I stare, dumbfounded, at the man before me.
He is pure, primal sexuality. Tall, yet stocky, rough, unshaven cheeks, and eyes the color of cognac. Without a doubt, Cowboy Casanova. He has a confident smile, and reeks of love-’em-and-leave-’em. I’ve known a few of them in my thirty-two years and these memories are all I need for me to snap out of the trance I’m in.
I put my hands on the bar and lean toward him, waiting.
The tap sputters briefly before the smooth, sienna-colored liquid slides into the glass. He hands me a credit card when I place his beer on the varnished bar.
“I’d like to start a tab.”
“No problem.” Damon Campbell. Nice name. Placing the card in a basket on the back wall, I return to my tally of bottles.
It’s still early for the weekend crowd. This place doesn’t start getting full until around eleven o’clock. I’m on my own until ten, when John shows up to help pick up the slack. Only another thirty minutes. I opened the bar just a year ago, and hired John after six months, because it became obvious I couldn’t do it on my own. The two of us have handled the weekends well, but it’s time to move forward. At some point, he’s sure to want a weekend off. I just hired a new girl, and I’ll be training her on Monday, when it will be slower.
My mind wanders as I go through my routine. Every so often, I glance around the bar to make sure no one else has come in or needs a refill. The clack of pool balls colliding disrupts my concentration. A glimpse reveals that Casanova has moved to the tables on the far side of the bar and is making trick shots. Show-off. But the corners of my mouth twitch. He’s wicked and makes me want to find out if he’s as delicious as he looks. His forearms flex as he bends to make another shot and my eyes follow the line from his fingertips to his shoulders and his back and finally, the curve of his tight—. Dammit!
He looks up and catches me staring. Great.
I look away as quickly as I can, hoping it isn’t too obvious. He’s not the type of guy I have any interest in getting involved with and I don’t want him to get the wrong idea. I mean, sure, he exudes sensuality and moves like he knows how to work more than a pool cue, but I don’t need that in my life. Really. Well, okay, so I do. It’s been a while. But I don’t need the complications that go with it.
“Hey, Luce.” Adam needs another. I slide him the drink and make his change.
Movement in the corner catches my eye and I look up to see Casanova watching me. I tilt my chin up and try to think of something I should be doing, but nothing comes to mind. Blinking to break the spell—again—I grab for the nearest bottle and nearly drop it. Time to pay more attention to what I’m doing.
The bottle of Cuervo is weighty in my hand, and the clear liquid reflects the lights overhead. For a moment, I’m transfixed by the shimmer the glass produces on my boots. No, not those spike-heeled, fashionista boots. Serviceable, comfortable hiking boots. The kind that won’t make me want to take an axe to my ankles after a long night of standing.
Maybe I should take a shot. The man is a complete stranger and he’s already driving me to drink. Grumbling, I replace the bottle.
New music starts on the jukebox and I sway along. A well-timed song can affect my mood like a drug, and this one has a positive effect. Say Somethin’ by Mariah Carey. Good song choice. The tequila stock looks good so I turn back to the room. Casanova is standing by the jukebox and his eyes are focused on me. I’ve heard the phrase “his eyes smoldered,” but I never really understood what that looked like until now. Oh, yeah. Smolder is the right word. And I can feel the heat move through me like lava. My skin is tingling and he’s not even touching me!
I imagine I look like some sort of skittish animal as my gaze darts everywhere but at him. Emmalee’s back. And she needs a refill. Thank God.
Her sharp eyes catch everything. I should have known I couldn’t avoid it. But I hoped.
In yet another attempt to look nonchalant, I shrug. “Nothing to spill.”
She looks skeptical, taking her drink from my hand.
“If I looked like you, I’d be all over that like a rash.” She scrutinizes me and I tuck a stray curl of dark hair behind my ear. I left my hair down tonight, which I don’t normally do. It’s so long, it often gets in the way or hangs in my face. Plus, it’s damned hot.
“I don’t have time for any of that.”
As Emmalee continues to stare, I can feel heat in my cheeks that has nothing to do with my hair. I know I’m not bad looking. It’s just that I’m not stop-guys-in-their-tracks-good-looking. At average height, I guess you could call me slender. I kept my figure from high school, with a few extra curves here and there. I have the basic Italian features of my ancestors – brown hair, brown eyes, olive skin. Nondescript, in my mind.
“Yeah, I know,” she answers. “But he can put the sweet in my tea anytime. You could use something like that. When’s the last time you were out with anyone?”
The question brings me up short. How long had it been?