Let It Ride (Pickup Men, #2)
Pickup man Bridge Sullivan is the kind of cowboy everyone wants—as a brother, a friend, a lover. People think he’s straight, but Bridge isn’t one for labels, and when a sexy male paramedic jumpstarts his heart, he charges in with all guns blazing.
New York City transplant Eric Palmer grew up in foster care. While he always had a roof over his head, he never felt love or a sense of belonging . . . until he joined the California rodeo circuit as a paramedic and found a band of brothers who took him in as one of their own. Now, one in particular is making Eric’s pulse race.
When things heat up between Bridge and Eric, Bridge has to prove to Eric he’s not just experimenting with the rougher sex, while Eric must overcome his fears of being unwanted and cast aside. He knows that trusting Bridge may be the key to his happy ever after, but getting in the saddle is much, much easier than learning to let it ride.
- Finalist: Contemporary Romance, 2015 EPIC Ebook Awards.
- Finalist: Romance, 2015 Bisexual Books Awards.
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The lips on his were firm, demanding, and sent a blazing fire raging to every corner of his body. Calling it a kiss was too simple for something packed with such intensity, something so far beyond Bridge’s imagination but also everything he’d always wanted. He opened his mouth, and the invitation was accepted with impassioned fervor. A tongue pressed in, slid alongside his, wrapped around it, and teased it out. And hell if that didn’t turn him on even more. He angled his head to deepen the kiss, to take more, give more, burn more. Noses bumped, a stubbled chin rasped across his, and a deep groan vibrated between them, heating the blood pounding through his veins.
The fire grew, branding his skin from the inside out, burning deeper, and he wanted more. So much more. He pulled the solid body in his arms tighter against his chest until hot, sweaty skin slid against his equally hot, sweaty skin. Dense muscle rolled and flexed under the caress of his hands, hairy legs wrapped around his, pulling him closer until their hard groins met. Every rocking motion and press of flesh had him shaking uncontrollably from the ecstasy of loving and being loved so fully and so freely.
The familiar voice whispered his name like a prayer. Deep, resonant, and wholly masculine. And like a can of gasoline tossed into the core of a bonfire, it ignited an orgasm that exploded through him, stealing his sight, his hearing, his breath. But what really sent his heart stampeding blindly for escape was the name he shouted in the throes of passion. A name that continued to bounce off the walls of his bedroom.
Bridge’s eyes snapped open, and he stared hard at the ceiling while the faint, bittersweet odor of cum tickled his nostrils and his chest rose and fell in double time. His heart continued to pound as the fading remnants of the best wet dream of his entire life left him feeling more than a little unbalanced. A dream featuring a man—and not just any man, but one man in particular. Eric Palmer, the paramedic he’d met on the rodeo circuit the previous season who’d become fast friends with Bridge and his two best friends since childhood and fellow rodeo men, Marty Fairgrave and Kent Murphy. Eric had been on his mind too often over the past months . . . and as far more than just a friend.
He sucked a ragged gulp of air. “Oh my God. I’m gay.”
It wasn’t the first time he’d questioned his sexuality, but it had been a long time since he had. He’d fooled around with a guy in college because he was the typical horny kid and sex was sex. Plus, it was all part of the college experience, right? So, why not? He’d also been a little curious about what it would be like and had to admit it had been one of the hottest blowjobs he’d ever received.
But then Silvie DeSantos showed up on campus. He’d fallen madly in lust with her at first sight and decided he must be straight and that had been the end of it.
“But . . . I like women,” he said aloud, closing his eyes to recall the first day he’d seen Silvie, only to snap them open again when his mental vision filled with Eric’s smiling, handsome face. The strong jaw, high cheekbones, and straight nose were wholly masculine, yet striking blue-violet eyes outlined with thick, black lashes and those full, red lips softened his features, making him the most beautiful man Bridge had ever seen. He definitely liked that face—and apparently everything else that went along with it. And he did like women, but then it dawned on him he hadn’t really noticed any since he’d met Eric back in the spring when Marty had been injured and Eric had been the on-site paramedic.
Now that he thought about it, he’d always admired an attractive man, too, hadn’t he? He’d never been afraid of what anyone would think if he complimented a man. Human bodies were simply beautiful, and he’d always let his appreciation be known. He freely showed affection to the people he cared about, too. Shit, how many times had he kissed Marty and Kent? And in public? Granted, it was only cheek bussing and generally not in big crowds, but still, most men didn’t do that to other men. Certainly not the rugged cowboys he worked with on the rodeo circuit.
But Eric . . . that man had tweaked something inside of Bridge from the moment they’d met. Had called up a desire for something he’d thought had been nothing more than a one-time youthful curiosity. And the more time he’d spent around the man, the more he realized how much he enjoyed his company. Looked forward to it.
He turned to stare out the window as the first hint of sunrise bled into what would be a clear day—deep oranges and warm yellows faded into a full spectrum of blues, steadily swallowing the darkness of night.
He inhaled slow and deep, holding his breath for a three beat before exhaling just as slowly, and then he kicked off his bedclothes and looked down at himself. Maybe he wasn’t really gay. Maybe he was . . .
“Bisexual, then?” He half expected his dick to stand at attention and answer him. But the member in question lay semi-erect against his thigh, somewhere in that orgasmic afterglow of having just had really great sex . . . Only there hadn’t been any real sex going on.
Okay, so maybe he needed to run a little test. He plumped the pillow under his shoulders and shifted on the bed, opening his legs wider, and then took another breath to focus himself on his mission.
“Women?” His voice sounded firm and determined, and he stared hard at his crotch while picturing the last woman he’d been with, Diana. She was a barrel racer from Northern Cali. Tall, fit, sharp as a whip, and could bend in more ways than any body should. Bridge Junior gave a halfhearted throb of enthusiasm. Okay, there was interest in the fairer sex.
“Men?” He shifted his mental image to an extremely attractive cowboy he’d once tried to set Marty up with, before Marty spilled the beans about his then deeply closeted boyfriend, champion bull rider Tripp Colby. His cock throbbed again, still not quite ready for action so soon, but definitely just as interested in the rougher sex.
If the idea of being with both a man and a woman appealed, then that made him bisexual, right? But he had one more question to ask. He sighed, preparing himself for an answer he already knew. “Eric Palmer?”
He didn’t need to apply any effort to conjure up an image of the sexy paramedic with the sharp New York accent. The man was there in his thoughts 24-7, whether Bridge liked it or not. It had been a few months since the regular season had ended, and with Eric living more than two hours away in Redding, Bridge had only seen him a handful of times for beers and pool with friends. But his face was as clear in Bridge’s mind as if he were looking into those unique violet-colored eyes right now.
A slow but determined pulse pushed through the length of his cock, and another chased it. Then another, and the pace quickened.
Yep. Definitely perking up now.
He glared at his dick and fisted his hands in the sheets to keep from touching himself. “You realize you’re getting hard for a man, right?”
Junior responded to his accusation with another eager pump of blood, growing more insistent with each pulse. Greedy bastard.
Bridge barked out a laugh, and a surprising wave of relief washed through him, as if a weight he hadn’t known he’d been carrying had lifted. “Well, hell.”
Yes, he’d questioned it when he was younger. Yes, he’d once fooled around with a man and enjoyed it. But then a woman had captured his interest, so he hadn’t given the whole sexuality thing much more thought after that.
And then along came Eric Palmer, bringing all those questions back to the surface. Only this time, he’d found his answer, and it came without any doubt. Maybe he was gay, maybe he was bisexual, but neither label mattered. Labels were too damn limiting to be set in stone anyway. It was what it was. Like the steady tick of the grandfather clock at the end of the hall and the gentle stirrings of the waking ranch outside his window as the sun’s rays crept over the ledge and spilled onto the floor. Life had its own plan; folks just had to learn how to ride it or get bucked off.
Man or woman didn’t matter. Marty liked men, Kent liked women, and Bridge apparently liked both.
But Eric was the one he wanted above all others, and for whatever reason, that felt all kinds of right.
He let his head sink back into the pillow and closed his eyes, giving his imagination free rein to run with Eric on its back. He took himself in hand and stroked slowly, picturing Eric tugging on him, Eric’s mouth with those plump, red lips sucking on his balls, Eric looking up at him with desire in those amazing eyes. And that was all it took. A few more quick, hard pulls, and his second orgasm of the morning rolled through him.
He threw an arm over his face, absently wiping cum off his action hand onto his stomach, and started laughing.
“Shit. I’m Eric-sexual.”
Two months later . . .
Bridge leaned forward in his seat and gripped the wheel a little tighter. Not to keep the equine RV under control as he steered onto the rodeo grounds at Folsom, but to keep from jumping clean out of his hide. Blood pounded through his veins so fast his skin tingled and his brains felt loose and floaty inside his skull. Then there was the herd of wild horses charging through his stomach, leaving a jittery mess of exposed nerves in their wake. Anticipation overload. Thank God he hadn’t drunk any coffee this morning or he’d probably be having a coronary right about now.
Kent’s voice jolted Bridge out of his thoughts, but he hoped the truck bouncing through a pothole just then masked his surprise. The big Dodge lurched again when the trailer hit the same hole, and a loud thud let him know the horses weren’t too happy about it either. He shot a quick glance at Kent, who sat in the passenger seat watching him, eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, cowboy hat low on his brow, but there was an amused lift to his mouth.
Bridge returned his focus to the driveway. Folsom’s rodeo grounds were part of a park that sat along the banks of the American River. A densely tree-lined road led the way to the main spectator parking area and then wrapped around behind the arena to the designated lot for competitors and crew, which was half-hidden by more trees. The first lot was empty, as he’d expected, but he didn’t have a clear view of the one behind yet. Damn trees were going to make him wait until the last minute to see if Eric’s truck was already there.
He managed to keep his voice casual. “Share what?”
“Why you’re smiling,” Kent said. “I know you didn’t get laid last night, so what is it?”
Damn. Bridge hadn’t realized he’d been smiling like a crushing high schooler.
He cast another sideways look at Kent and shifted in his seat. Well. It’s like this, Kent. I get to see Eric again today—for four whole days, actually—and I’m really excited because I’ve been having erotic dreams about him for months now, and maybe if I’m lucky, it wasn’t all fantasy and I really will get laid this weekend.
But he couldn’t spill that out of the blue without some sort of preamble, could he?
“I’m just looking forward to getting back at it,” he said instead, steering his rig around the far side of the arena.
“I am too, but this is only a preseason clinic. Nothing to get that excited about.” Kent’s tone said he didn’t buy Bridge’s answer for a second. Bridge had known he wouldn’t. The annual rodeo school was a great way to teach greenhorns a few things and introduce new cowboys to the sport. Kent taught roping sessions, and Bridge and Marty worked pickup, as well as ran a session on their profession. And while it was fun, it wasn’t that exciting. Not unless he was the greenhorn. “And this is far from your first rodeo, cowboy.”
“I know. I’m just excited to see the guys again. Marty and Tripp.” Bridge rolled his hands on the wheel. “And Eric. It’s been too long.”
“Yeah, it has.” Kent finally turned his attention to the grounds in front of them, and Bridge felt Kent’s all-too-observant stare fall off him as if it had been a brick sitting on his chest. But the feeling was fleeting. The sense of lightness that had him on the cusp of floating out of his seat the whole drive left him when he pulled into the parking area and found it empty. His body sank back into the seat like a deflating balloon.
“Told you we’d be the first ones here,” Kent said. “I don’t know why you were in such a rush to get going, especially since this is pretty much our backyard.”
Bridge ignored his best friend and guided the rig toward the back of the grass lot and parked. Kent hopped out of the cab, and Bridge hung back for a second to release a long breath before following. “Chill, dude,” he mumbled to himself. “It’s just Eric.”
He huffed a short laugh and shook his head. There was nothing just about Eric Palmer. He took another deep breath and ran his hands over his thighs, then exited the truck and met Kent at the back of the rig. Together, they went about their practiced routine of unloading the horses and tethering them to hooks welded along the outside of the trailer. Once the horses were secure, Kent climbed up the short ladder on the side of the big fifth wheel.
“You’re going to tell me what’s had you practically whistling like a kid on his way to Disneyland the last few days.” Kent’s disembodied voice carried down from the roof of the rig, followed by a grunt. The trailer rocked, and Bridge jumped back when a bale of alfalfa came flying at him without warning, landing where he’d just been standing.
Kent peered over the edge, a cocky grin on his face. Bridge glared up at him. “Dude. That was a bit close.”
Kent snorted and put his hands on his hips. “Met a new girl, right?”
“What? No.” He shook his head. “There’s no girl.” He pulled a Swiss Army knife from his belt loop and leaned down to slice the baling twine. “I told you. Just excited to get on with rodeo season.”
“Which doesn’t officially start for another two weeks.”
True, but he wasn’t ready to share what had him feeling like a five-year-old on Christmas Eve yet. He had to see Eric first. Make sure he wasn’t building up some wild imaginary love affair that would never exist beyond a few crazy dreams. Okay, there’d been a lot more than a few dreams, and the only crazy thing about them was how much he wanted them to come true, but still . . .
“Shut up and throw down another bale.”
Kent disappeared from view, but his laugh echoed across the empty lot. Bridge began splitting leaves off the bale and putting them in the mesh feed bags they’d strung up between their five horses. Kent, a state champion steer wrestler, only needed one horse, but as a pickup man, Bridge worked all day every day and needed fresh horses with different abilities for specific events. Light, fast, and agile for the bronco and roping events, and a big, solid horse that could handle tangling with a two-thousand-pound beast, if it came to it, for the bull-riding events. In general, though, that was a scenario they all made a point of avoiding. His job was to make sure every cowboy and animal that entered the ring left it safely. Including himself.
The low rumble of a heavy-duty engine drew his attention just as Kent climbed down from the roof of the trailer.
“Here they are,” Kent said. Excitement laced his smooth voice, and Bridge had to laugh. He smacked the brim of Kent’s hat, knocking it askew.
“Who’s the excited one now?”
“Hey!” Kent adjusted his hat, shaking his head, and stepped over to stand beside him, bumping shoulders with him. Bridge smiled and threw an arm over his shoulder. Kent was a few inches shorter than him—about the same height as Eric—and he wondered if Eric would tuck under his arm as comfortably as Kent did.
They both waved as Marty approached in his own equine RV—not quite as big as Bridge’s because he only had four horses to haul, but still impressive. Marty angled his rig parallel to Bridge’s, cab to trailer so their doors opened to each other, as they always did, in their own circling-the-wagons kind of way. The tradition stemmed from when they’d first started working as pickup men, and some of the good old boys hadn’t been too keen on Marty’s out-and-proud presence, so they’d parked their rigs this way to create a safety barrier of sorts. After a few years, the regulars began to accept that Marty’s orientation had zero bearing on how well he did his job, and things, while not completely safe, were safer, but their parking habit remained the same.
Marty jumped down from the cab of his truck, a huge smile splitting his handsome face, and threw himself at Bridge. They were the same height, though Bridge packed more muscle and bulk, but that didn’t stop the air from whooshing from his lungs on impact. He stumbled back into one of his horses, who gave a disinterested swish of his tail and continued munching his hay. Bridge wrapped his arms around Marty and hugged him tightly.
“Man, you’re a sight for sore eyes,” Bridge said, his voice tight with emotion. They’d only seen Marty a few times since Marty and Tripp had gotten back together after a nasty breakup at the end of last season. It had been a tough time, but the two of them were working through and finding their happiness. And seeing Marty’s light shine so bright always had a way of reminding Bridge that all was right with the world.
Marty stepped back, holding Bridge’s arms by the biceps. His green eyes glittered with joy. “You’re looking good, B.”
He gave a squeeze, and then he let go, turning to wrap Kent up in another bone crusher of a hug.
“I miss seeing you guys all the time,” Marty said when he let Kent go.
“Same here, Smarts,” Bridge said, and Kent nodded.
Tripp hobbled up beside Marty. He’d never walk without a cane again, but he was moving with much more confidence now than the last time Bridge had seen them. Marty slid his arm around Tripp’s waist, and a light blush crested over Tripp’s cheeks, his mouth lifting in a shy, crooked smile. That was something Bridge never thought he’d see—Tripp accepting any kind of PDA, let alone acknowledgment of Marty in public—but he was damn glad for his best friend that Tripp had finally broken out of the closet. Bridge approved of this new more relaxed and expressive Tripp.
“Hey, Bridge.” Tripp held out his hand. “Good to see you again.”
“Screw that.” He knocked Tripp’s hand away and pulled him into a solid hug. They’d had their differences, but Tripp had earned his respect when he came out and made a stand for Marty. Even though it had cost him his career. “You’re family now, dude. How many times do I have to tell you that?”
Tripp laughed and stepped back, holding a hand up in surrender. “Okay, okay. I got it.” Then he turned and accepted a hug and playful smack on the back from Kent. Bridge caught Marty looking at him, his gaze warm and shiny, like tears might be brewing. Thank you, he mouthed. Bridge smiled back and nodded.
With greetings out of the way, they went back to setting up for the weekend, but he couldn’t really concentrate. Every ten minutes, he looked at his wristwatch. Every distant rumble of a vehicle engine had him inconspicuously peeking around the trailers.
The afternoon progressed slowly, and the sun began its determined descent toward the horizon, pushing long shadows out across the spring grass. The constant rise and drop of adrenaline in his system was beginning to wear on him. Maybe he’d saddle up Breeze and go for a ride along the river trail. Kill some time and try to settle his nerves. He lifted his hat and ran a hand through his hair, then turned around, and his heart shot into his throat, choking off the ability to breathe, speak, or even think.
Eric, the man of his dreams—literally—stood near the back of Marty’s rig looking way too sexy in worn jeans, sneakers, and a turquoise golf shirt fitting tight enough to show off the hard muscle beneath. His short-cropped, dark-blond hair sparkled like gold in the sun’s fading rays. A single dimple bracketed one side of a warm and friendly smile.
“Hey, guys.” Eric addressed them as a group, but his sharply accented voice coasted over Bridge like an intimate caress, sending a rush of heat southward to pool in his groin.
He hung back, rendered immobile by Eric, live and large just ten feet away from him, and watched while his friends greeted his walking wet dream one by one with hugs, backslaps, and smiles. He’d worried that he’d spent too long in his fantasies, that his imagination had blown everything out of proportion and he wasn’t really physically attracted to Eric, but the second the paramedic walked in his direction and engulfed him in a hearty hug, every doubt he’d ever entertained vanished. Feeling Eric’s body so close, the heat that radiated from him and bled into Bridge, and smelling the tantalizing spice-and-citrus scent of Eric’s cologne, proved his dreams were far from exaggerated. They had been nothing but a poor tease of the real thing.
He fought the urge to bury his nose in Eric’s neck, to suck an earlobe into his mouth, and to keep his body from showing just how happy he was to see Eric again, but he couldn’t let go of his living fantasy either. Eric broke the embrace first and looked up at him with those captivating eyes, so much more intense in person. “Good to see you again, Bridge.”
“Yeah.” He cleared his throat, but his voice sounded a bit too deep and husky to his ears. “You too.” You don’t even know.
Oblivious to the raging hormones wreaking havoc on Bridge’s libido, Eric turned and clapped his hands twice. “Well, what the hell are you all standing around for? Let’s go get some grub and play some pool!”
“Thanks, sweetheart,” Bridge said, taking the fresh pitcher of beer from the waitress and then dropping a couple of bills on her empty tray in its place. She looked up at him through long eyelashes and smiled.
“Can I get you anything else?” Her voice practically purred, and the slight raise of one dark eyebrow clued him in to the fact she was offering more than a fresh bowl of peanuts or another round of chicken wings. She was definitely pretty—long, dark hair fell loose over her bare shoulders, a short skirt showed off long legs, and a tank top displayed the rest of her God-given assets—and though he would have definitely been interested not all that long ago, he now had his sights too firmly set on someone else.
He shook his head and smiled. “We’re all set.”
“Okay. Well . . .” Her pout was subtle, but she stepped closer and pressed a napkin into his hand. “If you change your mind.”
Don’t hold your breath, darlin’. He tipped his hat, and she turned, casting a seductive look over her shoulder before walking away with a little extra swing of her hips.
Kent stepped up beside him and began to refill his beer mug. “She’s sexy. Get her number?”
Bridge shrugged and dropped the napkin—he knew without looking that it had her digits on it—on the table in front of Kent. “Here. Give her a call.”
Kent stopped mid-pour and nearly dropped the pitcher back on the table. His eyebrows disappeared under the brim of his hat, and his mouth fell open. “Since when do you turn away a hot girl like that?”
“What’s going on?” Eric said, coming up behind Bridge and reaching for the pitcher to top off his beer, saving him from having to come up with a quick answer. “You look a little shocked there, Kent.” He stood close enough for Bridge to catch another whiff of his cologne. Damn, but the man smelled good. Bridge couldn’t stop himself from shifting a little closer and inhaling a little deeper.
“Nothing,” Bridge said. He didn’t know how to tell his friends what was going on yet, and he had to find out if Eric could be on the same page first. What was the point of telling them he might be gay, or bi most likely, if the only man he was interested in wasn’t interested in him?
Kent snorted. “B has a new girl he’s not telling us about.”
Eric frowned. “You do?” He stepped closer to the table, probably to hear Kent better over the almost-too-loud music in the sports bar they’d wandered into. His arm brushed Bridge’s when he lifted his mug to take a sip. The touch was light, unintentional, but the effect was still enough to send a thrill coursing through Bridge’s veins. He took a swig of his beer and swallowed hard.
“Who’s got a girl?” Marty said, holding the pool cue out toward Kent. “Your turn.”
“B’s been singing and smiling to himself for a few days now,” Kent said. He took a quick drink before taking the cue stick from Marty. “And I swear he drank an entire pot of coffee this morning, with the way he was pinging around the truck on the drive here today.”
“I was not pinging.” Bridge straightened to his full height and puffed his chest out a little. “And I already told you, there’s no girl.”
Kent gave him a skeptical look and then shook his head before walking over to the pool table to take his shot. Bridge looked back at Marty and Eric, both watching him with curious expressions.
Marty and Eric shared a glance but didn’t saying anything. They didn’t need to. Bridge could read the disbelief in their amused smiles. He rolled his eyes and took a long draught of his beer.
Tripp returned from the bar with a bag of ice for his leg and reclaimed his stool beside Marty. They’d been taking turns playing doubles pool since they were odd numbered, but Tripp’s leg had begun to hurt so he’d decided to take up a referee position from their table while Marty and Eric teamed up against Bridge and Kent. Tripp looked from one to the other and then settled on Marty. “What did I miss?”
“B!” Kent called from the other side of the table. “You’re up.”
Saved! He set down his drink and turned so quickly he jostled Eric, who’d just raised his mug to his mouth. Beer spilled over the lip of the tipped glass and dribbled down Eric’s chin. Bridge reached out to steady himself by placing one hand on the table and the other on Eric’s hip but froze when the amber liquid dripping onto Eric’s chest caught his attention. All he wanted to do right then was lean down and slide his tongue over that wet, exposed skin. He licked his lips and lifted his gaze to meet Eric’s. He couldn’t get a read on Eric’s expression, but he was sure he saw a flash of heat in the violet depths of his eyes; that in their fleeting look, Eric somehow knew what was going on in Bridge’s head, knew what kinds of dreams he’d been having, and just maybe felt a little of the same.
Kent called to him again, an impatient note in his voice, and the brief connection broke.
“Shit. I’m sorry, dude.” Bridge grabbed a napkin, the one with the waitress’s phone number on it, and handed it to Eric. He turned away before he could use the napkin as an excuse to touch Eric and dab away the alcohol himself, run his hands over places just friends had no business running their hands.
Kent passed off the cue with a raised eyebrow, but Bridge ignored him. He focused on the task of chalking the cue stick to get back to center. When he felt somewhat collected again, he cleared his throat. “Five ball, corner pocket,” he called to no one in particular and then leaned down. He spread his legs a little, pulled the stick back, and then he glanced up at the mirrored wall on the other side of the table and froze. He’d called a shot that had him bent over the table right in front of Eric, and in the reflection, he could see that Eric had noticed. His gaze was planted firmly on Bridge’s ass.
Encouraged, Bridge didn’t move, waiting until their eyes met in the glass. When they did, he gave his butt a little wiggle. “Checking out my ass, Palmer?” he teased over his shoulder.
Eric snorted, leaning back on his stool a little. “In your dreams, Sullivan.”
Oh, you don’t know the half of it. Bridge winked and then turned his attention back to the pool table. A smile spread across his face of its own volition, and he rocked from foot to foot until Kent yelled at him to hit a damn ball already. He settled into position, lined up, and snapped the shot. The cue ball bounced off the three ball, which careened into the five ball and sent it cleanly into the corner pocket. He pumped his fist in the air and hooted. Marty’s and Kent’s groans were offset by a whistle and enthusiastic applause from Eric. Bridge tipped his hat at Eric, then called out his next shot. This time he had to set up on the opposite side of the table, but when he had his strategy planned out, he raised his eyes to meet Eric’s and grinned. When Eric shifted in his seat, Bridge took the shot. And missed.
“Your turn,” Bridge said, inducing a hint of challenge in his voice.
Eric jumped down from his barstool and met Bridge in front of the pool table. Bridge held the cue stick out for him but didn’t let go when Eric grabbed it. Their gazes locked for an extended beat, and then Eric stepped into Bridge’s space. That spicy-citrus fragrance drifted into his nostrils, teasing his senses and triggering a rush of endorphins in his brain.
“If I didn’t know any better—” Eric’s voice was low, his accent thicker. His hand slid down the shaft of the stick until it rested above Bridge’s, and the contact sent a burning spike of arousal careening into Bridge’s cock. “—I’d think you were flirting with me.”
“Maybe you don’t know better,” Bridge said, quietly enough for only Eric to hear, and then grinned when his eyes widened ever so slightly. Bridge let go of the cue stick, dropping his hand to brush Eric’s thigh as he walked past him without looking back.
He made it to their table without tripping over his boots and took a long draught of his beer. His heart pounded in his chest as if he’d just run five miles, his mouth had gone dry, and his jeans were feeling damned uncomfortable. He’d basically just tipped his hand. Risky, he knew. He did not want to screw up a great friendship, but at the same time, he had to know if it could be more.
Fortunately, Marty and Tripp were otherwise engaged in their own private conversation and not paying attention to Bridge or the game, but Kent’s keen gaze didn’t miss much. Bridge knew full well that the slight frown on his friend’s face meant We’ll be talking later.
Eric called his shot, and Bridge turned around, grateful to get out from under Kent’s stare. He wasn’t ready to tell Kent that the girl he thought had Bridge skipping was actually Eric. Of all the people he knew, his best friends would be the most understanding. They’d even jokingly asked if he had something to tell them a time or two in the past. But until he knew where things stood with Eric, he couldn’t share with them just yet.
Eric looked up at him then, and once again, Bridge’s heart shot into his throat while blood flooded into his groin fast enough to make his head spin.
Shit, I really am in for it.
Word Count: 52,200
Page Count: 194
Cover By: L.C. Chase
Series: Pickup Men
Release Date: 05/24/2014
Release Date: 05/26/2014