A brand new enemies to lovers, single dad romance is coming next week from Evey Lyon, and I have the first chapter for you.
Plié, arabesque, jeté. And champagne spills over the edge of my glass.
Oh well. Another sip.
I gaze at the half-eaten tier of strawberry shortcake that is calling my name over there on the table. I would have done the icing a little differently, but who am I to criticize the award-winning inn in this little town of Lake Spark, Illinois?
I’m just the friend who had her fiancé leave her, and now I’m the twenty-six-year-old woman who left her job in accounting because, well, it wasn’t for me. With that consideration, I grab hold of the near-empty bottle of champagne in my left hand and pour another glass.
Looking around me as I move, I reflect on the fact that I am alone in an empty private dining room at the Dizzy Duck Inn. A pool of pink confetti crunches between my bare toes, as my new heels were killing me, so I took them off after all the guests left. We may have gone a little overboard with the baby shower decorations, but it isn’t often that your best friend is having a baby with your uncle/godfather.
To add to the pressure, everyone wanted an invite since he is the one and only Hudson Arrows, football coach extraordinaire. But we kept it low-key and classy. My mom, my cousin Drew, and I arranged the baby shower—well, more party because it was a team dad and team mom event. I’m happy I could do this for Piper. After all, we had a bit of a falling out when I discovered she was sneaking around with my uncle, but we’re all good now. Because even a fool could see they are perfect for each other.
Fifth position, assemblé, back to fifth.
It’s been years since I’ve done ballet. I let my feet gravitate into their own dance, the knee-length teal dress swaying out perfectly and making me want to watch the fabric flow. I’m not sure why in this moment dance is calling to me, but someone, literally, is calling out to me.
“April.” That tone fills me with dread.
My body tightens as that voice satisfies my disdain quota for the year. Exactly what I needed tonight; baseball royalty rolling in. “Spencer.”
Ugh, he chuckles under his breath. It’s irritating because of how it is enticing, if I were the kind of woman who finds arrogant baseball players attractive. And I. Am. Not.
Spencer appears in my peripheral vision as he walks right past me to grab another bottle of champagne from the bucket of nearly melted ice. Damn it, I missed that bottle. He gets to work on breaking the foil.
He’s wearing dark blue jeans, dress shoes, and a shirt that only accentuates those upper arm muscles that earn him millions. God, his cologne is a little strong today, and his new haircut of short summer length just seems a little overboard for his sandy-brown hair.
“Where’s the tutu?” he asks, which means he must have spied on me in my little dance escape.
That’s it. I feel my face forming a sneer as I slowly turn to face him. “Do you not have to go home? I mean, thank you for gracing us with your presence at the baby shower, but I feel the ground turning cold which must mean your stellar personality is freezing the earth.”
He scoffs a laugh as he perches against the table, and with his brown eyes set on me, I notice how the shade of green of his shirt complements his eyes, which is beside the point. “I love that you dislike me so much. It’s not often I share mutual feelings with a woman.”
“Gag. Don’t put me on a list with your gazillion skanks.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it. Plus, gaggers don’t get a place on my list. I’m more a swallow-and-smile kind of guy.” I would literally throw up if it wasn’t for the fact there is a hint of sarcasm in his voice, the saving grace from this horrendous conversation.
I roll my eyes. “I knew there was a reason I avoided you all day.”
“Nah, you did that because I bring out the worst in you and you wanted to be on good behavior for Piper and Hudson.”
I really want to throttle him. Good behavior my ass. I’m not Ms. Prim and Proper.
Pop. The cork goes flying, but neither one of us seems to notice.
He continues to speak. “I wanted to drink today, avoid the last of construction on my house, and maybe have a spa day tomorrow with a hot masseuse before I head deep into baseball season, so I’m staying here tonight. Hudson texted that he thought he forgot some gift in here, some silver duck or something, so that’s why I am submitting myself to your presence again.”
My eyes bug out. “You live literally four miles from here.” He’s my uncle’s and Piper’s next-door neighbor. I met him through my uncle Hudson at a BBQ, and now I always saw him at other events. It was an instant dislike, mostly because Spencer possesses a smug smirk that I just want to…
He pours himself a glass. “And? Foxes on the road this time of a day can be a killer.”
I snort a laugh, because as ridiculous as it sounds, it’s true because Lake Spark is surrounded by woods.
Offering him my glass, he cocks a brow before filling my glass up too. “What’s your excuse?”
“I don’t live in Lake Spark, and I didn’t want to drive back to Chicago today. So, alcohol and a soft hotel bed it is.” I struggle to give a tight, closed-mouth smile.
He pauses before finishing his task of filling my glass to the brim. “Hopefully they put us on opposite ends of the hotel then.”
“Oh, wow, we agree on something,” I counter. I take another sip and realize I should pace myself around this man.
In a bizarre twist, I trust the man in a “he would keep me safe” kind of way, but I don’t trust… myself around Spencer Crews, star pitcher of the Bluelights.
“You know there was a stop sign,” he mentions.
Aggravation seeps through me that he wants to go down memory lane, starting with the time I was arriving at Spencer and my uncle’s street once and nearly had a car accident.
“Yes, there was. You probably didn’t see it because of the bush by the sign. So I was right with my traffic skills, and I had priority.”
“No, you didn’t,” he insists.
“You nearly hit my car in the process!”
He tilts his head to the side. “A little dramatic.”
“Really? And what about my uncle’s BBQ a while back? What is your explanation for your asshole tendency there?” I slam the glass onto a table.
“Oh, that’s easy. You walked around all holier than thou, and your boyfriend at the time is the kind of jackass that will cheat on his future wife and only look out for himself.”
The air in the room evaporates, and he instantly seems to regret his words, as his cocky demeanor fades into almost remorse. He’s close with Hudson and Piper, which means they must update him on my life.
A twinge below my heart ignites as my eyes fall to the floor. “Well… joke is on me then, right?” I say softly.
Spencer steps closer. “I’m sorry. That was… out of line.”
I peer up. “It’s the truth, isn’t it? If only I had known then what you so wisely figured out. I mean, I could have saved myself an entire engagement.” I fake a laugh.
I walk past him and straight to the window overlooking Lake Spark; the sun is setting which casts an orange and purple hue across the sky.
Time seems to still as I try to forget the fact that I would’ve had a wedding coming up if it weren’t for Jeff deciding that I’m not what he needs.
A tap on my shoulder causes me to look down, and I see a glass of champagne held out in a firm hand. “Here.”
“Did you add poison?” I wonder.
“Nah, to have me in your company is probably agonizing enough.”
I straighten my posture and take the glass. “Right. We irritate each other.”
The corner of his mouth curves, and I seem to notice the five-o’clock shadow around his lips more than I care to admit.
“So, what’s with the dancing earlier?” He looks into his glass.
A long breath escapes his mouth before he leans against the window and seems to be casting his gaze on me. “You were a ballerina?”
His eyes go wide, as if he’s waiting for more. “Care to elaborate?”
“No,” I answer bluntly. In truth, it’s nothing special. I only danced until I was fifteen, then turned in my point shoes for swim team. I wasn’t very good at that either.
Spencer bites his inner cheek before his jaw slides side to side. “Do you always act like a child, or do I just bring out the best in you?”
My hand finds my hip. “Forgive me for having a zero-tolerance policy for jerks who play baseball.”
“Come on, give me some credit. I’m an MVP jerk who plays baseball with any team willing to pay for my arm.”
I set my glass down, and my hands fly into the air. “See? Your arrogance is something else.”
“Confidence is a good thing to have, April.”
“I have confidence,” I say, quick to defend myself.
He doesn’t answer but instead shakes his head subtly, as if he’s amused. “You stopped dancing the moment I came into the room.”
“Because you dampen the mood with your pure existence.”
The corners of his mouth twist as everything I say only seems to entertain him. “Well, on that note, I’ll let you be.” He propels his body off the window that he was leaning against and glides his way across the room with the champagne bottle hanging from one hand and his lips sipping from the glass in his other hand.
I don’t say anything, just watch him leave with derision written all over my face. When the door closes behind him, relief fills me, but I can’t seem to look away from the exit, as if he may just walk back in, and my eyes linger longer than needed on the door.
* * *
I’m slightly dizzy yet way too sober to be knocking on Spencer’s hotel room door. I don’t bang with elegance. I thought when he left an hour ago that I wouldn’t have to see him again until he shows up on a TV screen because of a baseball game.
“Spencer, open up.”
It takes only a few seconds before he complies. “Fuck, what in the world? I was recording video of my arm workout for my trainer.”
Gah, sounds like the perfect recipe for his egotistical ways. But never mind, I have bigger problems.
I barge in his direction, brushing past him into the room. “You have something that’s mine.” I pivot sharply to give him a death stare.
He walks slowly back into the room with the door clicking shut, while he drags the back of his fingers along his chin before a sinister smirk forms. “Is that so?” he rasps.
My hands land on my hips. “The hotel staff accidentally delivered the leftover cake to your room. Please, can I have the cake?”
His eyes squint at me, like I’ve said something crazy. “You came here for cake?”
“Yes! I wanted a piece. They said they would bring it up to my room.”
“Fine. But I keep the champagne.” He tips his nose in the direction behind me, indicating where the cake is sitting on a table.
I march on over and grab the fork to dig right in. Okay, maybe I am a little tipsy, and food is my refuge.
“God, this is so good.” I admit that I moan as I suck on the fork.
“You know my mouth may have been on that fork, but I’m sure that’s just your fantasy, right?”
I glance over my shoulder to find him sitting on the edge of his bed with arms crossed and a cunning grin.
“The only way I like your mouth is when it is taped shut.”
His eyes grow bold. “Kinky. I like that.”
I growl at his way of taunting. “Stop trying to piss me off more than normal.”
“What am I possibly doing now?”
“Y-you… you’re trying to egg me on by thinking I have some crush on you or some bullshit like that. I’m not other women, I don’t care who you are, and I certainly do not find you attractive. Besides, I’m not even your type.”
Why, April? Why did I even say that?
He only hums a sound, followed by a long pause. I feel like he is studying me. “You’re right. My type is overconfident chicks who don’t stop dancing on my account.”
“Fuck you. I didn’t stop because I’m not confident.”
Oh no, we’re bickering again. Feels like a flashback to the time Piper and Hudson had us over for dinner and they had to change the seating arrangements between salad and steak courses to ensure Spencer and I had distance between us.
Spencer smiles to himself and stands up to grab his glass of champagne.
Damn. Looks like he nearly finished the bottle.
He takes a drink then offers me the glass that I stupidly accept, as if I need to replenish my liquid intake.
“You seem a little edgy. Is it me?” he pretends to be concerned.
I swear I snarl at him. “Like, I totally understand why you are single and ready to mingle. It’s impossible to enjoy even a millisecond with you.”
“Mmm, I care to disagree. I’m just currently stuck in the proximity of an uptight woman.”
I instantly act and splash the glass of champagne in his face. “I’m anything but.”
When his face stills and his tongue darts out to taste the alcohol on the corner of his mouth, I realize my error. My jaw drops open, and I can’t believe I just did that.
He uses the back of his hand to wipe away a few drops from his cheek as his eyes darken before he gives me a pointed look. “What the hell.”
My shock fades into a smile that wants to spread.
He steps closer, and I don’t move.
“Unpredictable. I’m unpredictable,” I declare because inside I’m acting this way for reasons that have nothing to do with Spencer, but I don’t want him to know what’s going on in my mind.
But before I can process the elation I feel that I may just be everything my former fiancé thought I wasn’t, I feel something gooey hit my cheek.
I blink and realize that Spencer reached over and grabbed cake with two fingers before he smothered it on my face.
He’s standing far too close to me with a satisfied look. “Oops.”
I touch the sticky icing with my palm, only to quickly shove his hand away, but he is quick to circle his fingers around my wrists. “Don’t start something you can’t finish,” he warns.
“I’m very capable of finishing, thank you very much,” I snipe back.
His look turns to a mix of warning and interest. “I bet,” he rasps.
I break my wrists free from his impressive grip that is equal parts gentle yet proof of his career as a pitcher.
But the moment I’m free, his arm circles around my middle, and my response is to grip his shirt with my fingers. I feel like something is combusting inside of me, a form of hysteria that has me drawn to his eyes, then darting my vision down to his mouth before snapping my attention back to his piercing gaze.
And I’m not sure who in this moment is more eager to take a chance on a wager.