The Hookup Page 1



I WOKE UP to the sound of a ceiling fan.

I did not have a ceiling fan.

Obviously, this made me open my eyes and do it fast.

Which brought to my brain the fact that I was lying on tan sheets. They had a slight sheen to them. I could feel them too, and they were soft. They looked and felt expensive.

But they were not my sheets.

The pillow my head was on was not my pillow.

And the nightstand next to the bed that had three used condom wrappers, some change, a cell phone, an alarm clock and a lamp was not my nightstand, my cell, my alarm clock or my lamp.

Stupidly, I stared at the alarm clock.

I still had the same alarm clock that my mom bought me when I went to college. It was square, pale pink and had a mirrored face. Even though it was over a decade old and it had been super cheap, it was still cool and better yet, girlie. Best of all, it still worked.

The alarm clock I was staring at looked modern, complicated and expensive.

I was not in my bed, in my home, with my alarm clock.

I pushed up to leaning on a hand, realizing I was naked (I never slept naked). I yanked up the sheet to cover me as it all came crashing in, even before my eyes swept the interesting (so interesting even in my state it had to be noted) space until it hit a wall of windows on the opposite side of the bed outside which stood a man.


Johnny Gamble.

My stomach pitched in an enjoyable way just at the sight of him.

But the sight of him also brought back memories of him and the night before.

His name was impossible. No man in real life had a name like that.

That was the name of the superhero in his everyday existence when he was not being a superhero. Or the suave, talented con artist who eventually falls for the girl and gives up the grift. Or the slick cat burglar who smiles into your eyes as he’s sliding the diamond off your finger.

But that was his name.

Even more, that man standing out there was not a John with the “ny.”

However, that was how he introduced himself.

“I’m Johnny. Gamble. Johnny Gamble,” he’d said last night at the bar, smiling into my eyes and not sliding a diamond off my finger, because I didn’t have a diamond on my finger, but more, he just wasn’t that guy.

That man outside might be a John or a Dirk or a Clint or an Adonis.

Johnny, no.

Except looking at him, having said his name repeatedly to him, moaned it while he was inside me (amongst other times), he was absolutely Johnny.

He was outside now, with his coffee.

No, he was outside now, standing on his balcony wearing nothing but a pair of gray sweats, so long they gathered at his ankles and covered his heels, the hems of them loose with notches at the sides. He was bent into his forearms on his balcony, holding a heavy white mug between his two hands. He was twisted partially at his trim waist so I had a clear view of his muscled lat and shoulder.

I also had a profile view of his face.

He had black hair, a great deal of it—thick with waves and flips and curls—and right now a lot of it was hanging over his forehead.

He also had a black beard. It was not bushy but groomed. Not trimmed close and overly groomed but it wasn’t lumbersexual or ZZ Top either. It stated he was a man who wore a beard before it was trendy, and he’d continue to have a beard when it was not.

I couldn’t see them from where I was, but he also had black eyes. Dark as tar.

The beard didn’t hide his strong jaw. And nothing hid his large, straight and aggressive but somehow classic and cultured nose. Or the heavy brow that shadowed his eyes, the thick black eyebrows that seemed at a glance to be ominous, but if you spoke ten words to him, you’d know they were anything but.

He was anything but.

He was tall. He was built. Broad shoulders. Veined forearms. Ridged stomach. Bulky thighs.

Last, he was the most handsome man I’d seen in my life. The kind of man you’d expect to turn on the TV and see. The kind of man you’d think you’d walk into a movie theater and he’d be even larger than life on the screen. The kind of man you’d open a magazine and expect to see pictured wearing fabulous clothes at the wheel of a sleek speedboat on the Mediterranean, advertising cologne.

Not the kind of man standing on a wooden balcony behind whom—I squinted—rotated a water wheel.

A water wheel!

This fact, the fact that he was that handsome, not the fact that he lived somewhere with the impossibility of a functioning water wheel, was not the reason I was in his bed in his home in the middle of nowhere, a home that had a water wheel.

To be honest, this was part of the reason.

But not all of it.

Bottom line, I didn’t do that kind of thing.

I wasn’t the kind of girl who had a hookup.

I didn’t frown on it. My mother taught me it was not my place to judge. Not anything. Not anyone.

“You never know, Izzy, what the story is,” she’d told me more than once. “You never know what’s deep inside a soul. You just never know. And since you don’t know, you’re never, not ever, in the position to judge.”

So yes, I’d learned not to judge.

But I didn’t do that kind of thing, meeting a man at a bar, having a few drinks with him and then going home to have sex with him (lots of sex), sleep naked with him and wake up in his bed while he was outside wearing not much and enjoying a cup of coffee.

I’d often wished I was that kind of girl.

In fact, my mom was that kind of girl.

And until she’d gotten married, my sister was too.

I just wasn’t.

I was too shy.

To be honest, I was also a hint of a prude. I tried to drive that out of me, the need I felt to be proper, modest, good. However, I’d learned from a young age what “bad” could bring you, and my inherent shyness and that lesson didn’t allow me to be anything else.

I’d also learned at a not-young age the way men could be, falling into a trap that from my history (and my mother’s) I should have seen from a mile away.

So I wasn’t just shy. With men, these days especially, I was skittish.

But not with Johnny.

Not Johnny Gamble.

And not just because he was so handsome.

It was also not just because he bought my drinks. Though it was partly because, between drink three and drink four (all of which he bought me), he’d stopped the waitress and said, “Could you bring my girl here a glass of water?”

That said that he didn’t want to get me drunk so he could then have his way with me. He didn’t mind me feeling relaxed and loose, but he didn’t want to take advantage.

That also said a lot of good about him. But it wasn’t just that either.

And it wasn’t just because he listened. He didn’t talk much, but he listened and he did it in an active way, asking questions as I talked about my job, my mom, my sister, my pets, my house. He was interested. He was following everything I said. His gaze didn’t roam to other women at the bar or the game on one of the television sets.

His attention was all on me.

It also wasn’t just because he had a great grin and an even better smile. His grin was broken, hitched at one corner, creasing one side of his face in a way that made his dark eyes seem like they were twinkling.

His smile was more. Big, bright and white in that dark beard, curving those full lips, it was sweet and it was sexy, both achingly so, both in equal measures.

And he gave me both a lot, his grin and his smile, which was also another reason why I was right then naked in his bed. He thought I was funny. And I liked that. It felt good to make him grin and smile, and definitely chuckle (something he did a lot of too).

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