Chloe Asher would be the death of me. I was tired, bleary eyed, and awake way too fucking early in the morning to deal with her. The sun hadn’t even come up yet.
I’d only been asleep an hour or two when a crash in the hallway had me running to find the subject of most of my fantasies standing outside my door. If she hadn’t been D’s sister, I’d have gone back to bed, preferably with her next to me.
Instead, Chloe’s wide green eyes darted between me, my roommate, Mac, and the llama picture she’d knocked off the wall. Her dark hair tumbled over her shoulder in soft curls, and in the dim light from the living room, her tiny dress shimmered blue-green like the mermaid she’d been in my dream.
Not that I’d ever admit to dreaming about her.
At some point after I’d left the party last night, she’d ditched her pointy-heeled shoes, and I forced myself not to immediately scoop her up in my arms to protect her bare feet from the broken glass littering the floor.
“Don’t move,” I grumbled when she looked like she’d take a step toward me.
She scowled at the gym bag in the middle of the hallway. “Do you guys have to be pigs all the time?”
Mac, owner of the offending gym bag, shrugged. “I live here, and no one else complains. Besides, you’re the one who made the mess.”
He ran a hand through his tousled hair and glanced back at his door, a sure sign he wasn’t alone in his room. We couldn’t leave Chloe standing in the middle of the glass, but Mac only wore a towel wrapped around his waist.
I could reach her from where I stood, and I wouldn’t end up naked in the process. With an internal groan, I beckoned her to lean toward me. Chloe’s eyes narrowed, but she shifted her weight in my direction.
Keeping my hands at her waist, I lifted Chloe out of the danger zone—she weighed next to nothing. I deposited her on glass-free carpet then backed away nearly to the living room, crossing my arms over my chest to keep from reaching for her again.
RJ and Parker, the last of my roommates, shuffled out of their room and stopped short. At least they’d taken the time to put on clothes. I didn’t need another reminder that everyone was getting laid except me.
“What the hell is going on out here?” Parker asked.
I watched Chloe, surprised to see the slight wince. She wasn’t the timid type, and honestly, breaking shit in someone else’s apartment in the middle of the night was entirely on brand for her.
When she didn’t answer, I gave him the only information I had, hoping she’d fill in the rest. “Chloe tripped over Mac’s gym bag and knocked the llama off the wall.”
Parker’s brows drew together as he took stock of the floor, Mac’s lack of clothing, and Chloe’s outfit from last night. I clenched my jaw against the unbidden urge to defend her. She was perfectly capable of defending herself if she chose.
Except she didn’t.
Parker glared at Mac, I glared at Parker, and Mac edged closer to his door. None of us were in top form, especially since I was probably the only one who’d slept.
RJ broke the standoff. “Chloe, what are you doing in the hallway?”
Chloe’s eyes flicked to RJ, then back to me, and I suddenly knew why she was hesitating. “I needed some help, so I came over here to ask. I’m sorry I bothered everyone.”
There it was. The only reason Chloe paid any attention to me now—when she needed help. After spending hours watching her flirt with every guy at Eva’s birthday party, I wasn’t in the mood.
I nodded at Mac. “Looks like you’re taken care of. I’m going back to bed.”
Mac sputtered. “What? No, man. I’m half-assed naked.”
I narrowed my eyes at him, willing him to take this one for the team, but Mac didn’t get my telepathic message.
He rolled his eyes as if we were confused about his state of undress. “Like butt-assed naked but still got a towel on. Noah can help her.”
In an act of friendship aggression, he went back into his room and shut the door without another word. The one time I wanted him to be loud and annoying. I chanced another look at Chloe. Her face seemed more expressive than usual minus her glasses, pleading with me to help without making a fuss.
Or maybe I was still suffering from the weird-ass dream where I’d had her naked in the pool with gleaming scales hugging the curves of her hips.
I clenched my jaw, unwilling to give in this time. “Parker or RJ then.”
Chloe winced. “They can’t help.”
The couple shared a look I couldn’t read, and RJ took a tentative step forward.
“Are you sure I can’t help?” she asked.
I knew I liked RJ, and her soft question put her firmly in favorite roommate territory. Unfortunately, Chloe shook her head. Why was she so determined to make me suffer?
Chloe caught her full lower lip between her teeth, and a bolt of heat shot down my spine. As if she could sense my reaction, her gaze skipped back to me. The last time I’d showed up to help her, when the hockey fuckboy had abandoned her drunk at a party, she’d spent the entire drive home explaining in vivid detail how I’d missed out on the best blowjob of my life.
Sweat gathered between my shoulder blades just thinking about it.
I wasn’t sure she remembered—we’d never discussed it—but I’d swear on Mac’s signed Wonder Woman poster she hadn’t been blackout drunk. Our gazes clashed and held, a battle of wills I was already losing.
Her fingers tangled together in front of her, and the image of drunk Chloe gleefully tossing her shirt at a hooting frat boy tightened the muscles in my back. How much worse could this situation possibly be if she was standing in front of me, barefoot and sober?
In the back of my mind, I knew it didn’t matter. If she needed me, I’d be there.
I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. Fuck. I was going to regret this. “Fine.”
A relieved smile flashed across Chloe’s face, there and gone so fast I might have imagined it. I shifted to give her space to pass me, and she didn’t spare the others another glance.
Parker’s door closed softly behind us, and I found myself alone in the dark with her once again. Better get this over with. Chloe waited while I grabbed my shoes and keys from the living room. Hopefully, sweats and a TU football shirt would be appropriate attire for whatever she needed me to do.
I dragged my gaze away from Chloe’s perfect ass as she led me out into the cold night. “Where are we going?”
She nodded at the apartment she shared with Eva. “I have a small problem in my bedroom.”
I frowned at her. “Chloe…”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m not trying to trick you into bed. Eva’s staying the night elsewhere, and I can’t handle this on my own. I’d hoped the problem would be resolved by the time I finished cleaning, but…” She trailed off with a shrug.
Guilt pricked at the thought of her picking up the huge mess we’d left in their apartment. I’d assumed Eva would hire a cleaning crew like she usually did.
I couldn’t imagine Chloe picking up trash in the tiny dress she was still wearing. Why wouldn’t she change? Her massive wardrobe had to include something more comfortable than sequins. I didn’t understand Chloe on the best of days, so I had no hope of keeping up while sleep-deprived and horny.
Goosebumps raised on my arms as the cold night air hit my skin. I was a furnace most of the time, so if I was cold, Chloe had to be freezing. Despite the frigid January temps, she hesitated outside her door.
“What’s going on, Chloe?”
She huffed out a breath. “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.”
The guilt solidified into a hard knot in my stomach. My life would be a lot easier if I could write her off as a silly party girl, but I’d seen the parts of her she only let out when she thought no one was looking. When it came to Chloe, I was always looking.
“You came to me,” I reminded her.
The edge of her lips quirked up, and she tilted her head in assent.
She led me through the dark apartment to her room. I expected a spider or broken furniture, but when she flipped on the light, my brows rose. Fury ignited, hot and fast.
A lanky guy with an unfortunate target tattoo on his back lay face down in Chloe’s bed. Naked.
I almost turned around and went right back home. “You want me to get rid of your hookup?”
She groaned. “He’s not my hookup.”
I didn’t want the details. The football season may be over, but I was pretty sure Coach would still make me run until I puked if I beat the shit out of a random dude in Eva’s apartment. Don’t ask me how, but Coach had a soft spot for Eva. Her influence was everywhere.
Despite my irrational rage at the guy, I tempered my voice for Chloe. “Need me to move him over so you have space?”
“Dammit, Noah. It’s not like that. I don’t know this guy, and I definitely didn’t invite him into my bed. All I want to do is sleep, but I’m not about to lock myself in the apartment with a random drunk dude who may or may not murder me before morning.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to offer her my bed for the rest of the night. Talk about bad decisions. Her eyes sharpened like she’d read my mind, or maybe my face, but even I wasn’t that stupid.
I rubbed the back of my neck, markedly calmer knowing she didn’t want the guy in her room. “Eva’s not here?”
She sagged in relief. “No. Mysterious booty call. Can you please use your giant muscles to get rid of this guy?”
My jaw clenched, really unhappy with my role, but I moved toward the bed anyway.
What was I supposed to do with him? We couldn’t leave him outside to freeze his balls off, and I definitely wasn’t bringing him into our apartment with Mac’s mystery girl and RJ there.
With some effort, I hauled the guy up by his armpits, trying my best to ignore the full frontal on display. He grumbled something about trolls, and his breath knocked me back a step. Once I blinked away the acrid tears, I got a good look at his face.
Thank fuck, I recognized him. Miller something. Second string kicker. Not really a surprise he was a football player considering Eva’s social circle. He was a freshman, so he’d be living in the athlete dorm. I could drop him off in the lobby with a spare blanket.
Chloe held the doors for me as I muscled him out of her apartment and across the parking lot to my car. He didn’t stir as I heaved him into my passenger seat, and I made a mental note to scrub down the leather tomorrow.
As soon as the door closed, he slumped against it, snoring lightly. Chloe followed me around to the driver’s side, pulling me to a stop before I could climb inside. She searched my face, and my stupid heart took off at her close proximity.
“What are you going to do with him?”
I raised a brow. “Worried about him now?”
“D would never forgive me if you murdered someone on my behalf.”
“Bold of you to assume they’d find the body.”
She scowled at me, and I relented.
“He’s a freshman football player. I’m going to return him to the athlete dorm where he can sleep off his bad decisions in public.”
The breeze picked up, and she shivered. “Do you want me to come with you?”
“No. Go back inside, put on something warm, change your sheets, and get some sleep.”
Chloe wrapped her arms around herself, shifting her weight from foot to foot, finally gracing me with the wicked smile I expected. “Always a pleasure watching you manhandle another guy.”
“Chloe,” I growled, now completely sure she remembered the night with the hockey asshole.
I may have given him a helping hand out of his car when I spotted him in the parking lot with another girl. Not my fault he tripped and fell face first onto the asphalt with his pants around his ankles.
Chloe patted my chest. “If you ever need help in the bedroom department, give me a call.”
My dick went from half-hard to rock solid in the span of a breath. Thank god the dark parking lot didn’t reveal many details.
“Not interested,” I lied.
“You made that very clear when you turned me down the first time. In this case, I meant if you ever need help removing a lady from your bed, I’m your girl.”
I grunted, forcing myself to climb into my car instead of leaving her unwanted visitor here and taking his place. “Get inside before you freeze.”
She gave me a finger wave and hurried back to her apartment. Alone. I’d give my left nut to be the one keeping her warm, but a relationship between me and Chloe would never work. She wanted a temporary fun time, and I wasn’t built that way.
I suffered in silence because I wouldn’t disrespect D’s sister by treating her like a disposable party favor. I wouldn’t treat any woman that way, but especially not Chloe. D was closer to me than my family, and he’d trusted me with his sister.
Chloe was off limits, and I’d kick the ass of anyone who touched her.