Rules of Protection (Tangled in Texas)(7)

By: Alison Bliss

He walked away before I could protest and left me standing on the dance floor alone. Frustrated, I made my way back to the table where Gina and Dale waited impatiently.

“Where’s the dreamboat?” Dale asked.

I gave him a sour look.

Dale laughed. “What, no love connection?”

Gina smiled as I picked up my vodka and chugged it. “Damn, girl. He got to you.”

“Shut up.”

She laughed, too. “You know if a man buys you a drink and you take it without going home with him, then you’re a tease.”

“Yeah, but if you go home with him, then you’re a slut.”

Dale grinned. “She’s got you there, Gina.”

“I’d rather be a slut than a tease any day. It’s more fun.”

“Well, I’m not you,” I told Gina. “I’m not going to springboard myself into some guy’s bed because he has a heartbeat and a blood supply that pools below his belt.”

“Hell, I’m not sure Gina considers the heartbeat mandatory,” Dale said.

She shook her head. “You two are wrong. I’m very selective when it comes to men.”

“Are you kidding?” I asked, lifting my brows. “You choose men the same way a child picks out a new puppy; first one who crawls in your lap is yours.”

Dale broke into hysterics.

“You guys are jerks,” Gina said to him.

“It’s a joke,” Dale said, still laughing.

Gina crossed her arms, fuming mad.

“Well, I didn’t get a chance to tell you earlier,” I said to her. “But tonight, before you picked me up, I shaved my bikini area.”

Dale and Gina both looked puzzled. “So what?” she asked.

“I thought I’d try something new and be…um…creative.”

Dale looked confused. “What did you do?”

“Is it as bad as the last time?” Gina asked me, grinning.


Gina giggled. “Nothing could be worse than last time.”

“Wanna bet?”

Gina completely lost it but pulled herself together long enough to explain the situation to Dale, who was irritated he was out of the loop. “The last time this one tried to get creative…”—she used two fingers on each hand to gesture air quotes—“…she ended up looking like she had mange.”

They both laughed, but I didn’t care. The three of us always made fun of each other. Dale and Gina were already roommates when I met them, and although they’d been friends longer, I never felt like a third wheel. A few months ago, they’d even asked me to give up my apartment and move into a three-bedroom with them. But I politely declined. Dale had a tendency to walk around naked, and Gina was a complete slob. No way I’d be able to clean up after her with my hands covering my eyes.

“Don’t look now, but I think your boyfriend is staring again,” Gina said, motioning to the back of the room.

I turned my head in time to catch a glimpse of Jake sweeping the crowd with his eyes before slipping through the doors leading to the private lounges. “He wasn’t looking at me.”

“Oh, he was,” Dale said, confirming Gina’s assessment. “Right before you turned to look. Maybe it was an invitation. I bet he wants you to follow him.”

I shook my head and laughed. “He didn’t even know I saw him.”

“So what,” Gina said. “It would be fascinating to see what happens between you two when there aren’t a hundred pairs of eyes keeping those clothes of yours intact.”

My stomach knotted up just thinking about it. “I’m not going to have sex with a random guy in some storage closet.”

“Honey, I say the same thing every time I’m drinking in a hotel bar,” Dale said with a chuckle. “But I always end up in a room, and I’m never alone.”

Gina grinned knowingly. “This guy has you scared to death.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Any time something scares you, you unleash the sarcasm,” she responded. “It’s what you do.”

I rolled my eyes. “Whatever.”

“See what I mean? Come on, follow him and find out what he’s doing,” Gina said. “He looked like he was hiding from someone.”

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