Thanks For Last Night by Lauren Blakely

I give in with a long, frustrated groan. “Fine. I’ll admit it. I laughed for maybe one nanosecond. But only because you’re such a drama queen, King.”

“Come on, North. Admit it was funny.”

“Fine. It was a little funny, you going all undead.”

She pops up and shimmies her sexy hips. “Wait till you see my vampire. That’ll lead me to victory too.”

“You haven’t won yet, cocky vampire.”

She flips her hair off her shoulder in a sassy little move that I can’t look away from, because . . . that hair, that face, and most of all, that confidence. “Oh, but I will. Now, get your ass back out there, North, so I can take you down. Because I’m the only one who can.”

There is some truth to that.

The woman is a sick competitor, with a fearless heart and a ferocious appetite for victory. She makes the most of her second life in the arena, darting, dodging, and firing at me relentlessly.

We go mano a mano for ten, close to fifteen minutes. And in this final shoot-out, her team against mine, there are no mulligans. It’s a fight to the finish, ducking down hallways, turning through tunnels. As I prowl around a dark corner, searching for my nemesis, she steps out from the shadows, aiming straight at my heart.

Cold. Ruthless. Determined.

She fires.

I’m dead. Just dead. Game over.

I curse, but fair is fair.

“Good job, killer.” I drop my gun and offer her a hand, since that’s what you do when you win or when you lose.

“I humbly accept your courteous adoration,” she says in her most gracious voice as we shake.

I roll my eyes. “I wouldn’t really say it was adoration.”

“Now, now. We both know it was.”

“I’ll let you have your delusion,” I say as we pick up our pistols and return them to the check-in counter. I gesture to the bar adjacent to the arena. “Want to join the crew, King?”

“Let’s do it,” she says, and I sweep my hand out for her to go first.

Because I’m a gentleman—and a wise gentleman always seizes the chance to enjoy the rear view.

Teagan’s ass is just so damn yummy, and I’m an ass man.

Wait. Nope. That’s not entirely fair to her breasts, which I very much enjoy checking out too. But asses are easier to ogle. So I do that for a few seconds as she exits the game area. I do it knowing the ogling will go nowhere. Knowing, too, that she’s got so much more going on than a delicious form. I enjoy her company too, so I don’t feel guilty about enjoying the sights when I can.

Some of our friends are waiting for us outside the arena. With a victory dance, Teagan smacks palms with her laser-tag teammates—first with my good buddy Logan, then with Bryn, Teagan’s bestie and the reason we’re celebrating here today. Bryn recently opened her own consulting firm. She’s signed deals with a few marquee clients, so today’s laser-tag-plus-karaoke-plus-beer is on Logan as we toast to his woman’s career success.

“You brought it home for our team, girl. So proud of you,” Bryn tells Teagan.

“I’m all about teamwork. And beating Ransom,” she says.

Bryn smiles, sporting the happy look that Logan seems to put on her face constantly. Logan and Bryn met a year ago and are kind of ridiculously in love.

Which, come to think of it, is how I’d describe all my good buds these days. Logan, Oliver, and Fitz—all with hearts in their eyes, dopey grins on their mugs, life partners by their sides.

Logan pats Teagan on the shoulder. “I, for one, am glad you took down this competitive bastard.” He deals me a satisfied smirk. “Ransom has tried to destroy me in Ping-Pong far too many times, so I’m stoked someone can pummel him in laser tag.”

I snort-laugh. “You deserve to be pummeled in Ping-Pong, Logan.”

“Why? Why do I deserve it?” Logan fires back.

“Everyone who plays me deserves it,” I say as we head into the bar. “I don’t hold back in any game. Balls to the wall is the only way to play. If you can’t handle the heat I bring with a paddle, you need to get away from the Ping-Pong-table fire.”

Teagan cuts in, laughing. “You do know that sounds racy on ten million levels, Ransom? From the balls to the heat to the paddle.”

I wiggle my brow. “That’s what she said.”

She parks her hands on her hips. “Way to steal my punch line.”

“Guess I just beat you to it.” I set up the opening for her favorite zinger. Until very recently, the woman has dropped in that’s what she said with such gleeful abandon that it should be her nickname. Or it could, if it weren’t such a—ahem—mouthful.