Sawyer did math problems in his head to keep from sprouting a tree in his trunks as he watched Penny bend over and pick up her towel. The last thing he needed was to be a grown man with a public boner. Seeing her last night in just the T-shirt had been tantalizing. Seeing her clad only in a green bikini that matched the vine tattoo curving around her hip and up her side, was beyond tempting.
“Roll you tongue up, man.” D’Andre Johnson winged a bottle of sunscreen at him, hitting him square in the chest. “You’re embarrassing me.”
“Like that’s possible.” The Miami Thunder backup cornerback was many things—loud, wild, loyal to the bone—but easily embarrassed wasn’t one of them.
“I’m sure it’s happened—once maybe.” D’Andre laughed.
Sawyer tore his gaze away from his sexy neighbor. So she was behind the noise complaint notes slipped under his door. The highly-detailed doodles on the plain white paper made sense now that he knew she was a tattoo artist who owned her own studio. After delivering Annabeth into the taxi, he’d pulled them all out and read them again. She had neat, precise handwriting but the drawings around the words were unrestrained and passionate. Which version would show up in bed? He had stroked his cock thinking about her naked in his bed and watching her transform from uptight businesswoman to wild artist.
“What’s wrong,” D’Andre asked. “She turn you down?”
There was no way he was going into details with his old teammate. Some humiliations stayed in the vault. Still, he had to give him something.
He shrugged. “She’s my neighbor and it seems our bedrooms share a wall.”
D’Andre laughed so hard he had to wipe away tears from his eyes. “Oh you are never getting between those pretty thighs.”
Well, he hadn’t been trying until she’d opened her door last night spitting mad with her hair going every which way. If a woman could make a ratty T-shirt look good and a green bikini look phenomenal, then he was damn well trying to get to know her better. Not that he was going to admit that. “Who said I’m trying?”
“You breathing? Your eyes still work?” D’Andrea snorted and grabbed a beer from the cooler between their lounge chairs. “Good. It’s just your melon that’s broken.”
Sawyer flipped him off.
“Don’t worry.” His friend popped a can of beer open and took a drink. “You didn’t stand a chance anyway. Forget fucking her, you couldn’t even get a date.”
What the hell? His game was strong—just not with her. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Sawyer sat back and closed his eyes as uncertainty went Zip Tie tight on his balls. Sex had always been his relief valve when things got too stressful, but lately it just wasn’t the same. It was good, he made sure of that, but… Hell, none of it made sense.
“Alright then.” D’Andre said. “If you’re so sure then loser covers the tab for a dinner at Mel’s and a night in South Beach.”
He flinched, imagining his bank account after that kind of night. “I’m on a cop’s salary now not the league minimum.”
D’Andrea arched an eyebrow and smirked. The bastard wasn’t about to give up on busting his chops. Of course, if the situation had been swapped he would have been busting his best friend’s balls just as hard. It’s what they’d always done since they’d both unpacked their suitcases in the dorms years ago.
“A date?” he asked, the idea taking hold of him.
His heart sped up but doubt shoved its way through his ego and set up shop in his head. Penny wasn’t like the women he usually dated—she wasn’t a club girl or a badge bunny—plus she lived next door. Love ‘em and leave ‘em wasn’t an option unless he packed up his condo and moved.
D’Andrea held out his fist. “You playing or what?”
Time to either man up or surrender his balls. Trying to ignore the way his mouth had gone dry and his toes had started to sweat, he raised his knuckles. “Fine.”
They bumped fists.
“Look sharp, man.” D’Andre laughed, nodding at something over Sawyer’s left shoulder.“Your girl is on her way over.”
He whipped his head around. Penny wasn’t just strolling over for a flirty chat. She was marching over with her full lips in a tight pucker. In a heartbeat he scrolled through the last ten minutes wondering what in the hell he could have done to piss her off so completely, but he came up empty.
Penny stopped in front of D’Andre’s chair, her hands on her hips. “Where did you get that tattoo?”
Obviously unprepared for the total lack of awe over who he was, D’Andre blinked as he looked down at his chest, which was littered with tats of varying shapes, sizes and quality. “Which one?”
“The Phoenix on your shoulder.” Penny pointed to his left side.
D’Andre screwed up his face. “A year ago. Miami. Shit I don’t remember exactly where, but it was definitely here.” He pivoted in his seat and grabbed the suntan lotion off of Sawyer’s chair and held it out to her. “You want to put some of this on it while you take a closer look?”
Her cheeks turned pink, highlighting the freckles dusting the bridge of her nose, and she exhaled a disgusted sigh. “How do you not remember who did your work?”
D’Andre shrugged. “I was drunk.”
She’d been pink before, but now her coloring went straight to Ferrari red. Her big brown eyes rounded and the vein in her temple throbbed to a techno beat. This situation was about to go south quick.
Putting on his most soothing, I’m-a-cop-and-I’m-here-to-help look, Sawyer asked, “What’s going on?”
“Some asshole is stealing my tattoo designs.”
Weird. Who knew that that was a thing?
“How are they getting them?” D’Andrea asked, always so completely not helpful in tense situation.
Penny went ramrod straight again. “That’s what I’m trying to find out, she said with enough bitterness to turn the Miami summer downright chilly.
“I could help.” The offer was out of Sawyer’s mouth before he had a chance to double think it.
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah right.”
“No really. I’m a cop remember you examined my badge last night? I work vice.” And solving her problem would be the perfect way to work his way into her good graces and go out on that date. Penny will be happy because her thief will be caught. He will be happy because his bank account won’t be plundered. It was a win-win situation. What could go wrong? “I’ve got the few days off. Why don’t I help you look around?”
She eyeballed him, suspicion forming a little line between her eyes. “Vacation or suspension?”
More like well deserved break after a case he’d worked on fell apart right as they were ready to put the cuffs on the perps because the frat boy drug dealer leading the operation had parents with enough money and connections to make the whole case disappear. “Something like that.”
She stared at him, her body language as stiff as ever but she was wavering. He could see it in the way she nibbled her bottom lip and how she kept fidgeting with the black sketchpad she had pressed against her tits like a shield. All he needed to do was give her a gentle nudge to push her over the edge into yes.
“I can track this thief down.” And he could. No one was better at working a case than he was. “Do you want my help or not?”
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