Billionaire on the Loose (Billionaires and Bridesmaids #5)(12)


by Jessica Clare

“And a raid is . . .”

“It’s like a match against the computer. You go to the big dungeon and put in an all-out assault against the computer’s monsters.” He still wasn’t giving her the you’re crazy look, so she continued. “I’m the guild leader and so me not being there is a lot like sending my team out onto the field with no coach.”

“Ahhh.” He rapped his knuckles on the table and then pointed at her. “So you not being there cocks it up for everyone else.”

“Exactly! God, I could kiss you right now for getting it. Everyone else thinks I’m nuts.”

“I’m the captain of my polo team at home, so I understand.” He leaned in again. “Though I’ll still take that kiss if you’re game.”

He was flirting hard and heavy, wasn’t he? Loch was probably a flirt to all women, and he was treating her no different than he would anyone else. Still, it was fun, and she felt like they’d connected on some level. It wasn’t her to flirt back, but tonight she was cutting loose a bit. When would she ever get another chance to kiss a hot European guy? So she leaned forward and met him across the booth.

Their lips barely brushed, but she felt a flood of heat move all the way through her body. Her nipples tightened in response and every inch of her body seemed to be hyperaware of his presence. She leaned back and he gave her another one of those lazy, sexy grins.

“I should dare you a few more things, shouldn’t I, Taylor?”

“I’ll only do it if I want to,” she retorted, but she was smiling. With him she felt . . . carefree. Light. Happy.

The food arrived, breaking the moment, and for the next while Taylor talked about her guild and the mechanics of raiding and how the makeup of the group was as important as the items the characters wore. Loch seemed interested, drawing sports comparisons from time to time, and shared stories of his polo team with her, and even a few hunting tales.

Several beers later, Taylor was picking at the last fry on her plate when they decided to order another round of food and beers. She ordered fried pickles, and made Loch try one. The revolted look on his face sent her into peals of hysteria, and for the next while, they dared each other things and the penalty was eating one of the fried pickle slices.

God, she was having such a good time. Even Loch, who’d spent a lot of time watching the soccer game when they’d first sat down was now totally focused on her, and his eyes were shining with amusement as she told him about her dress fitting for Gretchen’s wedding and how she’d accidentally stuck her foot in a box and tumbled out of the dressing room topless.

“Tay?” A familiar voice broke into her story and she looked over, just in time to see Chester and Frank giving her curious looks. They had their laptops in hand.

“Hey, guys.” She smoothed her hair and accidentally elbowed her beer. Luckily, Loch caught it before it could spill more than a few drops. “Whoops.”

“It is you,” Frank exclaimed. “I wasn’t sure until I saw you elbow the beer. Are you on a . . . date?”

“Pfft, naw.” Taylor made a shooing motion with her hands. “This is Loch. He’s just a buddy new in town. I’m showing him around.”

Loch extended his hand at both guys. “Pleased to meet you. Friends of Taylor’s?”

“We’re in her guild alliance,” Chester said, and there was a tightness in his voice that made Taylor’s stomach upset. “It’s just funny to see her here, having a good time, when we had a multi-guild raid tonight.” He ignored Loch’s outstretched hand. “It was a total wipe, you know.”

She winced.

“Wipe?” Loch asked.

“Everyone died,” Frank explained. “Big failure. Spent two hours on corpse retrieval. It was brutal. Everyone’s in a shit mood.”

“Yeah. Hope you had fun tonight on your not-date,” Chester snarked, and then walked away.

Frank moved toward their table. “He didn’t mean that. Just give him a few days to cool off. See you next Saturday, Tay?”

“I’ll try and make it in person,” she told him. “If not, I’ll be online for sure.”

“Catch you then.” Frank waved at them and then hurried after his friend, to the back room in the bar. Taylor peered over and she could see all the tables of the LAN party were full. Shit. Now everyone was going to know that she ditched her guild to go on a date. Chester had a quick temper but he also had a big mouth.

Sigmund was going to lose his shit. Ugh.

Taylor rubbed her forehead. “Ugh, awkward.”

“I bailed on my team once to go drinking with chums,” Loch offered sympathetically. He reached across the table and put one of his big, warm hands on her arm and gave it a squeeze. “Didn’t get caught, but the guilt was bad enough to ruin it for me.”

She gave him a faint smile. “I should really head home soon anyhow.”

“I’ll walk you.” He pulled out a wad of American dollars and tossed them on the table.

“I should be walking you,” she protested. “I know the city.”

He shrugged. “If I get lost, I’ll flag down a taxi. It’ll be fine.” He put a hand to the small of her back when she got up from the table, and it felt oddly right. “Let me be a gentleman and walk you home.”

Well, how could she argue with that? Taylor left the pub with him and they walked to the subway in silence. She still hadn’t checked her phone; she was afraid to. Nothing she did now would change anything, so there was no point in looking until she was ready to deal with the consequences.

Luckily, her building was minutes away from her stop. Loch kept a hand on her back as they walked and then Taylor gestured at her building. “This is me. I’m sorry I didn’t show you around more—”

He put a finger to her lips. “No apologies. I had a great time. And because I had a great time, and I think you did, too, I refuse to let either one of us feel guilty.”

She smiled as he pulled his finger away, and jammed her hands in her pockets. “It’s just . . . complicated. It’s more than just guild stuff. It’s . . . personal.”

“An ex-boyfriend?” he guessed again.

“God, no.” She shuddered.

“Good.” He leaned down and to her surprise, he looked as if he was going to kiss her. Instead, he only said, “You’re allowed to have fun, you know.”