Read Unexpected Reality Online
Authors: Kaylee Ryan
“Well now, cocky much?” Tyler accuses.
“Fellas, I say we sweeten the pot. Mr. Cocky thinks he can seal the deal, so we just have to up the stakes.” Kent sits up in his chair, leaning his elbows on the table.
I don’t say anything, just sit back and watch them. I can practically see the little wheels in their heads turning, deciding my fate. We’ve always been this way, never backing down from a dare.
“I got it!” Mark exclaims. “Three months. We pick the girl and you keep her around for three months.” He sits back in his seat, grinning wildly.
Fuck! Three months. That’s relationship material, and that equals feelings and a mess of drama when it ends. At times, the one-night stands are hard to get away from, even though they know the score. Three fucking months. What? Just so I can have bragging rights?
“I’m digging it,” Seth agrees.
A chorus of “Me, too” and “Hell yes” reaches my ears.
“What are the stakes?” I ask. “Three months is relationship status. I’ll need more than bragging rights.”
“Hundred bucks each,” Kent suggests. “And you can only be with her, no others.”
“I don’t need the money,” I say, signaling for the waitress to bring us another round.
“No, but if you win, we would have to pay up. Unless of course you’re backing down already?” Seth goads me.
Four hundred bucks and bragging rights. Is it worth it?
Four sets of eyes full of mischief watch me, waiting for me to turn it down.
What man would agree to keep some random woman, hand picked by his friends from a smoky bar around for three months? That would be crazy, right?
“Scared?” Mark heckles.
“Make your pick, boys.” I smirk. Fuck it! It’s three months, and they didn’t say how much time I had to spend with her, just that she had to be around for three months. I’ve gone three months without sex, so that’s not an issue.
Mark and Kent immediately begin searching the crowd for their suggestion. Seth looks confused, like he didn’t think I would agree. Tyler is smirking.
Payback’s a bitch, boys.
“Right, so we must consult. Ridge, my man, we’ll be right back,” Tyler says.
I watch as the four of them stand and head to the bar.
What the hell did I just get myself into?
The cute little waitress brings another round, even though the guys are standing at the bar. I quickly grab mine and pound it back, slamming the empty bottle on the table.
“Ridge, this is Stephanie,” Mark says as the rest of the guys take their seats. Turning to face the music, I see a blonde with long-ass legs and nice tits staring back at me. I prefer blondes.
Maybe this isn’t going to be as bad as I thought.
Standing from my seat, I reach for her hand and pull it to my lips. “Nice to meet you, Stephanie. Can I get you a drink?”
“Hi.” She blushes. “My friends are actually at the bar.” She points over her shoulder.
I don’t pull my eyes away from her, giving her all my attention. “You can sit by me.” I wink, pulling the chair out for her.
“Thanks.” She grins.
For the rest of the night, I focus on her. She seems . . . normal, not one of the crazies. Her friends are nice and otherwise occupied by mine. Everyone is having a good time, and I feel some of the dread slip away. Maybe, just maybe, I didn’t sign myself up for three months of hell.
As the night carries on, my boys continue to drink, but I switch over to water. It’s go time, so I need to keep my wits about me, keep Miss Stephanie interested. As if she can read my thoughts, she yawns.
“I’m so sorry.” She hides her mouth behind her hands. “I’ve been up since five this morning, and I’m worn out.”
“What do you do?”
“I work in interior design. I had a final staging today for a house we just completed.”
Beautiful and holds down a job. “Let me take you home,” I whisper in her ear.
“I-I . . . um, would love to, but I have to be up again early tomorrow,” she says while looking down at her clasped hands.
“As much as I would love to share your bed with you tonight, that’s not what I meant. You’re tired and have been drinking. Let me drive you home, make sure you make it there safe.”
She hesitates. I’m sure she’s trying to gauge if she can trust me. She looks around at our friends, who are obviously paired up.
“Steph, Mark is coming home with me. You ready to go?” her friend asks. I didn’t bother to try and learn their names.
This could not have worked out better. I brought Mark, her friend brought her. She needs a ride.
“Just a ride,” I whisper against her ear.
She nods. “Ridge said he could take me,” she tells her friend, who is draped over Mark.
I fight the urge to flip his ass off. Instead, I stand and offer Stephanie my hand. She takes it, any hesitation she may have had now gone. I wave to the table and lead her out to my truck.
Helping her inside, I wait until her seatbelt is on to shut the door, and then stop at the rear of the truck and take a deep breath. She seems chill, but who knows what the next three months will hold. This may be the first bet I ever lose. Shaking my head to remove that thought, I pull up my boxer briefs and make my way to the driver’s side. “So, where are we headed?”
“It’s not far from here, actually.”
I listen as she gives me general directions before pulling out of the lot. “You lived here long?” I ask.
“No. The girls and I just moved here about three months ago. Carla’s parents own the firm we work for. They’ve been planning to expand for a while, so when we all graduated, that’s what they did. The three of us had instant jobs right out of college.”
“That’s a pretty sweet deal.”
“We were lucky, that’s for sure.”
The cab of the truck grows silent. I’m pre-occupied with what I just agreed to and Stephanie . . . Well, I’m not sure what’s going through her head right now.
“Second house on the right,” she instructs, breaking the silence.
Pulling into the drive, I put the truck in park but don’t kill the engine.
“Thank you.” She reaches for the door.
Shit! I need to get with the fucking program here.
“Stephanie.” I reach out and grab her arm. “Can I see you again?” My voice is soft; I don’t want to make her think I’m some kind of fucking creeper.
“Yeah, uh, sure.”
“Hand me your phone, darlin.’”
She hesitates before pulling it out of her purse and handing it to me. I quickly type in my number and send a text to myself. This act alone is against every rule I’ve ever had. I don’t get involved—too much drama, too much . . . of the same.
I hand her phone back and smirk when mine sounds, alerting me to the message I just sent. Stephanie nods, then opens the truck door and hops out. I quickly do the same and follow her up to the door. I should be trying to seal the deal here, but fuck me, I can’t not tonight. I need to wrap my fucking head around what I just agreed to. This has to be my stupidest agreement to one of our bets yet.
As she clears the final step to the front porch, I know time is running out. I have to say something, but she beats me to the punch.
“You want to come in?”
Do I? Of course I do. She’s a looker. In my mind, I quickly try to play out the next three months. Maybe if I keep her as a casual hookup, I can pull this off. No strings. Fuck, worst-case scenario, I’m out four hundred bucks. That’s not the part that bothers me, though. It’s the bragging rights, and to not have to hear the ribbing of my boys over the next twenty years—or at least until another bet, better than this, one comes along.
“Lead the way, darlin.’”
Turns out, Stephanie was good with the ‘friends with benefits’ plan. She claims that her job keeps her busy and she doesn’t have time for anything more serious, so we agreed to hook up when we both had the urge and the time, no expectations. She also insisted that we not sleep with anyone else during that time. I’m good with that.
It’s been two months today that we met. We hook up about once a week, and so far it’s working out great. I see my pocket being four hundred dollars richer very soon. The guys could not have chosen a better girl; she’s just as detached as I am. Plus, the sex is good, so it’s a win-win.
“You in for cards tonight?” Kent asks.
“Tonight’s my night with Steph,” I tell him.
“Oh, yeah, your girlfriend. She got you on a leash, brother?” Tyler chimes in.
“Fuck off. No leash, we’ve both been busy this week. This is our only night to get together.” I need some relief, but I don’t tell them that. Why fuel the fire?
“Bring her with you,” Mark suggests.
“Maybe,” I say, not committing. I’m running through my mind how to make it work. We need to grab dinner, spend a few hours with the guys, and still find time to rumple the sheets.
“What’s it been—five, six weeks? She’s already got you by the balls.” Seth laughs.
“Eight. Laugh it up, boys, but I know my night is ending with getting my dick wet. Can you say the same?” I smirk.
“Ridge, come on, man. It’s card night. Just bring her,” Kent says, exasperated.
Card night has been our tradition for the last few years. We take turns having it at each other’s house, bring snacks and beer and just chill. Missing is not something any of us has ever done without a family emergency, and certainly not for a hookup/bet.
“Fine, we’ll be there. Now get back to work.”
I pull into Stephanie’s driveway right at six o’clock. I rushed home from work, grabbed a quick shower, and headed straight here.
“Hey,” she says, opening the door.
“Darlin.’” I lean in and kiss her. “You all set?”
“Yep.” She grabs her purse and keys and we’re out the door. “How’s your week been?”
“Busy, as usual. Finishing up the Allen job tomorrow, I hope. Just tying up some loose ends. Yours?”
She goes on to tell me about her day, and I listen as I drive us to the store.
“Uh, what are we doing here?”
“Card night. I need to pick up some snacks. I hadn’t planned on going, but the guys guilted me into it. I’ll be right back.” I quickly hop out of my truck and make my way inside. I grab some chips, salsa, and one of those meat and crackers trays then make my way to the checkout counter. Total of five minutes and I’m back in the truck.
“Card night?” she asks, once we’re back on the road.
Her arms are crossed over her chest, so I can tell she’s not impressed. I should feel bad or something, right? So why is it that I don’t? “Yeah, it’s something we do once a month. Have been for years,” I explain.
“And you picked tonight of all nights for us to get together?”
“I told you, I wasn’t going to go, but they convinced me today. What’s the big deal? We’ll stop at Kent’s, play a few hands, eat some pizza and snacks, and then be on our way.” I reach over and grab her hand. “Then we’ll see what we can do to relieve the stress of your week.” I wink.
She’s not impressed. “Ridge,” she whines.
What the hell? This is new. I’ve not seen this side of her. Of course, it’s usually just the two of us grabbing dinner and burning up the sheets. I’ve been able to avoid being out with her friends or mine until now. This is a first.