What can I say about Chess Copper? The woman is capable of bringing me to my knees. I know this about five minutes after getting naked for her.
No one is more surprised than me. The prickly photographer my team hired to shoot our annual charity calendar isn’t my usual type. She’s defense to my offense, a challenge at every turn. But when I’m with her, all the regrets and darkness goes away. She makes life fun.
I want to know Chess, be close to her. Which is a bad idea.
Chess is looking for a relationship. I’ve never given a woman more than one night. But when fate leaves Chess without a home, I step up and offer her mine. We’re roommates now. Friends without benefits. But it’s getting harder to keep our hands off each other. And the longer we live together the more I realize she’s becoming my everything.
Trick is… Now that I’ve made her believe I’m a bad bet, how do I convince her to give this player a true shot at forever?
FINNShe sits quietly as I eat, and shakes her head when I offer her a sandwich section. Because I’m hungry, and because I don’t like the idea of her having to wait for me to eat, I wolf down my food. The brownie follows with a few, quick bites.
Wiping my hands on a napkin, I set the plate and empty can on a side table, and then let out a contented sigh. “Thanks. I needed that.”
Her smile is small and quick. “I should have fed you as soon as you got here.” “I’m good now.”
Chess braces her hands on the seat and leans forward to watch her feet as we slowly rock the swing. Silence descends, thick and awkward, and for the first time in her presence, I’m at a loss for words.
I don’t know this girl. Not really, and yet I’ve inserted myself into her life with a determination I usually reserve for winning games. Except I have no endgame here. I told her I want to be friends. But how does that work for us?
Our friends and lives couldn’t be any more different. Parties for me are self-congratulatory events, filled with people whose one focus seems to be bolstering my ego, followed by me searching for a quick hookup. And my friends are all part of football in some way. We talk football or sports. It’s a narrow focus life, but it’s my comfort zone. That chafes too, knowing I live a life that seems wild and free to outsiders but is actually small and structured on the inside.
The silence has stretched too long. I should go. But I don’t move. If I go, I know it will be the end of whatever this is. Embarrassment will have me avoiding seeking her out again. Likely, she’ll do the same.
And that will be that.
The knowledge sits like a stone on my chest.
“I’m sorry about my friends,” Chess says. “They can be uncomfortably brazen.”
“So can mine.” I shrug. “Your friends are…fun.”
Her lips pull tight. “They can be. But they were definitely giving me—and by extension—you shit tonight.” She bites her bottom lip. “I don’t think they know what to make of you.”
“So I wasn’t imagining things.”
The novel sensation of being a fish tossed into the wrong pond grows. I’ve taken away Chess’s fun by coming here, and I’m sorry for it. “I shouldn’t have asked you to come here,” Chess says in a low voice.
She’s only echoing my thoughts but the stone sitting on my chest pushes harder against my ribs.
Chess makes a small sound, as if she’s trying to laugh but can’t. “Parties suck when you arrive halfway through and don’t know anyone.”
“I know you,” I point out quietly.
She turns and the porch light illuminates her face. Green eyes met mine and hold, as a slow, true smile curls over her cherry lips. Something inside of me shifts and slides. I want to kiss Chester Copper. Haul her onto my lap and make out with her like we’re teenagers hiding out at our parents’ party. But that’s not what she invited me here for.
“I wanted to see you,” she confesses in that husky morning voice that goes straight to my cock. She turns away and stares out into the darkness. “It’s weird, you know? But hanging out with you was so unexpected it kind of felt like I imagined the whole thing.”
I know exactly what she means. My hand settles next to hers, close enough that our pinkies touch. That small point of contact sparks along my skin, makes me want to move closer. I hold steady because I don’t trust myself not to act. “I wanted to see you too,” I tell her. “It’s been a long fucking day.”
I hadn’t planned to admit that, but it feels good to tell her.
Chess eases back against the seat and then curls her fingers over mine with a light squeeze. The unexpected touch holds all my attention. It’s nothing more than a simple offer of comfort, and here I am twitching in my seat as if she’d cupped my dick instead. I’m in so much trouble here because this woman is getting to me in ways I don’t know how to navigate. But I don’t pull away. Not one fucking chance of that.
Chess speaks, pulling me attention back to our conversation. “So tell me about it.” I can’t remember the last time anyone asked me to tell them about my day. Likely, no one ever has.
So I do. And with every word that leaves my mouth, a little bit more of my stress eases. No, I don’t yet truly know Chess. And yes, our lives are different. But there’s no way I’m ending this. Because when it’s just her and me, everything else falls away. I’m not going to let myself forget that again.
Kristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she’d rather be. She is a three-time RITA nominee and winner of two RT Reviewer’s Choice awards. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the Library Journal, as well as being awarded top picks by many reviewers. Her debut book FIRELIGHT received RT Magazine’s Seal of Excellence, was named a best book of the year by Library Journal , best book of Spring 2012 by Publisher’s Weekly, and was named the best romance book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she is not writing, she is reading.