Just One Touch: A Black Alcove Novel (The Black Alcove Series Book 3) (8 page)

“Who the heck knows.
That girl is pissed at me every other day, I swear it. I wouldn’t
be surprised if it’s over something as dumb as our schedule at the
BA. Logan’s been giving me Fridays off, and I think it annoys her.”

“Why do we all keep
hanging out with her?”

“Technically, we all
just work together so we aren’t actually hanging out,” he
answers.

“One day I’ll have
an—”

“Brian! Since when do
you have a wicked hot girlfriend and everyone but me knows about it?
I swear when the girl told me you two were dating, I didn’t believe
her.”

What’s Pete talking
about? Shit, is Heather telling people we’re an official couple?

“I …”

“Oh, babe! I didn’t
know you were coming in tonight. I would have been up front, had I
known.” The odd and fully fake tone Alex uses as she walks up to me
is creepy. The moment she wraps her arms around me, we both freeze. I
swear, if I didn’t know she was pretending, I’d dip my head and
place my lips against hers right now. Self-control out the window.

The right side of her
mouth tugs into a smile, and she hugs me tighter. I’m definitely
going to play along with whatever this it. I give her a squeeze.

“I couldn’t wait to
see you,” I tell her, and it isn’t a total lie. It’s part of
the reason I was so eager to come. Keeping my arms wrapped around her
waist, I pull her next to me. She complies easily. Pete just stands
there, watching with a doubtful expression on his face, and one quick
look at Lucas reveals the exact same expression. He doesn’t believe
us.

The small shaking from
Alex’s hand on my hip makes me wonder why she would feel the need
to pretend like this. I’ve heard Pete can come on pretty strong,
but I don’t remember him being someone you needed protection
against.

That’s the moment I
decide to lean down and kiss the top her head the way I did last
night. The moment my lips touch her, she leans into me and I feel as
her entire body relax in my arms.

“Alright, well, I’ll
give you a minute to get whatever display of affection you two need
out of your system before we get back to training.” Pete pins his
stare on Alex. “I’ll be up front when you’re ready.”

He stands there for a
good ten more seconds before he glares at me and walks off. I don’t
think we were as convincing as I wanted us to be.

“Sooo, who is going
to explain this to me and can I be there when you explain it to
Heather?” Lucas says the moment Pete is out of ears’ reach.

Instead of letting go
of Alex and answering his question, I keep my hand firmly resting on
her hip.

“Can you give us a
minute? I’ll meet you on the court in about ten minutes.”

Lucas leaves without a
word, and I’m finally alone with Alexis, and he last thing I want
her to do is ask about Heather, so I answer before she gets the
chance.

“Heather is Jake’s
mom.”

She only nods.

“I’m so sorry about
that, but Abby said he was the type of guy who doesn’t stop till he
gets what he wants, and then she mentioned how he was looking at me
like I was something he wanted, so her suggestion was that since you
and I are neighbors, it would be best for me to pretend you are my
boyfriend and then I wouldn’t have to worry about Pete and—”

“And it sounds like
Abby set you up for something.”

Her head jerks back
slightly as her confused eyes finally make their way back to mine.

“For what?”

I chuckle, shaking my
head. “If you can figure out why Abby does half the things she does
before the rest of us, please let me know.”

“I think she was
being honest.”

Poor Alex. She hasn’t
met the real Abby yet. I resist the urge to pull my hand away, moving
it from her waist to rub her arm.

“Why do you think
this?”

“Well, she mentioned
it as a way to make me feel more comfortable here. If she is a bad as
you all say she is, wouldn’t she have let Pete pester me?”

She has a point, but
it’s still a little hard for me to believe that Abby would do a
good deed, asking for nothing in return.

“Besides, it doesn’t
matter. I feel more comfortable doing this, and I’m sorry I just
sprung it on you, but can you please play along?”

“This could have been
avoided, you know.” I’m really only making this comment to put
her at ease, because really, I enjoy her hands touching me and
claiming me and I hate being worked up about whatever scheme Abby is
up to this time.

“How? I didn’t know
you were going to come in here to work out. I planned to tell you
about it when I got home later tonight.”

“You could have
texted me.”

“I don’t have your
number.”

“Yeah, I know. You
could have it, though.”

“Okay.” She pulls
out her phone, taps the screen a few times, and thrusts the phone
toward me.

“You have to ask,”
I flash her a grin.

“For your phone
number?”

I nod.

“Are you being
serious right now?”

Her laugh hits me hard.
The sound warms my entire body.

“I never joke when a
girl is asking me for my number.”

She tries her hardest
to keep her lips from cracking a smile but finally gives in.

“Conner, may I please
get your—”

“Babe, I told you we
could selfie it later, but right now I’ll give you what you want
till you get home,” I cut her off the minute I see Pete walking
toward us. I grab her phone, quickly tap the photo button and pull
her next to me, my lips gently caress her temple.

It takes a good 5
seconds for her to figure everything out, then, like before, she does
that fake laugh thing that weirds me out as she wraps her arms around
me.

“Alright, Brian. You
can’t come in here and be all over her while she’s working.”

He’s annoyed, but I
don’t care. He isn’t going to touch her now or ever. And after
today, that fake laugh is going to be replaced with a real one.

I save the photo we
just took and add myself as a contact with the same photo as my
profile picture. Then I shoot myself a quick text.

“See you at home,”
I say with a wink, handing her the phone and heading into the locker
room.

As I strip to change into my gym
clothes, I send her a message of my own.

Me: Can I give you a ride home later?

I’m fully changed and about to
lock my phone inside my locker when I hear the buzz.

Alex: What makes you think I need a ride?

Me: Your car was at the apartment before I left to come here.

Alex: Creeper, but yes. That would be nice.

I smile, placing my
phone in my locker before I step out to join Lucas. I have to tell
Heather that being together isn’t a good idea. I said I’d try,
but it’s clear neither of us is going to work hard enough. I can’t
be with her when this feeling she wants me to have for her is
developing for someone else.

Chapter Six

Alexis

It’s been a few days
since I saw Conner at the gym. Three days I’ve worked there, and
this little voice in the back of my mind hopes he’s going to come
in. That same little voice is also telling me I should stay clear of
him until I come clean to my brother that I’m here. Conner made it
clear he isn’t a fan of secrets, and I have a one. A big one, too.
It may not include him, but it does include someone he clearly cares
about. So, yes, there is that. He also asked me, again, via text
since I pretended to not be home when he knocked on my door
yesterday, to go to this barbeque next weekend and I’m running out
of excuses. I told him I had to work, and he said come by after. I
said I worked the evening shift, and he said stop by on your way. My
only solution now is to completely avoid him until after next
weekend.

Between Conner, my new
job, the information I’ve learned since I got here about my
brother, and the self-inflicted stress of this secret, my journaling
has been in high gear. Today, however, I do not have to work, so
instead of writing, I’m going to bake. Since I finally made it to
the store, alone I might add, I have everything I need to whip up a
fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies.

The dough is made and
the first tray is in the oven. I am putting the last measuring cup
into the dishwasher when my door opens and in walks Conner. At first
I focus on the fact he didn’t knock, then I focus on the fact it
doesn’t bother me and that I’m happy to see him.

“Smells good in
here,” he says, closing the door behind him.

“Shouldn’t you ask
permission before you enter an apartment that doesn’t belong to
you?” I ask playfully. The timer dings and I switch out the baked
batch for another one with dough.

“Not when it belongs
to my girlfriend.”

The oven door slips
from my grip and slams shut.

Conner’s gaze is
drawn to the two pieces of toast with butter and grape jelly spread
on them, sitting on a white paper towel in my kitchen. “You’re
eating that and baking cookies?” he asks.

“Yeah, why not?”

“My old roommate used
to eat his toast like that. I honestly never thought I’d meet
another person who enjoys it.”

“It’s good. You
should try it, but first let’s talk about this girlfriend thing,”
I joke with him.

“I’m kidding, sort
of,” he says. “I was at the gym this morning and saw Pete, and I
thought to myself, ‘We should have a story.’”

“A story?”

“Yeah, like how we
met, how long we’ve been dating, and so on.”

“Oh, I don’t think
anyone is going to interrogate you.” I laugh, resetting the timer
and moving to the couch. Conner sits next to me, and although he’s
wearing jeans, the moment his leg touches mine, I’m suddenly very
aware that we are alone, again.

“I like to be
prepared. What if … we met—”

“In college,” I
add.

“Ah, no.”

“You didn’t go to
college?”

“Yes and no, why?
Does that bother you?”

“Not at all. I didn’t
go right out of high school. I plan to one day, but not yet.”

The right side of his
mouth tugs a little as he holds back a smile.

“How about I’m the
cousin or sibling of someone you know who he wouldn’t know?” It’s
both a real idea and to test how he would feel about it. Other than
Beth, he’s the only person I feel comfortable with here so far, so
his opinion matters.

“You have the worst
ideas ever.” He chuckles.

That stings.

“What, how?” I ask,
succeeding slightly in hiding my concern over his reply.

His eyes slowly roam
over my face.

“Because if you were
the sister or cousin of any one of my friends, you’d be off limits.
No questions asked. And that is not something I want to think about.”

My heart pounds. He
just openly admitted that he’s attracted to me. He also just told
me that if he knew I was Logan’s sister, whatever we have going on
wouldn’t have a chance. Not in so many words, of course.

“Don’t look so
panicked. It was a good try, but we can’t go with that idea.”

The timer dings again,
and I spring away from my seat to the kitchen. With a new batch
cooling, I begin dropping spoonfuls of dough on to the cookie sheet.

“So, I was thinking.”
Conner comes up behind me, grabs a cookie, and leans against the
counter next to me. He tilts his head, positioning his face closer to
mine. My eyes go straight to his lips.

What has gotten into
him? Before today, he was a normal hot guy. Now, he’s this normal
hot guy who is hardcore flirting with me and about to cause my nerves
to have a meltdown.

An all-white smile and
his deep chuckles forces me to blink and realize that I’m staring
and I’m trying to make a giant cookie on the sheet in front of me.

“You want some help?”

“Nope, I’ve got
it.”

He nods, his smile
growing wider.

“Okay, well, aside
from us creating a story, we should go out in public. You know, make
it seem more real.”

“And do what?”

“Dinner and a movie.”

“Like a date?”

“Yes. Exactly like a
date.”

With the oven timer set
once again, I give him my full attention. I swallow, thinking of my
answer and praying he can’t hear my heartbeat as loudly as I can
feel it in my ears.

“Sure. I mean, other
than the lake and hiking, I haven’t explored much else of this
town. We could do that?”

“Great.” He grabs
two more cookies and heads for the door. “Since you’re busy
working tomorrow, we can go tonight. I’ll pick you up in an hour.”

“Sure,” I answer
again. He flashes me a wink and leaves.

I stand there frozen,
staring at the door as if I imagined this entire thing. I’m going
on a date with Conner and I have less than an hour to get ready. One
hour to shower and get dressed. Not to mention shave my legs,
because, let’s face it, Conner stirs something inside me that I
didn’t know was there and I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist.
That, and I can’t wear a dress with hairy legs. I head for the
bathroom. I can’t waste any time. I want to look good for Conner
tonight.

Conner

I’ve still got it.

I still know how to
flirt with a woman. It wasn’t easy because nothing with Alex comes
easy for me. I mean, seriously, I haven’t seen her at the gym and
I’ve been trying to talk to her in person since I gave her a ride
home on her first day of work. She’s replied to a couple of text
messages I’ve sent her about attending Logan’s barbeque with me,
but I can’t read emotion in a text and it bugs me.

Somehow she managed to
make it to the grocery without me. Not that it’s a big deal, but I
get the feeling she’s intentionally trying not to run into me and I
have no idea why. Still, I’m not going to let that scare me out of
asking her out. Yeah, we had a rocky start, but the night she was
over for dinner, I was relaxed. I could just be me and I didn’t
feel like I had to try hard to impress her. We talked like we’ve
known each other for years, and each time she let out her quirky
laugh, I couldn’t help but join her. I’m in the mood to feel that
way again.

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