“Maybe I should frown again.” I feigned concern.
“I like this one,” his friend laughed. They asked me where I was from and seemed charmed when I said a ranch upstate. They explained they were here joining some friends for a bachelor’s getaway.
“Mostly fly fishing. Out in the middle of nowhere,” one lamented. He gave me a tragic look with his blue eyes. His sweep of sandy hair made him look like a California surfer dude.
“Oh, I think that sounds very manly.” We exchanged a smile before I turned to fill their drink orders.
Trent was waiting for me on the other side of the bar. “Are you Google? Because I’ve found what I’m searching for.”
I groaned. “That one’s the worst.”
“But you’re smiling,” he pointed out. “That’s halfway.”
“Halfway to what, exactly?”
“I can show you later, gorgeous.” He winked at me.
I laughed, basking in this crazy thing called flirtatious banter. I thought I remembered it from back in high school. So much of the last six years had been devoted to sulking (Declan), fighting (cancer), mourning (Dad), and scrabbling to make ends meet. Sassy and sexy hadn’t had much time to shine.
But I guessed flirting was like riding a bicycle, you just hopped on and all the bubbly, giddy fun came flooding right back.
Turned out the fly-fishing guys were from L.A. The rest of their buddies joined them soon enough, in from their flight from New York. Finance guys, ego to spare and money to burn. The sandy-haired one made a point of chatting me up, asking me did I like country music (yes), did I give lessons in line dancing (not a chance), and did I know my eyes were the color of a summer sky (oh stop you).
At the register, Trish nodded over at my table. “You’ve got some hotties.”
Trish whistled under her breath. “Out for a good time.” She raised her eyebrow suggestively. “The Ken doll’s cute.” She gave him a wave and I elbowed her like we were teenagers.
I looked down at my notepad, checking an order, thinking of the Ken doll. He was cute. Great smile, flirting with me mercilessly. What if? What if I were a different person, a regular, lighthearted 24-year-old? I might spend a night of mindless fun having the kind of sex that honest and true had no ramifications. No heart on the line, no bizarre agreements to do his bidding. I wouldn’t be upset when he didn’t call the next day. I’d go back to waiting tables, maybe meet someone else the next night.
And just like that, I could tell Declan had entered the room. A shiver went up my spine. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a large man with a dark, commanding presence standing by the entry. I didn’t need to look up to know it was him. I could feel it in my bones. I could feel him see me, his scorching, intense gaze fixed on me like a target. And, damn it, a spark of arousal coursed through my veins, my body instantly starting to respond.
Why didn’t any other man have that effect on me? Here I was, surrounded by handsome guys flirting away, yet I honestly hadn’t felt a thing until now. It wasn’t fair.
Defiant, I refused to look up and meet his eyes. He didn’t own me. I decided that the only thing to do was throw myself back into waiting tables. And flirting.
“Hey there.” I had a big smile for the table of fly fishermen, especially my Ken doll. He ate it up, going so far as to ask when my shift ended for the night.
“I’ll get back to you on that.” I sparkled back at him, giving him a wink. I arched my back, thrusting out my breasts and could almost hear the guy suck in his breath, giving a low whistle of appreciation. I put some swing in my step, letting that tiny skirt have its way with him as I headed off to another table. Let Declan eat his heart out. He might think he had me conquered, but I’d show him.
Back at the bar, I laughed at Trent’s latest line, something about how there was something wrong with his phone. It didn’t have my number in it. I gave him a wicked smile, licking my lips and saw his instant response, the light teasing in his eyes flare into something more fiery and urgent.
Trish sidled up next to me. “Don’t look now but the hottest guy in town just walked into the bar. And I swear he’s looking right at you.”
I had a sinking feeling I knew exactly who Trish was talking about.
“Declan Hunt,” Trish whispered, as if saying the name of a rare and delicious dessert. “He owns this whole building. Don’t look now, but he’s standing right in the corner.”
My whole body could feel the heat of his stare, the magnetic pull to his muscle-packed form lurking in the shadows. But still I resisted it.
“If I could have one night with him…” Trish trailed off, at a loss for her customary quick patter of words.
“I’m sure he’s not all that,” I replied like a petulant child.
“He’s all that and more,” she insisted. “Scorching hot and filthy rich.”
Man, this guy had the whole stinking world at his feet. Not me, though. Working it in my boots and mini skirt, I sashayed back to the bachelor party. Shoulders back, I let the twins do their work as I made my way through the crowd, catching more than a few admiring glances my way. I liked it, the power, the ability to use my body to turn men on. I hadn’t wielded it in years.
“How you doing?” some guy asked, wrapping his hand around my waist.
Ken doll jumped to his feet, rushing over to my rescue. “Hey, man, back off,” he said, his arm up around me, too.
I put my hands up. “OK, guys, play nice.” The new one backed away while the blond guy kept next to me, close.
“You OK?” he asked, as if I’d been attacked. And as if he wasn’t doing exactly the same thing, hitting on me, his hand now wrapped around my waist. He stood a few inches taller than me and had a nice face, handsome in a generic Hollywood type way. I almost wondered if he were an actor.
That’s the last thing I remembered before huge, powerful arms wrapped around me, hoisted me up into a fireman’s carry across a strong, broad shoulder and stole me away.
Six Years Back
I revved the motor too hard and nearly peeled out of Harlan’s ranch. I’d kept my cool when he’d asked me for the favor, but right now I felt anything but.
That little girl of his was nothing but trouble. Big trouble from a not-so-little girl. My boss’s only daughter, his princess, off limits in every way, shape and form. Too young, too innocent, I knew better than to mess around with the one thing that would most definitely get me fired.
But lately, things had gotten tougher. That day she’d washed her truck, I’d nearly fallen off the tractor. The soapy water sliding down her smooth skin. The spray of the hose plastering her bikini top to her perfect breasts. The shape of her ass as she’d bent over the hood of the truck, exactly the way I’d want her if I fucked her from behind. I’d have her spread her palms out on the hood of the truck, then I’d grab her hips and sink into her deep.
She wore that goddamned cheerleading outfit around all the time. Whoever thought up dressing high school girls in uniforms like that was either a genius or a lunatic, depending on how you looked at it. Because that was the thing, you couldn’t think around a girl like Kara in a cheerleading skirt. Riding up so high you could nearly see the curve and swell of her ass cheeks. Innocent and sexy as hell all at once.
I’d seen a lot, taken in my share of strip clubs and the strippers, themselves. Nasty girls who loved to fuck and had no problem acting out any fantasy you could come up with—and at 21 I had a whole lot.
But Kara. There was something about that girl that got me rock hard. Those lips, so full and lush and berry-pink. He
r perfect tits straining against her thin cotton t-shirts. The other day she’d been standing on the porch and she’d raised her arms up over her head and stretched. My jaw about dropped, seeing that back arched, her eyes closed for a moment with those arms overhead, wrists crossed just so. That night, I couldn’t get it out of my head. How she’d look stretched out like that for me and me alone.
Slamming the brakes on, I stopped at a red light. Fuck. Harlan and his damn favor.
Guess the princess’s truck needed a new carburetor and daddy had promised her he’d pick her up from school. Only Harlan couldn’t make it so he’d sent me in his place.
I didn’t know why she couldn’t just hitch a ride with one of her friends. Or her spoiled pretty-boy boyfriend. But, no, that wasn’t good enough. Harlan had tried to call her and let her know he couldn’t pick her up but she hadn’t answered her cell phone. He didn’t want his angel to have a moment of worry, a furrow on her perfect brow when she stepped out on the lawn and didn’t see her daddy waiting in his truck.
So here I was, picking up Kara Fucking Brooks from her goddamn high school. Exactly what I needed, some quality alone time with her in the cab of my truck. It would be a long 20 minute drive back to the ranch, I knew that much.
A sunny, warm afternoon in late May, seniors were set to graduate next week. A bunch of kids milled around outside of the front entrance. A couple of guys tossed a Frisbee around like they thought they were California dudes out at the beach. I pulled up into what looked like the pick-up area and idled the engine.
It took me all of three seconds to spot Kara. Like a spotlight shone down on her, she stood surrounded by kids looking at her, watching her movements, admiring her. Like bees to her honey. Her long, golden hair shining in the sunlight, her long, golden limbs graceful and posed just so on the front steps, she was the center of attention and she loved it.
She threw her head back and laughed, thrusting those breasts out as she did it. I wasn’t the only guy who noticed. Two meatheads in varsity football jackets stared right at her tits the whole time. Assholes. I gripped the steering wheel tighter.