Playing With Fire

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After putting my bed together, I decide that I’ve had enough physical activity for the day and lay out on Andy’s sofa. Just as I prop my feet up on his coffee table, though he picks them up and drops them down on the floor. I roll my eyes at him and huff.

“Lolo is helping her sister Elena move into her new apartment in Cambridge this weekend so that’s why she isn’t here, but she’ll be back in a few days. I have to go take the U-Haul back now. Try not to burn the place down while I’m gone.”

I narrow my eyes, my mouthing fixing into a scowl. “Is this going to be a regular thing? You talking to me like I’m six?”

“Sutton! Watch my sister. But not too closely!” He calls out to Lucas before barreling through the front door. As soon as I hear the click of the lock, I stand and Lucas is at my side.

“Holli, what the hell?!” He whisper shouts. I suppose I should take offense to the panic swirling in those dark, green eyes, but I understand his surprise. Last night-- that bone melting night-- was the first time I’d ever done anything of the sort and in keeping with one night stand etiquette, I figured it best to forgo the basic details about me that I was sure he wouldn’t remember anyway, and get right to the good parts. How the hell was I supposed to know the guy was a professional football player, let alone my brother’s teammate? I don’t even watch sports.

I shrug. “Don’t ‘what the hell, Holli’ me. I was just as surprised as you. You know, he doesn’t talk about you that much,” I say, snorting. Surely if they were such good friends, Andy would’ve mentioned him before today.

He runs a hand through his dark blonde curls and I hide my smirk at his worried expression. “This is so bad. Really, really bad. Do you know what he’d do to me if he found out?”

“He’s not going to find out and I’m sure as hell not about to tell him.”

Luke exhales and the relief in his voice is so palpable I want to laugh. It’s short-lived though as frustration and anxiety mar those pretty boy features of his. “How did I let this happen?”

I frown, unable to hide my irritation coming to the forefront. “You didn’t let anything happen. We were two horny, consenting adults that met in a trashy dive bar, then I brought you home like a stray cat to fuck in a hotel suite. This isn’t the eighteen hundreds for fuck’s sake. You don’t owe my brother a dowry for my hand in marriage, let alone an explanation. And quite frankly, this whole display of guilt is unbecoming of you.”

Lucas’s eyes widen in surprise, but that beautiful mouth-- the one that tended to me so well, less than twenty four hours ago-- turns down into a deeper frown. “You can’t pretend that this isn’t a big deal. This isn’t about you. This is about years of friendship!” He scrubs a hand over his face and I’m surprised at my irritation.

Rather than dwell on the fact that Lucas seems to deeply regret one of the best nights I’ve had in-- well, ever-- I realize I’m more pissed that he’s making me out to be some extension of my brother-- like I’m Andy’s property or something. It also doesn’t help that after a childhood under such a domineering sibling, this feels as though Andy’s control has reached its hand into my life once more.

“Yeah, yeah. Bros before hoes. I get it,” I mumble, dispassionately.

“No. This is not that, Holli. You just don’t fuck a man’s baby sister. Not when said man is your best friend. Can you at least try to see things from my perspective here?”

I snort, crossing my arms over my chest. “Honestly, I don’t see what the big deal is. We both had a good time last night. Now it’s over and it’s not like you owe me anything so I’m not sure what the issue is here. In fact, if you’d like, we don’t ever have to bring it up again...” I trail off, looking at the chipped dark plum polish on my fingernails. “Unless you were hoping for a round two?”

I raise my brow at him, half-joking, but also kind of serious. Lucas Sutton is probably one of the most beautiful men I’ve met in my lifetime and I lived in California for four years so that’s saying a lot. With all that glorious, suntanned skin like Andy and I, and his long blonde curls, the resemblance to my brother and I is uncanny, now that I think about it. Though, his freckles are on his nose, not his cheeks and his big eyes with those enviable lashes are also green, not hazel.

But his body? Jesus Christ. If I had known arms and legs like that existed in the world, I’d have told Winston to shove it with his half-assed proposal. They say hindsight is always twenty twenty, but looking back I have no idea why the hell I was so desperate to be loved that I sacrificed my entire life to up and marry the first guy to look at me. Yeah, Winston may have soured the idea of marriage for me forever but if sex with a whole slew of six-foot-three, two-hundred-ten-pound Nordic gods is my consolation prize for making it out on the other side, I’m more than okay with that.

I hadn’t intended to hop into bed with him so quickly-- hell, the last thing on my mind when I hailed an Uber to that bar last night was sex-- but, I’d gotten off the plane with two new emails from Peggy, my shark of a divorce lawyer-- no doubt, a referral made by my brother's longtime lawyer-- and decided I needed something stronger than hotel bar wine. And to feel like a normal twenty six year old for once.

However, by the time I sat down, my three glasses of pinot had already begun to kick in and gave me a little too much courage. By the time I even realized that I’d brought a gorgeous man back to my hotel room, my bravado had faded and just looking at him made me nervous as hell. He was that fucking beautiful. I must’ve played it off well though, because he’d fucked me six ways to Sunday and it was hands down the best sex I’d ever had in my life. Before last night, I had no idea why people did one night stands. Of the handful of times Winston and I had done it, I’d figured it was the same for everyone. Boy was I wrong.

“Hey, while you’re living here, you can’t say stuff like that to me. We’ve got to establish boundaries. No flirting, no sexual innuendos, none of that. I’m serious Holli.” Lucas’s beautiful eyes harden. Determined in a way that causes my inner conscious to roll her eyes.

“Boundaries?” I wrinkle my nose, then smirk. “Are you afraid you might not be able to resist me?”

Lucas grins at me. “You’re cute... But you’re not that cute.”

Ouch. His comment smarts, but I just shrug. He’s totally right. Lucas is a professional football player, a gorgeous one. And he could probably have an entire roster of Hustler centerfolds kneeling at his feet if he wanted. Meanwhile, I’m a nobody. Just the bratty sister of his best friend and teammate. Before Winston, boys paid me zero attention and people called me Holy Holli for a reason. But still. I’ll be damned before I let him think he’s hurt my feelings.

“Listen, let’s just try to forget that last night ever happened. We can be cordial with each other and Anderson never has to know,” he says when I don’t respond.

I nod. “I can do that.”

Lucas takes another relieved breath and I contain my eyeroll. “So, your brother tells me you’re not engaged anymore. Is that why you decided to come back home?”

I still. The last thing I want to talk about is Winston. To Anyone. “That’s a little personal for cordial don’t you think?” I ask, not looking at him. The scent of his cologne surrounds me and it makes my head swim. Unwarranted, mental images of last night pop into my head and I stifle a groan at one particular flashback of his head between my legs.

“Just trying to make conversation.”

“Well, don’t.” I stand up from the couch and head for the stairs to put some much needed distance between us. Toeing the line of the parameters Lucas has set for our interactions is all fine and dandy for me, if that’s what he wants but that doesn’t entitle him to the details of my marriage. Divorce. You’re divorced now.

The only person who needs to know about what happened with Winston is my brother, Janelle, Dr. Reuter, my psychiatrist and Peggy.

Inside of my room, I’m overwhelmed by the number of unopened boxes surrounding my bed. Rather than unpack I decide to return to the book I began reading on the flight last night. I’m nearly halfway finished by the time I hear the alarm of the front door indicating Anderson is back.

I hear the muffled sound of footsteps ascending the stairs and when he knocks at my door, I tell him it’s open. He enters the room and I brace myself for the impending lecture. My big brother is no doubt, about to lay out the law for me. Just like when we were growing up.

“’Sup?” I mumble, sitting my book down on my stomach.

Andy runs a hand through his hair and I wait for him to begin what I’m sure is going to be an uncomfortable talk. We have an understanding that he won’t grill me about Winston so long as I’m seeing Dr. Reuter, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have more grievances to air. And unfortunately for me, I’m not exactly in a position to argue. “Holiday, I’m excited that you’re going to be staying here with me because I’ve missed you. But we need to go over some ground rules while you’re living in my house.”

And there it is. I’d originally agreed to move in with Andy because he’d threatened to tell our parents about Winston if I hadn’t. Even at the time I’d known what that meant. I might be an adult, but from here on out, I’d be back under my brother’s control. “Okay. What kind of rules?”

“Firstly, whatever is mine is yours, okay? This is your home now too, so I want you to feel comfortable here. Secondly, I’m not going to try to control your life, but I’m not comfortable with you bringing guys back here so if—”

I hold up my hand to interrupt. “Let me stop you right there. You have nothing to worry about when it comes to that. I promise.” Especially since Lucas doesn’t seem to want a repeat of last night. The revelation makes me frown internally.

“Still... Which brings me to my other rules-- You have a curfew. You can’t come busting into my house at all hours of the morning, I’m an athlete and I need sleep and I have a wife. Your curfew is two on weekdays, three on weekends except for the night before a game. If you miss it, you’ll be locked out. The keypad is locked between two and six, or unless I disarm it.

“And lastly, this isn’t a rule Holiday because I realize I can’t tell you what to do, but it’s a strong request. Stay far away from my teammates. I’m telling you right now Hols, they are not the kind of guys you want to be getting involved with.” He continues when he sees the expression on my face and holds his hands up. “Hear me out. I’m not naive enough to think none of them will try anything with you and I’m not saying this because they’re not good guys, but I don’t think you should have the kind of attention that comes with a professional athlete, on you. At least not right now. You and I both know how dangerous that could be. You feel me?”

I shrug, but inside, I’m actually surprised. Mostly because all of his rules actually sound pretty reasonable in comparison to the ones he used to try to enforce on me back when we lived in our parents’ house.


I listen as Anderson continues on about his practice and game schedule and lets me know which days he’ll be away for a game. I didn’t realize how much of his life was consumed by football but I’m also glad we won’t be crossing paths too often.

“And one more thing, Hols. I want you to know I’m sorry. For all those years I wasn’t fair to you. I thought I was being a good big brother, but after seeing what you went through with that guy, it made me realize that I wasn’t any better. Which is probably what made you go for that jerk in the first place. You were used to being talked to and treated like that and you shouldn’t have been.” My jaw nearly hits the floor at the shame in Andy’s downcast, hazel eyes.

Now, this completely throws me. I was expecting a long lecture about how I need to be a better judge of character and then these kinds of things won’t happen to me. I was prepared for the third degree about how no woman should get engaged after just six months. I definitely did not expect this.

“You’re apologizing to me? Who are you and what have you done with my brother?” I ask, raising a brow.

Andy smiles. “I guess I am... And he’s growing up and wants to see his baby sister do the same.”

“Cool. But can we keep hating each other though? Because those lovey-dovey siblings creep me the fuck out.”

He laughs. “Definitely.”

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