Cole came up to them, greeted Faith, then turned to Mia. With his hand held out to her, he said, “Hello, beautiful.” When she shook his hand, he enclosed it in both of his. “I’m Cole Kilbourne. It's normal to be intimidated by me, but try to get over that, because I have a feeling we’re going to be very, very close.”
A little laugh huffed from Mia’s lips. Then the fact that he was totally serious hit, and full, rolling laughter burst out.
“Oh, I can see why you’re such a favorite.” She pulled her hand from his and patted the stool on the other side of her. “Come sit, Cole. Let’s get to know each other.”
When Cole moved to her other side, Mia winked at Faith, who grinned, rolled her eyes, picked up her drink, and wandered to her boyfriend’s side.
Before Mia had fully turned back to Cole, something flew over her head, bounced off Cole’s forehead, and landed on the bar. A balled-up napkin. Frowning, Mia glanced over her shoulder and found Tate stabbing the air in their direction.
“Sisters are off-limits, Kilbourne. Touch her and you’ll wish you’d never heard of the Rough Riders.”
That. That right there had governed so much of her childhood, she couldn’t even see how or when it had insinuated its way into the fabric of her life. She and Rafe might never have taken their friendship to the next level even if they’d been left to follow their hearts, but Tate’s fierce protective streak made just the thought an absolute impossibility.
That, plus the fact that Rafe barely even acknowledged her existence anymore, along with all the stress built up from this new job, was pushing her over the line tonight.
She opened her mouth to tell Tate to grow up and stay out of her business, but Cole touched her jaw and brought her gaze around to his. “Ignore him. I’m way more interesting.”
Mia let her frustration toward Tate ebb. Tate wouldn’t change. Rafe wouldn’t change. The complex relationships between their bizarre, makeshift little family wouldn’t change.
But Mia could change. Mia had changed. And what she needed most right now was to stay focused on her primary goal: getting her heart unhooked from a ridiculous fantasy she’d held on to since adolescence—her romantic feelings for Rafe.
Once she accomplished that, everything else would fall into place.
And since Rafe was pulling his new normal tonight and avoiding her, Mia was going to have to take more desperate measures. What the hell? She didn’t have anything better to do. And she sure didn’t have anything to lose either.
So she leaned into the bar, smiled at Cole, and said, “Tell me about yourself.”
An older man in a staff uniform smiled as they approached the entrance to the restaurant. Rafe opened his mouth to tell him what name the reservations were under but Ashlee spoke first.
“Reservations under Savage,” she said. “Rafe Savage. I called down earlier and spoke with the restaurant manager, Dennis. He said he would reserve table twelve for us.” She glanced at Rafe. “Twelve is our lucky number, right? Your jersey number and the number I picked to win this dinner? It’s okay, isn’t it? I know hockey players are superstitious and all, but I figured if your number was twelve, you couldn’t have superstitions against it, right? Now, thirteen, definitely. And if there had been a table numbered sixty-nine, well, you know I would have jumped on that one first, but of course there’s not. Could you imagine how big a restaurant would have to be to have sixty-nine tables?”
“This way please.” The older man was trying—and failing—to hide his grin when he turned away and started into the restaurant.
But Rafe stood there frozen for a long second, mouth still hanging open at the babble that had rolled out of the woman’s mouth in mere seconds.
How much trouble would he be in if he turned and walked out? Really? What could they do to him? Tate was right about benching him. In the normal season, he’d definitely be risking missing out on playing time, but not with the playoffs.
Her voice cut off his hopes of running. He refocused on her. She stood about twenty feet away, between two tables of diners, looking back at him over her shoulder. Her silky straight blonde hair swept over her bare, tanned skin revealed by the open back of her dress. And damn, the woman had an incredible ass.
An image of her riding him while he gripped that ass and hauled her into his thrusts flashed in his brain. His blood drizzled south and his cock tingled. Unfortunately, not as much as he preferred. Or needed.
But Rafe took a deep breath, straightened his shoulders, and sighed. She was probably just nervous. After a drink or two, she’d relax. After a drink or five, he wouldn’t care what she said. “Yep, right here.”