The Game Changer

By: J. Sterling

Not a Dream

Cassie

I opened my eyes the next morning, half terrified that it had all been a dream… albeit a beautifully hot, sweet, romantic dream. My gaze quickly fell on Jack, sprawled on the bed next to me, looking so content as he slept. The mere sight of him made my heart beat in double time, and I resisted the urge to wake him for round two. Or was it three? All the emotions from last night jumbled within me and before I could fully process them, I realized I actually felt happy. Apparently happiness had been eluding me for months now.
My new reality flooded my brain. Jack had appeared at my door last night after six months of no communication wearing a Mets jersey and holding a dozen red roses. He looked me in the eye and told me he was sorry, that he loved me, and that he would earn my trust again. I couldn’t believe he was standing there, and it took everything in me to not fall apart at the mere sight of him. I wanted to take him back into my life, but I needed to know that this time it would be forever.
And now he was lying next to me in bed. I had questions about why it took him so long to get here and why he never contacted me, but honestly, at that moment, none of it mattered.
At least, that’s what I tried to tell myself.
My questions could wait, but I knew they couldn’t wait for long. I didn’t have it in me to let things slide without an explanation. And honestly, Jack still had a lot of explaining to do.
Slowly, I rolled out of bed, trying not to wake him. I had just put my feet on the floor when he flung his strong arms around my waist, pulling me back into bed.
“And where do you think you’re going?” Jack breathed against my neck.
“Wherever I want, it’s my apartment,” I fired back with a laugh.
“I didn’t say you could leave the bed.” He sounded so determined, I couldn’t help but snicker.
“I don’t need your permission,” I shot back, and he rolled on top of me before kissing the tip of my nose.
“You have no idea how much I’ve missed your feisty attitude.”
“Well, I haven’t missed the way you try to kill me with your body weight. Ugh, get off.”
“I’m trying.” His face twisted in a devilish smirk as he slid his hand up the length of my bare thigh.
I swatted his shoulder before rolling my eyes. “You’re such a pig.”
“Yep. But I’m your pig.” He leaned down, pressing his lips against mine. Instinctively, I turned my head from him, narrowing my lips into a tight, impenetrable wall. Jack leaned away from me, rolling onto his side. “What’s wrong?”
I smiled, covering my mouth with my hand. “I can’t kiss you like that in the morning. I have to brush my teeth first.”
He nodded his head in agreement. “You do smell like a dragon.”
My jaw fell open, but I quickly snapped it closed, trying my best to breathe as little as possible. “I do not. Shut up!”
He laughed, and I lost myself in his gorgeous dimples. I’d missed those.
“I’m kidding, Kitten. You smell like roses.”
“How I ever missed your annoying attitude is beyond me.”
“No, it’s not. This is what we do. You’re a pain the ass, and I put up with you.”
“Oh. My. God.” I pushed myself up from the bed, throwing him my best dirty look before I scurried out the door.
“I’m teasing! You’re a fucking angel for putting up with my shit.”
“That’s right, I am, and don’t you forget it!” I shouted from the hallway.
I brushed my teeth in my tiny, one-person bathroom before returning to the bedroom. Jack hadn’t moved a muscle. His blue eyes locked on mine, sending chills of anticipation shooting through my veins. It was crazy how I both loved and hated the effect he had on me. I hated the way he knew what he did to me. But I loved the way he made me feel.
I should probably seek psychiatric help.
Holding back a sigh, I sat on the edge of the bed before reclining on my side and turning to face him.
“What’s the matter, Kitten?” He furrowed his brows, two lines forming between them.
“Nothing,” I lied.
“I know you better than that, Cass. What is it?”
“I just wanted to ask you something.”
“Anything,” he said, his tone sincere.
I hesitated, unsure if I wanted to broach this subject already. He had just gotten here. I had just taken him back. But my mind was relentless. It wouldn’t stop with the constant demand for answers, and I knew I’d never fully be content until I had them. “What happened after I left California to come to New York?”
“What do you mean?”
“Come on, Jack. It took you six months to get here. Six months!” My tone sounded harsher than I intended, and I watched as he shifted his gaze away from mine. He exhaled slowly and ran his hands through his dark hair.
“I’m sorry, Jack. I just need to talk about this, or I’ll bury it inside me and eventually explode.”
He looked at me, a small, rueful smile on his face. “No, you’re right. You deserve answers.”
“Do we have time? I mean, do you have to go the field today?” After all, he was a professional baseball player, and the season was in full swing.
“The team’s on the road. They flew me here to get settled instead of flying me there. I have to report in tomorrow morning at ten.”
“OK. So, we can talk about this now then?” My pulse raced as nerves filled my body. Jack was here, with me, in my bed. He loved me, and he’d never stopped. So, why was I so nervous?
“What happened after I left for New York?”
“Do you want a play-by-play for the entire six months? I might end up boring you back to sleep.”
I rolled my eyes, and he frowned. “Just tell me the good parts.”
“If this were a story filled with good parts, Kitten, I would have been here a long time ago,” he teased, reaching out to caress my cheek with his thumb.
I leaned into his hand and closed my eyes, lost in the comfort his touch provided. “I meant the parts that made you take so long. Give me the CliffsNotes version,” I asked softly, unsure of what words would follow.
Jack snuggled me against him, and began to tell me the story.
  

And just like that, she was gone. But not before saying the two fucking words that plagued my nightmares. This girl always asked me to “prove it,” to prove my love and devotion for her. I deserved it after everything I put her through. She didn’t trust me anymore.
I wouldn’t trust me either.
It’s ironic though, right? That I was the one left standing all alone in a parking lot that time. I swear if my heart could have leaped out of my chest and into my hands, it would have. I imagined that for a moment… the blood trickling through my fingertips, splashing onto the concrete below as I watched it slowly pound out its last beats before stopping altogether.
Fuck.
My life does not make sense without this girl. And now she’s gone.
Again.
How is it that I’m always losing her?
I unbuttoned my game jersey and let it fall around the top of my uniform’s sliding pants. I glanced behind me toward the apartment door at the top of the stairs and slowly started to make my way there, my cleats clanging loudly on the pavement with each step. I wasn’t ready to go back to the hotel with my team. Not right then. They’d be celebrating the night’s win, and I needed to grieve the night’s loss.
The vision of Cassie disappearing from view in that taxi played over and over again in my mind. I closed my eyes, willing the hateful image to disappear. The sound of feminine laughter and my brother’s familiar voice woke me from my Cassie-filled daze.
“Oh shit. Jack?” Melissa’s sympathy came through loud and clear, both in her eyes and in her tone.
I glanced up at Cassie’s best friend standing on the stairs with my little brother. Dean was only a couple years younger than I was, but he’d always be little to me, even if he did almost match my height. My eyes were heavy, my head pounded, and I simply nodded.
“Come on, bro, let’s get you inside.” Dean wrapped an arm around my back and propelled me up the cement staircase as Melissa unlocked the front door to her apartment and stepped inside.
“Did you see her?” she asked, tossing all her crap on top of the kitchen table.
“I saw her,” I responded coolly, adding my hat to the mess as I dropped into a chair at the table.
“Well, what the hell happened? What did she say?” she demanded, gesturing wildly.
“She left.” I shrugged. “She’s moving to New York.”
“Well, of course she’s moving to New York,” she said, her voice turning cold.
Dean placed a hand on my shoulder, before explaining, “Melissa just means that Cassie has to start living her life for herself. She has to make decisions that have nothing to do with you.”
The words hurt like hell. I jerked my head up, glaring at my little brother. “I know that. You think I don’t know that?”
“Do you? Do you really, or did you think she’d just leap into your arms and you’d live happily ever after?” Dean shot back, his voice filled with accusation.
A quick huff ripped from my lips, and I smiled sheepishly. “I thought there might be some leaping,” I admitted, shrugging one shoulder.
Melissa’s usually sweet mouth twisted into a snarl. “That’s bullshit, Jack. You expect her to give up her career because you asked her to?”
“I didn’t ask her to give up her career. I just figured she’d at least talk to me. Postpone her flight. Give me a fucking chance.”
“Like the way you gave her a chance before you married that skank?”
“Melissa,” Dean chastised softly, touching her arm in a way that somehow managed to erase the anger from her face.
My chest tightened and my jaw clenched as Melissa’s assumptions pierced me like the daggers they were. “You think it didn’t fucking kill me to leave Cassie that night? All I wanted to do was stay with her, beg for her forgiveness and—”
“But you didn’t! You didn’t stay with her. You left her crying in a parking lot alone while you left with that bitch!” Melissa screamed as she released every ounce of frustration she’d built up on behalf of Cassie, her recrimination drilling into my skull and my heart.
“I know what I did!” I shouted back, my neck throbbing. “You think I don’t fucking know what I did? I have to live with it every second of every day. I fucked up, OK? We all know I fucked up!” I slammed my palms against the table and watched as some loose change rattled and rolled onto the carpet below, bringing back memories of my first date with Cassie. My mind filled with the image of her sitting across from me in that small booth in the back of the restaurant. I remembered pulling the paper bag from my jacket and pouring the quarters out onto the tabletop, proud of my cleverness, as several rolled onto the tiled floor below. All of the memories that used to bring me joy now filled my heart with pain.
“It’s not enough to just know what you did if you want to make it right. You have to know what it did to her,” Melissa said, her voice starting to soften.
I glared at her, willing my temper to subside. “Tell me.”
“Everyone knew what you’d done by the time Cassie got back from visiting you in Alabama. It was all over the newspapers that you were getting married. And on Facebook. Did you know that the stupid school magazine she worked for had the balls to call and ask her for pictures of you? They said they only had old ones and wanted to know if she had any newer ones.”
“You’re kidding?” I spat out in disgust.
“I wish.”
My hands balled into fists. “I’ll fucking kill them, the inconsiderate little—”
She pointed an accusing finger at me, stopping me in mid-rant. “It wasn’t just the newspapers, Facebook, and the magazine. It was everywhere she went. School was the worst. Cassie couldn’t even walk across campus without people making comments and snide remarks. She had the most personal and painful moments of her life on display for everyone to see and judge. And trust me, everyone had an opinion about your breakup.”
I cringed. Just hearing this was painful enough; I couldn’t imagine my girl having to live through it. “I had no idea that was happening or I would have done something to stop it. I would have made sure no one ever said another negative word to her again.”
“I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad, Jack. I’m telling you this so you’ll understand the repercussions your actions had on her. You made the mistake, but she had to pay for it.”
I dropped my head into my hands and pulled at my hair in frustration, my fingers twisting the strands as I fought back the tears forming in my eyes.
“You broke her, Jack.” Melissa added the final blow as my stomach dropped to my feet. I’d hurt Cassie in ways I’d never imagined. Ways I’d never meant to. Ways I’d never be able to forgive myself for.
“I broke me too,” I admitted, brushing away the lone tear that dared sneak down my face.
“Jack, look.” Melissa sat down across from me and folded her arms on the table. “I love you, I really do. But you have to let her go do this.”
My chest constricted with the truth of her words as I swallowed hard. “I want her back. I need her. It’s either Cassie for me or no one.”
“I’m not the one you have to convince.” She reached out her hand, her fingertips brushing over my knuckles before I pulled away.
I ripped my gaze from her bright blue eyes and glanced at my brother. “I know.”
“She still loves you,” Dean said, before taking a pull from his bottle of water. My eyes narrowed and he reacted with, “What? You don’t believe that? She does.”
“It’s not about whether or not Cassie loves him,” Melissa said.
“It’s a little bit about that, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Dean said with a smile.
“Have you even been paying attention?” she teased, her hair bouncing along her shoulders as she shook her head.
“Dean’s right,” I said. “I mean, I wouldn’t have a fighting chance if she didn’t love me anymore.”
“So, what are you gonna do?” Melissa’s expression challenged me.
“First, I’m going to get that marriage annulled. Then I’m going to hop on a plane to New York and get my girl back,” I said with newfound determination.
“How?” she asked.
I ran my hand through my hair and let out a huff. “I don’t know yet.”
Uncertainty lingered in the air, awkward in its silence. Pressure gnawed at me, insisting that this time I get it right. If I was going after this girl and begging her for another chance, I’d better make sure it counted. Because if I messed this up, we’d be over for good. I knew at least that much.
“Can I use the bathroom?” I asked before standing, needing an excuse to go into Cassie’s room, longing to be surrounded by any parts of her that she left.
“Of course.”
“Can I use hers?” I don’t know why I was asking if I could use Cassie’s bathroom. What the hell was Melissa going to tell me—no? Like I’d listen to her even if she did.
“Uh, yeah,” she said, with an eye roll she knew would annoy me.
I stepped into Cassie’s bedroom and scanned the walls, my insides aching at the emptiness. All her photos were gone; there wasn’t much left aside from her furniture. But then my eyes caught a glimpse of it, and my heart pounded out a ragged beat. I inched toward her bed, sitting down on the edge before reaching for her nightstand. The Mason jar filled with quarters sat there mocking me, almost filled to the top. The same one I’d given her, the quarters intended to “pay” her for every time I touched her. I flashed back to grabbing her arm the first time I saw her at the fraternity party that night. She ripped herself from my grip and practically shouted, “It costs fifty cents every time you touch me. Don’t do it again.” I wanted that sassy little mouth back in my life.
My eyes refocused on the Mason jar; the handwritten note that read “Kitten’s Quarters” was still attached. She didn’t take it with her. Why the fuck didn’t she take it? This was a bad sign. She moved all the way across the freaking country and left a piece of us here. A very important piece.
The jar in my hands mocked me, boasting its fullness while my heart remained empty. I turned the glass with my fingers, running my thumb across its smooth surface. I thought about smashing it against the wall and watching it burst into a hundred pieces so it mirrored my fractured emotions, but knew I’d instantly regret it.
The roller coaster of my relationship with Cassie needed to stop. It’s not that I wanted to get off the ride. I simply wanted it to be less like the bone-rattling, headache-inducing, rickety wooden roller coasters of the past, and more like the fluid smoothness of the state-of-the-art steel coasters of modern day.
I set the jar back in its place and walked out of her room, leaving what was left of my heart somewhere between the nightstand and the bedroom floor.
“How come some of her stuff’s still here?” I stared into Melissa’s blue eyes as I reentered the living room.
“We figured it would be easier to leave it here for now. We don’t know how long she’s staying there, and I’m not moving anytime soon. Besides, finding a fully furnished apartment in New York is easy.”
“What do you mean that you don’t know how long she’s staying there?” I asked, eager for every piece of information I could gather about Cassie’s future plans.
“She might hate living there. Or the job might not work out. She just didn’t know for sure, you know?”
I nodded, averting my eyes as my mind replayed memories of being in this apartment with her. A quick vision of her in that white sundress before I brought her home to meet my family for the first time flashed in my head and I winced, squeezing my eyes shut against the sharp pain that followed.
“Are you OK?” Melissa’s voice forced my eyes to reopen.
Swallowing hard, I said, “Just fighting ghosts.”
I needed to leave.
I needed out of that apartment where Cassie’s scent and my memories of her lingered. It hurt to be there without her, and I suddenly realized what it must have been like for her when I was gone and living with someone else. How painful it must have been to live here with the knowledge of everything I’d done to us. How much she must have suffered for my actions. She was innocent in all of this, so why had she paid the highest price?
“I gotta get back to my hotel before they freak out and think I’ve gone AWOL or something.” I headed for the front door, my head throbbing with each battered beat of my heart.
“You need me to drop you off?” Dean asked, his eyebrows pinching together.
“Unless you want me to take your car back to the hotel. But, you’ll have to pick it up first thing tomorrow so it doesn’t get towed,” I noted, gently reminding him that the team was scheduled to head back to Arizona in the morning.
Dean glanced at Melissa before flashing me a smile. “Nope. I’ll take you.”
“Jack? Don’t forget that I’m here too. You can call me anytime, and I’ll help you if I can,” Melissa said with a sympathetic smile.
“I’m gonna hold you to that.” I forced a half smile in return.
“Good. Because even though you’re a stupid jerk-face, you’re her stupid jerk-face and you two belong together,” she whispered, before wrapping her arms around my waist and squeezing me with more force than I realized her tiny frame could provide.
“You’re killing me, Funsize,” I choked out, and she giggled.
Dean tossed an arm around her shoulders and squeezed as he looked down at her. “I’ll see you later, OK?”
“OK,” she said, and I didn’t miss the look in her eyes. Or his.
I grabbed the keys from the table, pulled my Diamondbacks hat back onto my head, and turned for the door.
We walked in silence toward the gunmetal color Mustang I’d bought for Dean, the tinted windows looking almost pitch black in the darkness. He’d complained at first, insisting he didn’t need it, but I knew it was his dream car and wanted to do something nice for him when I got my signing bonus. I tossed him the keys and waited at the passenger door. He clicked the remote, two beeps filled the night air, and we both slid into the chilly leather seats.
The engine purred to life as I stared out the window, my mind racing with at least a dozen thoughts all vying for my undivided attention. I shook my head and focused on my brother. “So, what’s up with you and Meli?” I asked, eager for a distraction.
He grinned as he pulled out of the parking lot, but wouldn’t meet my eyes. “Nothing. Why?”
“Don’t lie to me.” I punched him playfully in the arm, causing him to yank the steering wheel and the car to swerve with a jerk.
“Hey! Don’t do that!” He glanced at me quickly before turning his attention back on the road.
“Tell me, what’s up with you two? I saw the way she was looking at you.”
“What way? How was she looking at me?” Dean straightened up in the driver’s seat. I clearly had his attention.
“You’re kidding, right? You don’t see the way she looks at you? With her eyes all hot like she wants to eat you up. Are you really that clueless?”
Dean snorted. “She doesn’t want me.”
“How are we even related? Dude, she wants you. Trust me on this. I know women.”
The roar of the car’s engine as he accelerated on the highway was the only sound in the car. Dean focused intently on the road ahead, before glancing at me and letting out a long sigh.
“I tried to kiss her once. I thought I’d read all the signs right. But she stopped me,” he admitted, his voice dejected.
“Did you ask her why?”
“No. I just apologized.”
I laughed. Leave it to my brother to be sorry for trying to kiss the girl he’d spent every spare moment with. “Jesus, Dean. I’d bet a thousand bucks that she wants you.”
“Then why didn’t she let me kiss her?” He glanced at me again.
“That’s a good question. You should ask her,” I said. “Time to grow a pair, little brother. How are you going to feel if she starts dating someone else?”
I watched his knuckles turn white as his grip on the steering wheel tightened. “I’m not going to be happy.”
“Exactly.”
Dean pulled into the hotel parking lot, and I hopped out of the car, half praying that my teammates would be in their rooms instead of the hotel bar. I walked around to the driver’s side and extended my hand toward my brother, before he grabbed it and pulled me in for an awkward through-the-window hug. I pulled back, and we slapped each other on the shoulders before sharing a long look. I broke eye contact and turned to leave.
“It will all work out. You’ll get her back,” Dean predicted with naive confidence.
I breathed deeply before saying, “I fucking better, or I don’t know what I’ll do.”
“I’ll help you.” Dean grinned up at me with a smile that looked eerily like my own.
I nodded and admitted, “I’ll need it.” Giving him one last pat, I said, “I’ll call you later.”
“Alright. Take care.”
I watched as he drove off, his hand sticking out of the window in a good-bye wave. I raised my arm, waving back before he was out of view.
With a deep sigh, I headed indoors. All hopes for a quiet entrance were dashed as the sound of my last name filtered through the hotel bar and into the lobby.
“Carter! Carterrrrr! Get in here!”
I glanced to my right, noticing a few of my teammates getting comfortable with a group of good-looking women. I shook my head before walking over, making no attempt to hide the disapproval on my face.
“Where’d you run off to tonight, kid?” my teammate Costas asked, his head peering around the scantily clad woman currently sitting on his lap. I thought about his wife, staying home with their kids while he traveled with the team, and forced my judgment into quiet submission.
“I had some personal shit to take care of.”
“Have a drink with us,” he said and gestured for the blonde bartender. She finished drying the glass in her hands before setting it down and heading our way.
“Not tonight.” I shook my head.
“More drinks for us, then.” Costas winked, and my stomach turned. I wanted to lose my shit on him, just grab him by his smug face and ask if he realized what he was doing, what he was risking. How just one girl… one meaningless night… could cause his world to crumble around him. But I couldn’t get pissed at Costas for my mistakes, my loss.
“See you in the morning.” I turned away from the bar, their comments following behind me.
“Poor rookie, did you see his face?”
“Welcome to the big leagues, kid… women in every state. No offense, sweetheart.”
Idiots.
They’d misread the disgust on my face as shock. Maybe if they were ever forced to lose the one person who meant everything to them, they’d understand what my face was truly saying.
I made my way into my hotel room and collapsed onto the bed. With my cell phone in hand, I stared at the screen for what seemed like hours, resisting the urge to dial Cassie’s number, or send her a text message. I realized it wasn’t going to be easy to stay away from her when everything in my body wanted her back.
Suddenly, I shot up from my bed and made my way toward the desk in my room. Using the hotel’s complimentary stationery and pen, I did something I couldn’t remember ever doing in my life.
I wrote her a letter.
Kitten,
I’ve realized that the only way I’ll be able to stop myself from calling you, or texting you, or e-mailing you, or sending a carrier pigeon to your fucking window, is to write to you. Which sort of makes me feel like a pussy, honestly. But if I don’t do this, I’m afraid I’ll ruin it all before I even get the chance to fix it.
You’re probably wondering what happened tonight. I know you didn’t expect to see me, and I don’t even know how you’re feeling about the whole thing, but I hope it’s the same way I feel. I never stopped loving you. I know I may have a funny way of showing it, but I’ll make it up to you. You’ll see.
I’m dying to get on the next flight to New York and win you back. But I can’t do that until I’m free and clear from all my past attachments. I’m just trying to do the right thing by you. I realize that my idea of the right thing isn’t always everyone else’s, but I hope in this case you’ll agree with me.
So… I hope you’ll understand that I won’t come and ask for your forgiveness while I’m still legally married to someone else.
You probably think that’s stupid, right?
I’ll always love you.
Jack
  

He finished telling me about the night I left, and I blinked back the tears forming in my eyes. “You wrote me a letter?”
“I wrote you a lot of letters.”
Stunned, I mumbled, “I’d like to see those someday.”
Through my shock, I literally ached for a subject change. I knew I’d asked for this, but it hurt. Talking about our past shouldn’t matter for our future. But that was my dumb heart talking. My heart… my little, keep-me-in-a-box-wrapped-in-cotton-behind-a-wall-built-with-bricks-and-stone-and-concrete-where-no-one-can-ever-hurt-me, stupid heart. My mind was at war with that beating thing. I fully believed that if my heart and my head could wage a battle within me, they would. And eventually, I’d die from it.
No, Cassie.
You need to hear this.
The only way to move forward without regret was to accept what happened. I couldn’t change our past, but I could change our future. And in order for me to truly forgive him and learn to trust him again, I needed to hear what took him so long. Truthfully, I longed to begin my own internal healing.
“So, then what?” My demeanor turned serious with my tone.
“What do you mean… so, then what?” he asked, his expression showing he was perplexed by my question.
“That was only the night I left. Then what happened? We have six months of CliffsNotes to get through here, Carter.”
“I thought I was going to get kicked off the team the next day,” he admitted.
I propped myself up immediately. “Shut the hell up. What happened?”
  

Tired and bleary-eyed, I flung the strap of my bag over my shoulder and pressed the Down button on the elevator. I fidgeted with my tie, straightening my jacket as the doors dinged before opening, and I stepped inside the empty compartment.
The lobby filled quickly with chatter as the rest of my team filtered in, dragging duffle bags, and some even dragging their kids behind them.
I checked out, tugged on my hat, and walked out toward the waiting charter bus.
“Carter, come here.” Coach’s voice startled me, and I dropped the bag at my side.
I walked over to him, and he tossed his arm around my shoulder. “Let’s walk,” he said.
Shit. Is he sending me back down to the minor leagues already?
Coach leaned in and locked his gaze with mine. “You’re a good kid, Carter. I like you. But don’t ever bolt out of my clubhouse again before I tell you that you can go. You understand me?” His voice was kind, but there was steel underneath it he wanted me to hear.
“Yes, sir. I’m really sorry about that—”
“Don’t apologize, kid. Just don’t let it happen again or I’ll send your as**s down to the minors so quick your head’ll spin,” he threatened, making sure I understood my position on the team totem pole. Message received, loud and clear.
“Yes, Coach,” I answered respectfully, thankful that no one else was close enough to hear our conversation.
“Go get on the bus.” He patted my shoulder with a slight shove.
  

“I would have cried,” I told him with a grimace.
“No, you wouldn’t have. But I was scared shitless,” he admitted with an uncomfortable laugh.
“I bet. OK, so you flew back to Arizona for the game. We both know how that went.” I paused, referring to the game they lost that ended his postseason for the year. “Then what did you do?”
“I think you’re enjoying this a little too much.” He pulled the pillow out from under me, and my head crashed against the mattress.
“Hey!” I yelled, stretching for the pillow he held just out of reach. “Jack, really. I need to know.”
He threw my pillow across the room and then patted the top of his invitingly. Forcing me to share his pillow, he pressed his forehead against mine.
“You want to hear how I starting stalking you as soon as I got back to Arizona?”
“Uh, absolutely,” I practically squealed, and he laughed.
“I’ll tell you over breakfast. I’m starving.” He winked and planted a kiss on my forehead before hopping out of bed. Then he stretched his arms above him and his muscles flexed and bulged. My gaze locked onto his defined, tanned abs. “Like what you see?”
“Eh, I’ve seen better,” I said playfully, refusing to feed the beast that is Jack Carter’s ego.
“I highly doubt it.” He ran a hand down the length of his well-chiseled stomach. “This is Grade-A certified goods right here. You’re lucky I don’t charge admission.”
“To what? The gun show?” I pointed at his arms, my lips curling up in amusement.
“Exactly! The gun show,” he teased, before jumping on the bed and pinning me beneath him. He held me tight as I squirmed, trying to wriggle out of his hold. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“I thought we were eating,” I said with attitude, cocking my head to one side.
He released a hard breath, pushing himself off the bed. “Let’s go, then. You’re the one who can’t stop looking at me like I’m a piece of meat.”
“You called yourself Grade-A! That’s a meat label!” I shouted, my voice animated as I picked up a pillow and tossed it at him.
He snagged it effortlessly from the air. “Are you done playing? I thought you wanted to hear the rest of the story.” He smirked before walking out of the bedroom, leaving me alone with my thoughts.