Dylan couldn’t remember the last time he’d enjoyed a movie without a woman talking through its entirety or taken pleasure in the simple knowledge that one was there beside him. As the credits began to roll he reached over and covered Tamar’s hand with his own. He gripped it gently once before releasing her. There were no words for this, what she’d given him at the end of a long stressful day.

She smiled down at her hand that he’d released and looked back at him. The look on his face made her want to pinch his cheeks. He was too adorable with the glint of gratefulness in his eyes. “Liked the movie?” she asked as she gathered the plates and started to stand.

“It was good. Now I can finally understand what everybody’s talking about.” He reached out to grab one of her wrists. “Take care of that later. Come sit with me a little longer.”

Her cheeks warmed and she nodded, returning to the seat on the other side of the laptop. She placed the dishes at the foot of the bed and leaned back against the wall. “What did you mean by reviewing the film at six?”

He closed his eyes as he attempted to stretch his arm out. “Coach has tapes of the other team’s games. We’ll study it, get familiar with the type of plays they run, be prepared to anticipate and counter ‘em. Learn who their top players are, things we need to watch out for.”

Tamar nodded. “Sounds like a lot of work…” she eyed his stiffened frame and frowned. He looked as if he would crumple or break if she blew on him. “But you like it, huh?”

He smiled. “It is a lot of work. Most people don’t realize how much goes into prepping for a game. But yeah, I like it. Love it. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

“Hmm…” Tamar leaned her head against the wall, content with just watching him. Then her fingers suddenly started tingling, wanting to ease the tension on his shoulders and the arm he stretched stiffly before him. “Hey…” she started softly, cheeks tingling as she put vocals to her thoughts. “If you want, I can work the tension from your arms.”

He glanced over his shoulder at her. “You know you don’t have to do that…” He didn’t want her to feel obligated, especially after all she’d already done for him, but his muscles were already jumping for joy at the mere thought of it.

Tamar smirked despite her sudden shyness. “Oh come, since when have you refused something from me?” She raised a challenging brow. “Going once… Going twice…”

“Since never. You know I’ll take it.” He laughed and shook his head. He had no will to resist when it came to her and apparently she now knew it.

“Good,” she smiled and picked up the laptop, placing it on the desk beside her bed. “Lie on your stomach,” she said quietly, shifting to give him space, her eyes already roaming over his body for the sore spots she hoped to soothe with her fingers.

He could only imagine how the team would respond to seeing their captain obey this small slip of a girl, stretching out on the bed as she’d instructed. “You’re a bossy little thing.”

“Yes, and you like it,” she countered softly, hands resting on the mattress as she waited for him to get comfortable. Then Tamar laced her fingers together and popped her knuckles, her gaze traveling over the length of his torso. She had to be completely honest with herself, even if she didn’t repeat it to either Bekah or Dylan… She’d wondered what his taut muscles and skin would feel like under her fingers, the body of a disciplined athlete like Dylan. She still had her reservations about how this friendship would work in the long run, even if the presses and Neecy were unusually quiet these days. Those concerns pushed aside, she couldn’t deny how much she liked Dylan and found being with him both physically and mentally stimulating. Right now, Tamar would focus on those two things that kept her intrigued by him and save the what-if questions for later.

“Maybe I do. I’m not admitting anything.” He rested his forehead against his forearms and just lied there. He hadn’t expected anything quite like this night and he wasn’t sure how to explain it to her. When her fingers began to press into the backs of his shoulders he gave up and just let himself relax into her firm touch.

”No need for words, darlin’, I can feel that you do…” She kneaded the taut muscle under her fingers, clicking her tongue. ”They are working you hard. You’re like stone.” The bust of David came to mind and she hid a smile.

“Gotta be at my best for the game. They’re not the easiest team to beat.”

“How many games have you ever lost?” Tamar asked softly, moving her fingers along the sides of his torso.

“Ever?” he asked on a groan. “Seven the three years I played in high school. Five since I’ve been here at Covington. Two my freshman year, three sophomore year. We’re still looking good this year. Undefeated.” That simple word caused him to grin.

“Impressive record.” Tamar smiled at the pride in his voice. It was more than evident that football was this man’s past, present and future. Her thumbs slid up his spine before pressing into the arches of his shoulder blades, seeking out the tense areas. “Well, let’s leave it that way. Undefeated.” She patted his back to say she was done and removed her hands from his body.

“That’s why it feels like somebody dropped a bag of bricks on my back.” He sighed out the pleasure and rolled over to look up at her. “Thanks, pretty girl. Feels much better.”

Tamar smiled and dipped her head in acknowledgment. “Anytime… You could hire me to be your trainer with my magic fingers.”  She fluttered them in front of his face, anything to distract herself from how attractive he looked lying on her bed, peering up at her with those gray eyes.

“Best plan I ever heard.” He reached up and let his fingers trail lightly over her cheek “You’re pretty good to me. Wasn’t counting on that.”

Her skin warmed under his fingers. “What were you counting on?” she asked in a soft voice, his touch affecting her vocal chords all of a sudden.

“Being able to charm you into being nice every once in awhile.”

Tamar smiled gently. “Keep singing to me and I’ll be nice to you whenever you want.” She placed her hands on her lap and straightened. “I have a question for you.”

“I’m already thinking of a song,” he warned with a smile. “What’s on your mind?”

“Good,” she said, pink flooding her cheeks. “In five years, where do you see yourself?”

“I thought you were going to ask something hard. Hopefully in my third year in the NFL. My mom and sister taken care of, living comfortably.” He shrugged. “With a certain pretty girl at my side maybe.”

Tamar’s blue eyes flicked over to his and she bit her bottom lip. For some reason, she hadn’t expected him to say that, to believe that. She’d expected the NFL gig, knew that all his hard work would pay off with a good career in a good team, but him hinting the other part threatened to send her overboard. Her lips curled up in a slow smile. “Give me a song,” she said gently, eyes lowering to his mouth.

“As you wish,” he said softly before launching into another song. “Holding you here like a rose in the dark I make this promise to you from my heart. You won’t be lonely now. I wanna give you everything you need. I wanna show you, you won’t be lonely now.”

Tamar placed her hands on the bed to steady herself above him as she leaned in. She didn’t really need the song, had wanted to kiss him even as he sat beside her during the movie. She closed her eyes to rest in the moment, letting his soft lips imprint on hers.

He pushed up on an elbow to meet her halfway. Every time she encouraged him, asked for a kiss, assured him she wanted to be there, with him. It took him higher. It was tempting to pull her over him but he held back. She wasn’t ready for that.

“Hold me,” she whispered against his lips, wanting his arms around her. Tamar nipped at his bottom lip, loving the feel of him under her; like a strong foundation to assure her that he wanted her. That he liked being with her as much as she did with him.

His hands slid around her waist without hesitation, drawing her over him. He wouldn’t question her command. Instead he delved deeper into the kiss, leaning back and taking her with him.

Tamar decided then that this was her favorite place to be, not hiding in her room or sitting in the middle of an open field, but laying in his arms. Her open palms slid up his chest and she propped her head up to peer up at him. “I like your voice…” she said softly, eyes focused on his own. “It might be my favorite sound, right after a rainshower and a guitar.”

“I’m third? Not sure how I feel about that. I should be second at least. Above rain,” he said innocently playing with a strand of hair that escaped from her band.

“That can be arranged…” Tamar smirked, tracing his handsome face with her blue gaze. “You know how to convince me, don’t you?” her shapely brows lifted in silent challenge.

He laughed. He’d never bothered singing for a woman. Only his mother and sister had experienced his playful concerts but he liked singing to Tamar and watching her blush. “You like playing me don’t you? In my world, before you, lived outside my emotions. Didn’t know where I was going. Till that day, I found you. How you opened my eyes to a new paradise.”

Tamar almost sighed wistfully as his voice trailed off. She’d always wondered what it would feel like dancing with someone to this song. Her eyes searched Dylan’s before she lowered her head to place a soft, fleeting kiss on his mouth. “Definitely my favorite before the rain…” she said softly, a gentle smile tugging at her lips.

“That’s better, but you skimped on my payment. Don’t make me report you.” His fingers ran along her back. If he could finish every day out with her resting with him like this, he’d be more than satisfied.

She cupped his cheek, leaning in to nip lightly at his bottom lip.

He hummed quietly against her lips. “You’re pretty good at this.”

”Just trying to keep up with you, Casanova,” Tamar whispered, scooting off his chest to snuggle beside him. ”Thank you for having dinner with me…”

“You’re really thanking me after you just spoiled me for the whole night? I’m the one who’s supposed to be saying thank you.”

Tamar rolled her eyes. ”I’m trying to be a courteous hostess…” She shifted her face to brush her mouth against his cheek. ”Enjoy it.”

“Oh trust me, I’m enjoying it. I might want to enjoy it more often.”

”That’s good to hear…” She smiled and snuggled against him, closing her eyes. The feel of his sturdy body was assuring, comforting. She could feel her entire body sink into his arms.

“If you don’t make me get up soon, I won’t leave,” he warned softly even as his eyes started to drift shut.

”That’s the idea, Casanova,” she replied, her voice drowsy with impending sleep. One hand slid across his chest and her fingers latched onto the tail of his polo shirt. ”Stay with me tonight.”

“You’ve got everybody fooled. You’re the real Casanova.” He covered her hand with his, lifting it to his lips for a light kiss. “I’m not going to turn down that invitation.”

”Learned all my smooth talkin’ and charmin’ skills from you,” she drawled softly, kissing his cheek. ”I was hoping you wouldn’t…”

He laughed softly. “You’d probably be able to make somebody think that too. I’m just the sucker who fell for your schemes.”

Tamar chuckled gently, tugging at his shirt. ”Is that a complaint I’m hearing?”

“Wouldn’t dream of it. I’m just statin’ some facts. I didn’t say I didn’t like those facts.”

She rolled her eyes, snuggling deeper in the crook of his arms. ”I want you to rest enough until you’re ready to leave. You’re practically dead on your feet and frankly, very boring right now.”

“Ouch. Boring? That’s a serious accusation,” he mumbled. “I’ll make you pay for that…in the morning. I need to be up by five.”

”Wake me up when you do, ‘kay?” Tamar whispered, eyes heavy with sleep, a soft and serene look on her face as she drifted off, exhausted from all her planning and preparing for a successful date with Dylan.

When Dylan’s phone alarm went off the next morning he found himself unable to move his right arm. He forced his eyes open and a slow grin crossed his face when his eyes rested on Tamar. With his left hand he freed his phone and turned off the alarm before taking the time to just drink her in. She was more beautiful in sleep, her face soft and trusting . He doubted she’d given many men an opportunity to see her like this and he relished the moment.  Even though he was reluctant to wake her, he was unable to resist dipping his head to pressed a kiss to her forehead.  “I gotta get moving, pretty girl,” he said softly.

<<Chapter 14 || Chapter 16>>