The private jet waited on the runway, but Michelle’s heart raced from nerves rather than excitement. The tension in the limo had been uncomfortable. It was obvious the rest of the guys were jealous of her connection with Victor, as well they should be.
She was trying not to show him too much affection in front of the other guys, but it was hard. All she could think about was that kiss from the day before and how incredible he smelled sitting beside her. He was so confident and masculine. None of the other men came close.
Ashton was the big exception. She had successfully avoided speaking to him, looking at him, acknowledging his existence, right up until he stood up for his friend, Brock. Once she locked eyes with his, it was over. Ugh!
She couldn’t look away. The light smile that touched his lips made her stomach tingle. She didn’t smile back. Confusion filled her heart. This was getting complicated. She didn’t want to like Ashton.
Victor’s sultry voice beside her pulled her attention away, thankfully.
She decided to sit with Brock during the plane ride to San Jose and see if she could learn more about this TwitchCon thing where they were going.
Victor sat on her other side, once again claiming her in an almost possessive way. She didn’t mind. It was all she could do not to snuggle into his arms. She tried to force herself to give Brock her attention.
“Tell me more about what we’re doing,” Michelle said. Turning to face Brock had been a mistake. Ashton sat on Brock’s other side with his elbows on his knees, facing forward and pretending to ignore her. She forced a smile directly at Brock.
“Well, there will be some competitions of course,” Brock said.
“Will we see you compete?” Michelle asked.
“I disqualified myself by choosing to come on the show.” Brock coughed lightly then nodded. “It was a good choice.”
Michelle relaxed her shoulders. Something about the vulnerability in his words softened her heart. She realized in that moment that she had a whole group of great men and she needed to keep her mind open to the possibilities.
Although Victor had captured the at-first-sight love letter and taken her on the first date… and kissed her, he wasn’t the only man who deserved her attention. Against her will, Michelle’s eyes strayed past Brock to where Ashton still leaned his elbows on his knees. She forced her gaze back to Brock.
“What else happens at these conferences?” she asked.
“There will be a lot of vendors hoping to sell us merchandise.” Brock lowered his voice and his cheeks turned red. “My sponsors will be there.”
“You have sponsors?” Mason asked, clearly impressed. “Who?”
“Uh…” Brock looked around the group, suddenly a captive audience. Ashton hadn’t budged, and Michelle sensed Victor was unimpressed. “Well, Epic Games, PlayStation, and… Doritos.”
“Like, the tortilla chips?” Casey’s jaw dropped.
“Yeah,” Brock said. He reached over and patted Ashton on his back. “Something Ashton and I have in common.”
All eyes refocused on the professional surfer, who raised his head as if coming awake from a day dream. Ashton gave Brock a half-smile. “Yeah, we should probably do a quick photo op with them while we’re there.”
“I’m sure they would appreciate that.” Brock nodded in agreement.
“What other sponsors do you got, pretty boy?” The jealousy dripping from Reggie’s derogatory question left a sour taste in Michelle’s mouth.
Ashton looked around the cabin and sat upright in his seat. “We’re supposed to be focusing on Brock.”
“Ah come on, make us jealous,” Mason said.
“Well, um, Rip Curl, although they know I still prefer my Rusty.”
“Could you translate that to English please?” Andy asked.
“The company called Rip Curl has a whole host of gear including surfboards, but I’ve made no secret that I would rather ride my Dwart board, custom shaped by Rusty’s design team. It’s got a round tail design that makes it super-fast and easy to maneuver.”
“I’m pretty sure you just made them more confused, not less,” Brock stage-whispered to Ashton and patted him on the back.
“Well, we’re supposed to be talking about you anyway.” Ashton pulled back into a shell and rested his elbows on his knees.
Michelle was in awe and a little intimidated. She was surrounded by some pretty famous people and hadn’t realized it. She looked around and wondered who else had hidden secrets to be discovered.