That sexy half grin tipped up a notch as he extended an arm, curling his fingers back toward him. “Why don’t you come over here and have a seat?”
My feet moved forward without any brain involvement because, seriously, who didn’t respond when Hot Bartender Dude wiggled long fingers at you like that? I found my butt planted in a bar stool with a ripped and slightly uncomfortable cushion.
Dear God in Heaven, up close like this, he was truly a masculine masterpiece of mouthwatering hotness.
That half grin didn’t fade as he placed his palms on the edge of the bar top. “What’s your poison?”
I blinked at him, real slow like, and all I could think about was why in the hell was he working in this dump? He could be in magazines, or on the TV, or at least working at the steak house down the street.
Hot Bartender Dude tilted his head to the side as his grin spread to the other corner of that freaking mouth. “Honey . . . ?”
I resisted the urge to plop my elbows on the bar top and stare up at him, even though I was already halfway to doing that. “Yes?”
He chuckled softly as he leaned in, and I mean, waaay in. Within a second, he was all up in my personal space, his mouth mere inches from mine, and his biceps flexed, stretching the worn material of his shirt.
Oh my golly gee, I hoped his shirt just ripped up the sides and fell right off.
“What would you like to drink?” he asked.
What I would like was to watch his mouth move some more. “Um . . .” My brain emptied.
He arched a brow as his gaze tracked from my mouth to my eyes. “Do I need to card you?”
That snapped me out of my hot-inducing stupor. “No. Not at all. I’m twenty-one.”
Heat infused my face again. “I swear.”
My gaze dipped to his now-extended hand and to his pinky. “Seriously?”
A dimple started to form in his right cheek as his grin turned into a smile. Holy crapola, if he had a set of dimples, I was so in trouble. “Do I look like I’m not serious?”
He looked like he was up to absolutely no good as I stared at him. There was a downright mischievous glimmer to his warm, cocoa eyes. My lips started to twitch, and then I reached up and wrapped my pinky around his much larger one.
“Pinky swear,” I said, thinking that was one hell of a way to verify age.
That grin of his was downright delicious. “Ah, a girl who’ll pinky swear is after my own heart.”
Yeah, I had no clue how to respond to that.
Instead of letting go as I pulled my hand away, he slipped his fingers around my wrist in a gentle, but firm, hold. As my eyes started to pop out of my head, he somehow got closer, and he smelled . . . good. A mixture of spice and soap that went straight to my before-mentioned lady parts.
My phone went off in my purse, blaring “Brown Eyed Girl.” As I dug around for it, Hot Bartender Dude laughed.
“Van Morrison?” he asked.
I nodded absently as my fingers wrapped around the slim phone. The call was from Teresa. I hit silent.
“Nice music taste.”
My lashes lifted as I dropped the phone back in my purse. “I . . . um, I like the old-school stuff better than what’s big today. I mean, they actually sang and played music then. Now they just prance around half naked, scream, or talk through songs. It isn’t even about the music anymore.”
Appreciation lit up his eyes. “You pinky swear and listen to old-school music? I like you.”
“You aren’t very hard to impress then.”
He tipped his head back, exposing his neck as he laughed, and good golly Miss Molly, it was a damn nice laugh. Deep. Rich. Playful. The sound turned my tummy to mush. “Pinky swearing and music are very important,” he said.
“Is that so?”
“Yep.” Amusement danced over his face. “So is swearing on Boy Scout honor.”
The twitch at the corners of my lips spread into a grin. “Well, I was never a Boy Scout, so . . .”
“Want to know a secret?”
“Sure,” I breathed.
He tipped his chin down. “I wasn’t a Boy Scout, either.”
For some reason, I wasn’t very surprised by that. Especially when he was still holding on to my wrist.
“You’re not from around here,” he announced.
Not anymore. “What makes you think that?”
“Well, this is a small town, and Mona’s usually sees regulars, and not hot little pieces of distraction like you, so I’m pretty sure you’re not from around here.”
“I used . . .” Wait. What? Hot little pieces of distraction like you? My train of thought was totally derailed.
He let go of my wrist, and not all at once, and he didn’t break eye contact, either. Oh no, it was a slow slide of his fingers along the inside of my wrist and then across my palm to the tips of my fingers, sending a wave of shivers dancing up my arm and then doing a jazz routine down my back.
God, it made me feel crazy, but it felt like there was a spark there. Something tangible that snapped between him and me. Totally insane, but I was finding it hard to breathe and to make sense of my thoughts.
Without taking his eyes off me, he reached down into the ice cooler and pulled out a bottle of beer, twisted off the lid, and sat it on the counter. A second later, I realized there was someone standing next to us.
I glanced to my side, spying a young and good-looking guy with something close to a buzz cut. He nodded at Hot Bartender Dude as he grasped the neck of the bottle. “Thanks, bud.”
And then he was off and we were alone again.
“Anyway,” Hot Bartender Dude said. “How about I make you my special drink?”
Usually when a guy offers to make me their “special drink,” I’d run for the hills screaming bloody murder and mayhem, but I found myself nodding again, which totally cemented the fact I was shallow and maybe a little dumb.
And totally not in control of the situation, which was a . . . unique experience for me.
I watched him pivot around, and the muscles of his back rippled under his shirt as he reached for the pricey liquor on display behind the bar. I didn’t see which bottle he grabbed, but he moved with a fluid grace, grabbing one of the rock glasses, used for smaller mixed drinks and shots over ice.
The fact that I remembered the kind of glass made me want to bang my head off the bar top. I also resisted that urge—thank God. As I watched him make the drink, I tried to figure out his age. He had to be at least a year or two older than me. Within a few seconds, he placed an impressive mixed drink in front of me.
It was red on the top, then graduating into the color of a sunset, with a cherry to garnish. I picked up the drink and took a sip. My taste buds about had a mouth-gasm at the fruity flavor. “You can’t even taste the liquor.”
“I know.” He looked smug. “It’s smooth, but proceed with caution. Drink too fast and too much, it’ll knock you flat on your pretty ass.”
Chalking the “pretty ass” comment up to typical bartender charm, I took another tiny drink. I didn’t have to worry about being careful. I never overindulged when it came to liquor anyway. “What’s it called?”
My brows rose. “Interesting.”
“Oh, it is.” He folded his arms on the bar top and leaned in, giving me what I was quickly learning was a distracting and devastatingly sexy half grin. “So, you got any plans for tonight?”
I stared at him. That was all I was capable of doing. Besides the fact that after a handful of minutes of being in his presence, I’d almost forgotten why I was here, which was not to socialize, he seriously couldn’t be doing what I thought he was doing.
Flirting with me.
Asking me out.
These things simply did not happen in Calla land. I couldn’t even believe they happened to really hot chicks like Teresa or Brit or Avery, but I definitely knew they did not happen to me.
Hot Bartender Dude shifted his weight forward, and that did amazing things with the muscles in his arms, and then those gorgeous eyes locked on mine, and I forgot how to breathe for a second. The way his lips curved in that moment told me he was fully aware of his effect. “In case I need to clarify what I just said, I’m wanting to know if you’re free to do something with me.”
It was a good thing that I’d placed the drink down because I probably would’ve dropped it. “You don’t even know my name,” I blurted out.
His gaze lowered, giving me a view of ridiculously long lashes. “What’s your name, honey?”
I gaped at him in what was probably a very unattractive manner. He couldn’t be serious.
Hot Bartender Dude waited as he lifted those lashes.
Oh my God, was he really serious?
“Do you ask every girl out who walks into this bar?” If so, after taking one long look around the bar, he had some real slim pickings. With the exception of the guy who’d gotten the beer and was sitting with a couple other guys, most of the people in the bar were a few years shy of retiring.
His half grin spread. “Only the good-looking ones.”
I went back to gaping at him.
Part of me wasn’t surprised by his response. I had a face. Always had a face, ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper and was wearing onesies. Mom used to praise how symmetrical my face was, how perfect it was. When I was younger, I looked like one of those porcelain baby dolls and I’d been paraded around as such. And as I grew up, my features had stayed symmetrical—full lips, high cheekbones, small nose, and blue eyes to match the blond hair—real, blond hair.
But the key words here were had and was, and while I was a lot of things, stupid wasn’t one of them.
Well, on most days.
Right now, staring at this guy, I was feeling about three kinds of stupid.
“Correction,” Hot Bartender Dude continued, grinning until that dimple appeared in his right cheek. “Hot girls with sexy legs.”
This guy was so full of it. “I’m sitting down! How can you see my legs?”
He chuckled deeply, and damn if that wasn’t a nice sound, too. “Honey, I saw you walk into the bar, and the first thing I noticed was those legs of yours.”
Okay. I did have really nice legs. Three days a week, I pretended to be into my fitness and ran. I was lucky when it came to my legs. Fat never deposited on my thighs or calves. It ended up in my ass and hips. And okay, there was also a pleasant hum trilling through my veins in response to his words, but I . . .
I sucked in a sharp breath, going cold on the inside.
Hot Bartender Dude and I were face-to-face, full frontal face-to-face, and we had been this entire time. There was no way he hadn’t seen the scar on my face, and not once since laying eyes on Hot Bartender Dude had I thought about the scar. So caught off guard by him, it hadn’t even crossed my mind.
But now that I was thinking about it, I immediately dipped my chin down and to the left as I wrapped my suddenly boneless fingers around the glass. Now I knew he couldn’t be serious, because he was totally a part of the Hot Guy Brigade, and I was Calla, the friend of the Hot Guy Brigade. Not Calla, the girl they blatantly flirted with.
Maybe he was on crack.
I decided to ignore what he’d said as I studiously forced myself to remember why I was here. “It is a really good drink.” Keeping my right cheek to him, I started checking out the bar again. Still no sign of Mom. “Pretty and tasty.”
“Thanks, but we aren’t talking about the drink. Unless talking about a drink involves you and me getting a drink when I get off,” he said, and my gaze swung back to his sharply. He arched one brow when he had my attention. “Then I’m all about having a drink.”
My eyes narrowed as I squirmed in my seat. This . . . this I wasn’t accustomed to. “Are you for real?”