Copyright 2022 @Lauren HelmsI want so badly to intertwine my fingers with hers, but I can’t, and she drops my hand before reaching for pretzels. “O.M.G. It just hit me how hungry I am.” She shoves food into her mouth, and I can’t help but chuckle at her. “Did you not eat dinner?” Leaning into the bar, I watch her with fascination. “I did, but I was wearing a dress.” She offers this up as if it’s common sense. I snort. “I don’t understand what that has to do with anything.” She giggles and rolls her eyes. “Let me school you in some basic female knowledge.” She shoves more food into her mouth. If she wasn’t drunk, she’d be embarrassed at the way she’s acting. I find it endearing. “Mkay. By all means, Bernie, educate me.” She makes a face, and I’m not sure what I said that threw her off, but then she tells me. “If you’re gonna use a nickname, it’s Benny now.” She scoffs. Confused, I just shake my head. I’ll admit, I don’t use her shortened name often. Way back in the day, she introduced herself to me as Bernadette, so it just stuck. I’ve always kinda liked that I’m the only one to use her full name, but I’m not on my game tonight. Between her being drunk and overly flirting with me, the new knowledge I possess about her, and the douche-waffle thinking he has a chance with her, I slip and use her nickname. “Anyway, what do you have to teach me, oh wise one?” I smirk, getting her back on track. “Ohh, I like that. But I think you’re making fun. I digress. When a woman is wearing a fancy dress, there are two rules. One, don’t make a mess. And two, don’t stuff yourself silly or your food baby will show.” A deep belly laugh erupts from me. Between breaths, I ask, “Food baby?” She’s soaking up my laughter, and she nods vigorously. “Yes, you know when you eat too much and it just sits there in your gut, and it looks like you’re about fifteen weeks preggo? Ergo, food baby. You don’t do that in a fancy tight-fitting dress.” My laughter under control now, I tell her, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this before, Bernadette.” I chuckle, taking in her carefree, easy demeanor. Her eyes flash with something. “Like what?” She hiccups. “Drunk,” I deadpan. Her eyes widen. “Oh, then I’ve done my job.” I quirk my brow, “Do you get drunk often and hide it?” She giggles. “Well, shit, do I need to stage an intervention?” Her pure happiness sets my blood on fire, and it takes everything in me to not reach out to touch her. “Stop, I’m not a closet drunk. I mean, you don’t see me drunk because I don’t get drunk. In public or alone.” She tries her damnedest to make a serious face, but the attempt ends up just amusing her, and her eyes sparkle. My own grin grows. “You’re fun like this. Carefree.” She’s being hilarious right now. I know she doesn’t need alcohol to make her funny. She’s always fun to be around. But I realize now that I don’t have a lot of one-on-one conversations with her. I’m going to start craving this connection. “I’m not normally fun?” She pops out her bottom lip, leaning forward slightly. Her scent fills my lungs. I take in a deep breath and lean in closer to her. “No, you’re fun, Benny.” My voice is deep. Her eyes glitter at the use of her new nickname. She attempts to be serious, but fails. “Just more fun when I’m wasted, yeah?” “Nah. But normally, you don’t let me get close enough to have fun.” I don’t know why I said that, but it’s out there now. Her eyes widen, and her mouth forms a little o. I let the silence envelop us. The ball is in her court now. “Well…” She closes her mouth, opens it again, and then closes it. I offer a soft laugh. She seems to gather her thoughts and says, “Well, you know where I live. So if you want fun, you know where to find me.” Well. Fuck. Me. I gulp, taking in her words, and before I can reply, she’s walking—no, running—away. Gia drapes her arm over her as the girls pull her into the conversation. I’m looking at her, still processing the gauntlet she threw down, and she peeks at me over her shoulder, gives me a little smile, then turns back to the group. Damn, she launched that fucking ball right back into my court, didn’t she?
About Lauren HelmsLauren Helms is a romance author her nerdy and flirty contemporary words. Lauren has forever been an avid reader from the beginning. After starting a book review website, that catapulted her fully into the book world, she knew that something was missing. While working for a video game strategy guide publisher, she decided to mix what she knew best–video games and romance. She decided to take the plunge and write her first novel, Level Me Up. Several published novels later, Lauren created PR company, Indie Pen PR, to help other authors promote their books. Lauren lives in Indianapolis, Indiana sharing her love of books and video games with her own Gamer Boy husband and three young kid nerds who will hopefully grow up to share the love of things that united Lauren and her husband on their own happily ever after. Follow: Facebook | Reader Group | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub | Newsletter | TikTok
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