eight years

a story by madforfigs (10.27.13)

chapter 9: team dinners

I knocked on the open glass door leading into Quinn's office, waiting for him to give me permission to enter his office. He had his phone up to his ear as he glanced up at me, waving me in, looking unamused by the conversation he was having. "Sorry." He whispered as he covered up the transmitter part of the phone. "It's Walter Pratt. The man doesn't seem to understand that you can't sue a bar because you had to wait in line for the bathroom like everyone else. What can I do for you?"

Walking into his office, I sat down on the overstuffed armchair in front of his desk. I took in a deep breath and leaned my elbow against the surface. "Is it okay if I leave right now?"

Quinn raised an eyebrow at me, tilting back in his chair. The chair creaked under his weight as he scrutinized me. I met his gaze, knowing that an intense line of questioning was coming. After all, I was requesting to leave work at an unreasonably early hour. It was barely six o'clock on a Tuesday, so I really had to sell this. "Now?" Quinn asked, propping his feet up on his desk. "I've never seen you leave this early before. Are you done with the merger agreement for Pharmac Velocity?"

I hesitated for a moment and considered lying, but quickly decided against it. "No." I replied honestly. "I'll finish that tomorrow and I'm working with Brett Ivory to get his sublease agreement written up. That's why I'm leaving now; I have a meeting with some of the Hawks players."

Quinn straightened in his chair, placing his feet back down on the ground as he stood up. The coiled wire of his telephone scraped a few items along the surface of his desk, but he didn't care. He moved to the side I was sitting by and tipped his lower body back against the corner of the desk. "Oh? A meeting? And who, may I ask, will be there?"

"Brett Ivory," I began counting the names on my fingers as I recollected the list Jace had texted me earlier, "Randall Pierce, Devon King, Leon Dockett and Jace Hartman. When I met them over the weekend, they had some things they wanted to discuss with me."

My boss looked at me for a moment, holding up his hand as he turned his attention back to the conversation he was having on the phone. "Mr. Pratt, again, this isn't something we can help you with. I understand that Sir Benedict Harvey recommended you come speak to us. No. No, Walter. You can't do that either. I don't need you to explain the scenario; I just… oh." Quinn let out a deflated sigh, cradling his elbow with his spare hand.

He covered the transmitter again and looked back at me. "Dinner with the clients, right?" I nodded in response, just waiting for him to tell me to stop dicking around and get back to work. "Charge it to the company account. Make sure you bring something back and tomorrow you'll stay later than this, right?"

"Yes, sir." I piped up, drawing myself to my full height. I shook his hand quickly, thanking him and slipped out the door. I shut it behind me, moving as swiftly as possible so Quinn couldn't suddenly change his mind and call me back. I swung by my cubicle in the associates' area, grabbing my blazer as I threw it over my shoulder. "Peace out, dudes." I said, passing by Matt and Perry's desks with a quick salute.

"Wait." Perry peeped over the side of his cubicle. "You're leaving already and Quinn isn't chewing you out? How the hell did you manage that?"

"I have dinner with the guys." I smirked as Matt rolled back in his chair so that he was pushed up beside Perry. "I gotta go. They have a reservation at Avon Bar and Grill."

"Stop rubbing this in our faces." Matt groaned, scooting back over to his desk. He picked up a globe-shaped stress ball and threw it at me. Catching it swiftly, I glared at him before tossing it back.

"What can I say? I got the best damn client in this firm." I grinned. "I'll see you guys tomorrow, alright?"

"Of course." Perry replied, smiling slyly at me. "Tell them we said hey, okay?"

I nodded and gave him a knowing smile. After that night at Third Floor, I had been hoping that Perry was possibly too drunk to remember what had happened or possibly think that he had just imagined the whole thing. Initially, to my chagrin, he had tagged alongside of me to the subway station after work yesterday and reassured me that no one would ever know.

My adamant denial of any relationship with Jace fell flat though. Perry's exact response was, 'You're a fool of a took if you think you have a platonic friendship with that guy."

Yes, this is the type of person I consider one of my closest friends.

I straightened myself up as I walked to the elevator bank, hitting the 'down' button. Dinner with the guys shouldn't be bad, especially after everything that had transpired over the weekend. Randall and Devon were an odd duo; quirky was the best way to describe them. They had nothing but the best intentions though. Brett Ivory seemed nice enough, despite the fact he'd almost knocked me down to the floor. Then there was the mysterious Leon Dockett who apparently always disappeared with his wife.

And as always... Jace Hartman. I couldn't figure him out, no matter how hard I tried. But with the way we'd left things on Saturday, it appeared that we'd come to an understanding. He was with Chloe and well, I suppose I was with a guy who I hadn't spoken to in a week. The past few encounters between Jace and me had been tumultuous, but now we had settled to be friends.

Oh, who the fuck was I kidding with this bullshit?

The elevator doors opened as I got in, leaning against the back of the elevators as I crossed my arms. I was annoyed with myself because I was an idiot. Technically speaking, what I told Perry was the truth; Jace and I are only friends. Sure, there was some underlying sexual tension between us but that was just because he had the intention of sleeping with me once and leaving me behind. I, on the other hand, clearly felt something for him. I couldn't pinpoint it just yet and I wasn't prepared for the consequences of my potential actions. All I knew was that I wanted to be around Jace as often as I could.

When the elevator reached the lobby, I scanned my ID badge and walked past the security desk. I waved at Stan, the guard who worked the night shift. But as I turned around, I faltered when I saw who was leaning against one of the marble columns. It was almost as if my eyes were playing mental tricks on me, procuring up images of Jace Hartman wherever I went because of how often my mind focused solely on that beautiful face of his.

But sure enough, it was him, leaning his left arm against the marble. He was dressed in a pair of dark-wash jeans, hanging perfectly from his hips. The dress shirt, cardigan and tie combo he was wearing was enough to top off the casual ensemble he was wearing, but still managed to attract the attention of every female who walked through the lobby. Jace didn't seem to notice the other women, though. His eyes lingered on his phone as he texted someone.

As I approached him, he seemed to be well aware of my presence. Jace suddenly looked up just when I was three feet away and the intense hue of his cerulean eyes stilled my movements. A smug smile tugged at his lips as he pushed himself away from the column. Even something like this… something as simple as making eye contact with me was capable of blowing me away. Sometimes, I wished he knew how he made me feel just so he would stop being like this.

But it wasn't like I could tell him to stop existing.

So I sucked in a breath and did my best to give him a warm smile. I knew it probably came off a tad shaky, but it was better than breaking down into a nervous mess. "What're you doing here, Jace?" I asked when he was close enough to hear me.

"What, I can't pick up a friend?" he grinned, flashing me a brilliant smile. Luckily, the sparkle seemed to reach his eyes, indicating he was actually genuinely happy to see me. "I'm double parked right now so if we could get going, that'd be awesome." He jerked his head towards the entrance.

"Alright, let's go." I said, forcing myself to move my feet in time with his. I tried to ignore the jealous glares that the other women were giving me and tilted my face up towards the man standing next to me. "So you guys are two and oh still. That's great."

"Come on," Jace scoffed, pulling open the passenger door for me, "did you think we'd lose against Dallas? Give us a little more credit, please."

The door shut behind me and I waited until he slid into the seat from the other side before I responded. "Hey, what am I supposed to think? You did blow a seventeen point lead in the third quarter, yet again. What happened there?" I wanted to make a snappy comment about how he was probably off kissing another woman during halftime, but I just didn't have the energy to do so. Not only that, but ruining the silent understanding we'd come to wasn't my priority in life.

Jace flexed his fingers against the steering wheel as he drove down the street. Even if I hadn't said it out loud, he clearly got the jab I'd thrown at him. "My center got a concussion at the beginning of the second half." He explained coolly. "Our backup is a rookie and having a gap straight down the middle of my offensive line usually means I have less than one second to throw the ball. Randall was pretty banged up during that quarter too. That's all it was."

I winced, hating myself for making such a terrible assumption about Jace. Attempting to change the topic, I said, "Oh. Is he okay? A concussion sounds pretty serious."

"Yeah, he's fine. It's not too severe, but he won't be able to play next week. Considering how we're playing Kansas City and they're already leading the league in sacks, I might be screwed." Jace sighed, rubbing his head. "Do you want to come?"

"Are you serious?" I snorted as Jace pulled the car smoothly into the valet lane. My door opened as I got out, thanking the valet for the assistance. Jace came into sight on the other side of the car as he dropped the keys into the valet's hand and walked towards me. "You're telling me that you're probably going to get completely, and utterly owned by their defensive line, so therefore you want me to watch you get your ass kicked? Contrary to popular belief, I don't like seeing you get knocked down by hundreds of pounds of dude."

Jace laughed loudly, shaking his head in disbelief. "But if I do get injured, then that'll win me some sympathy points, right?" he grinned as he ushered me into the restaurant. His fingers drifted down to my lower back, pressing just enough to charge my senses. It was that warm recognition; my body seemed to always be able to distinguish Jace's touch from anyone else's.

Turning in my spot, I immediately punched him on his arm as he smirked at me. "Don't say shit like that or I won't come to the game."

"So does this mean you're going to come?" he asked, raising his eyebrow.

My eyes locked with his, and suddenly we were back in our own safe haven. In a bustling restaurant filled with important businessmen, it was just the two of us standing next to one another. His hand was still on my back, forcing me to unconsciously lean towards him. Jace shifted his stance so that his legs were straddling the left side of my body. I had to crane my neck to look up at him, but the discomfort was forgotten. Getting lost in his midnight blue eyes was starting to become a habit – an addiction that I couldn't step away from.

"Excuse me, Mr. Hartman?" The sound of the host's voice cut through our moment. Remembering how public we were, I quickly stepped back from him, mumbling an apology as I coughed. Jace lifted his eyes from mine and focused on the middle-aged man standing before us, looking slightly flustered for having broken something seemingly important. "I apologize, sir, but your party is currently waiting for you. If you don't mind following me…"

"Of course." Jace muttered under his breath, followed by a string of words I couldn't comprehend. I glanced up at him, but he didn't turn towards me again. My body was still feeling the lingering tremors of the intense second we'd just shared. Jace obviously had no idea what he was capable of doing to me, and what had just happened reminded me of exactly that. Once again, he was the cool and collected quarterback walking through the restaurant and ignoring the glances and whispers while I was the flustered girl in the background who was unable to control her emotions.

Seems like not much has changed since our high school years.

"Hartman!" Devon pushed back his chair, making it scrape noisily against the hardwood floor of the restaurant. He flung out his arms, not caring that he almost knocked out a waiter carrying a tray of dishes. Luckily, the man managed to stop walking just in time as Jace apologized on behalf of his rowdy teammate. "What's up, man?" Devon pulled his captain into a tight hug, smacking his back with his right hand.

"Get off me, Dev." Jace retorted, but kept the smile on his face as he pulled away from his teammate. I took the opportunity to sneak a glance around the table. Randall was next to where Devon had gotten up, staring a bit too intently at the menu. Brett Ivory was beside him, swiping through something on his phone. Leon Dockett sat next to Brett, staring at me.

I smiled timidly at him, holding out my hand. "Hi, I'm-"

"Evelyn, yeah." Leon returned the gesture, grasping my hand tightly. I did my best not to wince at the intense pressure and pulled my hand away as quickly as possible. These guys just seemed to always forget that I wasn't a superhuman like them. "Randall said you tried to find me on Saturday, but I wasn't around. Sorry about that."

"It's fine, don't worry about it." I responded, sinking into the chair beside him. A leather-bound menu was suddenly thrust into my face as I thanked the waiter who had quickly attended to me. Another was placed beside me where Jace would ultimately be sitting. "They said you were talking to your wife, so believe me, I get it."

"Thanks. You have no idea how much shit the guys give me so it's nice when someone understands every once in a while." He grinned. "So I heard you actually managed to get Jermaine a pretty easy sentence. How the hell did you manage that?"

I groaned and leaned back in my chair, picking up the wine menu. If this was what the conversation was going to revolve around all night, I was definitely going to need a buzz to get me through the evening. "I went through so much shit trying to make sure he didn't go into jail. The judge who was on his case absolutely hates DUIs and celebrities. He's making it his personal goal to send every famous person into jail as long as they're driving above the legal limit. So please, talk some sense into your teammate? I don't think he understands how screwed he's going to be if he fucks up again. I'm not kidding; he is going to jail next time. There's no question about it."

From my left, Jace sighed and sat down into the chair. "Believe me, we've all tried talking to him but the man doesn't know how to listen. I know it'll be your job on the line if you don't manage to keep him out of jail, but McCoy knows the guy is a liability. He's one hell of a player, but he's got problems. I can't promise you that he won't get in trouble and next time, it'll probably be much worse."

"Well, gee." I muttered under my breath. I stopped mid-thought when the waiter came over to take my order. I ordered everything I wanted before turning back to the guys. "Thanks for the heads up. I don't know if I appreciate it, but try your best to keep the guy in line, okay?"

"He knows that if he does anything drastic, he won't be re-signed next year. Hell, no one's going to wanna pick him up because of all this national hoopla over his legal issues. But bro to bro, we'll make sure he keeps his shit together. Don't you worry your pretty little head about it." Devon smirked, gesturing at me from across the table.

The guys laughed in unison as I just rolled my eyes at them. It was a little odd how quickly they seemed to accept me into their tiny circle of elite athletes. I was their lawyer, but still, it didn't mean that we had to hang out on a daily basis. More importantly, it wasn't like I drank with my other clients until I completely blacked out and had to be carried home by one of them.

That's just a 'meeting' I'd never like to repeat.

"So have you asked her yet, man?" Leon asked, graciously accepting the beer the waiter had placed in front of him.

I glanced back at Jace who was nodding as he said, "Yup I did. But she hasn't given an answer yet." I stared inquisitively at him. What had he asked me? But before I could ask him aloud, it hit me. He wanted me to come to the Kansas City game, but then we had been interrupted by the host. And of course, while he had been asking me to come, I'd found myself ensnared in his trap, yet again.

"Oh, uh yeah sure. As long as I don't have to see you get your ass kicked. It really is painful to watch someone get knocked down again and again. Makes you seem a little less manly." I added on, patting his shoulder in mock comfort as he sneered.

"Oh, shit son!" Leon laughed, clapping his hands together gleefully. "I like this girl. We need to keep her around more often. This means you're coming on Sunday then, right?"

I stared back and forth between all five guys, and they were all staring right back at me. Devon had his hands clasped together under his chin, tilting his head as he pleaded silently with those big brown, Bambi eyes of his. I think that was what did it for me as I shook my head, trying to contain my laughter. Devon was probably my favorite player on the team. He was quirky and loud-mouthed, which seemed to clash with his overwhelming 6'4" frame. And right now, that ridiculous look on his face was what made me cave.

In all honesty, despite the fact that I was joking around about Jace getting sacked left and right, I didn't like seeing it. Each time he was crushed between 300 pounds defensive lineman and the stadium turf, it hurt. Now knowing that his offensive line was so much weaker and therefore leaving him more vulnerable, I didn't know if I could stand seeing him get hit repeatedly for the entirety of the game. "Fine, I'll be there. What seats are you getting me this time?"

"Yes!" Randall whooped, ignoring the stares he was getting from the other patrons. "Freaking awesome, okay. You're not actually gonna be in the stands, if that's alright with you."

Not in the stands? Then where the hell was I going to be?

"You'll be on the sidelines with us."

I choked on the sip of wine I had conveniently taken in at that moment. Sputtering unattractively, I accepted the napkin cloth that was thrust in my face. Ignoring the smirks and smiles on each of their faces, I swallowed my wine and dabbed at my mouth. "Repeat that?" I asked.

"Sure." Brett shrugged. "You'll be on the sidelines with us. You'll be standing with us though, so dress comfortably. The benches are for people who're actually exerting energy."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. But are you guys actually able to do that? I mean hell, this is fucking awesome, excuse my language. I thought only former players and personnel are able to be there."

"It's all arbitrary and since it's a home game, only the VIPs can be graced by our presence." Devon replied. "And you, my friend, will be there. Oh and… would you be requiring an extra spot for a friend? A boyfriend? Or anything?"

I didn't know if it was the quick jerk of my head or the fear in my eyes that made Devon retract his comment. He started laughing loudly, slamming his fist against the table as I glanced up at Jace. Without any words, he knew what I was asking because he firmly shook his head just once. "You're so fucking lame, you asshole." Leon sighed, dropping his head against his arm. "I seriously hate you sometimes."

"Sometimes?" Jace quirked an eyebrow. "That's clearly an understatement. But in all honestly, are you going to be bringing someone? Jackson will need to know so that he can get some lanyards for you."

I thought about it for a moment. From the way Jace was staring at me, he was daring me to bring along Martin. I didn't know where things currently stood between the two of us and even if there was still anything left. But Jace didn't know that; after all, Martin was the excuse I was forking out to justify not pursuing Jace. I had very little willpower left and if I admitted I wasn't bringing Martin to this, I didn't know what would happen after that.

Simultaneously, I was tired of fighting with myself. I was just exhausted. So that was what made me say, "Yeah, I'll be bringing Cindy if that's okay?"

Something in Jace's eyes flashed as he gazed down at me. "Cindy? What about Martin? You brought him last time and he's a fan of us."

"I don't think Martin and I are seeing each other anymore."

Our table fell silent when I finally managed to admit that fact. Jace's face was unexpressive, impassive. The only indication I had that he'd heard what I said was the slow intensifying color in his eyes. It was a look I was so familiar with by this point. From his usual shade of azure to a passionate midnight blue, the heated glances we shared were too much for my body. So now with him sitting so close, yet so far, I could feel that familiar magnetism between us again.

"Well, shit." Brett suddenly laughed, breaking yet another intimate moment between us. "Are the two of you fucking?"


"Brett, that's fucking crude!"

"Wait, what did I miss?"

"No, they so aren't. Are they? Wait… Hartman! You sneaky motherfucker!"

"Shut the fuck up." Jace's voice was cold as the barrage of questions from his teammates ceased. "No, Evelyn and I are not fucking. We're just friends. Leon, yes, he is a crude motherfucker. Dev, just go back to drinking. And Randall, I'm not a sneaky motherfucker. So let's drop it."

"Jeez, just trying to be happy for you, man." Randall replied. "I thought you finally dumped that dumbass bitch and went with someone with intelligence."

"You know as well as I do that Chloe and I aren't dating exclusively." Jace retorted, purposely keeping his eyes away from mine. "She helps keeps the unwanted attention at bay."

"And I'm sure the sex is fantastic."

Oh, this was definitely not the conversation I wanted to hear right now, especially when I was slowly coming to terms with Jace.

Just like at the bar a few nights ago, I found myself seething. Jace wasn't mine to dictate and boss around, but I couldn't stop myself from feeling that red-hot jealousy bubble up inside my lower belly. I didn't walk away like I had done last time; that would be far too dramatic and unnecessary. Doing my best to keep calm, I dug my phone out of my purse and started to send a text to Cindy, telling her to keep next Sunday open or else she'd miss out on her chance to meet the Hawks.

Her response was almost immediate, as if she'd been waiting her entire life for this very text. The enthusiastic "I love you!" followed by twenty exclamation marks was more than enough to indicate she would be accompanying me next week to the game. I wasn't sure how long I managed to tune them out for until a warm hand was placed on my left arm.

I wasn't completely surprised to see Jace staring at me. "Hey, you okay?" he asked and for once, there didn't seem to be an ounce of malice in his voice. "I'm sorry about earlier; the guys will be guys. I know you didn't want them to figure it out, but there wasn't anything I could do about that."

"It's okay." I replied softly, laying my hand on top of his. By this point, I didn't care. We could fight our attraction to one another all we wanted to, but to everyone around us, it seemed to be the most obvious thing in the world. "As long as Chloe doesn't catch wind of it – I don't want to get on her bad side. I don't think I could take a catty woman."

"Don't worry." Jace grinned, letting his hand fall away from mine. I missed the warmth for a split second, but remembered that we were still with his teammates. "She actually likes you. So what's this about you and Martin? The two of you seemed pretty close at the party after kick-off."

I shrugged, not exactly wanting to get into my relationship woes with a man who was currently at the center of all my troubles. But I continued anyway, laying it all on the table. "I don't become official with a guy until I know for a fact that I could settle down with him. That's why I guess technically, I've only had one boyfriend. He and Martin are a bit similar in a way – they both put their jobs ahead of me and I guess that's what I'm doing too. I want to know what that feeling's like."

"Hmm." Jace hummed. "I guess that's just how it is sometimes. I'm sorry to hear that."

"Yeah, well, it's not like it's entirely over. We just haven't talked in a week."

"Girl, if you haven't talked to your man in a week and you guys were just screwing around, then let me tell you one thing. That man is sleeping with someone else." Randall interjected. I swiveled in my chair to look at him and despite his unsophisticated choice of words, he was right. I wasn't giving Martin what he wanted, which was a relationship, and now he was moving on.

Or at least, that's how the minds of men worked, right? Aw hell, this was just too much analyzing of the male psyche for me to handle.

"Got it. Listen," I wearily rubbed my temple with my fingertips, "as interesting as this topic is, can we move on? To, oh, I don't know. Actual business stuff? If I don't come back to the office tomorrow with something of substance, I'm going to get in a lot of trouble."

"You won't get in trouble." Leon said. "Before you came to visit on Saturday, Jackson was afraid to have a first-year associate doing all the grunt work. But every time he called, Quinn would just sing praises about you. Your bosses are in love with you, but if you're really that desperate for some sort of work, I guess we could do that for you."

"Whatever, just don't make me have to defend you guys for assault. I don't want to have to deal with that stuff." I replied.

"Can't guarantee it, Warner." Randall grinned. "But we'll try our best to not be a pain in the ass."

"Always appreciated, Pierce." I grumbled, but didn't pursue the topic. After all, since I was charging this to Quinn's company card, I would have to do something business related. If one of them punched another person in the face, I had no option but to save their asses and make sure they got the best deal. That was the price I had to pay for getting the best client with all the perks. "Now tell me everything you guys need."

I spent the next two hours eating and drinking, laughing and discussing business with the guys. When they weren't being obnoxious, arrogant jocks, the whole bunch of them was actually a nice group of normal people. After we had managed to quiet down for the sake of the other patrons, the amount of work we actually got done was extraordinary. Leon would be coming to the office at some point to discuss the guidelines for his sublet. Brett was about to strike up a deal with Sub-Zero Athletics for a line of compression gear and needed me there with him to walk him through and ensure that he wasn't getting screwed over.

As we were getting ready to leave close to eight o'clock, I signed the receipt and picked up my credit card. Quinn had already left the office so I was just going to give back his card tomorrow. I placed the pen down and flung my bag over my shoulder. Jace lingered back while his other teammates continued walking out the restaurant, punching and slapping one another. The disapproving glares were plenty, but when they realized they were members of their beloved New York Hawks, the glares were replaced with looks of adoration.

"You didn't have to wait." I said as we walked together. "You should've just gone ahead with your guys."

"Eh." Jace shrugged, stopping for a second to shake hands with the owner of the restaurant. I waited along the side, lingering back to let Jace thank him for the wonderful meal. Devon suddenly appeared beside me, nudging me subtly with his elbow.

"Did you know that Marcus Clay and I are friends?"

The random question threw me off, and I was sure the confusion was evident on my face as I turned to look at him. "Um, that's cool."

"Yup. All of us hang out during the off-season and he tries his best to get out here every once in a while since all of you are from Jersey. So it's inevitable that since I've gotten signed with the Hawks the year after Jace did, that I would become friends with his best friend."


"Hush, let me talk, woman." He interrupted bluntly. I rolled my eyes, accepting defeat. Whatever he had to say had to be of some relevance. "So I decided to text him after the kickoff game when I first met you in the locker rooms. Jace didn't do a great job introducing us, so I wanted to find out a bit more. I might've lied to Marcus to get him to spill more information, but yeah. You don't need to hide it from me, Warner. Jace is a hot piece of ass that every woman in the nation wants to tap at least once before she's too old. There's no way you can spend this much time with the guy and not think the same thing."

Was I really that obvious? "Wait-"

"Didn't I say hush? Shit, man." Devon huffed. "I like you, Warner. I want to keep you around. I think we all do, because you bring out a side of Jace that we haven't seen since the college years when we played Stanford. As for me, I'll do my best to get rid of Chloe for you, deal?"

My mouth fell open as he was speaking. Before I could even begin thinking of the proper response for this situation, he winked at me and walked away. I was milliseconds away from calling him back when I felt someone walk up beside me. The overpowering presence of Jace was impossible to mistake for anyone else. "Was Devon bothering you?"

"What? Oh, uh… no, he wasn't. It's fine." I floundered. Jace was giving me a weird look but he didn't say anything as he shrugged with a nonchalant 'oh' and guided me out the door. When we got outside, we stood with the others who had also dropped their cars off at the valet.

"So we'll see you next week at the game, right?" Leon asked, tilting his head as we joined their group. I nodded with a smile, bracing my arms around me. Despite the fact that it was only mid-September, a cool fall breeze had kicked up as night fell.

"And I'll see you at our office at ten in the morning on Thursday. I'm on the twenty-eighth floor. Just ask for me when you reach the front desk."

"Sure can do." The valet finally returned with Leon's car as he turned to wave at us. Brett moved to step into the passenger seat as well. "See you mother fuckers later."

Devon and Randall returned his pleasant goodbye with a flick of their middle fingers before turning to us. But as they opened their mouths to say something, a loud "Holy fuck!" cut through the air.

We all turned to the side to see a young man in his twenties and wearing a suit gawking at us as his friends beside him were doing the same. I immediately knew what it was, and frankly, I was surprised it hadn't happened earlier. After all, we were in the heart of Manhattan and the three of them were credited to being the heart and soul of the Hawks' offense. "I'm so sorry to bother you, all of you." The fan said, approaching our group. Though his attention was mostly focused on Jace, his eyes still flickered to each of us, including me, as he spoke. "But I'm actually from Arizona and Mr. Hartman… I've been following you since you were at Stanford. I'm a huge fan of yours and when I came to New York for a business trip, I really didn't think I'd see you. If you don't mind, could I get a photo with you? And with Devon and Randall as well? I'd be absolutely honored."

Before I could count to one, the three guys immediately threw on their 'celebrity' masks. They each plastered on a smile and agreed as the man stepped between Devon and Jace. A smartphone was thrust into my hand, but I was more than happy to do this for him. If I saw my favorite celebrity walking on the street, my reaction would be much more exaggerated and would probably require a bodyguard to hold me back. I backed up a few feet from where I was, counting to three as I pressed the button on the screen. Just for the sake of this stranger, I took a few more photos before handing it back to him.

"Thank you so much. Holy crap, I don't think you understand how much better you've made my day. Thank you guys."

"Hey, it's no problem." Devon smiled, shoving his hands into his pockets. "We always love the support, so keep it coming."

The flustered fan thanked them again before being ushered away by his co-workers. When he was finally out of earshot, Randall let out a sigh of relief. "Thank God it wasn't all of them. I just wanna get home and pass the hell out. Coach worked us hard today. Doesn't help I got my ass kicked in that third quarter. I got this huge ass bruise on my side from when Aiken fucking kicked me. I should've knocked that guy out."

"Hey, man. Chill." Devon said, tipping the valet when his Mercedes pulled up into the lane. "You'll have your chance to get back at him in a few months. For now, I'm taking you back home. Jace, I'll see your pretty face tomorrow, bright and early! Bye, Evelyn! Remember what we talked about!" With that, the two friends ducked into his car as Devon drove off, rather recklessly, might I say.

Jace handed the valet his voucher before turning to me, a curious expression on his face. A slow, amused smirk crept up. "So what did you and Devon talk about?"

I blushed, trying to brush it off as if it was nothing. I didn't need Jace knowing that two of his closest friends were gossiping about how he'd become a 'nice guy' behind his back because of me. More importantly, there was no reason to tell him that apparently Devon was plotting something to rid him of Chloe. "Just… normal people stuff."

"Normal people stuff?" Jace raised an eyebrow as his Audi was pulled up to the curb. "The two of you have absolutely nothing in common."

"Yeah, well, we can still talk." I replied quickly. "Just like Marcus and I. Don't be jealous of our budding friendship." I ducked into the car, thanking the valet as the door shut behind me. I buckled myself in, as Jace slid into the seat. He turned on the ignition as the engine purred smoothly. "Jesus Christ, this car." I groaned, leaning back into the leather. While it was inconvenient in almost every sense of the word, it was the hottest car I'd ever seen.

The fact that Jace drove it made both the car and him even sexier.

He shifted the gear and pulled into traffic, managing the city congestion relatively well as he drove out to my apartment. The drive to my place wasn't too long. Avon Bar and Grill was only a few blocks away so I could've walked back alone. Jace wouldn't accept it though, which was why I was currently being driven ten streets north.

Who was I to complain? How often did I get to ride around in an Audi R8? This baby was clearly his pride and joy.

"I know, right?" he grinned, leaning back against the leather as well. Driving one handed with the other hand on the stick shift, he was the epitome of sex on legs. It was almost unfair how easily he was capable of driving his car without stalling, even as we slowed down and sped up with the other cars around us.

Miraculously as he pulled up in just past my building, a perfect spot just large enough for his car was available as he reversed into the spot. Turning off the ignition, he spun towards me before I even had the opportunity to make a move towards my seatbelt.

Jace leaned his body over the center console and grasped my face with both of his hands. My mind went blank as our lips connected. My eyes slid shut as I tried to arch into him, my body taking over control of my actions. It was impossible not to react, especially with all the heated glances and discreet touches we'd been sharing for the past few days. The spontaneity of this kiss was what blew my self control away.

I reached up behind his head, keeping him against me as his lips slanted over mine. His tongue slid into my mouth as I let out a loud, uninhibited moan. Hearing my consent and realizing I wasn't going to push him away, his hand slid down my face, along the pulse in my neck until he paused just above my chest. I was still trapped in the straps of the seatbelt, leaving me vulnerable to whatever Jace was going to to do.

I was kissing him furiously, not caring how desperate I seemed. My tongue clashed with his as I tasted him, feeling him tense up above me. I gripped his dark hair as tightly as I could, wishing that he didn't have to cut it shorter for the season. He began unbuttoning the top few buttons of my blouse, exposing more of my skin to the cool air in the car.

Jace hooked his finger under my bra, forcing me to gasp into our already heated and lust-filled kiss. His lips left mine, leaving a hot trail as he moved down the same path his hand had just taken a few moments ago. "God, Jace." I whispered, attempting to angle my body more towards him. The shoulder strap was starting to get in the way so I unhooked my right arm from it, allowing me to press Jace's head tighter against me.

He pulled down the top part of my bra, taking my nipple into his mouth as he sucked hard. I cried out, holding him against me as my pleasure shot through my entire body. Here I was, on the streets of New York, kissing Jace Hartman. Despite the fact that it was already dark outside and the windows were tinted enough to give us privacy, I was faintly aware of how public all of this was.

But that was pushed to the back of my mind when his other hand drifted between my legs, rubbing me slowly. With his mouth working against my breast, one hand gripping my waist and the other stroking me through the material of my clothes, I was overwhelmed by Jace in every aspect. I wanted more of him, but we were limited by the confined space in his car.

I shut my eyes, giving myself to him. A few weeks ago, I still had self-control and restraint. Now with all the time I'd been spending with him, doing my best to control my beating heart whenever I was in his presence, I lost everything. Nothing else mattered.

My body vibrated with the first tremors of my building climax. Pressing my head back as far into the headrest as possible, the burning passion raged through me as my lower stomach knotted in anticipation. The heated build-up was what finally made me throw reason into the wind. I pulled the bottom of his shirt out from his jeans and slid my fingers up to scrape against his hard abs. I relished in the warmth, feeling the smooth planes of his abs as he clenched his stomach. In return, his palm pushed hard against my core and I arched my body as far up as I could. The lap belt held me back though. It didn't matter. I was unraveling and he knew it. Jace was so aware of what I needed, where I needed him to touch me. With one last skillful maneuver of his fingers and scrape of his teeth, I squeezed my eyes shut.

A warm, but violent, explosion wrecked my body as I grinded my hips against his hand, crying out as I tried to elongate the waves of pleasure. He pressed his thumb into my already sensitive bud and I reached up behind me to grip the headrest, gasping for every last bit of air.

After he brought me back down slowly to reality, Jace moved away from me, adjusting my blouse. His fingers brushed against my skin, causing me to jerk into his hand but he didn't make another move. He tucked his own shirt back into place and turned away. Wordlessly, he climbed out of the car and shut the driver side door behind him. I was still limp in the passenger side of his car and he'd already run away as quickly as possible.

Confusion and hurt replaced passion quickly. After weeks of pushing him away, I gave in. What exactly made that happen, I wasn't entirely sure. But some switch in my mind had been flicked off, and it seemed to be from that one night when everything went black. Unconsciously, I began accepting his advances, even silently pleading for them. In a matter of days, the losing battle I'd been fighting was officially over.

Jace Hartman had won without me even realizing it.

Our friendship was already confusing enough as was. This clearly shattered whatever tenuous agreement we'd agreed upon. I sighed and reached for the handle of the door. As I tried pushing it open, it was hurled open and Jace stood on the other side, looking devastatingly gorgeous. His cheeks were slightly flushed and his lips were swollen. One look at him, and it was evident that he'd just had a heated make-out session.

If he looked like that, I could only imagine how much of a hot mess I currently was. "Evelyn." Jace muttered as I stood up. He towered over me easily, leaving me much more vulnerable and powerless in this situation.

It wasn't like I could fight back if I tried. My vocal chords still weren't working and my body was still weak from that earth-shattering orgasm. I glanced up at him, meeting his eyes which were currently a dangerously dark shade of blue. "Jace." I croaked, hating how timid and scared I sounded.

Jace reached up to my cheek, rubbing his thumb across my cheekbone before sliding into my hair. Gripping it loosely, he tilted my face up towards his. My eyes shot down to his lips, watching as his tongue swept across his bottom lip. "God, I wish I could be with you." He groaned, reluctantly dropping his hand as he stepped away from me. Panic struck me as his defensive walls built again.

I thought we'd reached… something… when he had first come on to me. Hell, I thought I'd finally learned to let myself enjoy something in my life. But his words reminded me of why we weren't together in any way, shape or form.

My career.

Jace was actually taking that into consideration as he took two steps back, allowing me to breath. For a second, just seeing Jace in front of me and tasting a small portion of what being with him would truly be like made me want to say 'fuck the non-fraternization policy'. He was just that goddamn sexy, running a hand through his hair. But this time, it was him retreating. Not me.

I gathered the final bit of courage I had left and reached out for his hand. My hands were shivering, cold, but the sensation of his warm fingers stilled me. Squeezing once, I smiled at him. "I wish I could be with you too."

I dropped his hand and gave him one last furtive glance. He was staring at me in mild shock, but he was never one to be anything less than cool and collected. Surprising him at all was an accomplishment and I kept that in mind as I headed back into my building. "I'll see you on Sunday." I called out one last time. "You better give me and Cindy a ride."

Jace raised an eyebrow at me as he hooked his fingers through his belt loops. Finally, after what seemed like hours, one corner of his lip curled into a smirk as he nodded. "I'll be here. Eight in the morning. Don't be late."

I smiled and waved at him one last time before heading into the lobby. Despite the fact that I'd blatantly broken the rules my bosses had set for me, I didn't care. For weeks, I'd been fretting over it and using it as an excuse to block off Jace's advances. Then I finally caved, and honestly?

I'd never been happier since I graduated from law school.

Author's Note

So a nice chapter to end things on for a while – Evelyn is seeing the light. I posted a similar note in Mastercard Theory, but I'm writing this because I recognize that I do have different readers for each story. I'm going on a brief hiatus because I'm going to try and conquer NaNoWriMo. For one month, I'll be focusing all my attention on that project. If you'd like to participate too, do it! It'd be fun to have a group of FP people there. Anyway, so back to the main point. So while I'm going to be gone for a month, the novel that I'm writing will not go unread by you guys :) After I finish the first draft for NaNo, I will post up the second draft here. Then based on the critiques you give me, I'll fix the third draft before submitting it for self-publication. That's my goal, so goodbye for now! :) If you'd like to get updates on my progress or just talk to me about my story, don't be afraid to go to my Facebook page and like/friend me! Most of my updates are there; I'll have a few on my tumblr, but the bulk of everything is on my Facebook profile and page. Even if you want to just stop by and say hi while I wreck my brain, it's always appreciated. That's it for now! I'll see you all in December. Thank you again and again for the continued support. It's been absolutely incredible!