SOME MEN ARE IMPOSSIBLE to ignore. It’s like everyone else around them is moving in slow motion, like everyone else is painted in black and white and he’s the only spot of color; the only thing moving in the room. Race Hartman was that kind of man. Even though an entire room full of loud, drunk, and excited party people separated us, even though I doubted he knew I was at the same house party as he was, all I could see was him. Tall and blond with a face and body designed to make the fairer sex stupid with lust, he was undeniably beautiful and delicious, like everything that was bad for you tended to be. I didn’t want to keep staring, but I couldn’t stop myself. He was just that dynamic—just that bold—and in my world, where things were gray and lifeless, he was a sensory feast and I was happy to gorge.
I missed the days when I just went to school, partied, had a good time, and acted like I didn’t have a care in the world. Those days were long gone, so I needed to stop gaping at Race like an idiot and get on with trying to enjoy the one night I had off from work and wasn’t needed at home. My little sister was at a sleepover, and my dad had agreed to stay home with my mom. It was a rare occurrence when I got to behave like a normal twenty-one-year-old, and I was squandering it by lusting after my best friend’s older brother, and probably the worst, most inappropriate guy in the entire world to have a crush on.
“Do you know him?”
My friend Adria was the one who had convinced me to come out tonight. I remembered parties like this being more fun. I took a sip of lukewarm beer out of a red plastic cup and fought the way my eyes wanted to magnetically drift to Race.
“He’s Dovie’s older brother.”
Her disbelief was justified. Where Race looked regal, like some kind of golden god sent down to rule over us mere mortals, Dovie Pryce was a rumpled redhead covered in freckles and about as unobvious as one person could be. She was cute at best, not impressive and heart-stopping like her brother. She was also the nicest person in the world. I was pretty sure Race didn’t have a nice bone anywhere in his impressive body.
My fingers curled around the cup tighter when his head turned and those mossy-green eyes met mine.
“Really.” My voice was huskier than normal even to my own ears.
“How can that be?”
I liked Adria. We had Business Finance together and she was one of the few people who hadn’t ditched me when I was forced to move back home after everything with my mom went down. I didn’t have much fun anymore, which meant I didn’t have many friends anymore either. Trying to explain to her the complicated dynamics in the Hartman family, though, was not something I planned on spending the evening doing. Race and Dovie’s lineage wasn’t a story that was particularly good times, and that’s what I was after tonight—a good time.
I gulped because Race was making his way through the crowd of dancing and grinding college students toward where we were standing. People just instinctively moved out of his way. It was like there was a force field of badass that surrounded him that only those who liked to live dangerously dared to test. I wasn’t one of those people. At least that’s what I told myself every time I was around him.
Sure, I was dangerously attracted, had been ever since the first time I saw him when he dropped Dovie off at work, but he would never know. Race wasn’t a good guy and my life was hard enough without adding in the kind of complication he was bound to be.
To keep Race and those traitorous feelings at bay, I was awful to him . . . I mean really, really awful. I was cold. I was disinterested. I was rude, and sometimes I was flat-out mean. I acted like he was annoying, treated him like he was a vile, nasty human being, and when that didn’t work, I ignored him and acted like he wasn’t worth my time. It was getting harder and harder to do, and the more disdain I tossed in his direction, the more charm and liquid sex appeal he leveled at me. We were involved in a tantalizing back-and-forth game that I was terrified I would eventually lose. Race wanted me, and he didn’t make it a secret. I didn’t know how much longer my wayward lust was going to be held at bay under the assault of those evergreen-colored eyes and that gorgeous head of spun-gold hair.
He flashed a million-watt smile in my direction and stopped so he was looming over me. Even with me wearing five-inch heels, he towered over me.
“Well, hello, Brysen.”
I rolled my eyes and raised the cup to hide my involuntary gulp as his gruff voice slid over my skin.
Adria nudged me in the side with the sharp edge of her elbow. I cleared my throat and inclined my head in her direction.
“This is my friend Adria.”
He stuck out a big hand and clasped her much smaller one. I practically saw her panties melt and her vagina throw out a welcome mat.
“What are you doing here?”
I should be asking him that. This was a college party, filled with drunk coeds and undergrads. I actually attended the university around the corner, but Race had long since given up the academic life for one that involved crime and lots and lots of illegal activity. He was the one who shouldn’t be here.
“Just out having some fun.” I tried to keep my tone flat and uninterested, but if he could hear the way my heart pounded, the jig would be up for certain.
He lifted a blond eyebrow at me and flashed a half grin. Gah . . . he even had a killer dimple in his left cheek. I wanted to lick it so bad. I dug the tips of my fingernails into my palms and took a deep breath.
“I’m surprised you know how to do that, Bry . . . have fun.”