Home > I Promise You(3)

I Promise You(3)
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills

Admittedly, I’ve never seen a dude in leather pants, so perhaps there might be some tighter, somewhere.

Why is his dress shirt unbuttoned?

My God, he is cut.

More importantly, where on earth did he come from? He’s obviously not one of the laid-back locals here in Magnolia, Mississippi. They wear flannels and jeans or Waylon University apparel.

I tug my earbuds out, cutting off “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys. True, it’s my theme song, but this can’t be missed.

I watch as an entourage of three women float through the sliding glass doors with him like pretty made-up dolls, each one long-legged and busty. They’re also all wearing some form of cowhide.

One of the girls, a platinum-haired beauty in a red leather mini skirt and platform heels, trails behind him, adjusting his white dress shirt as it billows around his trim hips, giving a peek of tattoos and washboard abs with defined hills and valleys.

The brunette—dang, she looks like a tall Mila Kunis—wears a purple-fringed suede vest, skinny jeans, and strappy stilettos as she holds his hand and preens.

A willowy redhead with double Ds flanks his left side, her hand on his shoulder playing with the ends of his golden brown hair as it curls from underneath his ball cap. Her honest-to-God black and white cow-printed mini-dress looks amazing, as if it came straight from a New York runway.

His hat creates a slice of diagonal shadow on his chiseled face, giving me half a view of one bladed cheekbone and part of a full, pouty mouth. Dark stubble covers his diamond-cut jawline, and a pair of expensive silver-mirrored aviators shield his gaze. A golden belt buckle as big as a dessert plate glimmers at his waist.

There are so many sensory details hitting me at once that my mind spins and my fingers twitch to write. Serena Jensen uncovers secret leather cult inside the Piggly Wiggly. Someone call PETA.

Wondering if they’re even real—it’s been a long week—I close my eyes and reopen them. Still there.

My spidey sense is screaming athlete judging by his muscular build and his height, around six foot, four inches. The man is practically towering, a veritable wall. Footballer, most likely—and not a Southern boy, because they wouldn’t be caught dead in those pants. At least not in Magnolia, Mississippi. Maybe Memphis, just two hours away.

“Must be a full moon or a banging party,” I muse aloud to a crate of seedless green grapes. They nod their agreement, silently reminding me that only weird people talk to inanimate objects.

“Just tired,” I tell them as I pick up a bunch, put them in a plastic bag, and tie them off. I worked a catering job for the university last night, and I’m beat.

The man and his harem move farther inside the store, and a regretful pang washes over me. I didn’t always spend my weekends at the grocery. The parties off campus used to be my favorite, especially the bonfire. Crisp fall weather, local bands, and macho games—there’s nothing more entertaining than watching D1 jocks playing tug-of-war over a mud pit. I sigh. The last college party I went to was the bonfire my junior year.

I’m not that girl anymore. I work and study. I rarely go out just for fun. Nana says it’s because I’m an Aquarius and we internalize heartbreak, taking longer to recover. My birth sign also means I’m offbeat and peculiar. True.

Mr. Hot Pants stops at the flower center, and the girls pause with him in sync, six eyes riveted to him, bodies on alert, anticipating what he’ll do next. Maybe buy some supermarket roses for them?

Snapping a finger, he murmurs something I can’t hear, and the blonde rushes to tug a piece of paper out of her purse. She drops it in his grasp then strokes his cheek before settling back into her position behind him, all of it graceful and mesmerizing—as if they’ve done this particular dance before. He whips off the sunglasses and tucks them handle side down inside the pocket of his dress shirt. Staring down at the paper, he smirks, and I think he mouths, Oreos.

Next to him, the girls await instruction like well-trained greyhounds. They stand patiently as his phone rings and he answers it, talks, and laughs at whoever is there then tucks the phone into the pocket of his pants. His thighs are muscled and thick, bulging against the leather. His stomach is sun-kissed and hard as iron. And, he’s a leftie. “A nice one,” I murmur to the grapes as the outline of his crotch draws my eyes. It’s been a while, and a girl can look, okay? Just don’t touch.

The moving around with his phone forces the brunette to lose her hold on his hand, and the redhead jostles to his right side and elbows the brunette—ouch, that looked like it hurt!—then pounces to grasp his hand.

Chaos ensues.

“It’s my turn, Bambi! You snooze, you lose!” exclaims the redhead with glee.

“Listen here, Ashley—” snaps Mila/Bambi.

“Can’t we get what we need and leave without arguing?” grouses the blonde.

“Girls, please,” comes his deep voice. “No fighting. The number-one rule: all of you get along or I’m not doing this.”

Rules?

Oh, oh, he’s precious.

The sexy beast emits a lopsided smile that’s somehow perfect, an aw-shucks attitude blended with an air of confidence that only comes from a man who’s had women at his feet since he was born. “You’re all beautiful, sweethearts. Breathtaking, the cream of the crop, and, yes, any man would be lucky to have you on his arm.” He tucks his list away. “But, I’m a lot. Being with me is hard, and really, I’m not worthy of any of you.”

“You are!” they exclaim.

Is he?

“Wicked, wicked boy,” I murmur under my breath. I take in the muscular chest, those rippling muscles. “Hmm. I’d turn you into a centaur if I wrote about you.”

I sneak a bit closer to them, easing behind a display of Little Debbie cakes. I’m not really spying, not truly, just curious. It’s the writer in me; I get ideas from the strangest occurrences.

He rocks on his heels, seeming to think for a moment as he gazes at the girls. “Fine, if you insist, you must know that I like a girl who loves the game as much as I do.”

“We do,” they say ardently.

He puts his hands on his hips, paces around for several moments in deep thought. “I know you love the game, but my girl also needs a good grasp on my stats—even how fast I run the forty-yard dash.”

“4.7 seconds,” declares Mila/Bambi, giving the other girls triumphant looks. “One of the fastest in the league for a quarterback.”

He blinks. “But… I know this is a new thing, so don’t get pissed, but she needs to know the running back, tight end, and wide receiver’s stats too. I know, I know, I see it on your faces—something new. Thing is, in the end, stats help me with my game, and you do want me to play pro, right? Make the big money?”

“But, Dillon, I already know your stats.” Mila/Bambi rattles off percentages and phrases: total plays, passing attempts, completions, yards rushing… It’s like Greek to me, and I get lost during her Ted Talk.

“Why are you giving us new requirements?” the blonde demands.

“Because football is a game of numbers. My girl, maybe the love of my life”—he places his hand over his heart—“will live and breathe numbers…for the whole offense.”

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