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“Thanks for hanging out today. I’ll be live at the gym tomorrow at 6am if you want to work out with me. I’ve got a new drink this week. Spoiler: Mitchel and Megan at Buck Farms sent me some bomb shit. Y’all know how I love their fresh caramel. Well, they have new cinnamon caramel…so that’s definitely going down on Thursday for all my baristas and baristos out there. And of course, don’t forget the clothing launch is this Saturday, nine-am pacific standard time. I’ll be wearing my favorites all week so y’all can see, starting with this zip hoodie. I’ve already gotten messages about it. It’s my favorite thing from this coming launch and it comes in three colors. So check it out. Anyway, I gotta go. The guys will kick my ass if I’m late tonight. Have a good night and remember, it doesn’t matter if you’re livin’ the low life or the high life, just make sure you’re livin’ your best life.”

I stop filming and take a moment to make sure there’s no issue posting. I fall back on the couch and open my inbox. It’s already full. Questions about tomorrow’s workout, wanting links for this and that, a million questions about the launch, and of course, the usual messages that are not rated PG and ones that are full of hate. I go through as many as I can, replying, ignoring, or just double tapping so they know I read it.

“Yo,” Corey hollers from the front door. “You ready?”

I flop my phone on my chest and give myself a good head scratch. “Yeah. I’m ready.”

Corey leans against the wall and watches me carefully. Out of our group, he’s the most proper. Dressed in chinos and a button down like he’s always ready for a meeting. He’s been like that since I can remember. In school he had a briefcase instead of a backpack. It’s just who he is.

“I’m shocked you’re coming out again. That’s what? Five? Six times in the last two months?”

I give him a pointed look. Not super interested in being psychoanalyzed by someone I’ve seen go mute in front of a girl he liked.

He raises his hands. “Just saying…” There’s a minute of silence because I don’t feel obligated to entertain his judgment. He pushes off from the wall and comes closer. “You were on a lot today.”

“Isn’t that the point?”

“Yeah…but you’re not usually on that much.”

“I should be.” I heft myself off the couch and grab my keys. “Let’s roll. I don’t want to get my ass chewed because you wanted to have a heart-to-heart.”

“Fuck you. I’m not trying to have a heart-to-heart. As your advisor, I’m making sure everything is okie dokie.”

“Everything is okie dokie,” I confirm.

“That would mean more if you tried at all to sound convincing, which you didn’t.”

I ignore him and head to his car. “I found a really great pop-up camper,” I tell him as we settle in for the drive to Seattle for what is now the seventh guys night in two months.

“And by really great you mean a total shit show?” Corey grins. He already knows the answer. I buy projects. It’s what I do. It’s what reels viewers in and it’s something I enjoy.

“The frame is in good shape.”

“Fuck,” he laughs. “And the rest of it?”

“ already reached out and they’re willing to give us full catalog access, expedited shipping, plus three thousand a week for product recognition.”

Corey purses his lips as he mulls it over. I’ve already got him hooked. If Corey hated the idea, he would’ve voiced it already. “Minimum?”

“Four weeks secured pay.”

“Do you think you can finish it in four weeks?”

“You know I can but we need to time it so it doesn’t interfere with other partnerships. If I do the camper, it’s all I’m posting about for four weeks.”

“We can still squeeze other partnerships in there.”

“Not without losing viewership. It’s a balance, you know this,” I say, looking at him pointedly, like he hasn’t heard this before.

He rolls his eyes. This is the part of the job that’s a double-edged sword. Partnerships bring in money but viewers hate partnerships because they’re advertisements. They think it means we’ve sold out. They want 24/7 access to you but they don’t want you to make money doing it.

“I have a killer idea for the camper and a plan to make a bit of coin off of it. I’ve reached out to a few places who are willing to help with some of the customized parts that will bring the idea to life. When it’s all finished, I’m going to do an online auction and sell the camper to the highest bidder.”

“What do you think it will go for?”

“Twenty?” I guess. “I’ll be in it for zero. The camper is being given to me and everything else will be on trade. I’ll make money off of and the sale of the trailer.”

Corey’s fingers strum the steering wheel as he thinks. “This would be the perfect winter project. We can get everything lined out, knock it out, and sell it in February, right before spring break and the start of camping season.”

Not that I need his approval, but we’re a team, so bahis şirketleri I’m glad to see him on board. We spend the rest of the trip spitballing ideas.

When we pull into the parking lot, I scan the cars. Then I chastise myself for scanning the cars. Then I scan the cars one more time in case.

“You love him,” Corey teases as he gets out of the car. “Every time we come here, you get all fidgety.”

“I’m not fidgety.”

“That’s the part you deny? Oh man, you got it baa-aad.” His voice grates on me, all sing-songy.

“I figured the part where I don’t love him was implied,” I grumble, then try to maim him with my mind power. That only fuels him. The bastard starts walking like Tigger, with a bounce in his step and a mischievous grin on his face. Then the fuckhead starts sprinting. He just can’t wait to get inside and throw me under the bus.

When I finally join them, everyone’s looking at me with maniacal smiles. I shake my head at their boyish nonsense. “Don’t you guys have anything better to do than make up fantasies about my nonexistent love life?”

Isaac greets me with the signature hand shake we’ve been doing since we were twelve and thought we were cool. Now we’re in our late twenties and know we’re cool. “Your potential love life could get us season tickets.”

I push him away. “Y’all are dreamin’.” I glance at our spot and frown. “Why are people sitting at our table?”

“Because it’s not our table. Unlike your boyfriend and his friends, we have to get here early to stake a claim. That clearly didn’t happen today,” Cole says as someone brushes past him. He holds his glass away from his body just as the drink spills everywhere.

Isaac looks at me and sighs. “If only we could somehow get invited to the big table…”

“Yeah, that would be cool,” I deadpan.

There’s a beat of silence. No words, just a few not-so-subtle glances of impatience. Finally, Isaac throws his hands in the air. “You’re such a prick sometimes. You barely have to flex your stupid muscles and bam Seattle’s BOOM are begging us to sit with them.”

“Begging?” I ask with one brow raised. “Seems excessive.” I glance at the empty table towards the back, then think back to two months ago when I forfeited any flex the guys think I have.

“They’re not even here. I can’t very well snap my fingers and expect them to appear out of thin air. Besides, standing is good for us,” I reason. “It keeps the blood circulating.”

They groan but there’s not much we can do, so we stand around chatting.

“Are they coming tonight?”

I shrug.

“C’mon,” Cole complains. “You’ve barely said two things about Jay in months. You barely even talked to him last time they were here. Give us something!”

Actually, Jay barely talked to me last time we were both here but I know what’s good for me. I eat clean, stay hydrated, work out, and prioritize my mental health (kind of). Telling a group of Seahawk super fans that I told Jay Petermeyer we’d never be a thing would surely shave a few decades off my life.

Then it happens. Light fills the bar and a moment later the hair on my arms stand on end. I tell myself to be cool.

The eyes of my dearest, not-even-a-little-discreet friends track across the bar until they are looking behind me.

The air crackles. I take a breath and turn as casually as I can. I’ve only seen Jay once since that fateful night and it was only a few days after the talk. He was nice, waved even, but he was not the same. There were no lingering looks or heated glances. I was reduced to just another person.

I nod politely at him and his friends then look away, you know, real chill like because it doesn’t bother me at all that we don’t talk or anything. Then my head snaps back. Jay’s leaning against a crutch and his knee is strapped in a thick brace.

My chest tightens.

“Loren,” he greets with more kindness than I deserve. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he’s even a little happy to see me.

My eyes skitter over the rest of his body. Two months. Sixty-ish days. Enough time to forget how well he fills out his clothes. Saliva builds in my mouth, which is fucking ridiculous because he looks like a damn dad in his quarter zip sweater and jeans. A hot dad but still…


I want to say more, ask how things have been, what he’s been up to but I can’t. I gave up that privilege months ago.

Jay studies me for a moment. My body vibrates, desperate to know what he wants to say. Eventually he lets out a long breath then follows his friends to their booth.

Ouch. A self-inflicting ouch but an ouch nonetheless.

“Who’s got the next round?” I ask, if only to distract my friends that are looking at me suspiciously. When no one moves a muscle, I reach for my wallet. “You know what? My shout.” I hurry to the bar. When I get there, I stretch my fingers to stop them from shaking. I use the time to collect myself. There is no fucking reason I should feel this anxious.

Randy bahis firmaları loads me up. I take a breath then head back to the table. They’re still staring at me slack jawed, not distracted at all by my generosity. I pass the drinks around and wait. “Am I drinking alone?”

They take their drinks but continue to watch me skeptically. I sip mine and avoid eye contact while we epically fail to find a table. Every time one opens, someone beats us to it. Despite my earlier blood flow argument, I find myself shifting from one foot to the other the longer we stand.

I glance at Jay, again. He hasn’t looked our way once. Not even for a second. He’s too busy laughing with his teammates. He gestures something to the group and then grabs his crutch and hobbles his way to the bar with Garrett. I do a bang-up job of not watching him laugh with Randy as he orders drinks, or watching as his friend loads the drinks onto a tray. I definitely don’t pay attention as they come to our tables instead of back to theirs.

Jay leans against his crutches and smiles at everyone. “How about a round on us?”

My friends are pleased as peaches as Jay passes drinks around. When he reaches me, he smiles. It would be arrogant for me to say it was a smile reserved just for me but…it is his smile that’s reserved for me. “A greyhound?”

I take the drink and study it. “Are you proposing to me?”

Jay lights up, seemingly happy to be teasing again. “Are you saying yes?”

I lift the drink to my lips and hold Jay’s eye. The flirty look lasts only until Jay shifts awkwardly on his bum leg. My eyes go straight to his injury. “What happened?”

Jay frowns and rubs the top of the thick brace. “Nothing serious.”

“It’s dolled up awfully pretty for not being serious.”

“It’s more of a preventive measure given my history. No one wants to risk this season since it’s a promising one. Hopefully being BFF’s with the team PT will have me back in the game in a few weeks.”

“But you’re benched for now?” I ask. Having googled a little bit about football, I know most contracts have some stipulations about salaries for games played. “Is it still pre-season?”

Jay grins, probably amused by my failed attempt to know what the fuck is happening in his sports. “No, pre-season is long gone. I’ll miss a few games but that’s better than missing the bulk of the season,” he says. “How’re you? Work busy?”

I look at him, nice try, but he can’t change the subject that easily. “What are the chances you’re out for the season?”

“I’m fine,” he says with a happy little smile. “I’ll be careful and do what I need to do. Anyway, I want to know how work is going. Every time I see an ad on TV I wonder if it’s your work.”

I feel the need to press my fingers against my chest to stop my heart from beating out of it. It’s stupid to get this worked up because someone was thinking about me. People think about me all the time.

I clear my throat. “TV isn’t where I do business. It’s internet based. Social media platforms to be exact.”

“I guess that’s kind of the new wave now, isn’t it?”

“Are you on social media?” I ask despite knowing the answer. He has all the major ones; Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. He’s not on Tik Tok which is probably why he doesn’t know who I am. The way that platform works, he would’ve seen at least a dozen of my videos.

“Well, kind of. Jay Petermeyer has a social media presence but it’s rarely me. I mean, I do get on sometimes but I don’t really know how it all works. But my PR team insists I need it. Something about keeping my image, staying relevant with fans, sharing events and what not.”

“But you don’t post anything? It’s all done by your team?”

“If I didn’t post sometimes then the whole thing would be stifled and too professional. I probably should have more involvement though.”

“You should. People who post more personal things tend to have more followers and are held with higher regard because of their transparency. But I also understand there’s a line between wanting to be open with the public and valuing your private life.”

“There is. I’m lucky to have a fan base that’s incredibly respectful of my private life. I have paps and fans that follow me around, but not like some of the other players. Mostly, I’m left in peace.”

“I really think you’d benefit from having a more personal social media presence,” I tell him, “You don’t even have to post personal things, it’s just about showing up.”

“Maybe,” he shrugs. “I’m not that savvy. I don’t really know how they work but I can post a picture with a caption if I’m in a bind.”

“I mean, it’s kind of what I do for a living,” I tell him. “I could show you.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because I believe in what you bring to the table,” I tell him. “I think the world could use a daily dose of Jay Petermeyer.”

“And what about you? Could you use a daily dose of Jay Petermeyer?”

I smile when I realize he has no kaçak bahis siteleri idea what he just propositioned me for. Then it hits him and his neck blooms and his face lights up like the fourth of July. “I didn’t mean it like that. I’m not asking you to give me a–I’m not asking for that. I didn’t mean–I just meant on social media. I’m not–“

I laugh so hard I almost double over. “Jay–” I manage to say. “This is why the world needs you. And yes, I could use a little Jay every day.”

Jay covers his face with his hands. He can’t even make eye contact. “I’m going back to my table.”

I tug his sweater. “Don’t be like that.”

He looks at me, most of the humor gone. He raises his hand and says, “If it’s work, work, gym, rock-climbing, work–if there’s no room for me in your schedule, then I should definitely go back to my table.”

Fuck. Panicked, I pull his sweater to keep him where he’s at. “I was serious when I said I’d help you with your social media.”

“It’s not going to be work, work, gym, rock-climbing, work, Jay’s social, then Jay all the way at the bottom. It’s not going to be like that. But–” he says with an offering of hope, “if something changes, you know where to find me.

Even with a limp, he walks away with confidence, if that’s even possible. I’m left feeling like an idiot because I put myself out there and for what? Fucking nothing.

I do my damnedest to let it go.

“Why are you glaring at Jay?”

“I’m not glaring.”

Corey, Cole, and Isaac look at me like I’m an idiot. Twenty plus years later and they know me better than anyone. They can see past the bullshit.

Cole leans forward and waits for me to look at him. I do, begrudgingly, because I know he won’t stop. “You’ve been staring at him for an hour, stewing. What’s the deal?”

“No deal. I can’t help but look in that direction, it’s in my line of sight.”

They don’t believe me.

Because I’m a liar.

I cross my arms and completely ignore my friends. I don’t want to be on this side of Jay. It sucks. I want to fix it. Who the fuck knows why? The fact I don’t hate spending time with him or that he’s really fucking chill probably has something to do with it. He doesn’t do stupid shit like ask if I want to go to dinner and a movie. We’re always on the go, always doing something fun and adventurous. He never backs down from a challenge. In fact, he motivates me. It’s also the little things…things I never thought I’d like. The way he holds doors open, waits for me before he sits down, and never starts walking until I’m beside him. He’s not obvious about it, but he’s a fucking gentleman. So much so that I find myself doing the same things for him in return, or at least wanting to. Plus, he doesn’t try to pay for everything, yet he doesn’t expect me to pay either. Nothing between us ever seems forced. It just…is.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

With a little acid bile in my stomach, I tap the tab nervously then grab my drink and stand. When the guys don’t immediately join me, I give them an annoyed look.

“Coming to the big table or what?”

They don’t jump to their feet like every other time. There’s hesitation for sure, but they do come, letting me lead the way just in case things go south.

The three giants sharing a table with Jay stare at me like I’m the scum on the bottom of their shoes. They’re primed and ready to throw themselves in front of a bullet at a moment’s notice. I’m the bullet. I don’t blame them.

Ignoring the death glares from his gang of merry men, I look at Jay. “I was told if something changes, I could find you here.”

He looks a bit confused. It’s only been an hour since he’d left me to think about my actions. Well, more like two months but that’s besides the point. He leans back and studies me. “Has something changed?”

“Changing?” I offer awkwardly as everyone at the table watches. I can’t very well tell them to mind their own fucking business so I grab the chair next to him and straddle it. “I don’t know exactly what it will look like but it doesn’t have to be work, work, gym, rock-climbing, work, and Jay at the very bottom.”

“Are you saying you like being on the bottom?”

On damn. The boy is shameless. I smile but chastise him nonetheless. “I’m trying to have a serious conversation here.”

It doesn’t help that the whole table heard his comment and are laughing at him. Jay’s bright red but at least he’s owning his double-entendre this time. “Okay, continue. You were about to tell me I’ll be second from the bottom now.”

I growl. Jay finds that quite amusing. He waves for my friends to take a seat, which they do embarrassingly fast.

“So…” he says as he waits for me to make a move.


“Don’t do me dirty,” he says, playfully laughing at me with his gorgeous smile and bright blue eyes. “You came to me. This is your play.”

I motion to the exit and wink. “Then let’s go.”

Amused, he shakes his head. “Try again.”




Another headshake.

I pout, mostly as a joke, though there’s definitely disappointment on my end. “Then tell me what a day in your life looks like.”

This pleases him.

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