My seams twitched, along with my eyes, which pulled from his abs and to his face. I was still frowning, and his eyebrows rose in response. “Not a chocolate fan?”
He leaned a hand on the Coke machine, and the new pose popped unique muscles and pushed at the limits of my control. I fought to maintain eye contact. “Not a Milky Way fan.”
“Then what’s the big debate?”
“Starburst or Twix.” I shouldn’t be talking to him. Three conversations were three too many. On the other hand, it wasn’t physically possible for my feet to walk away. They refused, rooted deep in the hotel carpet.
He straightened, reaching a hand into the pocket of his pajamas. The dig slid the waistband lower, and I looked away, hearing the low scrapes of a chuckle. “Here.” He spoke, and I looked over, seeing his hand outstretched, cupped around a stack of change. “Get both.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“Shut up and take the money. Otherwise I’ll be here all night waiting on you to make up your mind.”
I twisted my mouth at him and held out a hand under his, the exchange of coins managed without any physical contact.
He said nothing as I inserted my dollar and the change, my fingers quick as they jabbed at the buttons. The moment grew uncomfortable, and I bent over, pushing the drawer open and reaching in for my candy.
When I straightened, I caught his eyes on my ass, and they darted, guilty as sin, back to my face. I ignored it, nodding politely to him as I lifted the candy in parting. “Thanks.” I stepped around him and walked toward my room, trying for a slow and leisurely stroll, when all I wanted to do was sprint.
“What are you doing now?”
I stopped, glancing back at him. “Going to my room.”
“You share a room with your dad?”
I narrowed my eyes. “Does it matter?”
He shrugged, pushing his hands in his pockets, his shoulders cupping forward. “I can’t sleep. Thought I’d walk down to the marina. You been?”
He chuckled, as if that was funny. “Want to go again?”
“You want me to go down to the marina with you?” I turned fully around to face him, my mind too slow to comprehend.
“Jesus, Ty. To talk. To get to know each other. It’s not an orgy invitation.”
“I’m not supposed to talk to you.”
“You know.” I waved my hand in his general direction. “Your reputation.”
“It’s a walk.” He glanced to the machine, dropping in some change and punching at a button. “But whatever. Enjoy your night.” The machine rumbled, and he crouched, pulling out a Gatorade.
I hovered, my candy in hand, and weighed my options.
I knew what I should do. Trot back down the hall and to my room. Lock the door, crawl into bed, and order a movie.
Instead, I stepped toward him, his eyes on mine as he twisted off the Gatorade lid and lifted it to his lips. “A short walk,” I countered, stopping before him.
“Fine.” He shrugged.
I smiled despite myself, and there, in the quiet hallway of the twenty-seventh floor, he smiled back.
The hotel towered over the marina, both of them stuck on the edge of the Tampa Bay. We said little in the elevator, the silence uncomfortable, and I relaxed a bit when we stepped out the back doors and into the night air. It was late, the restaurant closed, few lights on, and our walk to the dock went unnoticed. My dad was probably sleeping, our goodnights said an hour before, his room quiet when I’d slipped out to get a snack. Still, I felt nervous. With every person we passed, I held my breath, worried about another teammate, or a coach, a media hound, or even a fan.
A breeze broke up the balmy night, and the tension in my shoulders relaxed a bit with each step farther into the dark, away from the hotel. When we reached one end, a mammoth yacht beside us, he crouched down, swinging his feet out and sitting down on the edge, looking up at me. “Sit down.”
I did, leaving enough space between that we didn’t touch. Before us, a gap between the boats, a twinkle of city lights lined the top of dark water.
He was a quiet guy. He sat there and said nothing, his Gatorade occasionally lifting to his lips, his strong profile lit gently by the yacht’s lights. I didn’t speak. Ten years with my father had gotten me accustomed to stretches of silence. I opened my Starburst package and pulled out a yellow cube. Unwrapping it carefully, I sucked the gummy candy into my mouth and leaned back on my palms. Against my bare legs, the night breeze tickled.
“You normally do this? Come on the road with the team?”
I rolled the candy in my mouth. “Yep.”
“Must make a social life hard.”
I turned and looked at him. “It’s the same schedule you’ve been on for three years. Doesn’t look like it’s cramped your style any.”
“I’m not a teenage girl. Don’t you guys have sleepovers and—”
“—pillow fights?” I cut him off. “No.” I reconsidered the question. “At least I don’t. Friends aren’t something I have a lot of.” Any of.
“I don’t know. Lack of options?” I didn’t look at him. “No one else travels with the team except a few wives. And I’m home schooled so…” I lifted a shoulder. “My dad and I are close. And the guys on the team keep me company.”
I risked a look at him. The darkness shielded most of his face, dim hints of his beauty peeking out at me. But I could see him looking back at me, the eye contact I was so scared of right there, his face expectant, his question hanging in the dark.
“I don’t think you can ask me that.”
I stuffed another Starburst in my mouth. “I don’t have a boyfriend.” I rushed out the words, the response barely audible through the candy, my cheeks burning.
If I expected a response, I was disappointed. He tilted back his Gatorade and took a long sip. I tried to think of something, a change in subject, but couldn’t find a single question that didn’t border on inappropriate.
He broke the silence. “I hate traveling.” He screwed the lid on the bottle and flipped it into the air, catching it with one hand. “Why don’t you stay home? Be a normal teenager?”