The Man I Want to Be (Under Covers)(2)

By: Christina Elle


Shake it off. After a quick exhale, he opened his eyes and glanced across the sand at ten squares serving as playing fields. Nets were dug into the middle of each square. Everyone of eligible playing age stood around the perimeter, waiting to be placed into pairs.

More icebreaker bullshit. Why couldn’t he just partner up with Reese and get this over with? No, he had to mingle and converse with people he didn’t know. This was Samantha Harper’s idea. He normally loved the woman. She was Ash’s fiancée and was like a sister to Tyke. But not when she came up with shit like this to torture him.

The resort worker walked around with a bowl that held cards inside. There were matching pairs of every color and number. Guests had to pull a card and then find the person who had the match. That was your partner. Tyke held a blue number two. So far, no one had shouted his number.

“Red number six,” the cute blonde Reese was eyeing up said. “Who has red number six?”

Reese’s head kicked back, and he drained the remaining orange liquid in his cup. He pulled the umbrella out of his drink and slid it over his ear like a freaking cha-cha dancer. “That’s me. See you on the sand.” Reese gave him a wide, excited smile before meeting his partner in the center of the circle.

Bryan lifted his dark bottle in salute to his friend’s retreating back. “Good luck with that one. You’re gonna need it.” The woman didn’t look like she had an ounce of athleticism in her body. Cheerleading, maybe. And being able to kick your foot up over your head only helped in certain situations. Badminton wasn’t one of ’em.

Tyke scanned the group, sizing the wedding guests up. He hated meeting new people. But he hated losing more, so he needed a stellar partner. No uncoordinated, flailing-arms-of-a-prepubescent-teenager garbage. He wanted a real player. Someone who could keep up and play like a man. Another guy on the other side of the sand stood about Tyke’s height but not as wide. The guy reached into the bowl and pulled his card out.

Blue two.

Blue two.

Say blue two, you lanky son of a bitch.

“Blue,” the guy shouted, glancing down at the card. “Number four.”

Motherfucker.

Tyke downed the rest of his beer in one gulp. He waved an arm to catch the attention of a passing waiter.

The waiter approached, wearing a white short-sleeved shirt and matching shorts, socks and tennis shoes. “Another, sir?”

“You know what?” Bryan said. “Bring me two. What the hell. I’m celebrating my best friends never owning their dicks again.”

The waiter did a double take and tried to laugh. When Tyke didn’t reciprocate, the guy’s eyebrows furrowed.

“Does anybody have blue number two?” an impatient voice shouted.

That was his card. Shit. Tyke put his empty bottle on the waiter’s tray.

“That’s me.” He pulled out his wallet and handed a ten to the waiter. “Just bring the beers to whatever shit-box area I’m assigned to.”

“Blue number two?” a female voice said behind him. A few soft taps from a pointy finger landed on his back, below his right shoulder.

He turned.

She was shorter than average height for a woman, but then again, everyone looked short next to him. She had fiery, bright-red hair pulled into a messy ponytail on top of her head. Her pale-blue eyes were warm and welcoming, even smiling.

Then she met his gaze, and something registered in her brain because her blue eyes went icy.

It took him a few seconds longer…

Short height.

Red hair.

Pale-blue eyes.

Oh, fuck.

Kenna McCord.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asked.

No. No. No. This was all wrong. Usually when Kenna came to him, it was at night—while he was in bed—after staring at the clock for hours, hard as steel and unfulfilled, praying for sleep. Jesus, had his visions gotten so bad that now she was haunting him during the day, too? That thought, mixed with the guilt still gurgling in his belly, made him rethink his drink of choice. He should probably switch to water.

He stared without blinking at the apparition in front of him. She wasn’t smiling like she usually did in his nightmares. Instead, the woman’s originally delighted features transformed. Her face caved in, her pink glossy lips puckered, and auburn eyebrows gathered at the center of her forehead.

She lifted her foot—why the hell was she picking that up?—and she swung it with more force than a woman her size should’ve possessed. It connected with his shin, just above where his boots ended.

“Damn it,” he grunted, bending to grab his throbbing leg. When he did, she took full advantage. She reared back and punched him in the chin. Hard. Exactly like he’d taught her when they were kids. Pain exploded in his brain as his head whipped to the side. He scrambled forward to grab her, but she took off in huff.

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