Julie nestled her last mixing bowl in its spot in the kitchen cabinet, then scanned the room one final time. Spotless. Perfect. Everything tucked away where she wanted it. And all before five. Over the past few months, she’d discovered the biggest problem with living above the bakery she owned with her best friend Andi was that, at the end of the day, it was harder to drag herself away and head home.
There was always just one more thing for Julie to do before she headed upstairs, to prep the place for its grand opening in two weeks. Always one more thing to do, to make sure everything was exactly the way she needed it to be.
“I’ve been thinking…” Dante interrupted her moment of quiet bliss.
And then there was this guy. She got the eye-rolling out of her system before facing him, and squelched the desire to ask if the thinking hurt. She was trying to learn to play nice with him. Mostly because his financial investment and top-ranked TV cooking show were the reasons she and Andi could expand like this. At least a little because Andi insisted Dante was a nice guy and Julie needed to give him a chance.
She met his gaze. None of her decision to be kind had anything to do with the fact his spiky blond hair and piercing blue eyes stole her breath and sent vivid fantasies racing through her thoughts. Besides, Dante hadn’t said anything wrong tonight. Yet. “Thinking what?” she asked.
“Chocolate and vanilla aren’t enough. We need at least one more flavor.”
Again she held her tongue kept Andi’s advice in mind. If Julie wouldn’t snap at someone she liked for saying the things Dante did, he was probably being reasonable. Once upon a time, she respected him. It wasn’t just that he had a top-ranked cooking show. He’d taken his skill as a chef, turned it into a living, and used his fame and wealth to boost other businesses like hers and Andi’s. He invested and helped them grow and become something.
Then Julie met the guy and discovered the asinine persona on the television translated to real life.
“In time for initial filming,” he said before she could respond. “Unless you can’t bake a couple cookies in three days.”
And there it was—the hint of disdain. The implication she wasn’t capable of doing her job. A twitch throbbed behind her right eye. The start of her next headache. “To whip up three thousand or so cookies? It’s plenty of time.” At least that many, in this amazing place. “To come up with a new recipe that meets my standards? Are you insane or just a sadist?”
He made a noise that fell somewhere between a sigh and a growl. “They’re fucking cookies, and it’s not like they need artwork. Not yet. I’m only asking they be available as samples, when the cameras roll. I’m thinking chocolate chip.”
Her headache amped up another tick. “I know you’re a busy guy, but if you’re going to take part in these conversations and make these decisions, you need to listen when I tell you things like we can’t use drop cookies in our bouquets. Or maybe you didn’t hear me the first dozen times I said it.” She and Andi had found their niche—custom-painted game-and-movie-characters on cookie bouquets. And unless they were making Jabba the Hut cookies, or his non-copyright-violating equivalent, Jebba the Gut, no blob-shaped cookie would fit the bill.
“Then make rolled cookies with chocolate chips in them. Outside the box, doll. That’s your thing, right? I can’t do all the thinking for you.”
Julie clenched her fist, to keep from grabbing the rolling pin on the counter and throwing it at him. “We’ve got less than two weeks.” She failed to keep the frustration from her voice. “Why did you wait to come to me with this?”
“I was hoping, with the right nudging—especially after the chocolate conversation—you’d come up with it on your own, Ms. I’m-a-Cordon-Bleu-Trained-Baker-who-doesn’t-need-input-from-anyone.”
The snideness in his words pushed every last one of her buttons, and she gritted her teeth until her jaw ached. Being furious about his tone was easier than admitting it hurt that someone she used to respect didn’t care for her skill. She forced out the words in a slow, even tone. “This is the kind of thing you don’t hint at or leave until the last minute.”
“You don’t want help, then?”
“I’ve got it just fine—thank you very much.” She didn’t. She had no idea how she was going to pull this off. It wasn’t that a new cookie recipe was a complex thing, but finding one that held up to the frosting Andi painted on, and tasted good and didn’t crumble in transit… That was a different story.
No reason to let him know that. The night already promised to be long, with this latest information; she wasn’t going to let his attitude add an extra kick of irritation.
So much for getting out of work on time.
* * * *
Dante intended to suggest the new flavor idea, apologize for not thinking of it sooner, and help Julie brainstorm a solution. He still could. Take Christopher’s advice about trying to get along with her, apologize, and set this right.
But God fuck it, if she wasn’t infuriating sometimes. Most of the time. She stretched his every last nerve along a tightrope and had the audacity to look incredible and unapologetic in the process. Like now. Pink flushed her cheeks, and her lips were drawn into a thin line that made him want to kiss away her irritation until she was weak in the knees.
“Great. Glad it’s under control.” The words came out laced with more sarcasm than he intended. Her cringe was subtle. Serves her right. He didn’t feel the venom he needed to believe the thought. “I’m out of here for the night. We’ll pick it up in the morning.”
She crossed her arms and stepped back. “We won’t do anything. I’ve got this.”
“Of course you do. Good night.”
She probably flipped off his back as he walked out of the kitchen. He didn’t care. He was focused on calming breaths. Inhale deep, hold it, and exhale. As a business idea, this setup was brilliant. Julie and Andi had the perfect combination of gimmick and quality with their product. As a business partner, Julie sent his blood pressure through the roof. Over and over and over. Stubborn, unyielding, and always needing things her way.
Not to mention gorgeous, intelligent, and quick-witted, but if he thought about her good points, he’d feel bad about the way he left things.
Dante climbed into his car and pointed toward the house he and Christopher had rented for the duration of their stay. Dante didn’t know what was worse about Julie—her refusal to ask for help, or how gorgeous she looked, even angry. It wasn’t that her rage made her more attractive. With deep brown eyes, dark hair, and the kind of gorgeous, full curves years of baking honed, she was striking enough her fury didn’t detract from it.
She was also more stubborn than his ex-wife, and the last thing he needed was a temper to match his own. By contrast, another reason he loved Christopher was that he was Dante’s pillar of sanity amid the chaos.
Dante navigated the traffic on auto-pilot. They’d been staying in Chicago for the last couple of months—plenty of time for him to familiarize himself with the layout. Besides, Christopher grew up here and had given Dante a fantastic tour from a local’s point of view. They’d picked a place outside the metro area, in Schaumburg instead of downtown Chicago because Christopher insisted it was far enough to keep them sane when they wanted quiet, but close enough for them to still reasonably commute.
Dante hoped thoughts of his boyfriend—tall, dark haired, and better built than an I.T. guy had the right to be—would take his mind off the irritation Julie caused. Instead, they were a reminder of the tension at home. Never severe. Just the underlying hum that things weren’t going well between Dante and his network; Christopher would rather see him walk away than put up with the shit.
The reminder led to Julie and Christopher becoming part of a single image in Dante’s head. Some couples were driven apart by jealousy. However, while there was always a healthy whisper of doubt in the back of Dante’s mind when he and Christopher brought a third into their playtime, for the most part he loved watching Christopher with someone else. Seeing the man he loved take control in the bedroom. Experiencing new kinks and desires with each new shared lover.
As frustrating as Julie was, Dante very much appreciated the fantasy of Christopher stripping her down, pinning her to the wall, and sliding inside her. Imagining her cries of pleasure as Christopher drove his thick cock deeper with each thrust. Her smooth, pale skin glistening with exertion.
Dante’s dick hardened, straining against his jeans and demanding attention. He bit the inside of his cheek, to drag himself from the visuals and back to his commute. He couldn’t rid his mind of the notion, and while he wished it starred someone other than her, that didn’t stop the idea from sliding over every inch of his senses. By the time he pulled into the driveway, he itched to slide down his zipper and jerk off right there.
He had a better idea. One that would make the release that much sweeter and far better than taking matters into his own hands.
* * * *
Christopher leaned back in the kitchen chair and rubbed his eyes, to restore moisture. He didn’t have to take a contract job during this trip; the fee he billed for installing the security cameras at L&D Cookies was better than his standard rate. But the work didn’t take much time, and he could only play so many video games waiting for Dante to get back each day, before his mind numbed and he couldn’t process basic language anymore.
It hadn’t always been that way. Once upon a time, he was more a part of Dante’s creative process. They started this TV-chef thing as a team, and Christopher hated that Dante had drifted away from that part of their connection. So Christopher picked spare contracts when he needed to pass the time.
The deadbolt on the front door thunked open, and Christopher couldn’t help his smile when Dante walked into the house. Speaking of…
“Help me understand”—Dante’s stripped off his shoes and shed his keys—“what it is you see in that woman?”
This must be about Julie. It usually was, these days. Creative, attractive, and the current bane of Dante’s existence. Christopher would rather get to know every inch of her—remove her clothes a tantalizing piece at a time, see if she’d surrender her tight grasp on control once he had her naked—than listen to her argue with Dante. “What did she do now? Or rather, what do you think she did now?” Christopher asked.
“I don’t know. Blah, blah, blah. I’m right, and you’re wrong. Blah, blah…”
Christopher gave Dante his full attention.
“God, I’d like to watch you fuck her,” Dante said, meeting his gaze, heat smoldering in his eyes.
“I never should have told you I thought she was attractive.” Christopher didn’t mean it. The confession slipped out one night, while he was trying to convince Dante to give the woman a break, but its being out there benefited Christopher as much as it was used against him. Dante’s expression said this would be an instance of the former. “Besides, I don’t think she’s the type of woman who’s going to let you gag her, so you’d still have to hear her talk,” Christopher said.
Dante closed the distance between them but stopped out of reach. “Your cock in her mouth would have a similar effect.”
“You know you’re a fucking asshole, don’t you?” Teasing lined Christopher’s words, but he was serious. Humiliation wasn’t his kink. That didn’t stop the thought of Julie’s lips wrapped around his shaft from assaulting him. He imagined her dropping to her knees, taking him in her mouth, and groaning against his skin as she sucked.
“Call me all the names you want. You’re picturing it.”
“And?” Christopher recognized the playful jab in Dante’s retort. The light-hearted tone. The fact none of it was meant to insult. This was much better than the arguments they’d had recently about Dante’s job. That Christopher wasn’t happy being left out of business decisions. That being relegated to IT guy not having a say in the show he and Dante created, was draining his brain. At least when they were fucking, that tension vanished in the background.
Dante leaned over, lips millimeters from Christopher’s. “And your protests don’t carry the same impact when you’re already hard at the thought.” Dante knelt, and dragged down the zipper on Christopher’s jeans. When he worked Christopher’s dick free, Christopher hissed at the contrast of a cool hand on his hot skin.
When they met, Dante would have been more likely to give up cooking than vocalize his desires. It was part of the reason Rachel and Dante sought out Christopher, in his old profession as a sex therapist. It took a little coaching, and a lot of incredible hands-on practice, and Dante developed a new comfort level with taking about his fantasies.
“It’s all about consent.” Christopher’s voice wavered when Dante dragged a thumb over the head of his cock. “I’m sure I could find a way to enjoy it if she did.” His playful sarcasm faded into a groan.
Dante tightened his grip around Christopher’s shaft, stroking at a steady pace. “I’m sure. Then, if you were there early one morning, and she didn’t realize it, and wandered downstairs in just a T-shirt and panties, you’d wait for her to make the first move.”
Christopher hissed at the combination of mental image and physical contact. “I don’t like the idea of leaving that up to fate. I’d have to at least prompt her. Make sure she knew there were a lot of possibilities on the table. Or the counter. Or bent over the back of a chair.”
“Especially with that gorgeous ass on display? Begging to be slapped?”
Flame seared across Christopher’s skin at the idea. “Or sliding up behind her, dragging a finger along the elastic, and teasing her until she was soaked and begging for release.”
“She argues someone could come in at any minute, and you ask if she wants you to stop. The shake of her head tells you all you need to know. You need to be inside her. She whimpers and says yes, Sir.”
Fantasy blurred with reality, merging at the one point they had in common. Christopher wanted something more tactile and full-body. Need, dark and thick, pulsed inside him. He pulled Dante to his feet and knotted his fingers in Dante’s hair. Christopher kissed him hard, crushing their mouths together until teeth cut into lips, swallowing Dante’s groans.
He yanked Dante’s head back to look him in the eye. “I’m not in the mood for teasing,” Christopher growled.
Dante’s smirk vanished behind wide-eyed desire. “Whatever you want.”
“I’ll figure that out as we go.” Christopher pushed Dante toward the bedroom and the bed, making a quick stop at the dresser to grab the lube. He kissed along the back of Dante’s neck, losing himself in the familiar scent of baked sugar mixed with faint cologne.
Dante’s well-painted story was gone, replaced with groans. He leaned back into Christopher, head tilted to the side to receive more attention.
Christopher fisted his own cock, stroking slowly. He trailed his tongue along the edge of Dante’s ear. “Pants off, and kneel on the mattress,” Christopher said.
Dante nodded and complied. Christopher squeezed a dollop of lube into his hand, and glided his fingers along Dante’s ass. Dante gasped at the first touch of room-temperature liquid. The sounded blended into a groan when Christopher teased his opening with slick fingers.
Christopher nudged Dante’s entrance with the head of his cock, then penetrated him an inch at a time, sliding in at an excruciatingly slow pace. When he was buried to the hilt, he adopted an even rhythm, at a similar speed to the one Dante teased him with moments ago.
At the same time, he reached around and gripped Dante’s shaft. Christopher accelerated his pumping, stroking Dante faster, squeezing enough it had to send a light ache through his lover. Dante moaned in response, fucking Christopher’s fist.
Each time Dante’s groans reached the familiar, fevered pitch of nearing climax, Christopher eased off. Dante thrust his hips to increase the attention again, but Christopher held back.
“Please.” Dante’s voice was low, a grumble rolling through it. “Let me come.”
The appeal rolled over Christopher, singeing his skin and tightening in his balls. He sped up, pumping Dante hard, not easing up when he let out a throaty cry and climaxed, coating Christopher’s hand with sticky fluid.
Christopher loosened his grip, but didn’t let go, despite the occasional shudder racing through Dante. His dick had to be tender, and Christopher was enjoying the teasing. He thrust harder inside Dante, and was greeted with an arched back and a loud gasp.
He couldn’t hold back anymore. He moved both hands to Dante’s hips, squeezing tight as he pounded inside. Christopher’s thoughts swam and flitted into oblivion, leaving pleasure in their wake. The edges of his vision blurred as he neared orgasm.
He came hard, thrusting until he was spent. His breath tore from his lungs in jagged shards. Christopher leaned forward and lay a line of kisses along Dante’s spine. “God, you tell a good story.” Christopher gave a throaty chuckle.
“I’ve got an excellent muse.” Dante moved forward and dropped to the bed as Christopher softened and pulled out of him.
They cleaned up, and climbed into bed next to each other, a light haze of bliss drifting through the room.
“Are you going to tell me what Julie did?” Christopher asked.
“Same shit, different day. And it’s possible I provoked her a little bit.”
“I can’t imagine.” It was a symptom of the rift growing between him and Dante—the gap that got more difficult every day for Christopher to ignore. The persona Dante adopted for TV—one he’d honed over the years, to make the network happy—bled into real life.
This time, that included the harsh and cruel attitude pointed at Julie, and that kind of clash with a business partner made everything worse. Christopher was tired of asking him to change the behavior. In less than two weeks, they’d shoot the special segment for Dante’s show, featuring the kitschy bakery, and head back to L.A. That would be the end of most of the strain, one way or another. Dante’s interaction with Julie would be limited to occasional meetings, and Andi would become his primary point of contact for investor and business information.
Dante scooted closer on the bed and intertwined his fingers with Christopher’s. “I’ll try harder. I promise.”
“Yeah. Okay.” Something told Christopher that Dante and Julie were continents away from finding common ground. “The two of you should just fuck and get it over with.” The taunt triggered something in his mind that he didn’t intend—the desire to see Julie and Dante together. “Forget I said that.”
“Would it help?” Dante asked.
“How could it possibly?”
“I know things are rocky between you and me.” Dante sighed. “That you’d rather be home. You don’t like how the show is going. I promise, when we make it through filming this segment, I’ll talk to the studio about changes. Get your name up there with the associate-producer credits, where it belongs.”
“It’s not about Julie or having my name on the screen.” So much for the fuzzy afterglow of sex.
“I understand that, but it’s a stopgap.” At least Dante realized the issue ran deeper.
Christopher wasn’t sure if Dante specifically referred to screwing Julie or a general, random fling. Using sex as a way to break down walls was a holdover from Christopher’s time as a therapist. He’d surrendered several of his practices when he quit the profession, but that one still made sense. Getting laid shifted the mind’s perspective, and it was a pretty decent way to do so. “It could be. Bar this weekend?”
“Or ask Julie.”
Christopher liked the suggestion. It didn’t matter how many ways he tried to talk himself out of it; he wouldn’t mind if she was their playmate while they were here. “You can’t stand her. That’s what started this conversation.”
“I don’t have to like her, to watch you fuck her.”
“You’re not making this better.” This contract couldn’t end soon enough, as far as Christopher was concerned.
Julie stifled another yawn but couldn’t stop her eyes from watering. She grabbed the small towel she had on hand for patting her cheeks dry, then turned back to her latest batch of cookies. She was pretending she didn’t know it was after six in the morning. Trying to ignore the fact that, if Andi had come home last night, Julie would have had company, not to mention someone to help her taste-test.
Not that any of the batches met her standards in other areas—sturdy enough to hold the frosting Andi painted on, but not so soft or crumbly they’d break in transport—but at least Julie would know if she had the flavor right. At this point, everything but her fifth cup of coffee tasted like sawdust. The coffee had more of an espresso-roasted-sawdust flavor.
Twelve hours ago, she was determined to have this done before Dante got in, to prove a point. Now she’d be lucky if she could get everything cleaned up and snatch a couple hours sleep before the script read-through for their timeslot on Dante’s show.
And then he’d be justified in his opinions. Everyone would figure out she didn’t have her act together and was making it up as she went along. She squelched the insecurity before her exhaustion could send it spiraling out of control.
She focused on a string of reassurances instead. Andi didn’t come home because—more often than not, these days—she spent the night with her guys. And Dante didn’t expect the recipe to be done first thing this morning.
The list didn’t calm Julie the way she wanted. The latch on the front door, which led to the shop on the other side of the kitchen, clanked open, and any peace she’d found evaporated. It might be Andi, but she tended to use the back entrance to head straight up to the apartment. Odds were far better it was Dante.
Julie was too tired to put on a mask for him this morning. Had no will left to keep from blaming him for her being up all night, even though the currently tiny, rational part of her knew her own stubbornness was responsible. She could retreat upstairs before he found her, in about ten seconds, but that meant leaving the kitchen a mess. She’d never hear the end of that.
“Hello?” she called out. Christopher ducked his head around the corner, and relief nudged her senses. “Are you here alone?” she asked.
He raised his brows, a half-formed smile twitching on his face. “Technically not, if you’re here.” He lounged against the doorframe. The posture accentuated the sturdy, muscular lines of his body. “That’s not what you’re asking, though.”
She shook her head, enjoying the light teasing. A little whisper asked if he was intentionally avoiding her gaze. It must be her imagination and tiredness. She’d only known him for a month or so, and they weren’t best buds or anything, but their conversations tended toward pleasant rather than stilted.
“I came in by myself.” He studied her without flinching “I wanted to test recording and backup before the place got busy. I didn’t think anyone would appreciate being the personal star of the movie.” No, she definitely imagined the looking away before.
“I don’t have a problem with it, if you ever need your own personal movie star.” Great. Now lack of sleep was screwing with her verbal filter. She should to get to bed before she spilled too many thoughts. “But not today. Sleep is calling my name.”
“Have you been up all night?”
The impulse to rant about why rose to her lips, and she bit it back. She could badmouth Dante to Andi sometimes, but she knew whose side Christopher would take, and in her current state of mind, that might break her. “I had a lot to get done. Lost track of time.” She didn’t believe the lie. Would he?
He furrowed his brow. “Finish up. Get to bed.”
“Yes, Sir.” She gave him a weak smile and turned her attention back to straightening her kitchen. The next twenty or so minutes passed quickly, as she repeated her motions from last night. Her sense of satisfaction and relief at having a clean kitchen was missing. She had no idea how to make the cookies work.
Her phone rang, and she fetched it from her back pocket, grateful for the distraction. She frowned at her ex-fiancé’s name on the screen. It wasn’t a big deal he got in touch with her recently, after several years of not speaking, but she didn’t know if she had the fortitude to be pleasant. Her tired fingers fumbled the device twice, before she managed to hit Answer. “Hey.”
“Are you all right?” Luke asked.
“Fine. Long night is all.”
“Oh.” His tone was flat.
Or she was imagining the disappointment. First painting an alternate reality around Christopher’s behavior, now Luke’s. “I was working. What’s up?”
“Not much. I was wondering if you were free any time this week.”
“Not until filming is over.” The rational part of her mind told her Luke was being friendly. He’d been the one to dump her all those years ago, and his few phone calls were polite. She didn’t know if she was ready to face him, though. Some scars ran deep, and the humiliation he put her through still felt fresh whenever she saw Andi with Kane and Isaiah.
Not because Julie’s breakup had anything to do with Andi. Hell, her best friend didn’t even know about it. It was because, back then, Luke wanted to bring a third person into their relationship, to experiment. Julie said yes, never expecting to be dumped as a result. The experience taught her an important lesson—there was nothing wrong with multiple partner sex. Just with people pretending three-person relationships were anything beyond that.
“No worries.” Luke sounded cheerful. “I know things are hectic. Give me a call when you have some free time. We’ll catch up.”
“Sure.” Julie didn’t know if she meant it. “Talk to you later.” She disconnected.
“I thought you already left, Julie.” Christopher’s voice made her jump.
She whirled to face him. “I was about to, but I drank too much caffeine last night, so I’m making some herbal tea first.” She should do that, so her excuse sounded plausible. In reality, she didn’t know why she was still down here.
“I didn’t mean to listen in, but I caught the tail end of that walking by. Someone you didn’t mean to give your number to, or a persistent one-night stand?”
She frowned and tried to make sense of his question, and then it clicked. She hadn’t done such a splendid job of hiding her hesitation at seeing Luke again if Christopher heard it in her tone. That didn’t mean she wanted to get into details about her heartbreak. “Old friend. That’s all.”
Christopher studied her for a minute. “Is everything all right?”
“Things between us are a little— Yeah. Everything’s fine.” She turned away before the brush off could show on her face. “I should get back to my tea.”
“Speaking of… How fresh is that pot of coffee in there?”
She was grateful Christopher didn’t push the subject. “I tried to hold out and not make a new pot. Told myself I didn’t need one more cup. I lost the struggle about two hours ago, so it’s not the best, but I guess it’s okay.”
“Are you kidding? Two hours means it’s got character. The pot at home lasts all day.” He joined her in the kitchen.
She couldn’t suppress her grimace. “Maybe you need a smaller coffee maker?”
“You sound like Dante.”
She shot him a narrowed-eye glare.
He grabbed the coffee pot and a clean mug. “No offense.” He dumped generous amounts of cream and sugar into the blend, before taking a long swallow.
“You know, that stuff has a flavor of its own.”
“Yes. One I choose to enhance with copious quantities of sweetness. Something’s got to take the edge off the bitter.”
She liked this banter. Simple. No expectations. The way it always was with Christopher. She pushed herself up to sit on the counter, grabbed her tea, and sipped slowly.
“Dante would burst a blood vessel if he saw you sitting on a prep surface.” A warning slid into Christopher’s words.
“Last time I checked, this wasn’t Dante’s kitchen.”
“No, but that doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to antagonize him.”
And the fun, easiness of the moment was gone. “You sound like Andi.”
“Because she’s right. Either you or he needs to be the bigger person. Wouldn’t the spite of doing that feel good?”
She let a small laugh slip out at the less-than-subtle manipulation. “Nice try. And yes. Let’s all listen to Andi. She’s the wise one, right?” The bitterness in her voice surprised her, and she winced.
Christopher set down his mug, pleasant expression hidden behind an impassive mask. “I’m going to get to work. I’ll come back when you’re feeling less—”
“I was going to say reactionary.”
“I’m sorry.” She drummed the fingers of her free hand against the counter. “I’ve been up all night; my filters are a bit broken. You don’t deserve to deal with it though.”
“Neither does Dante.”
God. Would he drop it already? “He’s the reason for it.”
Christopher crossed his arms and leaned a hip against a nearby cabinet. “He’s not a bad guy, you know.”
Why hadn’t she gone to bed when she had the chance? “You have to say that. You’re fucking him.”
“I don’t have to say anything. And do you really think that little of me that you believe I’d hook up with an asshole?”
The question caught her off-guard. She hadn’t looked at it that way before. There were several easy answers. I don’t know you well enough for that, or, they say love is blind. “No. I think better of you than that.”
“Question for you.” His posture shifted from defensive to something more open. “What do you think of Andi’s relationship?”
That was an abrupt shift in topics. “That’s between Andi and her guys. Ask her. They’re not shy when it comes to talking about it.” The new subject might have been welcome, except it tugged at memories she preferred not to give attention to.
“Her guys. I like it. But I’m asking how you feel about it. Unless the truth is the kind of thing that destroys friendships. I don’t want to be trusted with that kind of information.”
It might wound Andi a little to learn there were things she didn’t know about Julie, but their relationship would most likely survive. “Nothing like that. I mean, not that there is something. She knows how I feel.”
“Which is…? Or is this you telling me to fuck off and drop it?”
She liked his bluntness.
Then why does it bother you coming from Dante?
It was less playful with Dante. More vindictive. “Which is that I don’t have a problem with people sleeping with who they want to. God knows I’ve done it a few times myself and walked away the next morning.” Shut up. Despite the mental command, her mouth kept moving. “Besides, Andi says her guys are the cutest ever together. I wouldn’t want cute. I’d want drop dead fucking sexy hot, like what you and Dante have.”
White-hot embarrassment flooded her when Christopher’s eyes widened, and her own words sank in. Stupid sleepy brain. “I mean… I just…” She struggled to get a grasp of her vocabulary. “They’re gamer geeks.”
“So am I. When I have free time.” His mouth quirked in a smile.
“Well, I am too, but I mean you’re…” God. Why was she still talking?
“Drop-dead fucking-sexy hot?”
She met his gaze, and her voice caught at the intensity with which he stared back. She tried to swallow past her suddenly dry throat. “Yes. That.” Why was he standing so close?
“I think I understand.” Amusement danced in his eyes, playful and intoxicating. Wow she needed sleep. “You don’t have an issue with three people sleeping together; you simply prefer your men less on the cuddly side of the spectrum and leaning more toward hot and heavy?”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Except she needed to not say it.
A sharp whistle rolled through the room, piercing Julie’s ears and jarring her out of the pleasant fog enveloping her mind. Dante stood in the doorway, watching them with a smirk.
She scooted sideways past Christopher, hopped to her feet, and took several steps back toward the stairs leading to her apartment. “I need to go.”
“Don’t stop on my account,” Dante said.
“There’s nothing to stop, because we weren’t doing anything. I need to get some rest. At least an hour or two before the read-through.” She reached the landing. She called over her shoulder, “You’ll have your cookies by end of day, Dante.” Great. Because that didn’t make her look like a guilty, defensive spaz.
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