“Today is all about Reggie,” Michelle said. She was having fun planning these little surprises for the different guys.
“What? Do I finally get to sing for you?” He stood from where he’d been sitting on the couch.
Reggie bounded over to her and lifted Michelle into his arms, spinning her around. She laughed and smiled, her arms wrapping around his shoulders in a playful hug.
He set her back on the floor but kept his arms around her waist. “So, where are we going?”
“I thought it would be fun to go to a Karaoke bar so anyone who wants to take a turn at the microphone can sing,” Michelle said. “But you’ll be first, and we’ll find you a guitar.”
“Oh, I’ve got my guitar with me honey,” Reggie drawled in his Nashville accent. “A true artist doesn’t go anywhere without his guitar.”
She placed her hand on his chest in a flirty way, but the maneuver subtly pushed herself out of his arms. “Well I look forward to hearing you perform.”
“If Ashton doesn’t upstage him,” Victor mumbled. All heads turned toward Victor. Michelle wasn’t sure how she felt about Victor’s jealousy or the underlying accusation.
She chanced a sidelong glance at Ashton, who pinched his lips and shoved his hands in his pockets. He didn’t seem like the type of guy to purposely upstage someone else, but she didn’t know any of these guys well enough to make that kind of assumption.
Brock stepped up in defense of Ashton. “Dude, he beat me at Fortnite fair and square.” Brock reached over to give Ashton a first bump, and Ashton pulled his hand out of his pocket to return the gesture. He folded his arms across his chest in a defensive stance.
“Shoot, I might upstage you, Reggie,” Andy piped in. “I’ve got a heckuva voice.”
Michelle smiled at the farmer. Somehow, she couldn’t picture him as a singer. “Really?”
“The only entertainment we have within fifty miles is a honky tonk,” Andy said. “You get a couple beers in me and I’ll rip up the place.”
The smile fell from her face and her heart sank at the mention of beer. She’d forgotten she was surrounded by a group of men who all had alcohol in their hands the night she’d met them.
Since that first night, they’d played video games, served at a retirement home, and gone to church. There had never been another chance for drinking.
She forced a smile back onto her face. “I can’t wait to hear you sing, Andy. All of you. I hope you’ll all sing, even you, Ashton.”
He looked surprised at her addressing him directly. He nodded regally. “I’ll check the playlist and see if I can find something.”
“Well, great.” Michelle clapped her hands together once and smiled to everyone in the room. “Are you ready to go, how did Andy describe it? Rip up the place?”
“We’re ready,” Andy said. He headed toward the door and everyone else followed.
Victor held back and reached for her hand before she could leave the room. “I need to apologize.”
Ashton was the second to last person to leave the room and he turned back, eyebrows raised.
“Can you give us a minute, Ashton?” Victor said, still holding Michelle’s hand lightly. “Will you pull the door shut on your way out?”
Ashton’s jaw dropped, and he met Michelle’s gaze. They locked eyes for a moment, then she looked up at Victor. The smoldering intensity in his face showed his remorse for having been a jerk. She realized he probably should be apologizing to Ashton and not her, but she let it go. She pulled her gaze back toward where Ashton still stood by the door.
“We’ll just be a minute…”
Ashton blew out a light whistle, shook his head infinitesimally and walked out the door letting it slam behind him.
“Sweetheart, that was wrong of me.” Victor pulled her close and raised her chin with one finger. “I’m so sorry.”
“Shouldn’t you be apologizing to Ashton?” Michelle asked, allowing herself to surrender into his embrace. It had been almost a week since they’d had even a second alone. Whatever it had taken to get to this place she was glad to be in his arms.
“I will. I just wanted to take a minute and recognize that it was rude of me to say that.” Victor’s voice was husky. “I admit, I’m terribly jealous of Ashton.”
“Really?” She gulped. “Why?”
“Because it feels as if he’s breaking through your resolve and reaching you on a deeper level than I ever could.”
“Shoot, I can’t imagine anyone reaching me more than you have.” She bit her lower lip and batted her eyelashes at him. Who was she trying to convince? Him or herself?
Victor pulled her a little closer and lowered his face toward hers. This was the moment she’d been waiting for since they left the ballfield almost a week ago. Her heart raced. She wanted this.
Michelle raised onto her toes, meeting him halfway, and their lips connected. Forget the other nine guys. She was already falling in love with Victor. Or was this lust. She shoved that thought down into the far reaches of her mind and pulled herself closer.
Another voice entered her conscious and it occurred to her that Victor knew exactly what he was doing. She didn’t want to consider if that meant he was manipulating her or if he knew physically how to do things written about in smutty novels that would have gotten her kicked out of Sunday school class.
Whatever the reason for the voice, it was a warning, and she took it seriously. Victor was dangerous, and unfortunately, she liked the way he made her feel too much.
Michelle pushed herself away from Victor and he didn’t fight her. Thankfully he was being a gentleman. He probably knew she would want to take things slow. She wondered if he realized that meant waiting until marriage. Anyway, it was time to get back out with the guys and head off to the Karaoke bar.