Wicked Sexy Liar (Wild Seasons #4)(10) by Christina Lauren

“Here all night,” I say, and I hope my smile is the appropriate balance of friendly yet distant. “I didn’t see you come back in.”

He’s in the middle of taking a drink when I say this, and his eyes widen over the top of it.

“ ‘Come back in’?” Luke sets his beer down in front of him and spins the coaster so the logo is facing up.

My mom says when I was younger, she could always tell when I was lying or stalling for time: I’d frown and scrunch my brows together until I had this little line in the center of my forehead. Apparently I still do it; she says it’s my tell. I wonder now if Luke has a tell, too, and if that’s what I’m seeing in the subtle way he’s fidgeting. He’s been so calm and smooth all this time, seeing him like this is like watching a gazelle play cards with a lion.

“Yeah, I saw you leave with your friend. And yet, here you are.”

“You mean Dylan?” He turns his cocktail napkin so that it’s facing logo side up, too.

It takes me a second to realize he means Not-Joe. I smile, knowing I’ve inadvertently cracked an enormous mystery among my friends: Who in the ever-loving hell is Not-Joe?

“I think we both know I’m not talking about Dylan.”

Luke laughs and I know the second he’s pulled himself together because he smiles and it’s a magic trick the way the cocky-jock-curtain parts across his face. I have zero doubt Luke Sutter could charm his way out of almost anything.

“You mean Aubrey,” he says, nodding as if the pieces are finally coming together for him. “I just drove her home.”

I snort. “I bet you did.”

“I was making sure she didn’t try to drive,” he says. “Besides, you had your wicked way with me yesterday and then barely looked at me tonight. When could you possibly have noticed me leaving?”

Now it’s my turn to laugh. “Luke, it’s totally fine. There’s zero weirdness on this end because you know where I stand. I’m just giving you shit.”

“Come on now, Dimples.” He immediately reaches into his pocket and pulls out a dollar bill, stuffing it in the jar. “I was just being a friend.”

Unable to resist, I tease, “Is ‘being a friend’ code for getting your dick sucked in the backseat?”

A laugh bursts from his throat. “It wasn’t like that,” he says, and one side of his mouth ratchets up a tiny bit higher than the other. “I promise.”

I pull a bottle from the group, open it, and replace the cap with a pour spout.

“Hang out with me for a bit,” he says quietly. “Tell me a story.”

I’m pulled up short for a breath by the sweetness of this request. As much as I want to, I just can’t peg this guy.

“In case you didn’t notice,” I say, motioning to my white shirt, apron, and the bar around us, “I’m sort of working right now.”

He looks around the bar. “Yeah, but it’s slow. Only about half the tables are full and most of those are dudes eating potato skins and drinking beer. They’d only call you over to see your legs in that skirt.” He stretches on his barstool to get a better look. “I know I would.”

I swat at him with a bar towel. “Why aren’t you hanging out with your friends?”

He shrugs. “My friends are all assholes, and none of them can beat me at Titanfall.”

I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from smiling. “I’d think that’d be a selling point, given your sad performance. How’s the manly pride today?”

He leans in and grins. “I think we both know my manly pride recovered just fine last night.”

I roll my eyes, fighting a laugh, and move to step away, but he reaches for my arm.

“And totally serious for a minute,” Luke says. “Tell me how you got so good at that game. I’m man enough to admit that I got spanked, but I need you to tell me all your secrets.”

I shrug, working my arm away from his gentle grip. The feel of his hand makes me flush, and I remember how they felt curled around my hips, working my body over his. “Just a lot of practice.”

“See, now I never would have guessed that. And not because you’re a girl,” he says, holding up a hand when he seems to anticipate what I guarantee would be a brilliant feminist rant, “but because you look like you spend all your time on a surfboard, not sitting on a couch.”

“Well, I should be building my portfolio to start looking for a real job, but I’m a brilliant procrastinator,” I tell him. “The video games call to me.”

Luke considers this. “Portfolio? Where’d you go to school?”

“UCSD. Graduated last spring. Graphic design.”

He looks confused, glancing to the colored bottles of liquor over my shoulder, to the rest of the bar, and then back to me. “And yet you’re here.”

“I am,” I say, and he seems to let it drop for now.

Luke and I fucked and we aren’t really even friends, so I have to give him credit for not asking why I’m tending bar at Fred’s instead of using the degree I obviously paid a small fortune for. Points for the boy.

“What about you?” I ask. “There were some hefty stacks of books at your place.”

“I graduated last spring, too. Studied poli-sci.”

“Wow,” I say, impressed. “What about sports?”

“Soccer for fun, water polo more seriously.”

Water polo. I give myself a mental high five for having guessed this the first time I saw him, and then my heart dips a little. The UCSD men’s water polo team won two national championships while we were there. Luke has to be an amazing athlete.

I swipe a bar towel across the prep space in front of me. “Wow,” I say quietly. “Water polo. That’s . . .” Impressive.

He waves this off. “So you spend all day surfing and work here at night, somehow perfecting your man-crushing gamer talents in your downtime.”

“Pretty much,” I tell him.

“Are you woman enough for a rematch?”

I’m about to remind him that no, last night was a one-time thing, when the outside door opens and a slice of the setting sun cuts across the floor. It’s Mia, followed by towering, gangly Ansel.

I smile and she bounces on her feet, waving. It’s only when I turn back to Luke that I see he’s followed the shift in my attention, and he’s looking right at my friend and her oversexed husband. Luke’s sixty-watt smile dims and he blinks quickly down to his beer, continuing to spin the coaster beneath it.

When I turn, I see that Ansel has his arms wrapped around Mia’s front, and is steering them both toward a booth in the far corner. Luke still hasn’t said anything.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out there’s some sort of connection between Luke and Mia, especially since I did see them in conversation the other day, I recall. So I guess it’s up to me to decide if I care enough to ask.

I’m not sure I do.

“Well, as fun as this has been, I have a few more things to grab,” I say, stepping out from behind the bar.

Luke still doesn’t seem to have snapped out of whatever was bothering him, and quietly nods in my general direction.

I wave at Fred as I head back to the stockroom. Fred was recovering from a slipped disk when I started, and Harlow basically threatened to hang his balls from the dartboard if she caught him lifting anything heavier than a bottle of Bombay.

I’m still getting to know Harlow, but I’ve learned enough to know that she’s 1) nosy, 2) really nosy when she cares about someone, and 3) in possession of one hell of a temper. I’ll carry as many boxes from the storeroom as it takes to never experience that temper firsthand.

When I get back to the bar—arms full—Luke slides off his stool to greet me.

“Jesus, let me help you,” he says, taking the cardboard box off my hands.

“Thanks,” I say, and shake out my arms. “That one was heavier than it looked.”

“How many more of those do you have?” he asks, looking back over my shoulder.

“Just a few,” I tell him, cutting the tape open to check the contents inside.

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