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Sweet Filthy Boy(7)

By:Christina Lauren

Ansel shrugs. “We may have gone to a couple of different places, just to peek.”

Behind him, Oliver—the one in glasses—holds up seven fingers and I laugh. “A couple?”

“No more than three,” Ansel says, winking.

I spot movement just behind him, and before I have a chance to say anything, Finn steps up, attempting to yank Ansel’s pants down. Ansel doesn’t even blink, but instead asks me, “What are you drinking?” and simply grips his waistband without looking even a little surprised or annoyed.

As if I can’t see a considerable amount of gray boxers.

As if I’m not staring directly at where the distinct bulge in the cotton would be.

Is this what boys do?

“It’s nice to see you in your underwear again,” I say, struggling to restrain my grin.

“Almost,” he clarifies. “At least my pants stayed up this time.”

I glance down, wishing I could get another eyeful of his toned thighs. “That’s debatable.”

“Last time Finn did that, they didn’t. I beat his road time this week and he’s been trying to get me back ever since.” He stops, brows lifting and seeming to only now hear what I said. He leans in a little bit, asking in a soft, low voice, “Are you hitting on me?”

“No.” I swallow under the pressure of his unwavering attention. “Maybe?”

“Maybe if my pants go down, your dress should go up,” he whispers, and no sentence anywhere has ever sounded so dirty. “To level the playing field.”

“She’s way too hot for you,” Finn says from behind him. Ansel reaches back, putting a hand on Finn’s face and moving him farther away. He nods to my drink, wordlessly asking what was in my now-empty glass.

I stare back at him, feeling the strange warmth of familiarity spread through me. So this is what chemistry feels like. I’ve felt it with other performers, but that kind of connection is different from this. Usually chemistry between dancers diffuses offstage, or we force real life back in. Here with Ansel, I think we could charge large appliances with the energy moving between us.

He takes my glass and says, “Be right back,” before glancing at Lola as she steps away from the others. She’s watching Ansel like a hawk, with her arms crossed over her chest and stern mom-face on full display. “With a drink,” he tells her good-naturedly. “Overpriced, watered-down alcohol, probably with some questionable fruit. Nothing funny, I promise. Would you like to come with me?”

“No, but I’m watching you,” she says.

He gives her his most charming smile before turning to me. “Anything in particular you desire?”

“Surprise me,” I tell him.

After he walks a few feet away to get the bartender’s attention, the girls give me exaggerated what the hell stares and I shrug back—because, really, what can I say? The story is laid out right in front of them. A hot guy and his hot friends have located us in a club, and said hot guy is buying me a drink.

Lola, Harlow, and Ansel’s friends make polite conversation but I can barely hear them, thanks to the booming music and my heartbeat pounding in my ears. I try not to stare down the bar to where Ansel has wedged himself between a few bodies, but in my peripheral vision I can see his head above most others, and his long, lean body leaning forward to call out his order to the bartender.

He returns a few minutes later with a new tumbler, full of ice and limes and clear liquid, offering it to me with a sweet smile. “Gin and tonic, right?”

“I was expecting you to get me something adventurous. Something in a pineapple or with sparklers.”

“I smelled your glass,” he says, shrugging. “I wanted to keep you on the same drink. Plus”—he gestures down my body—“you have this whole flapper girl thing going on with the short dress and the”—he draws a circle in the air with his index finger near my head—“the shiny black hair and straight bangs. And those red lips. I look at you and I think ‘gin.’” He stops, scratching his chin, and adds, “Actually I look at you and think—”

Laughing, I hold up my hand to stop him there. “I have no idea what to do with you.”

“I have some suggestions.”

“I’m sure you do.”

“Would you like to hear them?” he says, grin firmly in place.

I take a deep, steadying breath, pretty sure I’m in way over my head with this one. “How about you tell me a little about you guys first. Do you all live in the States?”

“No. We met a few years ago doing a volunteer program here where you bike from one city to another, building low-income housing as you go. We did it after university a few years back and worked from Florida to Arizona.”