“So what’s this surprise?” Jaxon Wright asked Jinx as they moved up the front walk toward the house Cal Johnson had recently purchased for himself and his fiancée Poppy Mellin. Jaxon and Jinx had been dating a good year and a half, but she was young—in her early twenties—and even though Jax knew Jinx was The One, an engagement was not yet on the horizon.
“It’ll be fun,” Jinx insisted, a little wild-eyed over a mischievous grin. “You’re going to love it.”
Jaxon grunted, uncertain. When it came to Jinx, it was not lost on him that Cal Johnson was his stiffest competition. The guy was cool enough, but socializing as a couple was something Jax tried hard to avoid knowing how crazy his girl was over the Major League pitcher.
Cal Johnson was the reason Jinx had found her way to Henderson. Cal Johnson was essentially his girl’s “hall pass.” Not that they’d discussed that. He just knew it to be true. The way she watched every game he pitched and fawned over his stats, his voice, and his hair.
Jax wasn’t exactly sure how Jinx managed to manipulate him into attending this party but he figured he could only make so many excuses before it became glaringly obvious that he was afraid to be in the same room with the guy while Jinx was in attendance. Afraid he’d come up lacking in a side-by-side comparison.
Man up, he told himself. She’s your girl. He’s got a fiancée. Stop creating a problem.
Only then, the guy opens his front door looking like a freaking movie star.
Every other time Jax had run into Cal, Cal had been dressed like a jock. Workout clothes, sweats, casual attire. Tonight, Cal had on a sport coat. Under the sport coat he had on a cashmere quarter-zip. Under that he had on a shirt and tie. He wore a decent pair of slacks and nice shoes. Socks. And on his head sat a cowboy hat. Not his usual Orioles’ ball cap.
“Where are we going?” Jax wondered as he shook Cal’s hand. “I’ve been kept in the dark and from the looks of things I’m underdressed.”
Cal gave him the once over and then a sly grin. “Hope you’re good at poker.”
“He is.” Jinx assured as she moved past Jax to receive a one-armed welcome squeeze from Cal that left her giggling and flushed.
“Make yourselves at home,” Cal insisted. “The fun and games will start up as soon as everyone has had a drink.”
“Fun and games?” Jax questioned.
Cal looked from Jax to where Jinx had taken off to greet the rest of the guests. “She really didn’t tell you? Anything?”
Jax shook his head.
Cal let out a long whistle that ended in a slow grin. He clasped Jax on his shoulder and said, “Let’s get you a shot of tequila.”
Harry was there. Tending bar. Kind of. He was actually fully distracted by a couple of cuties vying for his attention. Harry, Jax had noticed, was slowly becoming a hot ticket around Henderson. Davis, better known as Pinks, was the one actually working the bar set up on the kitchen island and responded like a pro when Cal pointed to the tequila and then to Jax.
“What is happening?” Jax asked Pinks.
“Game night? You mean like Scattergories and Pictionary?”
“Something like that.” Pinks handed him a shot and held one up for himself. “We are both gonna need a couple of these.” The two knocked glasses and downed the tequila forgoing limes and salt. Pinks poured again.
That’s when Jax noticed he too had on a sport coat. “Why are you and Cal dressed like you’ve got a press conference in thirty minutes?
Pinks grinned, held up the shot. “Body armor.” The two of them knocked the second shots back.
Jax shuttered and wiped his mouth. “Body armor?”
“You’ll see.” Pinks headed off in Scarlett’s direction with a glass of red wine in his hand.
Jax took the moment to look around the modest-sized great room noting that Poppy’s brother Daniel had an arm around a girl Jax had known back in high school. Nice girl. He needed a heads up on her name though.
“Sarah Jane,” Harry said, leaning in toward Jax.
Jax turned to Harry curious. “Thanks?”
“Saw it written on your face.”
“Ah. And which one of those lookers is your date?”
“Poppy invited a few women she thought I should meet. Kind of a baptism by fire if you ask me.”
“Baptism by fire?”
“Strip poker should make for quite an icebreaker.”
“We’re playing strip poker? Tonight?”
“Yep. Back in December, Jinx, Laidey, and Poppy were helping me decorate the club for Christmas when Cal Johnson walked in looking for Poppy. One thing led to another and Jinx wanted in on their game of strip poker so here we are.”
“Jinx wanted in on a game of strip poker so here we are? What the hell?”
“Yeah. She wanted in on strip poker with Cal. So here we are.”
Once those words registered through Jax’s thick skull, he leaned over and growled.
“Hey. Don’t kill the messenger,” Harry insisted. “Besides. This’ll be fun.”
“Fun? How is this going to be fun?”
“Laidey’s here. And your brother Xavier is not.”
Harry said nothing, but his eyes glistened with mirth.
“Ohhh,” Jax exclaimed. “You think he’s going to show up and shut this down, don’t you?”
“It’s a possibility.”
“Only if he’s aware it’s happening.”
Harry’s eyes kept on sparkling.
“What? Me? You want me to text my brother what’s about to go down. Blow this up?”
“Not necessarily.” Harry sipped his own drink, something Jax had never seen him do, and then wandered off into the small crowd.
Hmm, Jax wondered. What was Harry up to? What was Jinx up to? Maybe the alcohol was starting to work its magic, because all of a sudden Jax started to feel a little less uptight and a whole lot more curious as to just how far this thing was going to go. After all, for a girl who’d barely made one trip around the proverbial block, strip poker might look like a great idea on paper, but when it came time to take off her shirt? Well, we’d just see how that worked out.
Jax sauntered over towards Jinx like he had an ace up his sleeve.
To be continued.