Some of the heat had faded, but not nearly enough to make me stop thinking about what we’d done in this kitchen. “In what way am I looking at you?”
“Like you want a repeat of that night.”
Damn. He freaking nailed it right on the head. I didn’t say anything as I crossed my arms under my chest, but I stiffened as he took a step forward. A half foot separated us.
“And you really need to stop,” he said again, his voice low as he lifted his hand, catching the strand of my hair that had fallen loose and tucking it back behind my ear. His knuckles brushed over my cheek. “Because I’m trying to be cool over here.” He lowered his hand. “I’m trying something different.”
“What are you trying?” I asked.
Those amazing lashes lifted once more and his stare pierced me. “I’m trying to be friends with you.”
What Nick had said was like being dunked with ice water and then shoved into a walk-in freezer. It wasn’t so much that he wanted to be friends with me, and I was assuming the kind of friend that didn’t have sex, but it sounded like he’d never been friends with a girl before.
And that didn’t make sense.
There was Roxy, and there had to be other girls he’d been close to that he hadn’t banged. Had to be. Wasn’t there? Then again, Roxy had said something about Nick not having a lot of friends. And there was the whole weird Calla thing.
“You aren’t friends with girls?” I asked, speaking slowly.
“No. Not really.” He paused as he scrubbed his fingers through his hair. “With the exception of Roxy, but I don’t think we’re really friends.”
“She thinks you are.”
His brows lifted, as if he were surprised. “Huh.”
I couldn’t believe this. “What about Calla? She works at the bar when she’s here, right?”
Nick choked out a laugh. “We’re not friends.”
He said that in a way that caused a tiny amount of suspicion to bloom. “Did you two—”
“No. Calla and I didn’t hook up. Jax would toss my ass off a cliff if that was the case. He had it bad for her long before she walked through the bar’s doors,” he said, sighing. “We just aren’t close.”
“Okay.” I leaned against the counter, letting the Calla subject drop. For now. “But you’re twenty-six years old. How in the world have you made it this long without having girl-slash-friends? I don’t get it.”
He cast his gaze toward the living room, a muscle flicking along his jaw. “I did in high school and stuff. I don’t know.” He raised a shoulder. “I just haven’t in years.”
The conversation we had before, where he hinted that he’d been seriously involved with someone and it ended badly, resurfaced. I didn’t need to be a psychologist to figure the fallout from that relationship had affected all his relationships with women.
Nick had the kind of baggage airlines charged extra for.
Which was another reason for me to get my libido under control when it came to him.
“You feeling up to visiting Reece?” he asked, changing the subject.
Knowing what I did, I should’ve said no, but he’d made me chicken soup from scratch. How could I? “I think so.”
A wide smile transformed his face from striking to breathtaking. “Great. You ready to head up? All you need is shoes.”
I glanced down at myself with a frown. “Maybe I should change.”
“Not necessary.” He turned away, picking up the container and carrying it to the fridge. “You look beautiful as you are.”
I stared at his back for what felt like ten minutes and then shook my head. Stepping around him, I walked to my bedroom and grabbed a pair of flats. Back in the living room, I swiped my keys. “Ready.”
Nick grinned as he swaggered past me, opening the door. “Ladies first.”
Reece lived a couple of floors up, and as we neared his door, laughter could be heard. Nick knocked, and it wasn’t the young cop who answered, but an older, more rugged version of Reece. Brown hair cut close to the skull and a heavy stubble across his jaw, his blue eyes as bright as the ocean.
“Hey, bud.” The guy shook Nick’s hand as he stepped aside and reached back, picking up a bottle he’d placed on a shelf. He gave me the once-over. “And who’s this?”
“Stephanie,” Nick said, placing his hand on my lower back, ushering me in. “She lives downstairs. New to town. This is Colton, by the way, Reece’s older brother.”
Ah, that made sense. “Nice to meet you.”
Colton smiled as he passed a quizzical gaze at Nick. “It’s good to meet you. Come on in. They’re about to get started.”
I followed Colton into an apartment that was larger than mine. Sparse and tidy, Reece kept good house. Several people were in his living room. I recognized Reece right off the bat. He was standing by the window, a beer in his hand, but not the guy who sat on the couch. Based on his buzz cut, I was going to take a wild guess and say he was a cop. There was a woman sitting on the arm on the other side of the couch. Her dark hair brushed her shoulders as she glanced up and smiled.
Reece looked over and did a double take, quickly hiding his surprise with a slow smile. “Hey guys.” Amusement twinkled in his eyes. “Glad you all could make it.”
I smiled, giving the small group a little wave. “Hi.”
Colton eased past us, dropping onto the couch beside the woman. “I guess I’ll do the introductions since Reece is an asshole. This is my girlfriend, Abby,” he said, introducing us. “And this other guy over here is Brad.”
His brother snorted. “Yeah, I am terrible at that shit.”
Brad glanced up and nodded slightly, and curiosity crawled across Abby’s pretty face. “I’m Steph,” I said. “Nice to meet you all.”
Reece glanced at Nick, raising his brow as Brad leaned forward, picking something small and black off the coffee table. The TV screen shifted, revealing they were playing a game.
“Game night,” Brad explained, waving a controller. “It’s an epic Mario Kart death match. We go in rounds—partners. I’m stuck with that loser.” He nodded at Reece.
Reece raised his middle finger.
“Do you play?” Nick asked, turning around.
I nodded. “Not in a while. I kind of suck.”
“That’s okay.” He grabbed two chairs from the kitchen and brought them into the living room, placing them near the couch. “I’m the best Mario Kart player in the world.”
“You think he’s exaggerating?” Colton laughed, shaking his head. “He’s not. It’s like he was born playing this game.”
“It’s because I have a lot of time on my hands,” Nick replied as I sat on the chair closest to Abby. “That’s why.”
Reece snickered as he walked around the coffee table. “That’s such bullshit and you know it.”
My little ears perked up at that comment, but Nick didn’t respond as he sat beside me. So if Nick said he had lots of time on his hands, but Reece called bs on that, what was Nick doing that he didn’t want to talk about? I told myself that even if we were becoming friends, it wasn’t any of my business, especially right now, but dammit, I wanted to know.