Home > The Chase (Briar U #1)(11)

The Chase (Briar U #1)(11)
Author: Elle Kennedy

“Well, yeah. That’s because I’m superior to them in every way. I’m the only one whose opinion matters.”

“And your opinion so far?”

“This game is boss.”

Excitement gathers inside me. I love hearing that, especially from a dedicated gamer like Morris, whose Twitch stream earns him a shit ton of money. Yup, people actually subscribe to watch him play video games online. He’s that good, not to mention incredibly entertaining as he livestreams his virtual adventures.

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a bit of a legend too. Not from livestreaming, but reviewing. Up until this year, I reviewed games for the college blog, as well as other hugely popular gaming sites on the web. But I stopped reviewing because it was a time suck, and I needed to concentrate on my own game.

Legion 48 isn’t the most complex of RPGs; it’s not multiplayer and it follows a very scripted storyline rather than an open-world concept. With my schedule, it’s hard enough to find time to play video games, let alone design them. But I’m in the process of applying for jobs at several game-development companies, and I needed to give them a taste of what I’m capable of in terms of design techniques. Legion 48 might not be Skyrim or GTA, but all I need it to do is show these studios I’m not a total hack.

My greatest strength, I think, is that I did all the artwork myself along with the computer coding required to make the game functional. All of the art started out as rough sketches, was then drawn digitally, then turned into 3D assets. I can’t even calculate how much time I spent on it, and that was nowhere close to how long it took to code the damn thing.

“Run into any bugs yet?” I ask Morris.

“Nothing major. When you speak to the dragon in the cave, the dialogue freezes up and then jumps to the next bit.”

All right. Easy fix. A relief, because it took hours upon hours to refine and hammer out all the pesky bugs in the alpha stage. For nearly a year, the game was barely playable. The first round of beta testing shed light on more bugs I’d missed. Somehow, despite my grueling schedule, I debugged the game enough to make it fully functional and ready for this second and final round of beta testing. This time, dozens of gamers are playing, including many of my college friends.

“Hasn’t crashed yet,” he adds helpfully.

“Yet? Don’t jinx it, man. I’ve sent this thing to half a dozen studios. If it crashes on them…”

“Hasn’t crashed, period,” Morris corrects. “Won’t crash, ever. Now tell me how to open the third gate.”


“But I’m dying to see the City of Steel. Is there an oracle I’m supposed to talk to? Why can’t I find this key?”

“Guess you’re not as good as you think you are.”

“Oh, fuck off. Fine. Whatever. I’m gonna beat this thing and then call you to gloat.”

“You do that.” I grin to myself. “I’ll find you online later. Jumping in the shower now.”

“Cool. Ciao.”

I strip out of my clothes and head for the bathroom, a spring to my step. Morris’s enthusiasm for Legion 48 managed to ease the tension plaguing my body.

But my muscles tense up again at the sound of Summer’s laughter in the hall.

I gaze at my reflection in the mirror, noting the frustration in my eyes, the rigid set of my jaw. The harsh expression seems even harsher when paired with my tattoos—the two full sleeves covering my arms, and the chest piece that’s done only in black. The piece is a bit faded now, though that almost gives it a cooler vibe. Not that I got tatted up because it’s cool. I’m an artist. I designed all the tats myself, and whatever I can use as a canvas, I’ll use. Including my own skin.

But when my face is surly, and my beard is growing out, and I’m brooding in front of the mirror, all the ink just makes me look like a thug.

If I’m being honest, “thug” is kind of what I was going for during my brief high school rebellion. I got my first tat—the dragon on my left arm—when I was hanging with the dudes whose go-to solution for solving problems involved their fists. Or brass knuckles. Don’t get me wrong—they didn’t pressure me to get inked. They just knew of a parlor that tattooed minors without their parents’ permission. Because, truthfully, the first time was essentially a fuck-you to my folks. My sophomore art class had just put on an end-of-year exhibition, where Mom and Dad spent the whole time sniping at each other instead of supporting their kid. They walked right past my paintings, too busy arguing to notice my work.

So fifteen-year-old Colin, badass that he was, decided, Fine. You guys are too busy fighting to appreciate my art, so I’ll put it right where you can see it.

These days, I do view the tats as an extension of my art, but I can’t deny it didn’t start out that way.

My shoulders tighten when I hear the low murmur of Hunter’s voice. Followed by another laugh from Summer.

Guess he’s picking up right where he left off.



That wasn’t too bad. I managed to exchange several cordial sentences with Fitz without smacking him in his dumb face. Gold star for me! Except then take away my gold star and replace it with three rotten bananas because of the way my vagina responded to that dumb face.

It tingled.

Stupid vagina.

I hate that I still find him attractive after all the hurtful comments he made about me.

A knock on the door spares me from what probably would’ve been a solid hour of overthinking. Hunter saunters into the room and throws his lean, muscular body onto my bed.

“I need a nap.”

My mouth quirks in a wry smile. “Sure, go ahead and make yourself at home.”

“Aw, thanks, Blondie.” He winks, and proceeds to get even more comfortable by sprawling on his back and propping his arms behind his head.

Um, two tickets to the gun show, please. His arms are incredible. He’s changed into a wife beater that shows off defined biceps and broad shoulders. And his sweatpants ride low enough on his hips that I can see the smooth, tanned stretch of man vee. It’s just as tantalizing as the gun show.

Hunter is hot and he knows it. His lips curve when he notices me checking him out.

Ugh, those lips. I still remember how they’d felt pressed against mine. He was a good kisser. Not too aggressive, not too eager, the perfect amount of tongue.

I wonder how Fitzy kisses.

Like a jerk, Summer, my inner Selena Gomez says firmly. He kisses like a jerk.

Right. Because he’s a jerk.

“Why are you in my room, Hunter?” I ask, leaning a hip against my desk.

“Figured we should tackle the Big Talk right out of the gate.”

I sigh ruefully. “Good idea.”

“A’ight. Let’s do it.”

I graciously gesture toward him. “Men first.”

He snorts. “Coward.”

Laughing, I hop up and sit on the desk. “Honestly? I don’t even know what to say. We made out. It wasn’t a big deal.”

His dark eyes zero in on my bare legs, which are dangling over the edge of the desk. It’s obvious he likes what he sees, because his gaze turns molten. He reminds me a bit of Dean’s friend Logan, and not just because they look similar with their dark hair and hard bodies. Logan radiates sexual energy. I don’t know how to describe it, but there’s just something so raw and dirty about him. Hunter gives off that same vibe, and I can’t deny it affects me.

But just because we find each other attractive doesn’t mean we have to do anything about it.

“I know we texted a few times after that night, but I felt like there was more to talk about. You never really told me what it—” He stops abruptly.

I wrinkle my forehead. “I never told you what?”

He sits up and drags a hand over his scalp. He’s buzzed his hair since I last saw him, but it’s still long enough to rake his fingers through. “I was about to ask you what it meant.” He stares at me in horror. “I’ve become my worst nightmare.”

I burst out laughing. “Oh, honey. It’s okay—lots of men try to find meaning in New Year’s kisses.” I give him a pointed look.

He groans. “Don’t rub it in, Blondie.”

“Sorry, I had to. You were so cocky that night, acting like any girl you kissed at midnight would demand to have your babies.” I stick out my tongue. “Well, who’s the one who wants to have my babies? You!”

His shoulders shake with laughter.

I slide off the desk. “Tables have turned,” I say in a singsong voice.

Hunter gets to his feet. He’s taller than I remember, standing at well over six feet. Same with Fitz, but I suppose most hockey players have the height advantage. There’s one guy on the Briar team who’s five-nine, though. I think his name is Wilkins. One time I heard Dean raving about how tough he is considering his size.

“Don’t worry,” Hunter says. “I’m not thinking about babies just yet.”

“No? What are you thinking about, then?”

He doesn’t respond. Those dark eyes lower to my chest before flicking back to my face. I’m not wearing a bra. He definitely noticed.

And I’m definitely noticing that his sweatpants seem a bit tighter in the crotch area than they were two minutes ago.

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