Unexpected Rush (Play by Play #11)

by Jaci Burton

One

“Men suck.”

Harmony Evans tossed her purse on the kitchen table of her mother’s house and pulled up a chair next to her best friend, Alyssa. It was Thursday night—family dinner night at Mama’s house. Everyone was coming over, as it always was at Mama’s. Right now she’d prefer to be sitting in the corner of a dark bar, nursing a dirty martini. She was going to have to settle for sweet tea because, short of death, you did not miss Thursday-night dinner at Mama’s.

She’d already come in and kissed her mother, who was holding court in the living room with Harmony’s brother, Drake, and several of his friends, giving her time to catch up with Alyssa.

Alyssa laid her hand over Harmony’s and cast a look of concern. “Oh, no. Is it Levon?”

Harmony wrinkled her nose, preferring never to hear the name of her now ex boyfriend again. “Yes.”

“Did you dump him?”

“I did not break up with him. He gave me the classic ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ speech. He’s doing so much international travel with the law firm, and he just can’t devote enough time to the relationship, so it wouldn’t be fair to lead me on when he knows he can’t commit. He went on with more excuses but it was all blah blah blah after that.” She waved her hand back and forth.

Alyssa’s gaze narrowed. “What a prick. Why is it so damn hard to find a man of value, one who will respect a woman and give her honesty?”

“I have no idea.” Harmony pulled one of the empty glasses forward and poured from the pitcher that sat in the middle of the table, already filled with tea and ice and loaded with so much sugar she’d likely be awake all night. At this point, she didn’t care. She’d work it off in a gym session tomorrow. “All I know is I’m glad to be rid of him. It was bad enough his bathroom counter had more product on it than mine did.”

Alyssa laughed. “It’s for the best, Harmony. What does a man need on his counter besides a toothbrush, soap, deodorant and a razor?”

“According to Levon, there was stuff for his beard, trimming devices, facial scrub, moisturizer—separate ones for his face and his body. An entire manicure set for his nails, to use when he wasn’t off getting mani-pedis of course.”

“Of course,” Alyssa said, then giggled.

“Oh, and the scents. Let’s not forget his entire rack of colognes.”

Alyssa nodded. “The man did reek, honey.”

“I think he owned more perfume than I do.”

“Never a good sign. See? You dodged a bullet.”

“I did.”

Alyssa lifted her glass. “Let’s toast to that.”

They clinked glasses. “To men we’re lucky to have not ended up with,” Harmony said.

“What are we toasting to?”

Harmony looked up to find Barrett Cassidy standing at the kitchen table. He was her brother Drake’s best friend and teammate, and since the guys both played for the Tampa Hawks football team, and Barrett also lived in Tampa, it meant she’d often see Barrett at Mama’s house for dinner. Along with several other members of the Hawks football team.

One of the nicest things about living in Tampa, as a matter of fact. She’d often thought it fortuitous that her brother had been drafted by the hometown team. It had kept him close to home all these years, and of course, one couldn’t complain about the awesome eye candy her brother brought home now and then.

Especially Barrett. Most especially Barrett.

“We’re toasting the end of Harmony’s relationship with a man who was absolutely not right for her,” Alyssa said.

Barrett arched a brow, then gave Harmony a sympathetic look. “Really. Sorry about that.”

Harmony shrugged. “Nothing to be sorry about. Alyssa’s right. He wasn’t the man for me.”

“Then I guess I’m . . . happy for you?”

She could tell this was uncomfortable for him. “Come on. Sit down and have a glass of iced tea with us.”

“I’m not sure I want to wade into these waters. Breakups are not my territory.”

“Oh, come on, Barrett. Surely you’ve dumped a woman before,” Harmony said, pouring him a glass. When he didn’t answer, she added, “Or you’ve been dumped.”

He pulled out a chair and sat. She’d never realized before how utterly . . . big he was. He’d always kept his distance from her, preferring to hang with Drake, so this was the closest she’d ever been to him. Both he and Drake played defense for the Hawks. Like her brother, Barrett was absolutely pure muscle. But she never paid attention to Drake. Barrett, though? Oh, yes. Just watching the way his muscles flexed as he moved was like watching liquid art. She could stare at his arms for hours, but she tried not to ogle. Too much, anyway.

“I’ve been dumped before, sure,” Barrett said. “And maybe I’ve broken up with a woman or two.”

Alyssa leaned close to Harmony. “He’s downplaying being the one who dumped the woman.”

“I heard that, Alyssa.”

“I meant for you to hear me, Barrett. You’re just trying to be the good guy right now because we’re roasting the not so good guys.”

Barrett narrowed his gaze. “I told you I shouldn’t be sitting here. If you both want to bad-mouth my species—which you have a right to, since some asshole broke up with you, Harmony—then I should leave. Also, I’d suggest something stronger than iced tea. It helps.”

So maybe he had been dumped before. It sounded like he knew how to get through it.

“It’s okay, Barrett,” Harmony said. “Me getting dumped is definitely not your fault. I’m not as broken up about it as I should be, all things considered. So you’re safe here.”

Besides, looking at Barrett could definitely make her forget all about Levon and his prissy bathroom counter. She wondered how many items Barrett kept on his bathroom counter? She’d just bet not many.

She turned her chair toward him, determined to find out. “Actually, I have a ridiculous question for you, Barrett.”

He turned his gorgeous blue eyes on her and smiled. “Shoot.”

“How many items currently reside on your bathroom counter?”

Barrett cocked a brow. “Huh?”

Alyssa laughed. “Very good question.”