July, Rocky Mountain House
A rapid, intoxicating beat filled the air as country music echoed off the wooden walls of Traders Pub. Troy Thompson eased his hands around the young woman in his arms and guided her expertly across the floor in a madcap, whirling two-step.
The sweet young thing was wrapped around him tighter than necessary, pressing her breasts to his chest as her eyes flashed with desire. The dance floor was crowded, but they didn’t need to be rubbing together like two pieces of kindling.
Normally, he didn’t mind when a lady made it clear that after the dance floor, she’d be game for a little dancing of the more sexual nature, but Troy was currently off the market. Had been for the past six months, which was in some ways really strange since no one knew.
No one, except him and his secret lover.
He’d never had trouble finding female company, but Troy didn’t flip from bed to bed. Sticking with one woman at a time was fun enough, and made it easier to remember what things a girl liked and what she didn’t.
But since January he’d been having the time of his life fucking around with Nicole Adams. It wasn’t intended to be long-term or permanent on either of their parts, and the arrangement was working fine.
Nic had insisted no one else could know, especially not her twin brother, Mike. Who, coincidentally, was Troy’s best friend and roommate.
That was one conversation he was eager to avoid.
“You’re such a good dancer,” his partner announced loud enough to be heard above the music. “And so strong.” Her fingers squeezed his shoulder as she hummed her approval.
In answer, Troy twirled the woman faster, forcing her to cling for dear life instead of stroking him. The up-close-and-personal time with a woman who was not Nicole might help keep the gossips at bay, but he wasn’t going to do anything more than enjoy the young lady’s company on the dance floor.
He wouldn’t drop her on her ass, but he wasn’t going to get her hopes up, either.
He was already looking forward to slipping over to Nic’s place later that Friday night. It seemed nobody thought anything of him dropping in at strange hours. Not with the way their families had been good friends for years.
Thoughts of Nic made him ease his grip on the woman in his arms, guiding her toward the far side of the dance floor in anticipation of the music ending.
Once this dance was over he’d be that much closer to heading out so he could go find Nicole and fuck her senseless.
Near the doorway, a woman with painted-on jeans stood with her back to him, her heart-shaped ass drawing his eye as she spoke with some guy he didn’t recognize. Her flannel shirt was tucked in tight at the waist, hips flaring wider as her jeans lovingly caressed sweet, womanly curves.
Dark hair with rich golden highlights hung to her shoulders, swinging in a blunt cut that framed the sides of her face in the brief glimpses he caught.
The music changed, and the woman in his arms gave him a look.
Troy forced himself to focus even as his attention kept drifting toward the door. He tucked his fingers under his partner’s chin for a moment, tilting her head back. “Thanks for the dance, darlin’,” he said.
“You know where to find me for another round. Any time.”
Her lashes fluttered, lips pouting in invitation, but Troy just smiled good-naturedly then patted her on the ass and sent her back to the table where her girlfriends were eyeing him and giggling. Talking behind hands.
He took a quick glance toward the door, but the mysterious woman still had her back to him, leaning close to speak in her date’s ear. Troy made his way across the room back to the table where his friend Mike waited, an arm draped around a familiar redhead dressed head to toe in black leather. Tessa, one of the waitresses from the café.
“You two dancing some more?” he asked, leaning an arm on the table as he looked Tessa over. Just because she was with Mike didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy the view.
She eased back against Mike, jutting out one hip. “We’re heading home. You want to join us?”
Oh boy. Troy glanced at Mike, but his friend shrugged at the invitation, leaving it up to him to accept if he wanted. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d had a woman between them, but it wasn’t on Troy’s radar at the moment.
“I’ll leave you two to it,” he replied. “Though I’m honoured by the offer.”
“Your loss,” she returned with a wink. “If you change your mind, you know where to find us.”
“Hey, bro, who’s the fox by the back exit door?” Troy asked before his friend could run away.
Mike turned, peering toward the door with interest. “Which one? Blonde?”
“Brunette. Wearing the fuck-me boots and—”
A fist smashed into his shoulder. “Ass.”
“What?” Troy glanced again at the door. “I’m just saying I would—”
Damn. The woman turned to the dance floor, and Troy swallowed the words he was about to say which were something along the line of how hard he would hit that if he got a chance.
“You’re such a shit. Always joking around.” Mike laughed. “Yeah, I didn’t recognize her at first either. I guess the new hairstyle goes with my sister’s fancy job at the law office.”
“Nic looks good,” Troy said, wary but needing to be honest. “It suits her.”
“She’s my sister,” Mike replied, as if that fact made her one step away from a eunuch. He wrapped his fingers around Tessa’s hip and pulled her with him. “We’re off. Have fun.”
Troy was pretty positive he was going to have a blast. He turned to get a better view, taking in the full effect of Nicole’s new look.
The shorter hairstyle was seriously professional, the front cut into a heavy set of bangs that set off her high cheekbones and narrow chin to perfection. It was a big change from her usual ponytail or braid, and combined with the makeup she wore, her green eyes were mesmerizing. Deep-red lipstick accentuated her soft, kissable lips.
Oh yeah, he was going to have a good time dropping by her place later tonight. He checked his watch, resisting the urge to march across the dance floor and take her in his arms for a spin. Nothing dirty, just a casual dance between friends—at least as far as everybody else knew.
She was already headed for the door, slipping away before temptation made him do something stupid.
Casual. That’s what they’d promised each other, and that’s what he’d give her until this thing between them was over. Then they’d go back to being friends, no one the wiser. No hurt feelings, no harm done.
Troy checked his watch again, calculating how long he needed to wait before he could head to her house and make both their evenings.
“HOUSE RULES?” her date asked.
Nicole wasn’t sure how to answer. She hadn’t played Monopoly except for a few times with her family, and that had been ages ago. They hadn’t cared enough to make special rules. “Tell me what rules you play by,” she suggested.
Jason went into some long explanation about how no one was allowed to buy St. Charles, and if you owned two out of three properties you could put houses on them, but not hotels. Nicole nodded as he spoke, but she wasn’t really listening.
First dates? Sucked.
Dinner had been great, but then she’d taken him by the dance hall. He hadn’t wanted to stay at Traders for more than a few minutes, claiming it was too loud for them to talk. He’d been open to her suggestion that they should go back to her house, but…
She couldn’t believe they were going to play a board game. Then again, she didn’t know that much about serious dating, not with a professional guy like Jason.
She didn’t know much about serious dating, period.
Until now she’d been having fun with her friends, hanging out with groups and hooking up with guys she hit it off with. No one on a regular basis, though…
No one, except Troy Thompson. They’d been fooling around on the sly for a while, which was great and wonderful because, my God, the man could just about make her orgasm by looking at her.
She was no fool—hot freaky sex on the regular with a guy who looked like Troy and knew where to find a woman’s clit? Other than keeping it on the down-low from her family because Troy and Mike were BFFs, she’d had a blast.
Only the fling was over, and it was time to move on—
A loud crash sounded outside. They both glanced toward the back porch as another followed hard after it.
Drat—sounded as if she had unwelcome visitors.
Nicole interrupted Jason’s explanation. “Hold that thought. Bet it’s the neighbour’s dog in the garbage cans again.”
He rose halfway from his seat. “I’ll help.”
She waved him down. “Thanks, but I don’t want to spook Pookie. Go ahead and get the game ready.”
“Okay. I’ll set up the bank.”
She headed for the back door, a deep sigh escaping her. Obviously she needed to adjust her expectations now that she was playing the dating game. Slow and boring seemed to be the agenda.
Stop that. He’s a nice guy, her conscience poked, but all Nicole could think about was how different tonight had been compared to the last time she went out with a group of friends. They’d watched a movie then hung out. The evening had been full of laughter, lighthearted fun, and had ended with some spine-melting sex that had made both her and Troy damn happy, no strings attached…
Only she wasn’t fucking around anymore. It was time to get more serious about relationships. Thus the official date.
Thus the official boredom.
God, was she ever going to have sex again?
She opened the back door, ready to chase off whatever was on the porch, only to be trapped by a pair of dark-brown eyes set on smolder.
“Troy. What are you—?”
For a big guy, Troy moved like a panther. He had crossed the threshold in an instant, closing the distance between them and enveloping her in his arms. A second later his mouth was over hers as he took her lips in a blistering, pussy-clenching kiss.
Hot, possessive. Intense and demanding, and her reaction was instant and unstoppable. She softened under him, responding to his demands and, oh my God, soaking in every bit of pleasure he offered.
Her back hit the wall, and for the next few seconds, she was overwhelmed with lust. He kissed like he was craving her, and the most natural thing in the world was to kiss him back. Tongues tangling, she instinctively wrapped her legs around his strong hips as she dug her fingers into his muscular shoulders.
Time blurred, and sensation faded to the pleasure whipping through her like a runaway train. Except…there was some reason they shouldn’t be doing this. Some—
Shit. She was on a date with another guy. She should most definitely not be arching into the hand Troy had shoved under her shirt, squeezing her breast possessively as a hungry growl escaped him.
She shoved back, opening enough distance between them that she could speak, quiet but insistent. “Oh my God, Troy, stop.”
He adjusted his grip, catching hold of her hips and grinding them together, his thick cock rubbing her aching clit through two layers of jeans still setting off fireworks.
Desire flashed in his eyes. “Two choices. Here, against the wall, or on the kitchen table. Pick.”
“We’re not having sex,” she insisted, whispering the words.
Troy chuckled evilly. “Not yet, but give us thirty seconds and—”
“Nicole? Everything okay?”
Jason’s question broke through the sexual maelstrom in the kitchen, and finallyTroy froze.
“Everything’s fine,” she called as she scrambled for an excuse to keep her date in the other room, because it would be impossible to explain why she was currently in a sexually suggestive position, pinned to the wall by a man the size of a gladiator. “My…friend stopped by. I’ll just be a second.”
Then her feet were back on the floor, Troy holding her steady until she found her balance. He tilted his head toward the front room. “Who the hell is that?” he demanded.
Nicole squared her shoulders. “My date.”
The confusion in his eyes was followed rapidly by anger. “What the fuck?”
Okay, that was too far. Annoyance replaced her temporary panic. What right did Troy have to be mad? She’d told him the fling was over. He was the one interrupting her evening. “A date? You’ve heard of those things?”
“Yeah, but you don’t date,” Troy said.
“I do now,” she said sharply, more irritated by the second as she wiggled to release herself from the cage of his arms. “Go away. I need to get back—”
“Who is he?” Troy took a step toward the living room.
Nicole grabbed him by the wrist and attempted to jerk him to a stop. “Don’t you dare go in there,” she whispered frantically. “Troy, no…”
Her weight didn’t slow him in the slightest as he dragged her after him down the short hallway. She recovered her footing and released him as they rounded the corner into the living room.
Jason turned toward them, surprise drifting over his features. “Oh. Hello.”
A second later she had to slam on the brakes to keep from smashing into Troy. He’d stopped right in her path, his massive shoulders and torso turning him into a dandy roadblock.
God, he was such a pain in the ass. Nicole planted both hands on his back and shoved as hard as she could, which meant the big lug shifted all of two inches to one side.
Barely enough space for her to squeeze past him and offer an apologetic smile to her date. “Sorry about that. This is Troy, my brother’s best friend. Troy, this is Jason.”
Her date frowned slightly as if confused, which he had every right to be, but he politely rose to his feet and held out a hand. “Jason Millette.”
Troy stood rocklike, eyeing Jason as if he were a lump of leftovers forgotten in the fridge for too long.
“Troy dropped off some stuff for the family. He’s not staying,” Nicole announced, stepping in to push Troy toward the back door, herding him like a lost bull who’d wandered into the daisy patch.
Troy stood his ground, accepting Jason’s hand. “Troy Thompson.”
Nicole cringed, hoping he wasn’t going to do something rude like crush Jason’s hand, Troy released the other man after a sturdy handshake, but then the jerk settled in the easy chair to the side of the couch as if he had every intention of staying awhile.
“New in town?” he asked, his smile broadening. Turning on the charm.
“Just joined the law firm,” Jason admitted. “Newest junior partner. You?”
“Family runs the local garage. You need a summer tune-up, let me know. We get pretty full with tourists breaking down and RV repairs, but I’ll sneak you in.”
“Hey, thanks for the offer. I might take you up on that. I usually do my own maintenance, or get the dealership to take care of it, but it’s been pretty busy getting settled in at the new job.”
“I bet.” Troy leaned back comfortably, glancing at the coffee table. “Are you kidding me? Monopoly? I haven’t played that in years. God, it used to kill my brothers. I’d make their lives hell every time they tried to clear that third corner. I owned Kentucky to Marvin Gardens.”
Jason chuckled. “Best strategy around. Ignore the cheap properties and Park Place/Broadway, and knock their knees out with middle-income rent and utilities.”
“Ha—you can have the utilities, I get the railroads.” Troy was leaning forward now, elbows on his knees, eyes sparkling as if this was the most scintillating conversation he’d had in years.
Nicole was going to freaking kill him. “Well, nice of you to drop by, but we’re about to—”
“You want to play?” Jason offered. “Three is always better than two.”
Only if they were talking about fooling around, which Nicole doubted. Troy had never been interested in having anyone else participate while they’d fucked before, and it wasn’t likely he would start by suggesting a ménage with the newest junior member of the local law firm.
She turned and faced her annoyance directly, offering the evilest eye she could. “Troy can’t stay,” she announced firmly.
“Troy would love to stay,” he contradicted her, dragging his chair across the floor until he was within arm’s reach of the game. “I’m the race car.”
“Dibs on the top hat,” Jason flashed back.
Troy leaned back and winked. “Got any Coke, Nic?”
She was stuck. Complaining would only make her look like a two-year-old throwing a tantrum. But his ass was grass. “Sure, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal.”
“In the can,” he ordered. He stared at her, challenging her to argue.
They knew each other too well. Yeah, she probably would have spat in his glass.
She mouthed the words. You. Are. So. Dead.
The jerk just grinned before ignoring her and turning to discuss who should go first with Jason.
The game went on for nearly two hours, at which point Nicole was fighting to keep from straight-out yawning in their faces. She’d gone bankrupt a good forty-five minutes earlier.
The guys continued their cutthroat game, seemingly oblivious to her increasing ants in the pants.
“Ha!” Jason howled with delight. Troy’s final roll landed him on Jason’s most expensive lot. He thrust his fists in the air, roaring as if there were a crowd cheering in the distance before returning to position and offering a cocky grin. “And that, my friends, is how the game is played.”
Troy handed the last of his money across the board with a good-natured grin. “You got me. Well done.”
“And that was so much fun,” Nicole announced, perkiness dripping from every word.
Troy’s lips twitched, but Jason seemed to miss her sarcasm. “We’ll have to do it again sometime,” he suggested.
Right after my lobotomy, Nicole thought as she gathered up empty snack bowls and glasses and carried them into the kitchen, shoving everything into the dishwasher as she fought to regain her sense of humour.
It took a while.
By the time she got back, the guys had the game put away and were standing by the door, deep in discussion. The Monopoly box was tucked under Jason’s arm, his coat draped over it.
“I don’t think they got the timing belt quite right,” Jason complained.
“Bring it by tomorrow,” Troy offered, looking thoughtful for a moment. “After lunch. I should have time to look at it.”
Jason smacked a hand on his shoulder before turning to Nicole. “Thanks for an awesome evening. It was great.”
She stepped closer, waiting for Troy to leave so she could at least finish the date somewhat normally. A goodbye kiss would be better than nothing at all.
Troy didn’t budge. Just stood there, smiling innocently as if he didn’t know damn well that she wanted his ass out of the house.
“Awesome night, as always,” he said to Nic before bumping her date with a closed fist. “Oh, hey, Jason. You mentioned you were thinking about learning to fish.” He tilted his head toward the street. “I got my new rod and reel in the truck. Wanna see?”
“Definitely.” Jason followed him to the door, glancing over his shoulder with a final smile for Nicole. “Thanks, again. Great evening. I guess I’ll see you at the office.”
The jerks left.
She included both of them in that description because now Jason was in her bad books as well as Troy. She managed to wait until the door was closed and the guys were well away, standing by the tailgate of Troy’s truck. Then the words burst free.
“Son of a bitch.”
She wasn’t sure which of them she was yelling at.
A truly impressive jumble of frustration wrapped around her. Boredom mixed with the sexual tension Troy had flash-fire started and then let fizzle away, and…
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