Jackie, but I’m taken.” Because she wouldn’t step back, I did, bumping into the barstool directly behind me. It didn’t matter if Liberty wasn’t here, or if we were really even together, she owned every piece of me.
“Oh!” Jackie’s mouth formed a perfect, practiced O. “Gosh, I’m sorry, Nixon. I didn’t realize you were still together with Liza. I haven’t seen her around in ages, so I figured you two were splitsville.”
Hendrix’s eyes widened as he threw back his beer.
“Liberty,” I corrected Jackie. “Her name is Liberty. And you haven’t seen her because she’s in Brazil, working with an underprivileged population in a remote village as she gets her doctorate.” Well, damn, when I put it that way, my woman was a total and complete badass.
Jackie blinked, and two of the cheerleaders edged toward Hendrix, accurately reading my mood. “That’s…cool.”
“It’s better than cool.” My posture relaxed as I leaned against the bar. “It’s hot as hell. Not just temperature, either. She’s got the sexiest brain and the most seductive moral code I’ve ever come across. Then you add in that gorgeous face, and tantalizing body, and I’d have to say she’s the complete package. Cool doesn’t even begin to cover it.”
Jackie’s face fell. “Oh. Right.”
“Look!” One of the new blondes pointed toward the dais across the room. “Weston Rutherford is here!”
“Come on, ladies,” Jackie said. “I’ll introduce you.”
The flock took off, headed toward the owner of the Raleigh Raptors. The guy gave Hendrix a run for his money in the playboy department, that was for sure.
“Should we warn Wes that the vultures are descending?” Hendrix asked with a laugh.
I cocked my head to the side and leaned just enough to make sure Brynn was up there, too. The sweet little strawberry blonde might look harmless behind those glasses, but she’d been Weston’s personal assistant for the last five years and was definitely capable of handling herself…and our rather reckless owner. “No worries, Brynn is up there.”
Hendrix turned and noted the same. “She’ll shut them down.” He had a sly smile on his face as he returned. “You think they’ve ever…”
“No.” I shook my head emphatically. “Not a chance in hell.” Weston was ridiculously protective of his assistant, and I guessed that included keeping her safe from himself, too. “I heard she pushed him out of the plane when he dragged her skydiving last month.”
Hendrix laughed, which of course drew another wave of women our way.
I shut down three flirtations and two blatant offers in the next half hour, then checked my watch to see how long I had before I was supposed to make the lame-ass speech I’d written this morning. Happy Holidays. Yada yada. Family. Love. Meaning. Everything I was missing.
A hand slid from the top of my shoulder to my waist, stroking across my back on the way down, and I froze. For fuck’s sake. Abandoning my drink on the bar, I snatched the woman’s wrist as her hand reached my hip.
“No,” I snapped. “For the hundredth time, I’m taken.” My heart lurched as a pair of pale green eyes met mine. Her smile was radiant, her skin flawless, and the burgundy dress lifted her plump breasts all the way to the heart-shaped neckline, making my mouth water.
“Hopefully by me?” she asked softly.