Stroked long, p.18
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       STROKED LONG, p.18

           Meghan Quinn

  “Yeah. There is no doubt in my mind he’s safe.”

  “Well, in that case.” I set my beer down along with my pretzel and wipe my hands. “I’m in. What are we betting?”

  Looking to the sky, Bodi twists his mouth in thought. Turning, he shrugs and chuckles. “I’m not sure.”

  Rolling my eyes, I reply, “Winner gets to ask the loser to do one thing, and they must follow through on it.”

  “That’s pretty vague.”

  “It’s a hell of a lot better than your suggestion, which was nothing.”

  Adjusting his cap, he says, “Your sass is on point today.”

  “Why, thank you.” I pretend to curtsey in my seat, which turns out to be more awkward than expected, but I go with it. “So are we on?” I hold out my hand, waiting for him to shake.

  Glancing at my hand and then back to me, he seals the bet. “You’re on.”

  Turning to the big screen where they are showing a replay, I wait for it to be clear as day that the player is out. There is no doubt in my mind I will be winning this bet.

  Just as expected, the big screen shows a crucial angle of the play where the decision is a no-brainer, making the entire stadium erupt with cheers.

  With a know-it-all attitude, I turn to Bodi whose peeking up at me from under the bill of his baseball cap, a knowing smirk on his face, looking beyond adorable. Just then, the umpires separate from the review huddle and signal the out sign, ending the inning.

  “It feels so good.” I sit back in my chair, soaking in the sun and drinking my beer. “Being right, that is.” I turn my head and wink at him.

  “I should have known you were going to be a gloater.”

  “Would you really expect anything less from me?”

  He shakes his head and when I think he’s going to shrink into himself, I see a peek of a smile caress his lips as he lifts his water bottle to his mouth. I’m hoping he still has that smile when I cash in on my bet later.

  Turning to me, he asks, “What’s your favorite part about a baseball game?”

  I sit on that question. My favorite thing? That’s a hard one.

  “Besides seeing Angels carry around the players in the outfield?”

  He gives me a get real look, which makes me snort my beer right out of my nose.

  “Yeah, besides that.” There is an evident roll in his eyes. Man, he’s really not a fan of that movie, which is total blasphemy. I can forgive him.

  “Well, after that reaction, I’m clearly not going to say the mascot race.”

  “Our friendship would end if you said that.”

  “Yikes.” I cringe. “Don’t want to do that. All right,” I think and then say, “in all seriousness, my favorite part of the game is watching a rookie get their first hit in the major leagues. There is nothing like experiencing that first crack of the bat with someone who’s working their way up the farm system. There’s magic in the air when it happens.”

  Looking at me intently, Bodi’s eyes blaze with something I’m not quite familiar with . . . longing?

  “Well-thought-out answer,” he says before turning to the field, his demeanor shifting from playful to serious.

  Will I ever understand this man?

  Setting my beer down, I grip his hand in mine, linking our fingers. Caught off guard at first, he stiffens and stares down at our connection, but when his eyes lift to mine, he visibly relaxes.

  “What’s your favorite part?” I ask him, leaning close, wanting to make sure he stays present and doesn’t escape into that over-worked brain of his.

  Pulling his attention away from the field, his lips tilt to the side. “I can’t really pick anything.” He’s quiet for a second. “It’s something I shared with my dad. We would sit together and watch every single Oakland A’s game we could. The sport is engrained in my blood now.”

  My heart breaks from his despondent voice. It’s the first time he’s mentioned his dad, and the thought of a young Bodi sitting on his dad’s lap watching baseball makes me want to cry.

  Squeezing his hand, I say, “I completely understand that.” And to lighten the mood, I add, “But you don’t have to lie to me. I know your little kale-loving self loves the smell of greasy hot dogs floating through the air. That’s why you really come to the games.”

  He takes the bait and smiles that rare mega-watt grin at me. “You caught me. Man, do I love mystery-meat smell. Gets my battery charged every time it floats around me.”

  “Battery charged? Are you saying you get ‘excited’ over hot dog grease?”

  “Yes, that’s exactly what I said,” he answers sarcastically.

  “My, my, my, Bodi Banks likes a good sausage fest.” I can’t contain the smile that graces my face from the furrow in his brow. “I would never have guessed.”

  He squeezes my hand and says, “My sausage fest goes right along with your taco eating.”

  “Hey,” I playfully snap, pulling my hand away from his to put on my hip in indignation, “I told you not to compare tacos to vaginas.”

  “Did I say the word vagina?”

  “You implied it?” I counter.

  “Pretty sure I was talking about tacos.” He winks and grabs my hand again, linking our fingers together intimately. He places our hands on the arm rest between us, and I can’t help but stare at the connection. I held his hand first to make sure he didn’t retreat in conversation, so why is he now holding my hand?

  Anxious nerves roll through me as the thought of Bodi Banks actually liking me floats through my mind. I hate that I’m totally fangirling inside. Yes, there is more to Bodi than his devastating, handsome good looks and those muscles constantly rippling under his shirt. He’s intelligent, kind, and sweet. But that still doesn’t stop me from lusting over the fact that BODI FREAKING BANKS is holding my hand.

  My hand.

  Quirky, very strange, spastic me.

  The rest of the game we talk about our favorite players, who we’ve watched since we were young, what kind of a person it takes to stand among a crowd to shout obscenities, and of course, the traditional ballpark wave.

  As we walk to the car, Bodi makes a quick call to Eva, checking in on her. He’s so cute. We’re still holding hands—eep—when Bodi confesses, “I hate the wave. Who ever thought that would be a good idea?”

  “What? You don’t like the wave?”

  “Who really does?”

  “Uh, me. It’s so amazing. Thousands of people, without any cues, all of a sudden break out into standing rhythmic formation.”

  “It’s inconvenient.”

  “Why? Because you have to stand every few seconds? This coming from the workout king.”

  He gives me a sideways look. “It’s not about standing. It’s about distracting from the game. No one watches when a wave is going on.”

  “Of course not. You don’t want to be the lame-o who misses the chance to stand on time, taking part in the perfect float of a crowd.”

  “And the wooing.” He rolls his eyes, ignoring my argument. “Throwing your arms up and wooing, fuck it’s annoying.”

  I stop in my tracks. “How can you even say something like that? The wooing is what makes the wave so enticing. Have you ever wooed?”

  “Can’t say I have.” He smirks.

  “You are missing out, Bodi.” He pulls on my hand, forcing me to continue our walk to the car. “Wooing is all about letting your inhibitions go, puffing your chest out, and letting out pure joy.”

  “By a woo?”

  “Yes, by a woo.” I mock him with a deep, annoyed voice. “You should really try it sometime. I bet it would take that monotone-colored life of yours and add a little rainbow to it.”

  “It would add a rainbow for sure,” he jokes.

  “Ugh, you’re such a fuddy-duddy.”

  “If I’m a fuddy-duddy, then why do you continue to hang out with me?” The lilt in his voice is teasing, but I see the uncertainty in his eyes.

  Normally I would joke back and say something li
ke, “I have no clue.” But I’m reading the sensitivity of his question, and it feels like my response needs to answer more than his simple question. I feel as if he is asking me if I like him. If I accept him for who he is: all six-foot-whatever, fuddy-duddy, slightly neurotic, uncertain self. And I do. Very much. So, I answer him a mini declaration. “Because, Bodi Banks, you’re fun to hang out with,” then pull on his arm, lining my body against his.

  His shoulders relax and a slight smile grows on his chiseled face. That was the correct answer.

  It’s so strange that the strong and confident man in the pool can be so self-conscious out of the water. Athletes, especially elite athletes, are usually confident, self-absorbed, cocky bastards who know they can get pretty much anything they want.

  Not Bodi.

  He’s very unsure of his appeal to the outside world, his mind always racing, his awkward tendencies on full display. But that’s what makes him so real, so enchanting.

  “Did you enjoy the game?” he asks, breaking my thoughts. “Even though your precious wing flappers didn’t win.”

  “No one likes a gloater, Bodi,” I tease. “But yes, it’s the best game I’ve been to. Especially since I won our little bet.”

  Bodi takes me to the passenger side of his truck and opens the door for me.

  “It was a lucky call on your end.”

  “It was blatantly obvious he was out. You should be happy you didn’t bet any money because I would have taken you to the cleaners.” I poke his stomach, our hands disengage as we face each other.

  “Yeah, instead I have to give you whatever you want. Seems scarier than losing money.”

  “How so?”

  He steps closer, pushing a strand of hair that’s fallen out of my hat behind my ear, his fingers lingering on my cheek longer than expected, making my breath hitch.

  “You’re a wild card. Not quite sure what you could ask for. Knowing you, you could ask for a picture of me wearing nothing but a sombrero over my crotch and holding a lizard with a mustache.”

  A laugh bubbles out of me from the picture in my head that conjured up. Oh, I can see it plain as day. Too bad, that’s not what I want.

  “Tempting,” I say, “but that’s not what I was thinking.”

  “No?” His eyebrows rise, as if he was one hundred percent positive that sombrero crotch was what I really wanted. That’s not what I would want from his crotch if I had the option.

  “No, but I’m actually ready to cash in on what I want.”

  “Right here?” He looks around the lot full of expensive cars. A lonely street light shines above us, with the stars being our other source of light.

  “Right here,” I confirm.

  Shifting in place, he grips the bill of his hat and says, “Okay, what would you like?”

  Mustering up every ounce of courage I have and praying to Zeus that he doesn’t turn me down, I say with gusto, “A kiss.”

  With widening eyes, he stares down at me, unsure if he heard me right. “A kiss?” His shocked expression puts doubt in my heart. Maybe I was reading him wrong, maybe what I thought was lust flowing between us was just one-sided.

  But I’ve already committed, so I swallow hard and nod. “Yes, a kiss . . . on the lips,” I add, in case he was thinking about going all Grandpa on me and puckering up only to drop a kiss on the top of my head. Holy hell, that would be absolutely mortifying.

  Unsure, he searches my eyes and I shyly smile, trying to read what he’s thinking. All I can see is the inner workings of his brain running a mile a minute through the uneasy look in his face.

  Shit, shit, shit.

  Too fast. What happened to baby steps, Ruby?

  I know, the hand holding happened, the smile, the laughter, the brush of his fingers against my cheek. Yup, they all made me temporarily insane.

  My gut is twisting in my stomach, a million bricks settling at the bottom, weighing me down in the most painful of ways. The urge to purge is overwhelming, the need to flee is making my feet fidgety, and absolute mortification takes over, raising my body temperature to uncomfortable levels of heat.

  Fuck, I want to cry.

  He’s not doing anything. He’s just staring at me, as if I’m crazy.

  I can’t take it anymore. I start to take back my request when he steps forward, causing my throat to close up and my palms to turn into monsoon season. His eyes stay trained on mine, his masculine stance overshadowing me.

  Oh my God, will he kiss me?

  Moving smoothly, his left hand connects with my hip, instantly setting every nerve ending on fire and causing a kaleidoscope of butterflies to flutter endlessly in my stomach. Just the mere touch of his hand on my hipbone causes a dull ache between my legs, reminding me how much I crave this man.

  Turning his hat around, his hooded eyes indicate his intentions, and all I can do is stand there, stiff as a board, in awe that this actually might happen.

  Slowly, ever so fucking slowly, he runs his hand up my arm, across my collarbone, up the column of my neck, past my cheek, and to my hat where he spins it around as well, only to lower his hand back to my jaw where his fingers skim my skin. His hand then falls to the back of my neck where it entwines with loose strands of hair.

  Pulling me closer, I brace my hand on his chest for balance. My legs are wobbly, my knees weak, and there’s a great possibility I might collapse from this sensual moment.

  Whispering softly, inches from my face, he says, “Are you sure this is what you want?”

  I can’t help the gulp that travels down my throat as I nod. Oh, yes. Very, very sure. I have no ability to speak, not with Bodi gripping me tenderly, mere moments away from caressing my lips with his. It’s too much. His presence is strong, commanding, dominant.

  Flat-out intoxicating.

  With one last search of my eyes, he lowers his head, pauses right before our lips touch, almost as if he’s waiting for me to stop him. There is no way I would do that. Not being this close, not when my body is humming with intimate need for Bodi.

  With one last breath, he presses forward, connecting our mouths in a soft, explorative nature.

  Light explodes around me, my stomach bottoms out, and my grip tightens on his shirt as he kisses me.

  He’s not demanding. He’s tentative, delicate, as if it’s a whisper of a kiss. While his lips gently explore mine, making soft feather-like movements, his grip on my hip is exactly the opposite. Hard, unforgiving, almost bruising, he holds on to me, deepening his grasp with each movement of his lips. The hand tangling my hair is also demanding, not letting me move, not that I would want to. There is only one place I want to be, and it’s in Bodi’s arms.

  Testing my limits, I part my lips and allow Bodi to explore some more. He takes the bait by groaning into my mouth and pressing me against the side of his truck, pinning me in place while his tongue strokes my bottom lip.

  My whole body is tingling; igniting, throbbing, buzzing with yearning. Yearning for something more, for the press of his hips against mine, for the palm of his hand to move past my hip and up my stomach, for his body to slowly and seductively move against mine. Anything to further intensify this burning connection.

  Running my hands up his chest, loving the way it feels like hard stone under my palms, I grip the back of his neck and plunge my tongue into his mouth, matching his every stroke, opening wide and letting our lips do the talking.

  It’s intense.


  By far, the most unbelievable sexy kiss I’ve shared with another person.

  I’m gearing up for a long night of lip-locking when Bodi groans and quickly pulls away, letting our lips smack apart. As if I’m on fire, his body retreats from mine and he turns away, gripping the back of his neck while looking at the ground.

  Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. Did I scare him off?

  My lips are swollen, my heart about to explode out of my chest, and my wobbly legs ready to break at any point in time.

  I study the strain of mu
scles in his back as he grips his neck, the tightness in his shoulders, the tension taking over the man before me. Well done, Ruby. You pushed him too far.

  Unsure of what to do, I contemplate going to him but don’t get a chance because he turns around quickly and tilts his head as he studies me.

  Mumbling under his breath, he says, “Fuck it,” and charges after me, pinning me against the truck once again with one strong arm. The other straddles the side of my head as he leans forward, once again taking my mouth in his.

  Holy hotness!

  Echoes of baseball fans surround us, the crisp night air enveloping us in a cocoon, and the faint light of the ballpark barely peeking past the top of Bodi’s truck. It’s just the two of us, in this moment, our mouths pushing forward, turning this friendship into something more.

  Pulling away, so our mouths are no longer connecting, he leans his forehead against mine and looks me in the eyes. He’s so close, and I can’t read him. His grasp on my hip is strong, and his hips are inches from mine. I’m not sure, but it sounds like he’s quietly saying Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit.

  “Fuck, Ruby. What are you doing to me?”

  “Kissing you?” I answer sheepishly, unsure how to answer his question.

  The hand that was propping him up against the truck, cups my cheek and his thumb runs along my skin, sending chills down my spine.

  “I need to take you home before I do something in the parking lot I will regret.” His voice is heavy, gravelly.

  “And what might that be?” I ask on a gulp.

  “Fuck you,” he answers honestly, pressing a kiss against my lips one last time and helping me into his truck.

  Just like that, my entire being is set on fire.

  Fuck you.

  Those two words ring through my ears the entire ride home.

  Chapter Fifteen


  “I had a great time,” Ruby says timidly in the car. We just arrived outside her apartment where I put the truck in park. “Thanks for the amazing tickets. It really made my night.”

  “Anytime,” I answer awkwardly.

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