Authors: Mari Carr
To my cougar club. You guys inspire me more than you know!
“Hey! Welcome back, bro.”
Trey Donovan laughed as his best friend, Jamie, entered Tully’s Bar and slapped him on the shoulder.
“Thanks for getting the table.” Grace, Jamie’s girlfriend, bent down and kissed Trey on the cheek as she and Jamie claimed their usual places.
He and his friends had been holding happy hours at this bar for years. As teachers at a local high school, it wasn’t unusual for them to meet on Fridays to unwind after a long week or to celebrate special occasions—birthdays and big high school sports wins. Today, they were mourning the loss of summer. Come Monday, they’d be back in school, suffering through seven days’ worth of meetings, and the following week would bring two thousand students back to Preston High School for another year.
“Where are Cheryl and Lucas?” Trey asked.
Grace glanced over her shoulder. “They should be here any minute. Cheryl texted me as we pulled in the parking lot. Lucas had picked her up and, of course, he was running late.”
Trey shook his head, grinning. “That idiot will be late to his own funeral.”
“True that,” Jamie concurred. “How was the basketball conference?”
Trey picked up the pitcher he’d ordered upon arriving and poured a glass of beer for Jamie and Grace. “Same old, same old. Little meetin’, lot of eatin’ and shitload of drinkin’. My kind of conference.”
Grace rolled her eyes. “Jeez. I keep waiting for the school system to figure out these so-called basketball conferences are little more than extended bachelor parties.”
Trey laughed. “We have actual meetings during the day. And we let girls come.”
Grace leaned across the table and lightly tapped Trey on the cheek a couple of times. “That’s big of you.”
“Speaking of girls…” Jamie leaned closer. “Was Hottie Hunter there?”
Grace turned to Jamie and blasted him with a laser stare. Trey watched with amusement. The couple had been dating for over a year and they were absolutely perfect for each other. Trey took quite a bit of pride in the role he’d played in helping his two best friends hook up.
“You guys are going to have to give up that nickname for her,” Grace said.
“Why?” Trey asked. “We’ve called her that for years.”
Grace attempted to give him an innocent look that missed the mark by about a mile. “Oh, I don’t know. I just think you might want to break the habit. Soon.”
Trey gave Grace a funny look. It was clear she knew something. One glance at Jamie proved his best friend didn’t have a clue what was up either.
“Unfortunately, Hottie, um, I mean Ellie wasn’t at the conference. Rumor is she’s not coaching at Harper’s Ridge this year.”
“Get out,” Jamie said. “She was really good. Hell, she was the only coach in the district whose team consistently gave your team any competition. Why would she quit?”
Trey shrugged and tried not to let it show how much Ellie’s absence at the conference bothered him. He’d always enjoyed discussing techniques and engaging in some good-natured trash-talking with her. Plus, he respected her talent as a coach. He was going to miss matching his skills against hers across the court. “Nobody seemed to know. It was all pretty hush-hush. Speaking of last minute, I’m out an assistant coach this year. You interested, Jamie?”
Jamie scoffed. “Hell no. I enjoy our friendship too much. There’s no way I could play second banana to you all season. We’d be at each other’s throats during the first warm-up. I’ll stick to softball.”
Grace leaned forward. “What happened to Carol? You guys have coached together forever.”
“You know she’s expecting a baby, right?”
Grace nodded. “She’s not due until early March. I thought she’d decided to stick it out and coach another season.”
“Turns out she’s having twins. Doctor didn’t think she’d want to spend the last few months of her pregnancy courtside. Carol agreed.”
Grace’s smile grew. “Well, how about that? Twins.”
Trey grumbled. “Yeah, great. Now I need to find a new assistant. One who won’t drive me insane the whole season.”
“Hey, guys,” Cheryl called out as she walked into Tully’s. “Look who I found in the parking lot.”
Trey glanced up and, for a moment, he felt as if he’d been sucker punched. Ellie Hunter followed Cheryl and Lucas to the table.
Then Trey’s grin grew and he stood. “Take a wrong turn, Coach Hunter? Harper’s Ridge is on the other side of town.”
Ellie smiled, but before she could speak, Grace answered. “I invited her. We ran into each other at school today.”
Trey frowned, looking at Ellie. “Why were you at Preston?”
“I had a new teacher meeting to attend. I was checking out my classroom when I ran into Grace.”
Jamie looked at Grace. “Why the hell would you go to school on the last day of summer?”
Grace blushed slightly. “I wanted to work on my bulletin board.”
Lucas laughed. “Nerd.”
Grace threw a pretzel at Lucas’s head while the others laughed. Ordinarily Trey would have been amused by their antics, but he was too busy trying to wrap his head around the idea that Ellie “Hottie” Hunter was now his colleague rather than his competition. She looked smokin’ hot in short shorts and a T-shirt that showcased her perfect curves. Trey felt his cock stir.
“Here,” Trey said, grabbing a chair from an empty table nearby and placing it next to his. He suddenly felt the need to have Ellie in his space, close to him. “Have a seat.”
Ellie acknowledged his friendly gesture with a quick nod of thanks and sexy smile as they sat.
Lucas grabbed an empty glass and filled it, passing it over to Ellie. “So you left Harper’s Ridge, huh? Finally decide you wanted to teach at a good school with a winning athletics program?”
Ellie rolled her eyes. “You must be Lucas. Grace warned me about you.”
Lucas wiggled his eyebrows. “Oh yeah? You like bad boys?”
Trey narrowed his eyes at his friend, annoyed. While they were both known as being flirts—and players—Trey didn’t like the idea of Lucas hitting on Ellie.
“Bad boy?” Trey scoffed. “Jesus, Lucas. You’re as much a bad boy as Justin Bieber.”
They all laughed as Lucas playfully punched Trey on the arm.
Ellie took a sip of the beer. “I needed a change of scenery,” she replied in response to Lucas’s earlier question. “Preston had an opening in the science department, so I took it.”
“What about coaching?” Trey asked, surprised she would give up something she’d so obviously loved.
She shrugged. “There wasn’t an opening to coach basketball at Preston. I mean, that is unless you wanna quit and hand the reins over to someone who actually knows a bit about the sport.”
He grinned. Oh yeah, suddenly Trey wasn’t dreading the end of summer. This school year was looking to be his best yet. It wouldn’t be hard going to work if Ellie was there providing the eye candy. “Not likely. Besides, considering the fact I took my girls’ team to the state championship a couple of years ago, I’d say I know plenty about the game.”
Ellie wasn’t daunted. She leaned closer and Trey caught the light scent of her perfume. Damn, she smelled good. “Word on the street is you’re not going to see that much success this year. Four of your starters graduated in June, which leaves you with a young bench. Anybody can coach naturally talented players. You think you’re up for teaching a bunch of newbies?”
This was what Trey had missed at the basketball conference. Nobody kept both his feet firmly planted on the ground like Ellie Hunter. “Oh, I’m up for it, sweetheart. You don’t have to worry about that.” Actually, at the moment, he was up for quite a bit. He hoped Ellie didn’t look down or she’d see exactly how much he enjoyed sparring with her. His cock was rock hard and threatening to bust a few seams in his pants.
“Where the hell did that summer go?” Cheryl said, waving to the waitress to set them up with another pitcher. “I’m warning y’all now. I’m drinking and dancing my ass off tonight. I’m fucking depressed.”
Trey topped up Cheryl’s glass. “You say the same thing every year at this happy hour.”
Cheryl shrugged. “Why do you think I had Lucas pick me up? I came prepared. DD and all.”
“Speaking of dancing,” Trey said, when the sound of Usher filled the room, “I lined up a few classics in the jukebox for us.”
Jamie groaned. “Christ, man. You picked all black music, didn’t you? Bet you didn’t fire up one single country song.”
Trey stood and gave Jamie a shit-eating grin. They constantly waged this friendly battle over music. “My dollar, my picks.”
He was surprised when Ellie rose quickly. “I love this song.” She grabbed Trey’s hand and led him to the bar’s tiny dance floor. Cheryl and Lucas were hot on their heels and Trey noticed Grace leading an only somewhat reluctant Jamie as well.
He started to move to the music, watching as Ellie lost herself to the song. Holy fuck. She could dance.
After years of Grace’s and Cheryl’s hilarious attempts at keeping up with him on the dance floor, he was blown away by Ellie’s natural grace and rhythm. She had some sexy-as-hell moves for a white girl. On top of that, she knew all the words to the song. When she mouthed along with Ludacris about wanting “a freak in the bed”, he resigned himself to the fact that he wasn’t going to make it through this night without jerking off to relieve his hard-on.
Ellie turned around and moved against him. For a second, he tried to hold her away, knowing there was no way she wouldn’t be able to feel his erection. Then, he figured what the hell. There was nothing he wanted more than to feel her tight ass rubbing against him. He reached for her waist and pressed her closer. If she was surprised by his actions—as well as his cock rubbing against her lower back—she didn’t show it. In fact, she moved slower, more sinuously.
Trey gritted his teeth and tried to ignore how good her body felt against his. Her long brown hair was pulled back in her usual ponytail and he wondered what her hair would look like down, loose around her shoulders. Or better yet, he could wrap that ponytail around his hand and use it to direct her mouth to his cock as she sucked him off. A myriad of red-hot images passed by his eyes as he danced with her. No other woman had ever inspired this much lust in him, but a few minutes with Ellie never failed to drive his thoughts straight to the bedroom.
He moved his hands higher on her waist, his hands slipping beneath her T-shirt as she continued to gyrate in time with the music.
He’d never danced with Ellie, never had more than short conversations with her at conferences and before games, but he’d always watched her. Always been aware that whenever she was around, the rest of his surroundings went a bit blurry, all his focus directed at her.
He was attracted to her. He’d never denied that to himself, though he’d certainly worked hard to hide the fact from his friends. Grace and Cheryl would take a great deal of pleasure knowing he had a crush on Ellie Hunter and knowing them, they’d work overtime to try to hook them up. Grace was always trying to set him up, telling him he needed to settle down.
Ellie turned around to face him, but he didn’t release his grip on her waist. Instead he let his fingers slide over the smooth, soft skin of her tiny waist.
Suddenly it dawned on him exactly how small she was. Looking down, he noticed the top of her head only came to his shoulders. Her powerful personality had always made her seem taller to him.
She continued to dance and her new position gave him a bird’s eye view of her breasts. She wasn’t overly endowed, though she certainly had plenty to fill his palm. She sported an athletic build, trim and firm and fit. He considered all the ways she could use her physical strength in the bedroom and his cock twitched. Jesus. This wasn’t good.
The music changed and a slower song came on. Lucas and Cheryl headed back for the table, but Trey wasn’t ready to let Ellie go yet. He retained his grip on her and pulled her nearer. She wrapped her arms around his neck.
“This is fun,” she said, and he wondered if she meant the dancing or the happy hour.
“I’m glad you came.” The words were true.
She smiled, but he noticed a slight sadness in her eyes. Before he could think better of it, he found himself asking the question that had been nagging at the back of his mind since she’d shown up. “Why did you leave Harper’s Ridge?”
She sighed and he knew she didn’t want to answer. Whatever had driven her away from her school, it had to be serious, considering she’d given up coaching. “It wasn’t exactly my choice.”
“I don’t understand.”
A glimmer of pain shone in her eyes. “I made a couple of bad decisions and I ended up paying for them.”
He frowned. “What bad decisions?”
“I dated a fellow teacher. We lived together for about a year. We broke up last summer when I found out he was cheating on me with another colleague. It’s not easy to have your own stupidity thrown in your face day after day.”
He nodded sympathetically. “That would suck.”
She laughed. “Understatement of the year. Didn’t help my ex is a total shithead who took way too much pleasure in rubbing my face in his new relationship. Much as it kills me to say, I apparently possess more pride than sense, and I got tired of having it battered.”