The Matchmaker's Playbook by Rachel Van Dyken


  “Gorgeous.” I squeezed her ass before I slowly turned her around, took a shot glass, and clinked the glass against hers. “To new beginnings?”

  “And happy endings.”

  “And so the virgin turns into the slut. My work here is done.”

  “Says the whore.”

  “Who’s going home with you,” I countered. “Now, shake that ass toward the door. I have some ideas that involve rope and zip ties.”

  Blake’s eyes widened. “Ian!”

  “What?” I said with a shrug. “I was talking about home improvement, you dirty, dirty girl.”

  A blush stained her cheeks.

  “Now, let’s get out of here before I maul you in the closest bathroom. Gotta keep things classy where you’re concerned.”

  “I don’t know . . .” Blake stopped walking. “I could go for the bathroom.”

  “Hmm.” I continued leading her out. “Maybe next time . . . But tonight? I want you in a bed . . . I’m not going to confess love, then take you in a bathroom stall, no matter how sexy you look in the dress that I really can’t remember buying for you.”

  “It’s Gabi’s.”

  “Sometimes I love her.”

  “And sometimes, on very rare occasions, she loves you.”

  Laughing, I kissed Blake on the head and whispered, “Let’s go home.”

  CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

  Never in my life had a car ride taken so long. It didn’t help that a few streets downtown suddenly decided they needed construction on the way to my house, so the drive that should have taken a few minutes took close to twenty.

  “You alright?”

  “Nope.” My entire body was tight, aching.

  “Ian?”

  “Hmm?” I turned to look at Blake. Her hands were folded in her lap, her knit dress was almost indecent as it inched up her thighs. I reached out to grab her hand, but she pulled away. “What’s wrong?”

  “I did kiss him back.”

  “Shit.” There went our fun night. “Blake, I really, really don’t want to talk about him. It’s done. A moment of weakness—”

  “Moment of weakness?” She burst out laughing. “No, more like, I kissed him back to make sure.”

  “Make sure?” The construction worker flagged me forward. We were moving at a turtle’s speed over a bridge. I couldn’t look at Blake anymore, but I could sense her apprehension as if it were my own. “Make sure of what?”

  “My feelings.”

  We were almost at my house. I stole a sidelong glance at her. “Your feelings for David?”

  “No.” She swallowed. “My feelings for you.”

  “Blake, no offense, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, but what the hell were you thinking?”

  “I wasn’t!” She threw her hands into the air. “I just . . . I wanted to make sure. You were my first . . . everything, and I just didn’t know, and I was falling too fast.

  “And then he leaned in, and I thought, well, at least I’ll know for sure that I love Ian.” She gulped in a huge breath, then finished softly, “Because I do . . . I love you.”

  “And yet”—I turned into my driveway and shut off the car—“he kissed you.”

  Blake sighed heavily. “I let him kiss me. I didn’t push him away at first because I was so shocked by how horrible it felt, how wrong everything felt. The way he kissed was—”

  “Please.” I held up my hand while my stomach tied itself into knots. “Spare me the details.”

  “He tasted funny.”

  “Did you not hear me when I said spare me the details?” I pulled the keys out of the ignition. “I guess . . . I can maybe understand why you let it happen, but, Blake, that kiss was at least seven seconds. Believe me, I counted.”

  “Of absolute torture,” she pointed out. “And when we were finished, he wiped his mouth.”

  “Well, shit.” I chuckled. “Lots of spit?”

  “Maybe he was a merman in another life, and the only way he can survive on dry land is to keep as much liquid inside his mouth as possible.”

  “Believe it or not, this conversation isn’t turning me on, sweet cheeks.”

  “Think of me!” Blake threw her hands into the air. “I have to live with that memory.”

  “I think,” I began, leaning across the console, “I have a few ideas on how we can . . . expunge it.”

  “Oh yeah?” She smiled, grabbing me by the back of the head and forcing our mouths together. “You always taste good.”

  I pulled back. “I’m Ian Hunter. Of course I do.”

  “Cocky.”

  “For you?” I kissed her harder. “Every damn second of the day.”

  We made it inside the house with clothes intact, but the minute the door slammed behind Blake, her shoes went flying by my head, and her arms were already halfway out of her dress as it pooled around her waist. It was near impossible to take my eyes off of her round breasts, which were for once not covered in a pink sports bra but perkily sitting under a black sheer piece of lace that I knew I’d be pulling off with my teeth later. She slowly slid the dress from her waist, her eyes watching mine as it slid across her bare thighs and then kissed her ankles. I licked my lips in anticipation.

  “Eager?” I grinned, enjoying the private show more than she would ever realize.

  “Hmm?” She turned around, her dress still at her ankles. “Nope, just don’t like wasting time.” She kicked the dress to the side and pulled off her bra, then very quickly stepped out of her sexy little boy-short panties.

  Moonlight flickered in from the living room, casting a sensual white glow across her body. Wavy hair fell in cascades around her shoulders, giving her a dreamlike, ethereal look.

  “Tell you what.” I stalked toward her. “I’ll love you no matter what you wear—basketball shorts, scrunchies, Adidas flip-flops. Just swear you’ll always come to my bed naked.”

  She licked her lips. A blush tinted her cheeks. “But what if I have some really sexy lingerie?”

  “Well, I guess I can make exceptions.” I tugged a piece of her hair, causing it to caress her breasts the way I wanted to. “But only on special occasions.”

  “What would those occasions be?” Her eyebrows rose as she dangled her arms around my neck.

  “Christmas.” I nodded, kissing the corner of her mouth. “New Year’s.”

  “Hmm, I can deal with that.”

  “Not done yet.” I pressed a finger to her lips and kept talking. “Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, Groundhog Day.” She laughed against my hand. “Flag Day’s a given—I mean, c’mon.”

  “Of course,” she whispered against my mouth.

  “Fourth of July.” I squinted. “Because of the fireworks.”

  “Any other days?”

  “Wednesdays.” I added. “Mondays too.”

  “So, every day?”

  “Almost. Tell you what, I’ll make a calendar, and on the days that say ‘naked,’ you have to be naked. The other days I’ll give you a pass on—you can be as creative as you want.”

  “Sounds to me like you’re scheduling sex?”

  “Does it? Because to me it sounds like I’m scheduling playtime, but I can see how your innocent mind would be confused. And of course”—I pressed a kiss to her lips, drawing it out—“birthdays are always special.”

  “Naturally.”

  “I’ll send you instructions on the striptease and what flavor of cake I want you to jump out of.”

  “You’re extremely bossy.”

  “I like nice things.” I lowered my hands to her hips and tugged her against me. “Is that so bad?”

  “No.” Her head fell back. “It’s very, very good.”

  “Why, thank you.” I chuckled darkly as I kissed her on the mouth again, the heat of the kiss nearly setting my clothes on fire as I cupped her breasts, then leaned down and flicked her nipple with my tongue.

  “Enough.” Blake pulled at my shirt. I threw it off over my head. My jeans followed, getting hung
up on my shoes as I stumbled with her toward the couch and pulled her on top of me. “No boxers?” she said.

  “No need,” I said, smirking. “Takes too much time to take them off.”

  Her alluring blue eyes raked over me, stopping at my waist. She lifted a hand and pressed it against my hip, then inched lower.

  “Exploring?” I teased.

  She nodded, then gripped me with one hand.

  My knees weakened briefly before a strangled growl escaped between my lips. Her touch was electric, as if her fingers pulsed straight waves of energy through my skin. Her swollen lips pressed together in concentration.

  “Enough of that”—my nerve endings leapt in response to her rapt fascination with my body—“or I’m going to embarrass myself, and nobody wants that.”

  Blake’s eyes snapped toward mine. “I can think of something I want.”

  “Oh yeah?” I relaxed my grip on her hips and brought my hands behind my head in a relaxed motion. “What’s that? Cake?”

  “Yeah, Ian.” She lowered herself over me, her searing skin almost painful as her body made contact with mine. “I want cake.”

  “Fresh out.” My eyes felt lazy, drugged by the hypnotic way she moved above me. “But I have a few other ideas.”

  “Good.” She grinned.

  She visibly relaxed.

  Bad move.

  Within seconds, I’d flipped us both onto the floor, the soft thick rug catching our bodies as we rolled for a few seconds and then stopped with me on top, her on bottom. “Better than cake . . . Let me taste you,” I said before lowering my head to one of her breasts, taking her nipple captive, and rolling my tongue around it.

  “Ian!” Blake laughed and then bucked beneath me as she wrapped her ankles around my back.

  “Shh, I’m having a moment here.”

  “With my boobs?”

  “We’ve never really had one-on-one time, you know? And it’s important not to show favoritism in the bedroom—that’s another rule.” I blew against the skin where my lips had just been. “In case you were wondering.”

  “What are you doing to me?” she groaned.

  “Everything I can possibly do without dying of dehydration or getting us arrested. Is that okay with you?” I moved to the other nipple. “Because I’d like to continue this conversation over here.” I licked down the valley of her breasts. “If you’re done talking?”

  She shut up.

  Except for the moans that came out of that bee-stung mouth of hers.

  Touching Blake was like jumping right into a fire only to realize that rather than burn you, the flames infused you with a need that couldn’t be met, no matter how hard you tried. Every kiss had to be followed by another, every taste of her skin—a mixture of salt and honey—just made me ravenous for more. I’d never experienced that kind of need before, which made me more frantic in my attempt to cover every inch of her body with my mouth.

  Blake reached for me, but I slapped her hands away, then pinned her arms high above her head. “I’m not done.”

  “I am!” She squirmed beneath me.

  “You’re close.”

  “So close.”

  “Then let go.” I kept her wrists pinned with one hand while I slid my free hand down her hip, my fingers hovering exactly where I knew she wanted them.

  “Ian!”

  Smirking, I moved onto my knees, then flipped her onto her back and brought her slowly into my lap.

  “Whoa,” Blake said. “What’s—?”

  Our bodies joined.

  Her head fell back against my shoulder, and my lips moved against her neck in the same cadence as our bodies slammed together, each thrust met with another kiss.

  Blake’s hands gripped my wrists as she pushed her body back against mine. Her eyelids fluttered closed as I brought us both close to the edge, only to stop.

  Her eyes jerked open. “Ian, I’m not into begging.”

  “And I’m not into the girl I love closing her eyes while I watch her come apart in my arms.”

  Her eyes stayed open as I thrust into her wildly, groaning as her body clenched tight around me. She fell against me, boneless, while I slid my hands down her silhouette, taking in the feel of her, the velvet skin almost too soft to be real.

  “You love me,” she whispered.

  “I do.”

  “Tell me”—her voice was hoarse—“was it the Caboodle or the sandals?”

  “Both.” I laughed. “Definitely both.”

  CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

  We made it to the bed after briefly stopping in the kitchen and grabbing as many snacks as we could.

  My room was blanketed in grays and blacks, masculine but not so masculine that a girl would feel like she wasn’t welcome, which was weird since I’d never welcomed anyone except Blake into my bed.

  ESPN blared in all its glory on the large flat-screen TV across from the bed. Colors from the screen played a kaleidoscopic light show across the white down comforter. Blake made a beeline for the bed and flopped into the center. As the colors flickered across her face, making Blake part of the show, my throat went dry and I had an honest-to-God “moment.” She was really here, really with me. The fantasy had become the reality.

  Was I up to it?

  “You have throw pillows,” Blake stated as she pulled out a box of Ritz Crackers.

  Hell yeah, I was up to it. A smile pulled at my lips.

  “And you’re just now noticing?” I grabbed the pillows and chucked them off the bed. Four of them landed in my black leather armchair while the other nearly took out the dresser.

  “I noticed it before.” Blake crunched down on a cracker. “But I’m only now mentioning it. Is that you or Gabs?”

  “All me, sweet cheeks.” I winked and stole the cracker out of her hand. “Don’t I look like I can decorate?”

  She eyed me up and down and frowned. “I guess so, but why have them if you’ve never brought girls back here? I mean, throw pillows make the bed look inviting.”

  “Wow, it’s like you’ve jumped into my head,” I grumbled. “They look nonthreatening, if that’s what you mean.”

  “Exactly!” Blake pounded the spot between us. “Almost like, ‘Oh, hey, this isn’t a one-night stand. I have throw pillows.’ Do one-night stands have throw pillows?”

  “Hell no.” I shook my head. “It’s scary that you’re picking up on things like that. Hey, want a job?”

  “Riding you isn’t a job, sorry.”

  “Damn it!” I stole another cracker from her hand while she glared daggers in my direction and then shoved the box into my face.

  “Stop stealing them from my fingers. Grab them from the box like a normal human being or I’m not letting you touch my boobs anymore.”

  “Tits—they’re tits. ‘Boobs’ is what a middle schooler calls them, all the while getting embarrassed that the mere mention of the word is giving him an erection in front of the class while he’s giving a speech on his favorite grandma.”

  Blake’s horrified expression said it all. “Please tell me you made that up.”

  “Ask Lex if I made it up. Just do it when I’m not in the room. I’d hate to get punched again.”

  Blake burst out laughing and handed me the cracker she was munching on. “For that, you don’t have to work for the cracker.”

  “That’s my girl.” I chomped down on it and reached for the bottle of wine we’d brought into the room. “But seriously, want a job?”

  “Ian . . .”

  “Don’t Ian me. Damn, it’s like Gabi told you how to draw out my name as long as possible, in turn making me feel guilty as hell before I even ask for a favor!”

  “So it’s a favor?”

  “Not really.” I frowned. “More like a joint venture. Care to listen?” I held up the bottle. “I’ll pour you a double.”

  Blake hesitated, then held out her hand for the cup. “Double me.”

  “If the lady would like a double, the lady gets a double.” I poured the w
ine nearly to the rim and handed it over. “So I’ve been thinking.”

  “That’s fascinating, Ian, do continue. What are the big thoughts taking place down here?” She pointed to my dick.

  “Hilarious.” I rolled my eyes. “It’s like now that you’ve made his acquaintance you don’t care about public shaming anymore. Good to know. Storing that information for later.” I poured myself a glass of wine and leaned back against the headboard. “I can’t really continue working the way I am. Now that I have a girlfriend and I’m in a committed relationship, if it gets around that I’m seeing you, Wingmen Inc. won’t work, so I need to come up with a different plan.”

  “Hmm.” Blake sipped her wine quietly, her expression unreadable. After her second sip, she said, “Well, you can still offer advice and take girls through the steps. In most situations, that should be enough. Almost like a life coach. I did used to call you the love coach, so there you have it.”

  “Yeah.” I frowned. “And Lex could probably do more of the grunt work, since he’s completely single and will probably die alone.”

  “I’m sure he appreciates your optimism about his future.”

  “Last time he agreed. Trust me, he embraces it with a scary joy that I’m sure is only matched by pubescent boys when they watch Baywatch reruns.”

  “I’m sure he won’t mind, then.” Blake stared at ESPN and frowned, then leaned forward and frowned harder. “Um, Ian? Do they still run stories on you?”

  “What? Why?” I glanced at the TV. They were showing reruns of last year’s most promising drafts.

  I’d seen the footage a thousand times.

  And each time it stung.

  But it didn’t now.

  I used to turn it off, walk away, work out, get drunk, or just try to focus on something else, but with Blake in my bed, eating crackers, it was less painful. The sting was gone, and in place of the hole that had once been there . . . I had her.

  Reaching for her hand, I squeezed it and then turned up the TV.

  “Wow”—Blake watched with rapt fascination—“you’re amazing!”

  “I was a safety. Hardly the quarterback,” I said, though my chest puffed out a bit more when her eyes widened at the next play.

 
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