“I’m so fucking sick of this shit.”
“Tell me about it, Renny.”
Ren Landis turned toward the voice behind him. He hadn’t realized anyone was nearby.
His former Boston Bulldogs teammate and best friend gave him a wide smile and a quick slap on the ass.
“Why do we do this shit?” Ren asked Cole Dixon.
Cole gave a sloppy shrug. “Who the hell knows? Because we wanna give back?”
Ren snorted. “Give back,” he repeated. He shook his head and sighed. “Right.”
Poverty, cancer, AIDS, hunger, disaster relief… The causes were endless. But it was a way to give back. Cole was right.
He’d had a successful career. Made more money than he knew what to do with. He had respect from the public, his fellow NFL players, and, for the most part, the media. Imagine that. Him. Little ol’ Lawrence “Long-Arm” Landis. Okay, sometimes the gossip rags, not so much.
The more he “gave back” the more he “got.” His stardom hadn’t ended when he retired at the ripe old age of thirty-two, which was young for a quarterback. No, charities helped keep him in the spotlight. He got endorsement deals, commercials, reality TV gigs, gifts, and women. Lots and lots of women.
So he shouldn’t be a whining bitch complaining about spending an evening at a charity function. Though he could be home watching SportsCenter. Or, hell, even Dancing with the Stars.
Ren felt a hand on his back. “Whoa, where’d ya go?”
Ren shook his head again. “Nowhere.” He did a fake-out punch to Cole’s stomach. “Damn. I just want to get this over with tonight.”
Out of all the charity functions he attended, he hated the “auctions” the most. The ones where he had to stand on the stage and strut his stuff. Where he was no more than a piece of meat. Where he went to the highest bidder, who usually ended up being some older woman who didn’t know shit about football. Or some chick who only knew he was a famous “someone.” Or a groupie who had enough money to “buy” him and expected more than dinner for her money.
“Not sure why Dan keeps signing us up for these things. I hate ’em too.”
Ren didn’t know why either. Dan was Ren’s and Cole’s sports agent. He’d told Dan he doesn’t like the auctions. He would have to make it clear. Once again. Next time Dan booked him for one of these, he was getting a size thirteen foot up his ass. Good cause or not.
“Hey, Renny, have I told you your ass has been looking mighty fine lately, and that I miss standing behind it while you’re bent over?”
Ren chuckled. He was used to good-natured ribbing from Cole. Ren was a former NFL quarterback for the Boston Bulldogs. A good one, at that. And Cole had been his running back—his right-hand man during his whole career with the team. Cole never hid the fact he loved sex and it didn’t matter who it was with, man or woman. Or even both at the same time.
In fact, Ren was always envious of Cole’s confidence in his manhood, his sexuality. Cole reminded him of another former teammate, Ty White.
Ty was in relationship with two lovers, a man and a woman. Running into him at a similar charity event about a year ago, he’d wanted to ask a million questions on how that all worked, but never got the chance. Nor did he want to pry too much into their private life.
But he was definitely curious. Who wouldn’t be? Most relationships between just two people were hard enough. Ren was the king of failed relationships. But to add an extra person? He shook his head.
The sound of applause interrupted Ren’s thoughts. He shifted to his other foot. He and Cole stood in a makeshift waiting area behind some curtains. The image of sharks waiting for chum popped in his mind. The MC’s voice filled the area.
“Ladies and gentleman, we are happy you’ve all decided to come out tonight and support this great cause…”
Ren’s stomach turned. Did he say he hated these things? He hated them!
He wiped his sweaty palms against his thighs.
“Brother, you can’t be that nervous!”
“Shut up,” Ren muttered, causing Cole to fall into a bout of laughter. And not normal laughter, but exaggerated laughter with pointing, guffawing, and even knee slapping. He was going to kick his ass. Right after he kicked Dan’s.
“Renny, you’re a freaking legend, man! You’re used to the limelight!”
“Isn’t the same.”
“Are you serious?” The surprise apparent on Cole’s face.
“I said shut up,” Ren warned him. The guy wasn’t making him feel any better.
“If you need to puke, do it elsewhere.”
“I’m not going to puke. It’s just some of these women are relentless. Clawing at me, trying to unbutton my pants, sticking their tongue in my ear. One of them almost swallowed one of my earrings.” Ren tugged at one of the large diamond studs in his ear.
“You love women!”
“Yeah, when they’re bangin’! Some of these are scary! Beasts even!”
Cole slapped an arm around Ren’s shoulders and squeezed. “Next you’re going to say that you felt violated.”
Ren wanted to wipe that shit-eating grin right off his face. But Cole was probably right. Ren was making way too much out of all this. He was only obligated to spend a couple hours with whoever was the highest bidder. If they picked a movie as the date, then it would even be better. Two hours in the dark without talking.
“Why are we the only fools waiting in this room? I need some air.”
He pushed back the heavy black piece of cloth, which was supposed to be the “door,” and stomped out before he could hear Cole’s answer.
He strode down the loud, busy hallway, weaving through the male and female auctionees.
He received some pats on the back as people recognized him. He shrugged them all off and burst through the nearest exit, out into the warm evening. He sucked in a deep breath.
A tinkle of laughter came from his right, and a small group of people approached him. It wasn’t until they were under the building’s security light that he could make out who they were.
“Renny! How about that? What are the chances of meeting you here?” Quinn Preston teased him as she approached him, flanked arm in arm by two men. One dark, one deeply tanned, both wearing very big smiles. Ren swept his gaze over Quinn from the top of her head down to her polished toes.
Sexy as shit. But out loud he said, “Lovely as ever, Quinn.”
“As pregnant as ever, you mean.”
Ren studied her very rounded belly and fought the urge to reach out and touch it. “Still beautiful. Congratulations, by the way.” He leaned into Quinn, kissing her. He tried for the lips, but she turned her head at the last minute; his lips brushed her cheek instead. He laughed as he pulled back. Ty would consider the attempt funny. Logan not so much. And that’s exactly why he did it. There was a twinkle in Quinn’s eye. “Any idea who the father is?”
“No,” Quinn replied. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Well you’ll find out soon enough when the baby comes out vanilla or chocolate. No doubt then!”
“Though I prefer a chocolate/vanilla twist, I’ll be happy with either flavor.” Quinn winked at him.
She was one fine woman. Ty was definitely lucky. Though he wasn’t so sure about the sharing part. Ty was openly bi, so maybe he got the best deal, being able to be with a man and a woman. Either way, he wasn’t sure how it all worked within their relationship, but it did work. No doubt about that.
Ren moved closer to Ty and slapped his former Boston Bulldogs teammate on the back. “Bro, I hope your swimmers were stronger!”
Logan cleared his throat and caught Ren’s attention.
“Congratulations to both of you.” Ren offered his hand to Logan, who accepted the invitation and shook it firmly. But he didn’t let Quinn’s arm go. Logan tended to be possessive like that.
Not that Ren could blame him. Ren had tried to buy his woman a year ago at an auction similar to this one.
“So I hear you’re the victim this time, Renny,” Quinn said, squeezing both of her men in closer to her sides.
“Yep. Lucky me. I decided I’m going to kick Dan’s ass if he signs me up for any more of these, though.” He tilted his head and studied Quinn. “You going to bid on me tonight and save a brother?”
Logan unwound his arm from hers and laid it over her shoulders instead, planting his other hand over her distended belly. A very unmistakable sign of possession.
“She already has her hands full, Renny,” Logan told him, his voice a little low and tight.
Logan still had a hard-on over the whole auction thing last year. He needed to move on.
“I remember you trying to buy me at the House to Home Charity that awful night. Hard to believe it was almost a year ago.” She frowned. “You ran up the bidding.”
“No. I just thought you looked worth every penny. And that dress you wore. Phew.” He ran a hand over his forehead, wiping away invisible sweat. “Smokin’.”
“I would never fit in that dress now.”
“Nothing wrong with having a baby in your belly.”
“Really? How’d you like to carry one?” She unconsciously rubbed the small of her back.
“I make them,” Ren said. “I don’t bake them.”
Ren heard a sound from Ty. He saw him struggling not to laugh. Quinn elbowed her lover in the ribs.
“So funny,” she said dryly.
Quinn pushed a strand of hair out of her face. Ren was temporarily blinded by the flash of an extremely large blue gem on her left ring finger.
“I remember that sapphire! Nice ring. But it was more beautiful hanging between your breasts.”
“It’s now my commitment ring.”
He raised his eyebrows. “These guys too cheap to buy you diamonds?”
“The sapphire was my late grandmother’s. It’s one way to remember her.” She lifted her hand and shoved it under his nose. “See the two diamonds on both sides of the sapphire?”
Ren captured her hand and studied it. “Can’t miss those either.”
While he had her hand in his, he pulled her away from her men and escorted her through the building’s back door into the hallway. Ty caught the door before it slammed shut behind them. He held the door for his other lover, Logan.
“One is from Logan and one from Ty.”
Quinn chuckled. “Yes. Very cool.”
“So, dog, wanna come to our commitment ceremony?” Ty asked him. “We’re only going to have a few people.”
“Yes, just a few.” Quinn said, as if there were going to be way more guests than she wanted. “We’d love for you to come.”
Ren didn’t miss her eye flick to Logan and back. Ren studied Logan while he asked, “You all want me to come?”
Logan, his expression neutral, answered, “Sure. Come. It’s going to be a pretty relaxed affair. In fact, bring a date.”
The MC’s voice came over the loudspeakers. “And now, what you’ve all been waiting for… The Celebrity Auction!”
Ren winced and cursed. “Gotta go.”
“We’ll email you an invitation,” Quinn called out as he rushed away.
“I’ll be there. Just promise there won’t be an auction.”
As he walked to the stage like a man heading to the hangman, laughter followed him.