Ashlee lifted her eyes from her phone, cast one look through the lobby, and her gaze froze on Rafe. Her face lit up like a starburst. The stress in Rafe’s gut eased. A smile lifted his lips.
Yes. This was exactly what he needed. This was exactly the kind of woman who could make Rafe forget all about Mia out somewhere getting it on with a stranger.
He met Ashlee in the middle of the lobby, pulled up his best smile, and held out his hand. “Hi, Ashlee—”
“Oh my.” She took his hand, but not to shake. She laid her fingers in his while her gaze roamed his body, shoulders to toes. “Don’t you look mouthwatering. Is that Armani? I do believe I remember reading that you are one of the sharpest dressers on your team, and I couldn’t agree more.”
Then she met his eyes, took another step closer, into his personal space, where her extremely feminine scent touched his nose. Her eyes were blue. Almost otherworldly blue, thanks to her obviously colored contacts. But that didn’t dim the heat there or the sly edge in her smile. “I certainly hope I’ll get to see the legendary Savage beneath all this glamour tonight.”
Rafe almost laughed with the surety of this score. His grin was wide as he wrapped his fingers around her hand, smoothly turned toward the restaurant, slid his other arm low on her waist, and walked her that direction. “Let’s talk that over during dinner.”
A short dinner, if he had anything to say about it. The quicker he could get his mind off Mia and how badly he wished he were walking toward a long-drawn-out night with his best friend’s little sister, the better.
Mia stuffed her phone into her purse, picked up her wine, and finished off the glass, then signaled the bartender for another.
Anger burned through her chest, but it almost immediately mellowed into hurt. A deep, frustrating hurt. One that made her eyes tear up.
Faith, girlfriend of Rough Riders’ center Grant Saber, turned from listening to the guys talk over the game and asked Mia, “Is he coming?”
“Nope." She thanked the bartender for her fresh glass of wine, then took a drink. She laughed, but there was no humor in it. “Maybe I’ll just move across the country without telling him. Let him hear it from Tate.”
She shook her head, her mind combing over the last year for clues to the change in their relationship. But she came up empty like always.
“I don’t get it. I just… We’ve been friends for years. Good friends, you know? If it weren’t for Tate, I’d say we were best friends. I know I’m his best girl friend. Or I was. Why would he just brush me off like this?”
“Maybe he’s going through a phase,” Faith offered, her voice compassionate. “Grant says he’s always hooking up with someone new. When I’m with the guys after the games, he eats up the puck bunny attention. He’s a good guy, but he’s not worth the aggravation, Mia. You have enough to think about right now.”
Faith was right, Mia did have a lot on her plate. The problem was, she needed one very big thing off her plate to make room for the rest, and that thing was Rafe. But she couldn’t do that if he didn’t cooperate.
But she wasn’t going to waste her time with friends bitching over it.
“You’re right. Screw him.” Mia stuffed the hurt and pulled up a smile. She reached out, tugging at the extra fabric on Faith’s boxy top. “Sweetie, don’t take this wrong, but is that the best jersey you can find?”
“Right?” She exclaimed, eyes wide, hand open and gesturing to the front of her body. “I said the exact same thing when I put it on tonight. I told Grant these women’s jerseys are so boring. They’re just like the men’s, just a little better fit. But nothing fun, nothing cute. If they’re going to go to all the trouble to design a whole line of women’s wear, it should be more than just a slimmed-down version of the men’s.”
”Sparkles and glitter,” Mia said in agreement. “And they ought to show some skin.”
“While we’re on the subject, I hate you for looking so ridiculously hot in that dress. Tell me where you got it.”
“Mmm,” Mia said around a sip of wine. “I made it. One of many I designed during this last apprenticeship.”
“No. Way.” She scanned Mia again, mouth open. “I really, really hate you now. Unless you’ll make me one. Then I won’t hate you quite so much.”
She lifted her brows. “Do you have a sewing machine?”
“Me? Ha. No.” Her face brightened. “But Beckett’s mom does. And I’m pretty sure his sister Sarah does too. In fact, I bet she’d love to talk to you while you’re in town. She’s gotten really into making things for the girls. She’s always altering patterns and doing really fun outfits.”