My breath catches when my gaze lands on Ryder. He looks so different from the cocky but sweet kid I fooled around with once. The long hair is gone, replaced by a crew cut and neatly trimmed beard. He’s bigger too, the muscles evident under his button-down shirt and fitted pants.
Holy hell, but he’s all man now.
Seems the resident celebrity has already been claimed. One of Jillian’s friends, a redhead named Michelle, is eyeing Ryder like he’s the finest piece of ass she’s ever seen.
A whole slew of women will agree with her sentiment. Lucky for me, I’m no longer one of them, and I’ll keep telling myself that until I believe it.
Ryder, for his part, is eating up her affections, that ever-present and fully fake smile on display as Michelle bats her eyes and mashes her tits against him.
With a final breath to center me, I toss my long hair over one shoulder and stride toward the group. Let the games begin. “Ryder Gray. Breaking hearts as always, I see.”
Ryder’s head flies up at the sound of my voice, a grin breaking across his features.
But it’s not the practiced smile that decorates magazine covers. It’s the goofy, crooked grin I remember from eight years ago. Ryder’s real smile.
Suddenly, I’m not feeling as confident in my quest.
Focus, Greer. Don’t let this man get the better of you again.
He meets me halfway across the parking area, wrapping his hand around my nape and pulling me to him. Without permission, he presses his mouth to mine, and my hands fly up to his chest as my heart threatens to beat out of my own.
Pulling back, those baby blues twinkle at me. “Greer Hammond. Can I just say how jealous I am of your dress tonight? It gets to touch every one of your luscious curves.”
I bristle at his well-practiced delivery. Typical playboy, figuring I’m going to melt at the feet of racing royalty.
Nice try, Ryder. I remember when you used to wet the bed.
With a chuckle that’s as fake as his smirk, I reply, “I figured you’d be jealous of my bra and g-string since they have a front-row seat to the goods.”
His eyes widen, momentarily thrown by my comeback. But he recovers quickly. “Those I plan to dispose of directly. Can’t have them crowding in on what’s mine.”
What a pompous ass. What did I ever see in him? “I’ll let you duke it out with them. Until then, your date for the evening is waiting.”
Ryder’s face scrunches in confusion. “Who?”
His ego is enormous, and my temper flares to match it. Leaning in, I pull his head down to mine, my voice a fierce whisper. “Ryder Gray, have you forgotten her already? I know you’re a callous cad, but try to remember the name of the woman you plan on screwing tonight. Or is that too much to ask from someone of your status?”
A final hair flip and I step away from him, saddened that the lovable guy I knew, and damn near fell head over heels for that New Year’s Eve, is no more. He’s been replaced by a man who believes himself better than others, likely because most people treat him as if he is.
Ryder grabs my arm, pulling me back to him, and for the first time, his facade cracks. “If anyone has a right to be angry, it’s me, Greer. Thanks for ghosting me, by the way.”
What the hell? He is not blaming me for eight years ago. “That’s rich. I love your version of events.”
“What would you call it? I went to deal with… whatever her name was, came back, and you were gone.”
“You have difficulty remembering your women’s names, don’t you? Her name is Jane.” I’m never this caustic, but fury from the past eight years is blasting its way to the surface. All aimed at one man. “Austin puked everywhere and Patrick kicked him out. I had to take him home. I gave Patrick my number and asked him to give it to you. Not that you ever used it.”
Ryder crosses his arms over his chest, gaze focused on me. “Patrick didn’t give me a damn thing. Do you honestly think I wouldn’t have called you if I had your number?”
“Do you honestly think I would have left without leaving my number?”
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