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Loving War

By:C.M. Owens

voice sounds off, a little higher than I want it to be.

“And how would you know that?” he asks, pressing his front closer to my back.

Oh damn. He’s turned on—turned on because of me. This would be hilarious if I didn’t know him well enough to be certain he’ll punish me for this.

I turn around, giving him a second to study me, and his eyes widen in horror as his drink sputters from his choking mouth.

“Probably because you’ve hated me for eleven years,” I say evenly, letting not one droplet of emotion taint my deadpan delivery.

My eyebrow cocks up as he stumbles backwards, making a fool of himself. I’m definitely going to pay for this. He’s a ruthless son of a bitch. I should enjoy it while it lasts, because the upper hand I have will soon turn into the foundation of a stronger sense hatred.

“Tria?” he says through a cough, sounding as though he’s disgusted and shocked in the same breath.

I can’t help it; I stifle my laughter, but my mocking smile creeps into place.

“No,” he says, shaking his head as if he’s seeing things, hating himself in this moment.

A humiliated and dumbfounded Kode Sterling—love it.

“Yes,” I say, relishing my ounce of power before he jerks it away.

“Fuck,” he hisses, staring at his bottle of beer as though it’s the enemy. Then those murderous eyes cut back toward me, and I almost shrivel up. “What the hell are you doing here?”

No. I won’t cower down to him. You stand up to bullies, right? I won’t cry in the corner tonight. I’ll fight back, damn it.

“Probably the same thing you’re doing. Having fun in a place where no one was supposed to know me.”

“Mr. Sterling, your beer,” a waitress says, interrupting us.

He waves it off, acting as though he’s terrified of what might be in it. “I changed my mind,” he mumbles, setting his almost-finished bottle on the bar.

I have to get away while I still can.

“Tria?” a familiar voice says, but unlike the last familiar voice, this one is welcome.

“Raya,” I say, smiling, so damn grateful she’s here. Kode won’t dare do anything to me in front of her, because he’d be terrified it’d get back to his precious obsession—Rain.

She looks from me to Kode as if she’s confused. No doubt she’s become painfully aware of our horrible history by now.

“You two together?” she asks incredulously.

I laugh, but Kode still seems to be in utter shock.

“No. You here alone?” I ask, not elaborating on the screwed-up situation.

“Yeah... but Kade is on his way. He had a meeting with a restaurant that wants to start distributing some of his wines. I told him I’d meet him here.”

I loop my arm through hers, savoring the saving grace she does not know she’s offering, and start walking away. “I’ll keep you company.”

***

KODE

Un-fucking-believable. Why am I still watching her? What is wrong with me? Why is my damn dick still hard?

Ah, hell. Are they really going to play pool?

Raya seems to be instructing Tria, and I watch with guilty pleasure as Tria leans over the table, offering me a peek closer to her perfectly sculpted ass.

No. No. Hell no. I cannot be attracted to Tria Noles. Nope. Not happening.

I glance down at my betraying appendage and curse it for refusing to lose its arousal. Several muffled swears and threats spill through my lips, but the damn thing is still at full attention.

“Pep talk?” Maverick jokes as he steps beside me, looking at me as though I’ve lost my mind.

I have lost my mind.

“No. It’s exactly the opposite,” I growl, wishing it wouldn’t hurt if I punched my own crotch.

“O...kay... So, I finally found a group of girls who aren’t total prudes. You coming?”

I glance over at the table full of sexy women that Corbin is already working over, but my eyes involuntarily gravitate toward Tria again. Damn... those legs. Does she have to hold that stick like that?

I groan and actually slap my own face, which earns an eyebrow raise from Mav.

“Dude, did you do drugs or something? Because you look like you’re tweaking.”

I scrub my face and make a silent oath to never drink again. Yeah right. I need something hella-strong right now.

“Whiskey—straight up,” I say to the bartender.

“Whiskey? Really? The hard stuff makes you a little... crazy.”

Maverick is grating on my nerves. I have serious problems right now. Whiskey can’t make me any crazier than I apparently already am if I’m losing my mind over Tria Noles.

The bartender hands me the whiskey and I toss it back in one sip.

“Keep them coming.”

“Dude,” Maverick grumbles, “what the hell happened?”

Again, my damn traitorous eyes find the brunette I don’t want to want, and my pants get even tighter, which I didn’t think could be possible. She’s leaning over that table again, and all I can picture is fucking her on that damn thing.

“I’ve lost my damn mind. That’s what happened.”

He laughs, as though any of this is funny. He wouldn’t be laughing if he was hard as a rock for Tria. He’d be as freaked out as I am.

“Hey. Didn’t expect to see you two here,” a friendly voice says, and I groan inwardly before making a calculated turn—keeping my erection hidden—and face Kade Colton.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Maverick says, grinning. “Did the woman let you off the leash for a night?”

I pretend I have no knowledge of the fact Raya is here... with Tria.

“First of all, she doesn’t keep me on a leash, and secondly, I’m actually meeting her here,” he says, letting his smile lift at the very thought of her.

Like a nasty habit, I glance back over to the pool table, and my jaw clenches when I see a few guys talking to Raya and Tria. Did that fucker really just touch her? I’ll break his damn hand if he does it again.

What. The hell. Is wrong with me?

“Damn. I better go get my girl before someone falls in love,” Kade says, grinning bigger when he spots her shooing away the unwanted attention. Tria isn’t shooing away her groper. Why is she even speaking to that son o

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