"Lucky shot!" Wyatt calls across the table. Surprise gives way to amusement as a wry smile twists across his opponent's mouth. Lucy ignores the comment entirely, too busy circling the pool table, chalking her cue as she sizes up her next shot. She takes her damn sweet time with it, Wyatt thinks, the way she normally does when faced with a puzzle to solve. But the effort pays off—again. Just like the shot prior, this ball sinks effortlessly into the corner pocket.
Wyatt shakes his head in disbelief and starts to think he's being had. He takes a long pull from his beer. "You're cleaning my clock, Preston!"
Lucy sidles up to his barstool all flirty smiles and confidence to stand in the space between his knees. "So it would seem, Logan," she teases, eyes dancing impishly in the neon bar lights. She leans in and filches a quick kiss, then plucks the bottle from his fingertips to steal a sip of his beer. "I guess you're a good teacher."
"Hmm." Wyatt smirks and splays a hand over the curve of her hip, his thumb teasing the pocket of her jeans. He doesn't miss the way she subtly leans into his touch or the warmth of her skin radiating through the denim. "Could be that," he says mildly. Lucy shoots him a questioning look. "Or maybe I'm being hustled."
Lucy's mouth falls open. "How dare you!" she scoffs, indignant. "Hustled? Please. If you think you're getting back this drink after that, keep dreaming." Eyes narrowed, she drains the rest of his beer to prove her point.
It's a good performance—much better than the ones she usually pulls when they travel through time—but she forgets sometimes that he knows her better than anyone. Wyatt slips his free hand around her waist and pulls her closer, tipping back his head so he can look her square in the eyes. "Hustled," he repeats.
"Maybe you're a sore loser," Lucy says, arching one perfect eyebrow.
Wyatt huffs out a laugh. "Well, that's not untrue. But it's curious timing, don't you think?"
"During the first two games you were a walking disaster, but as soon as we made our little wager you do a 180 and turn into Fast Eddie Felson?"
Lucy's brows knit together. "Fast who now?"
"Paul Newman's character in iThe Hustler/i. We went to see it at the Vintage Film Festival at the drive-in, remember?"
Lucy shakes her head in that disapproving way of hers, a moue of disappointment on her lips. Wyatt's waiting for her to actually tsk tsk him when he realizes his misstep. Shit.
She reaches around him to set the empty bottle on the table. Her lips hover over the shell of his ear, her breath warm against his skin. "The only thing I remember about the drive-in, Wyatt, is being half naked and fogging up the windows in your truck." Lucy pulls back to glare at him, but it lacks the punch she usually packs when she's really mad. "I'm glad it was so memorable for you."
"Lucy," Wyatt groans softly when she starts to pull away. "Baby, c'mon—you know I didn't forget." His hand slips into her back pocket, fingers curving against her ass as he draws her closer. "As if I could." Her eyes soften and they share a knowing smile.
"Good," she says playfully, carding her fingers through his hair at the back of his neck and gently tugging. "Now if we're done with all this hustling nonsense, I have a game to win."
His lips tick up into a half smile. "Do your worst," he says, chuckling when she punches his shoulder before slipping from his embrace and turning back to the pool table.
"Say what you will, Wyatt," Lucy tosses over her shoulder. "This game is mine."
"And nothing I say is going to distract you?" he asks, getting to his feet.
"Nope," she replies, tone confident, skirting the table. "I'm in the zone. Calm, cool, and collected."
Wyatt folds his arms across his chest and watches his girl painstakingly plot out how to get the 8-ball into the pocket to win the game.
Once she finds the right angle, she hinges at the waist and sets her hand on the felt, sliding the cue between her fingers. Lucy lifts her head up and flashes him a cocky grin. "Ready to lose?"
Lord, but he is crazy for this woman. This beautiful, smart, stubborn woman. And he wouldn't have it any other way. A grin breaks out across his face as he calls out, "I love you."
Lucy whiffs the shot.
She stands up straight, her face defeated and sad, tears pricking the corners of her eyes. It manages to break his heart and make him feel an inch tall. "Wow. You are unbelievable, Wyatt," Lucy says flatly. She throws the cue down on the table and rushes out of the bar.
Hindsight being what it is and the fact that he's reigning champion of putting his goddamn foot in his mouth, he realizes that telling your girlfriend you love her for the first time shouldn't A) happen in a bar, and B) during a stupid bet.
"Fuck," Wyatt swears. "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck." He runs after her.
Wyatt expects her to be halfway down the block already, but he stops short to find her leaning against his truck, arms folded around her middle, staring down at the pavement. "Lucy—"
"Don't," she stops him, quickly swiping at her cheeks and turning her head away. "Please don't. Just take me home."
He reaches for her, and Lucy recoils like he burned her, pressing her back flat against the passenger door to put as much space between them as possible. These walls she's rapidly putting up between them sets white hot panic clawing at his insides. "Let me explain. Please."
Lucy looks at him then, eyes damp and shiny under the streetlight. God, he hates that he put that look on her face. "Explain what?" she asks. "That you'd do or say anything to win a bet? Got that message loud and clear."
Wyatt shakes his head. "That's not what—" he starts, but she cuts him off once again.
"In all the time we've known each other, I've never known you be cruel, Wyatt. I feel like the world's biggest fool. Maybe I don't know you as well as I thought."
Wyatt's jaw twitches, her words cutting to the quick. He cannot fuck up the best thing about his life. He won't. "Okay, Lucy. Stop and listen to me for a minute. You know me better than anyone. And you know that I'm a moron sometimes who says the completely wrong things at the wrong time."
Lucy snorts at that. "No argument there."
He steps closer, hands reaching out to rest at her hips. He's encouraged when she doesn't pull away. "I did not say that to distract you or to win some stupid bet. I swear." Wyatt sees a crack in the figurative wall, so he presses on. "I had the best time with you tonight. Just the two of us, you know? Out a bar, getting to be normal for a change. The way we were flirting and teasing each other. And just...all that confidence and swagger you showed while hustling me—and yes you hustled me at pool," he adds quickly when she opens her mouth to interject.
His heart's in his throat but he's determined to lay everything out in the open. She deserves to hear it, and he wants to say it.
"Let me finish. You're the smartest person I've ever met, Lucy. A huge damn nerd, actually, if we're being honest," he adds, his lips curving up. He's rewarded with a watery smile and an eye roll. That's my girl. "You're strong, and brave," he continues, "and hopelessly clumsy." Lucy huffs out a laugh. "You are also amazingly kind and selfless—and so beautiful that it still catches me off guard."
One hand moves up to her face, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. He takes a breath, blows it out slowly. "And—I am head over boots, completely and crazy in love with you. Ma'am."
Wyatt's no stranger to Lucy launching herself into his arms in one of her fierce hugs, so he catches her and holds on tight. He feels his name on her lips, murmured into his neck before she arches back to look at him. The smile on her face could light up all of California.
"God, Wyatt," Lucy whispers, then grabs his face with both hands and pulls him into a kiss that makes his head spin. "Okay, three things," she says once the kiss is broken, her eyes just this side of wild, a ball of frenetic energy in his arms. "One, I promise never to tell Rufus that you think I'm smarter than he is."
He thinks that maybe he should be offended the first words out of her mouth were about Rufus, but he's not. It just makes him laugh. "Got it. Our secret."
"Two—" she starts, then draws one corner of her lower lip between her teeth. "I absolutely hustled you in pool tonight."
"Yeah, no shit," Wyatt counters drolly, making her giggle into the night. "And three?" His heart beats faster in his chest, his palms suddenly clammy. He swallows the lump of nerves that sprung up, because what if she doesn't—
"I love you, too."