Just one night sex love.., p.14

Just One Night: Sex, Love & Stiletto Series, page 14


Just One Night: Sex, Love & Stiletto Series

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  One of his hands slid upward, his fingers playing over her spine, his breath hot against her temple.

  It was not a brotherly hug.

  There was a pointed clearing of throat behind them, although it took Riley a full five seconds before she could bring herself to step back from Sam.

  She was fully expecting a frowning Emma.

  She wasn’t disappointed.

  “Riley, this must be your brother!”

  Riley gave her a look that said over the top, but Emma didn’t lose the steely, determined expression as she extended a hand toward Sam. “I’m Emma Sinclair. We didn’t get a chance to meet earlier.”

  “Emma, this is Sam Compton,” Riley said, keeping her voice casual. “He’s a family friend.”

  “Nice to meet you,” Sam said, giving Emma an easy smile. “You’ve got a hell of an arm, by the way. It was good to have some talent on the pitcher’s mound.”

  “Had to make up for the Marilyn Monroe routine happening in left field,” Emma said with a nod toward Riley. “And speaking of Ri, your charms were bountiful enough that half the Oxford guys are overlooking the fact that you delivered their defeat and are insisting that they buy you a drink. You ready?”

  Riley resisted the urge to roll her eyes. The drinks were free, and more than half the Oxford guys were here with significant others. She almost corrected Emma when she saw the sulky expression on Sam’s face.

  Maybe the plan was working after all.

  “Sure!” she said, readjusting her droopy ponytail as she turned toward Sam. “You wanna come?”

  The question was nonchalant, as though he was an afterthought and she didn’t care whether or not he joined. In fact, her tone took on just enough flippancy to suggest that she’d prefer he didn’t come.

  She even let her eyes find Emma, and the two of them very intentionally exchanged the look of female friends who were worried that a big-brother figure would derail their romantic plans.

  The exchange wasn’t lost on Sam. It wasn’t meant to be.

  “Yeah, I could go for a beer or two,” Sam said, adjusting his hat. “Someone’s gotta make sure you two stay out of trouble.”

  Riley turned away so he wouldn’t see her smile of victory.

  Keep them out of trouble her ass.

  If this plan worked, Sam was the one who would need saving.

  Chapter Thirteen

  Riley was up to something.

  Sam just wasn’t exactly sure what.

  But for the first time in months—years?—Sam didn’t care that he didn’t know what the hell was going through her gorgeous head.

  As long as she kept smiling at him like that—like she enjoyed him—he was content to play along in complete ignorance.

  Not to mention, the “just one of the guys” thing she had going on meant he wasn’t constantly looking over his shoulder for Liam to come charging at him for ogling his little sister.

  Too bad Riley’s buddy-buddy routine wasn’t quite as effective at silencing his mother’s latest accusation. You think a pseudo celebrity like Riley McKenna wants you for anything more than her next story? Even if she didn’t, you’d probably screw that up too.

  He’d never admit it, but he was grateful for his mom’s timing. Without knowing it, she’d kept him from making a mistake that both he and Riley would have regretted.

  He glanced over at the woman who’d spent the past two hours introducing him to her colleagues as “practically a brother.”

  There was absolutely no chance he was seeing her lingerie tonight.

  Perfect. That was exactly what he wanted.

  Bull. Fucking. Shit.

  Okay, so he definitely wanted to see what she was wearing under her hot-pink baseball shirt.

  But so did every other single guy in the bar.

  Sam should have been prepared for this. It was Riley. But when she’d pitched this softball “favor,” he’d been so busy trying to figure out her angle that he’d missed a rather key detail of the whole thing.

  Namely, the very male opposing team.

  He’d only read Oxford a handful of times, and Sam was less than pleased to see that at least half the staff looked like they could be on the cover of the magazine as well as its bylines.

  And at least half of the model-wannabes seemed to be very single, and very aware of Riley’s penchant for formfitting clothes.

  Some nice-enough guy named Jason casually threw an arm around the back of Riley’s chair as she chatted with Julie. Jason caught Sam’s glare and hesitated only briefly before retracting the arm.

  If there was an upside to being introduced as “practically a brother,” it was that his glares were interpreted as fraternal protectiveness.

  Which was exactly what they were supposed to be.

  Then Riley tilted her head back and laughed at something Julie said, a spontaneous, unscripted gesture that had his stomach tightening with want. And not just want to brush his lips down the exposed column of her neck. It was a deeper want—to spend time with her, just to see her smile.

  Yup, his feelings toward Riley were anything but brotherly, and he was getting damn tired of trying to convince himself of anything else.

  The trouble was, she seemed to be doing a damn good job of convincing herself and everyone else that there was no sexual pull between them.

  But the hug had said it all. She’d slipped up, as had he. He’d known better than to put his hands on her, but he’d had to put them to the test.

  They’d both failed.

  But other than that, she’d been doing everything he’d prayed that she’d do. There’d been plenty of shared smiles, but no secret shared smiles. Just friendly, isn’t-this-fun? wholesome grins.

  She certainly hadn’t gone out of her way to touch him the way she had with some of the Oxford guys. And unlike with that douche bag Brent, he didn’t think tonight was about making him jealous. She never once glanced at him to see how he’d react. It was like she didn’t even notice him unless he spoke directly to her or planted himself in her line of sight.

  It was his own fault.

  He’d walked away from her.

  Damn it. He’d give anything to have her under him again. To feel her lips move against his. To swallow her sweet moans and find the spots that made her squirm.

  All things he couldn’t have.

  It was time to content himself with friendship, because that was all she was offering.

  “You’re staring,” came a husky voice from behind him.

  He glanced over to see Emma Sinclair drop into the seat beside him, topping off his glass with the fresh pitcher of Brooklyn Lager in her hand.

  He didn’t bother to play dumb. He’d known Emma for all of an hour, and it was clear that this was a woman who saw and knew everything. She reminded him of some sort of sage in a sexy, composed package.

  The slightly southern twang just added to the allure. One he might have acted on if he wasn’t already hung up on a tall, curvy Irish brunette.

  “Everyone with a dick is staring,” he said, taking a sip of the beer.

  She nodded. “Yeah, Riley’s got that ‘It’ factor.”

  Sam grunted.

  “Rumor has it you saw her naked and then walked away.”

  Sam choked on his beer and looked around to see if anyone had overheard her. “Jesus.”

  Emma carefully licked foam from her full lower lip. “How much did you hate yourself after?”

  Sam frowned. “Look, I can respect that the girl-talk thing happened, but I’m not really the spill-my-guts kind of dude.”

  She ignored him. “Do you regret it?”

  Every day.

  “We’re not good together,” he said, surprising himself by talking to a woman he barely knew. Surprising himself even more because the words felt false the second they left his lips.

  “Don’t I know how that goes,” Emma muttered, her eyes going kind of faraway as she glanced toward the end of the table. Sam tried to follow her line of sight, b
ut she turned back before he could see what had made her eyes go wistful.

  “She’s not what you think, you know,” Emma said, holding his gaze.

  Sam’s eyes narrowed. “I’ve known Riley since she was seventeen. I think I know who and what she is.”

  Emma’s eyes narrowed right back. “Do you?”

  Sam’s confidence faltered, because it was clear this smart woman was trying to tell him something.

  “Hey, guys!”

  They both glanced up to see Riley smiling down at them. Was it his imagination, or were her teeth clenched when she looked at her friend?

  “Grace was looking for you, Em.”

  “Grace!” Emma called, leaning back in her chair to holler at her friend. “You were looking for me?”

  Grace’s sweet, even features scrunched up for a second, her gaze flicking between Emma’s amused look and Riley’s pointed one before she gave a hesitant smile. “Um. Yes?”

  “Told you,” Riley said, all but dumping Emma out of the chair.

  Sam wisely held his smile. And his fear.

  He’d been right. Riley was definitely up to something, and her friends were in on it. If Sam had learned anything from his disastrously short marriage, it was that the only thing worse than a scheming woman was a group of them.

  But for right now, it was enough to have Riley sitting beside him, looking at him instead of the rest of the guys at the table.

  “Increasing your fan base, I see,” he said, picking up the pitcher of beer Emma left behind and topping off Riley’s glass.

  “Not really,” she said, her eyes idly scanning the table. “Most of these guys are longtime members of the Riley Adoration Club. I’d say only one or two new recruits tonight.”

  Sam followed the movement of her eyes, trying to determine whether they lingered on anyone in particular. Wondering if it was any of the guys here who would be his replacement in her bed for that damn story idea.

  Your idea, Compton. Your own brilliant blue ball of an idea.

  “Jason’s cute, don’t you think?” she asked.

  Stab. “Oh, very dreamy.”

  “I haven’t talked to him much before, but he’s sweeter than I would have expected beneath all that swagger.”

  Double stab.

  “Breaking news, Ri. Three of your best female friends are right here in this very room, and your two sisters are just a phone call away, which means … drumroll, please … I don’t have to listen to this.”

  He knew his voice belied his jealousy—he’d shown his hand—but when she turned to face him, her bright blue eyes were merely friendly, not triumphant. Whatever she was up to, it wasn’t the make-Sam-jealous routine.

  She’d made that move before and was too smart to overuse it.

  His eyes narrowed. Wasn’t she?

  Testing her, he moved slowly, hooking his arm over the back of her chair and watching her eyes for that surge of awareness. The one he’d seen—no, felt—during that hug on the field.

  Sam accidentally on purpose let his thumb idly brush against her shoulder blade as she spoke to the woman on her left. Sure enough, her spine stiffened briefly, almost imperceptibly, as though stifling an unwanted reaction.

  She was fighting it, all right.

  His hand moved again, fingers finding the end of her ponytail, worshiping the soft hair only briefly before she tilted her head slightly and gave him a curious look.

  He lifted his beer to his face, pretending obliviousness at the “accidental” contact.

  Two could play at this game.

  Except he wasn’t sure that he wanted to play any game. Not right now. He wanted her in his bed, but he also wanted to reestablish the friendship that been buried under the sexual tension recently.

  He missed her. Not just her smile, and her humor, and the way she called him on his bullshit. But he also missed Riley in a deep, unrelenting kind of way that couldn’t be explained by mere friendship.

  And for the life of him, he didn’t know how to maintain the easy camaraderie and that deeper, something-more connection.

  But he was beginning to think he wanted to try.

  “You like your job at Stiletto,” he said, hoping to draw her into casual conversation. “It’s obvious from how comfortable you are with your coworkers, and the fact that you’re just as excited about Mondays as Fridays.”

  Confusion flittered across her face, and he felt a tiny stab of regret that she was surprised by his interest in her life. Not that he could blame her. They’d been pushing and pulling for so many years, they’d nearly forgotten how to just be present in each other’s company.

  It was time to change that.

  “Of course I like it,” she said.

  Sam shook his head. “There’s no of course about it. Trust me, liking one’s job is a rarity these days.”

  She tilted her beer back and watched him. “Speaking from experience?”

  “Hell yes. Opening and running a distillery is a full-time job and then some. Wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t hated the alternative.”

  “Investment banking wasn’t your thing? I’m shocked.”

  He gave a rueful smile. “Translation: Sam Compton didn’t have what it takes to succeed in the real world.”

  Riley shifted in her seat to study him, and he resisted the urge to squirm. “Why do you do that? Scratch that. I know why you do that. Your mom has filled your head with crap about how you’re not a good guy. But why do you believe it?”

  Shit. Shit. He had not meant to take them down this path of conversation. What had happened to the good old days when she would respond to his slipups with a joke and let it go? Why now was she deciding to push?

  Maybe because he’d had his tongue down her throat, his hands on her breasts. Maybe because he’d accidentally opened the door just the tiniest bit and now was paying the price.

  “Can we not talk about that?” he asked, forcing a smile.

  She opened her mouth to protest, but he forged ahead again. “We were talking about you. And how you’re lucky to have found a career path that suits you.”

  Her smile dimmed just slightly. “You mean because I write about sex.”

  Emma’s cryptic words hovered in the back of his mind. She’s not what you think.

  “I’m not sure that’s what I meant at all,” he said, keeping his voice casual. “I just meant it’s clear that you’re right where you belong.”

  “And you’re not?”

  Leave it alone, Riley. But he wasn’t being fair. He should have known that his longing to be her friend would be reciprocal. He should have known that wanting her to confide in him would likely be a two-way street.

  “ROON is everything to me,” he said, finally opting for the direct, honest approach.

  Something sad flitted across her face, but her smile never slipped. “Doesn’t look that way to me.”

  It was too close to something his mother might say, and his shoulders automatically tensed. “Meaning?”

  “Meaning that everyone who’s tasted your whisky thinks it’s up there with the best they’ve had, and yet hardly anyone has tasted it.”

  Sam’s eyes narrowed. “I’m tweaking it.”

  “Bullshit. You’re hiding.”

  He wanted to slam the wall down. To get up and leave before she could go there. But she already had. And oddly, he didn’t want the wall down. Not with Riley.

  “I want to get it right,” he said, meeting her eyes. I have to get it right.

  Her fingers found his forearm, just briefly, and although the touch was far more sisterly than the darkest part of him wanted, it calmed him.

  “You don’t have anything to prove, Sam. Not to us McKennas anyway.”

  He knew she was right.

  He also knew that he wasn’t a McKenna. He was always aware of that. He was a Compton, and Comptons didn’t do success easily.

  “You wanna get out of here?” he heard himself ask. “There’s a hole-in-the-wall whisky bar over on Tenth.”
  She gave a little shrug. “Sure. But no more copping a feel like you did out on the field.”

  “I know not to what you refer,” he said, standing to pull back her chair, a little surprised that she’d mentioned it.

  Maybe she wasn’t playing games after all. And if she wasn’t … did that mean she was done with him?

  The thought was more depressing than he cared to admit.

  “Let’s just say Liam’s hugs don’t feel at all like that,” she said, giving him a meaningful look.

  Sam waited for the old familiar tug of guilt at the mention of his best friend’s name, and it came, fast and sure. But interestingly enough, that long-ago promise he had made to Liam not to touch his sister felt a lot less important than the promises he wanted to make to Riley.

  What sort of fresh hell have I gotten myself into?

  “I got confused,” he said finally, deciding to keep these in a joking place. “I thought for a second you were actually attractive.”

  Riley clucked as she tucked her arm in his companionably. “Happens all the time. Lucky for us, there’s nothing like a failed sex experiment to send two people to a permanent friend zone.”

  Fuck the friend zone, Sam thought as he held the door open for her. It wasn’t enough.

  Friendship would never be enough. Not with Riley.

  Chapter Fourteen

  Riley liked Sam.

  Somehow she’d forgotten that in recent weeks. They’d been so busy trying to get into each other’s pants, or stay out of each other’s pants, that she’d pushed aside the basic fact that beneath the simmering physical attraction, they were friends.

  “Try this one,” he said, pushing a small tumbler toward her. “Tell me what you smell.”

  She sniffed. “Horse butt.”

  “Leather, good. What else?”

  She rolled her eyes and tried again. “Vanilla?”

  He took the glass from her hand and gave it a sniff. “Nope. That’s almond you’re getting.”

  “You’re worse than a wine snob,” Riley said, grabbing the glass and taking a tiny sip. Sam knew the bartender, which meant they’d tasted at least a dozen different whiskies. The pours were tiny, so she wasn’t drunk—just a sip or two of each—but there was a distinct warmth developing low in her belly.

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