Home > The Hot Shot (Game On #4)(9)

The Hot Shot (Game On #4)(9)
Author: Kristen Callihan


His brow quirks.

“People will expect a nice chest shot,” I explain. “Maybe you holding a football over your—”

“Junk,” he puts in with a slanting smile.

I expressly do not look at said “junk” but nod. “I get that this is supposed to be a nude calendar. But I don’t want to objectify you.” Let’s ignore the fact that you mentally ogled him like a perve. “Your body is your instrument. If you’re in an unexpected pose, it makes people look at you in a different way.”

“All right, then.” With the grace of a world-class athlete, he lowers himself to the floor.

I raise my camera and peer through the lens. “Can you roll onto your stomach and brace yourself on your elbows? I want a look at that tat.”

Finn’s lips twitch on a smile as he turns, planting his elbows and forearms on the floor. His biceps bunch as he easily lifts his torso up. Gorgeous. Utterly gorgeous. And his ass? It clenches as if he’s….

I push the thought away.

The tattoo running along his ribs is a black outline of the state of California with the Golden Gate Bridge inside of it.

“Hold on a sec.” Setting down my camera, I run over, adjust the lighting, and take a reading. Usually James would do this, but I don’t want to break the spell by calling him in. Finn doesn’t move, but watches me out of the corner of his eye. Unable to help myself, I crouch down and gently tuck back a lock of his hair that’s creating a bad shadow.

The second I touch him, I know it’s a mistake. The air between us changes, drawing tight. A hum pulses in my bones, and his expression goes intent, his focus never wavering from mine. In that instant, I know him. I know him. I feel like I’ve known him my whole existence, like I’ve been waiting for him to return from wherever he’s been.

My muscles seize with the urge lean in, feel his skin, rest my cheek next to his, do... something. I see that knowledge reflected in his blue gaze, as if he wants the same. Blood rushes in my ears, my heart thudding like a warning drum.

But then he blinks, sucks in a light breath—just enough to get some air. And a wall comes down between us. I need that wall.

My head clears and finally I can breathe too, as if I’ve been let out of a trap. With a smile that is forced and fake, I rise up. “Perfect.”

I hate the gravel in my voice. But neither of us acknowledges it. He merely gives me a tight nod. The weight of his attention presses on my back as I retrieve my camera.

Behind the lens, Finn is both smaller, yet more detailed. I take my time focusing, setting up the shot, giving myself and him a chance to settle. I don’t know what the hell just happened, but I don’t like it.

“Tell me about the tat,” I say, snapping a picture.

His gaze goes to my arm. “Tell me about yours.”

“I thought it would look pretty.”

“That the truth?”

“Yes.” I shake my head a little. “Boring, but true.”

He huffs out a laugh. “I like true.”

“It was the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done.” I feel compelled to admit in the name of truth. Most people assume wildly colored hair and tattoos mean you’re a wild child or frivolous, when sometimes it’s just a simple act of self-expression. The tattoo had happened on a day I’d been too shocked to plan out exactly what I wanted in advance.

Finn’s expression turns thoughtful, as if he’s reading my face like a book. Silence rises between us and, for a moment, I wonder if he’ll refuse to tell me about his tattoo. But then he speaks. “Went to Stanford for college. Before my first game, I drove into San Francisco and took a walk over it the Golden Gate Bridge. Thought about all I wanted to accomplish, all I wanted to be. Got the tattoo that weekend.”

I snap another shot. “And have you accomplished everything?”

A secretive light comes into his eyes. “Almost.”

“Hmmm. What about the roses?” He has two vibrant red roses inked on the top and bottom of the state.

The corners of his eyes crinkle. “When I won my first and second Rose Bowl.”

Such pride in his look. I capture it.

“And the diamond?” I nod toward the stylized diamond at the bottom of California.

“Freshman year, Coach told me I was a diamond in the rough. And if I ever made it to the pros, he’d consider me polished.” His lips quirk. “Got that added the day after I was drafted.”

“You love your job.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he says with a cheeky look.

“What goes through your mind just before a play?” I ask, snapping away.

“You want me to walk you through it?” He seems more than willing tell me, but also curious, as if he can’t figure out if I really want to know or am just humoring him.

“No. I want you to picture the process.”

Silently, Finn drops his head and his eyes close.

And my breath catches. Because he is stunning.

Stretched out on the floor, his intensity should be diminished, but it isn’t. His body remains tight, his muscles almost quivering, as if ready to spring into action. But his expression is a different story. A look of peace falls over him, his lips soft, almost parting, the clean line of his jaw relaxed, and his brow smooth.

He is utterly at home within his skin, within his mind. It’s as if I’m witnessing a man at prayer. A true believer.

And I feel transformed right along with him. Pure and revitalized instead of simply going through the motions. Again that feeling of knowing hits me. Only this time it isn’t terrifying, but a warm balm that makes me aware of my own skin, of each breath I draw in and let out.

I almost forget to take the shot. But when I do, I know that this will be the cover. A part of me resents that. That covetous part of me feels as though this moment is private, something Finn Mannus has allowed only me to see.

But then I remember myself. It’s just a job. And the job is now officially done.

 

 

Chapter Three

 

 

Finn

 

* * *

 

“I’ll tell you one thing,” Jake says, after taking a long pull on his beer. “Baby oil is great for my skin. I should have slathered myself in it long before today.”

I have to laugh. “I was going to mention the way your face resembles a baby’s ass.”

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