I’ve never been great at first impressions. And in the seconds before the front door opens, I’m well aware this isn’t going to go well for either of us.
But here I am anyway.
Standing at the door of my great aunt’s next door neighbor, dressed in polka-dotted lime-green pajamas, arms folded, lips ready to berate the asshole throwing a party at two in the morning on a Wednesday, I’m ready to do this.
My fist stings as I pound on the heavy wooden door. The Florida humidity is doing a number on the mess of dark hair sticking to my shoulders, and for all I know, remnants of yesterday’s mascara resides beneath my lower lashes, but glancing in the mirror on the way over here wasn’t exactly a priority.
All I want is some sleep.
The door swings open, and a man the size of a linebacker wearing a neon green button-down drinks me in with an unfocused stare.
“Here for the party?” he asks, expression fading when he realizes I’m standing here looking like a crazy person.
“Are you Zane?” My arms tuck tightly under my chest.
“No,” he says. “Zane’s inside.”
He motions for me to come in, and I hesitate before going for it. I didn’t climb out of bed at two in the morning for nothing.
The guy pauses as we stand across from one another beneath a chandelier in a grand, two-story foyer better suited for executives than party-boy ballers. He hooks his hands on his hips and drags in a long breath.
“You sure you’re not here for the party?” His gaze narrows.
I point to my pajamas. “Do I look like I’m here for the party?”
I mean, honestly.
He smooths a hand down his chest before lifting it in protest, and then he smirks. “All right. If you say so.”
Another guy walks past, his polo a shade of evergreen, contrasting against crisp white shorts.
“What’s with all the green?” I wrinkle my nose. Great Aunt Rue mentioned once that her neighbor played football. “Is this a team color or something?”
The guy covers his mouth, stifling a chuckle. “Wait here. I’ll find Zane.”
About damn time.
A woman wearing a skin-tight bandage dress the color of Santa Claus’ suit saunters past, giving me side eye before lifting her nose and linking onto the arm of a man with huge arms and a matching red button-down.
Red and green? In May?
“Hi.” A man’s voice vibrates against my ear from behind, and I turn to find a devilishly handsome man reeking of beer and wearing a smile a mile wide.
I move back until I run into the wall behind me, but he follows. Placing his hand on the wall over my shoulder, he lifts a brown bottle to his lips and takes a drink, his eyes trained on me.
“Haven’t seen you before. You just get here?” he asks.
“Are you Zane?”
“No.” He shakes his head, his tongue grazing his lower lip as if he fully believes he’s seconds from feasting on me. “I’m Kai Santana.”
He says his full name like it should mean something to me. I’m guessing by his build and the size of his biceps that he plays football with Zane.
Maybe in certain circles, his name opens doors. And drops panties. But right now, he’s just another drunk asshole thinking he’s smooth enough to rival Casanova.
“What’s your name?” He leans in closer, his aftershave burning my lungs.
“I don’t see how that’s relevant right now.”
Kai laughs. “You really came to a party like this, dressed like that, and you’re going to play hard to get? Un-fucking-believable.”
“I need to speak to Zane.”
Kai’s expression fades, and he glances over my shoulder, scanning a roomful of beautiful blondes, exotic brunettes, and fiery redheads. I follow his line of sight and see nothing but a sea of mostly green, a fair amount of red, and a handful of yellow.
I’m at a stoplight party.
And I’m dressed in head-to-toe green.
“You don’t want Zane.” Kai turns back to me, moving his hand to the side of my face. His fingertips trace my jaw, and my entire body freezes. He’s completely invading my personal space, acting like he owns it, and my therapist-in-training monkey brain can’t conjure up the appropriate response to save my life. “Anything Zane can do, I can do better, angel face. Know that.”
My lips purse, rubbing together as I stare into Kai’s obnoxiously beautiful seafoam green gaze. I didn’t even know eyes could be a color like that. Removing my stare from his, I visually trace the length of his muscled, tatted arm before gripping it gently and guiding it away from my person.
I step out of his space, and judging by the frown that replaces his smug little smile, he takes the hint.
A clock on the other side of the foyer reads two fifteen. I know this house is over-the-top large, but it shouldn’t take this long for Ash to locate Zane. I’d be better off looking for him myself at this point . . . if only I knew what he looked like.
“Can you find Zane for me, please?” I zip my spine and force a positive tone into my voice.
Kai’s face darkens. He’s annoyed. His barreled chest rises and falls as he stares at me, takes another swig of beer, and releases a groan.
“Fucking Zane.” He shakes his head. “Find him your own damn self. I’m not his little bitch.”
I sense some contention there that I’m not in the mood to explore, so I let him walk away toward a throng of beautiful women dressed all in green.
“Excuse me.” A blond Hercules dressed in a t-shirt the color of sunbeams taps me on the shoulder.
Thank God. I’ve never been so happy to see someone in yellow in all my life.
“Hi.” A breathy sigh of relief passes through my lips. “Are you Zane?”
He laughs, shaking his head. “No. I just heard you were looking for him. I saw him in the kitchen a minute ago.”
Hercules has kind eyes, and he keeps a safe distance from me. I feel immediately at ease in his presence already.
Glancing around, I return my stare to his. “I’ve never been here before. Can you point me that way?”
He nods and motions for me to follow him. As soon as we approach a packed crowd blocking the threshold to the backside of the house, he reaches for my hand and pulls me against him.