Steven Thomas lived in the ninth level of hell, or so he’d been told enough times. Mostly by women who hated him, because he slept with them and didn’t call them back. He was always up-front about his expectations of women, and never led them to believe he was looking for more than a one-night stand, yet they never seemed to believe him. Even with all that, he was pretty damn certain they were right.
As if being a Navy SEAL doing morally questionable things in the name of freedom and country wasn’t enough to fuck him over with the big man upstairs, the way he’d been acting ever since he returned to civilization would be. Maybe there was no saving him, but after getting shot overseas and almost dying, he was determined to have the best time possible before jumping into that fiery pit with a grin on his face.
But he wasn’t fighting overseas anymore. Now, he was a security agent at the Shillings Agency, and he protected rich dudes while they golfed.
Another thing he was trying to accept.
Till he figured out what came next, he was going to have fun. Live life. Drink merrily. Screw beautiful women. Be wild and free. After all the shit he’d done, he was never, ever settling down. It wasn’t in his blood—unlike his best friend, Holt Cunningham, who had settled down with Steven’s baby sister.
The little fucker…
“Dude.” Holt sat next to him, letting out a long breath as he settled in. “Why do you look like you’re about to go all Dalek on a bunch of Cybermen?”
Steven rolled his eyes at Holt’s Doctor Who reference, and downed the last of his drink. It burned going down—just the way he liked it. It blurred his vision a little bit more—also the way he liked it. “If I was going to delete anyone from this universe, it would be you, dumbass.”
“Ah.” Holt sighed and leaned on the bar, completely unfazed by the threat to his safety. His brown hair was messed up to perfection—as it always was—and he studied Steven with somber blue eyes. “What did I do this time?”
“Besides falling for my sister…?”
“Guilty as charged. And I’d do it all over again.” Holt grinned, staring across the bar at something. That “something” was more than likely Steven’s sister, Lydia. “But that’s not what’s bugging you. It’s been a year.”
A year. A whole damn year.
“She’s not drinking tonight,” Steven said, having his suspicions as to why she wasn’t.
“Yeah.” Holt flushed and ruffled his hair. Steven’s instincts were spot on. That was Holt’s tic, when he was trying to hide something. Steven was good at reading people, and even better at spotting evasion. “And? Why is that so weird? She likes soda, too.”
He could call him on it. Ask Holt point-blank if he’d gotten his sister pregnant. Despite his avoidance, his friend wasn’t typically a liar. But if they weren’t ready to tell anyone yet, he could wait patiently. He wouldn’t be upset about a baby, so the couple’s secrecy was odd. The idea of a little niece or nephew felt…nice.
“Is she feeling okay?” Steven asked. He needed to find out that much, at least. “Like, is she all right?”
“Yeah. She just had an upset stomach earlier,” Holt muttered, still not looking at him. “She’ll be fine.”
In nine months. “Good.”
“We’re going to be expected to dance soon. Did you bring Lauren?”
Without really wanting to, Steven scanned the room for the familiar brunette. Lauren Brixton. His other best friend. She stood off to the side, chatting up some tall, blond man he vaguely recognized from accounting.
Why the hell was she talking to that dude?
He was a prick, and everyone knew it.
“Yeah.” Steven shifted his weight on the stool, narrowing his eyes when she placed her hand on the asshole’s arm. “She came as my plus one.”
“These work events are too boring without one.” Holt flagged down the bartender, his glasses askew and his black suit jacket unbuttoned. “I’ll take another Coke, please. And a ginger ale, too.”
So. Holt wasn’t drinking because Lydia wasn’t.
He liked that.
Lifting his hand, he held his empty glass up. “And I’ll have another whiskey.”
Holt frowned. “What is that? Your fourth?”
“We’ve only been here an hour, man.” Holt adjusted his glasses. “Slow down, or I’ll have to carry your drunk ass out of here…again.”
“The way I see it, you owe me at least ten more of those nights,” Steven said, keeping his voice light even though Holt was pissing him off. After all, Holt had no room to talk. A year ago, he’d been drinking heavily and spending all his free time in bars, and Steven had been the one telling him to slow down.