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The Hot One
Author: Lauren Blakely

His Prologue

Technically, I didn't drop my drawers the first time I saw her again. Just my balls.

The ones in my hands. Juggling balls.

Here’s how it went down. Picture a Sunday morning in Central Park. A perfect summer day. The grass was green, the breeze was warm, and I’d just spent the last few hours getting acquainted with turtles and frogs at the children’s zoo because I’m an awesome uncle. And Carly’s one cool seven-year-old.

The kid loves all creatures, but especially the ones that jump and crawl, so I took her to the enchanted forest part of the zoo. When we finished, she tugged on my shirt sleeve, batted her hazel eyes, and asked ever so sweetly for an ice cream cone.

Like I stood a chance at resisting her. C’mon. She’s my cousin’s kid, and clearly she gets her charm from our side of the family.

With her hand in mine, we strolled across the grass near the running path, hunting for the nearest ice cream dealer.

And then Carly did that thing little kids do.

She shrieked for what seemed like absolutely no reason. Next, she pointed to an impossibly tall dude wearing a beret while juggling two Rubik’s Cubes, two orange balls, and a small green beanbag.

“He can do five, Uncle Tyler!” Carly shouted, her eyes going wide.

“Five isn’t too shabby,” I said with a shrug.

She turned to me with a questioning stare. “I’ve never seen you do five.”

“That’s because I haven’t shown you all my tricks yet.”

“Can you really juggle five balls?”

I scoffed. “Please, I can do that with my eyes closed.”

I didn’t put myself through law school juggling for nothing.

Just kidding.

You can’t put yourself through law school juggling anything but insane class schedules and lack of sleep.

Carly arched an eyebrow. So did the juggler, as he kept up the cascade of his quintet. Show-off.

“I want to see. Show me,” Carly urged.

Yeah, Carly’s a chip off the old block. She’s all about challenging me, and I’m all about rising to the challenge.

The stick-thin guy with the beret raised his chin. “Have at it, man.”

With clockwork precision, he let the balls fall out of orbit and into his palm. Next, the Rubik’s Cubes. Then the beanbag. He stepped closer, handed me the objects, and flashed a crooked, put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is grin.

Game on.

Packs of runners jogged along, cyclists wheeled over the black asphalt, and rollerbladers whizzed by on the concrete. With my feet parked hip’s width apart, I stood at the edge of the grass getting a feel for the items, weighing them, and then one, two, three, four, five, I whisked each one up into the air in a high oval arc. Round and round, in a perfect five-ball cascade.

Carly clapped, then demanded more. “Yes, now close your eyes!”

I groaned. What was I thinking? Juggling with eyes closed is fucking hard. But I could pull it off for a couple seconds. My special skill. I obliged my niece’s request, pulling off a few quick blind ovals. Five seconds later, after I’d shown off that particular party trick, I opened my eyes.

And I saw a vision from my past.

A blond beauty, with long legs, a lovely round ass, and a high ponytail swishing back and forth across her shoulders. She ran along the path in tiny orange let-me-peel-them-off-with-my-teeth-pretty-please running shorts. And that face. Dear Lord, the stunning face of an angel. High cheekbones. Deep brown eyes that saw me like no one ever had. Those red lips, shaped like a bow. Fuck me, the things she could do with those lips. The things I taught her to do with that sinful mouth.

Delaney sure as hell knew how to use it, and I don’t just mean in the bedroom. We used to talk about anything and everything when we were together in college. Days with her. Nights with her. Best time of my life. That woman was full of spark. Full of fire. So damn passionate. And look at her now.

Jesus Christ.

It had to be illegal to be that smoking hot.

She wasn’t alone. She ran with two other chicks and a couple dogs.

As for me? Mister fast on his feet, quick with a word, never met a situation he can’t talk his way out of? Scratch all that right then and there. Because I dropped the cubes. I dropped the beanbag. And I dropped the orange balls in a pile of wreckage at my feet.

My jaw fell, too.

But the best part? All that came out of my mouth was a muffled Hey.

Yep. Eight years later and I could only utter a monosyllable.

Height of my mother-fucking unbrilliance.

She rolled her eyes and shook her head as she trotted past me. Over her shoulder, she called out, “How’s the juggling working out for you now, Tyler?”

Oh, zinger, how you slay me.

The lady won.

The lady killed it.

“Great. I kept it up,” I shouted.

She gave herself away for a sliver of a second, and if I were in court, I’d have known then I had her. She let her gaze linger far too long. Giving me that patented you-were-in-my-fantasies-last-night look I knew so well, her eyes roaming down my face, my chest, and yeah, there, right fucking there, to her favorite part.

She loved that part.

But this wasn’t a courtroom battle.

Because when she cast her pretty brown eyes to my niece, I saw Delaney adding up the years and computing possibilities. “Looks like you sure did,” she said, deadpan all the way.

She snapped her gaze from me, zeroed in on the path in front of her, and sprinted.

With her friends and the dogs flanking her, she tore past and left me in the dust with my balls, my jaw, and my composure lying in the dirt at my feet.

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