Is she serious? Of course I’ve noticed she’s all grown up. But it’s never been more apparent than it is tonight.
For the past hour, I haven’t been able to get the idea of Claire without underwear out of my head. I worked non-stop serving Brody’s thirsty patrons while picturing myself sliding Claire’s dress up the backs of her sexy thighs and taking her bent over my bar.
Even now, the fantasy is so vivid that I’m sweating bullets; my heart racing in its frantic rush to propel enough blood south for the sex marathon I want to have with her. I need to get her out of here before I do something Austin will kill me for.
And yet, getting her out of here won’t be a picnic. She said she wanted to catch up with me, but the way she is looking at me right now causes dread and excitement to race through me simultaneously.
I’ve been a man long enough to recognise desire when I see it, and that’s what I’m looking at right now. Her eyes are heavy-lidded and far darker than their normal colour. Her lips are slightly parted, and her breathing is shallow. I curl my fingers into my palms to stop myself from reaching for her. She came here looking for trouble, but I’m starting to worry she came here looking to have trouble with me.
“What are you doing, Claire?”
“Helping you out,” she says coyly. “Just like you asked me to.”
“Don’t mess around. You know what I mean. You don’t want to catch up. The other night you told me you hated me and demanded I stay away from you.”
“That was Thursday. Things are different tonight.”
“What does that mean?”
“I have more information now.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I spoke to Austin yesterday.”
“I know. He told me I should back off, but just because you blackmailed him into calling me doesn’t mean I’m going to.”
“He told you I blackmailed him?”
“No, I worked that out on my own. Austin would never tell me to back off otherwise.”
She smiles. “You knew Austin wouldn’t like the idea of me asking Sam out.”
“Just like you know he has this thing about me dating guys who don’t want to stick around and marry me.”
“He’s always been upfront about what he does and doesn’t want for you.”
“What about what I want?” she asks softly, stepping even closer to me and reaching up to straighten my tie.
Even though I suspected she came here for me, her forwardness still takes me by surprise. I’ve never minded girls being upfront about what they want, but my body and mind have never responded so fast to a blatant offer. The husky quality of her tone alone is enough to turn my blood ten times thicker. It’s on the tip of my tongue to ask her exactly what she wants, but if she tells me straight out that she wants to go to bed with me, my already stretched self-control might snap.
“What you want doesn’t matter when it’s bad for you,” I tell her as firmly as possible.
“Drop the big brother act, Dylan. I’m twenty-five, nearly twenty-six. I think I should get to decide what’s bad for me.”
“Only if you’re capable of telling good ideas from bad ones. Judging by the fact you came here looking to talk to me, I don’t think you are.”
“I told you the other night; I just want to have some fun.” Her fingernail scrapes against one of my shirt buttons.
“Claire,” I warn, my temperature on the rise and my dick jumping against the front of my pants at the thought of what she has in mind. “You need to drop this.”
“You know, Austin told me that once upon a time you wanted to ask me out, but he warned you off.”
Well, that explains the change between Thursday night and tonight. Now I just have to kill Austin for spilling the beans to Claire. The fact that she had no idea I was attracted to her has been my saving grace on more than one occasion.
“He was one-hundred percent right to do that. I couldn’t have given you what you wanted.”
“You’re probably right,” she acknowledges, surprising me. “I had a crush on you then and I probably couldn’t have slept with you without hoping for a happily-ever-after, even though I was only sixteen. But I can now. I’m not looking for a commitment. I know you’re not my Mr Perfect. I just want to have a good time with someone I’m incredibly attracted to,” she says, lowering her eyes once more and plucking at my shirt buttons.
Her words should reassure me, but they don’t. I know Claire well enough to know that us sleeping together would be a bigger deal than she lets on. “I can’t sleep with you, Claire.”
She visibly flinches, and it’s the second time tonight I’ve seen her eyes dim. It must have taken a bucket-load of courage for her to come down here looking the way she does to proposition me, especially after the way I rejected her years ago. The thought makes my heart clench in my chest, but I can’t afford to let her think for a second that I’m weak where she’s concerned. Not just because I could kiss my friendship with Austin goodbye if I touched her, but because I’m not planning to stick around. I’m out of here in a few months.
And I don’t know if I’m ever coming back.
“Because of Austin and his warning?” she asks. “Or because you really can’t see us having any fun together? And please be honest with me. I think I deserve that.”
“I don’t think it matters when the outcome is the same.”
“It matters to me,” she urges, making me feel that much worse. “Listen, Dylan,” she continues. “My friends made me aware of something the other night. Between my job and my on-going search for the right man, I haven’t been enjoying myself all that much. In fact, flirting with Sam on Thursday and working with you behind the bar tonight have been the most fun I’ve had in a really long time. I guess what I’m trying to say is…I want to let loose and have a bit of fun. If you’re not interested, that’s fine. I’ll just find someone else who is.”
Her threat to find someone else for her ‘fun’ sends a fierce wave of possessiveness through me. It is so unfamiliar and so unwanted I feel blindsided by it.
Hell yeah, I want to go to bed with her, but there would be consequences. There always are. We wouldn’t just be two people sleeping together. Our lives have been intertwined for the past nine years and I care for her a great deal. I always have. That said, I have no desire to settle down with her and give her the things she hungers for. She says all she wants is fun, but I’ve never seen Claire take anything lightly. Moreover, Austin would kill me for going to bed with Claire and then leaving.
“What about my friendship with Austin?” I ask. “What happens when he finds out we’ve been sleeping together?”
“He doesn’t have to know.”
“You want me to lie to my best friend?”
Uncertainty flashes across her face before a look of determination replaces it. “You could always tell him the truth. That we’re both consenting adults and we’re having fun together.”
“He’d never forgive me. Our friendship would be over.”
“Both of you would be idiots if you let your friendship end over something that happened between you and me.”
“I can’t do that to him, Claire. I’m sorry.”
“You’re turning me down?” she asks.
The slight quiver in her voice goes straight through my heart and turns me inside out. She looks even more vulnerable than she did when she asked me out all those years ago.
“It’s not that I don’t want you, Claire. You’re gorgeous and sexy as hell. And that dress-“
She gives a short, derisive nod. “Is no match for your noble nature. That’s just perfect.”
She starts to walk away from me, but I grab her arm and pull her back. “For what it’s worth, I’ve never seen you do anything you didn’t put your heart and soul into.”
“And I would have approached whatever we do together the same way.” Her words send another wave of heat through me. “I want to let loose for a few months and I can’t think of anyone I’d feel safer letting go with than you.”
“I’m sorry,” I repeat, nearly choking on the words.
She shrugs out of my grip. “Not as sorry as I am.”
“Where are you going?”
“This is the second time you’ve turned me down, Dylan. I’m not masochistic enough to try for a third.”
“I’m going back to the side of the bar where I’m a paying customer. And I want another Cock-sucking-Cowboy.”
I watch her walk away from me, all the while wondering whether I’ve done the right thing. She just called me noble, but I don’t feel noble at all.
I keep an eye on her while I pour her shot. She’s barely been standing at the bar for more than thirty seconds before the guy standing next to her, waiting for a drink, starts talking to her. I don’t recognise him, so the man isn’t a regular, and the way he’s looking at Claire causes the giant knot in my gut to twist in reaction.
“I can’t think of anyone I’d feel safer letting go with than you.”
She’s right to think she would be safe with me. And if she’s going to persist with her plans, shouldn’t she be with someone who will make sure she’s taken care of? If she goes home with the wrong guy, she could end up hurt or much, much worse.
A chill goes through me as I imagine just how much danger she may be about to put herself in if I let her proposition someone else. The idea of something happening to her…It makes me feel violently ill.
Austin would hate me for sleeping with Claire, but if I let Claire walk out of here with some creep, Austin would hate me anyway, and I would never be able to forgive myself. As long as Claire is safe, isn’t Austin’s hatred worth it?
Yeah, and the fact you’ve been dying to sleep with Claire since you were a teenager makes you such a bloody martyr, doesn’t it? You’re really taking one for the team.
I ignore the voice in my head and slam the shot down in front of her a little harder than necessary. The anger and resentment I saw in her eyes on Thursday night are back when she finally looks at me.
“You took me by surprise before,” I tell her. “Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’ve realised I might have been too hasty in my refusal.”
Her eyes widen, and her lips part, then she looks from me to the guy standing next to her and back to me. And now she looks even madder than a moment ago.
“Give me a break, Dylan. I’ve had about as much of your big-brother attitude as I can take for one night.”
I don’t bother pretending I don’t understand the comment. She’s never going to believe that my thoughts on her walking out of here with someone else is anything more than me wanting to protect her.
“Wait for me to finish my shift and I’ll give you a ride home,” I insist.
“Forget it. If you think I’m going to let you turn sleeping with me into some big-brotherly chore, you can forget it.”
It’s so absurd, I laugh. “Big-brotherly chore?”
Hot colour rises up her neck and spills into her cheeks. “I don’t need you to do me any favours.”
I lean on the bar in front of her. “Claire, I’ve never considered sleeping with a woman a favour before and I’m certainly not about to start with you.”
“Please just forget I asked. I sure as hell intend to,” she says before downing the shot I put in front of her.
Her pride is hurt, and that’s on me. The thought makes me feel as tall as a pile of horse crap. I wish she was still behind the bar with me so I could prove to her just how much I want her – how much sleeping with her would not be a chore.
Instead, I lean in closer and drop my gaze to where her breasts are straining against the material of her dress. Then I leisurely run my gaze up over the wildly beating pulse in her neck, all the way up to her lips. She used pink lip gloss tonight. I can’t wait to find out what flavour it is. Fuck it, why wait?
Before I can talk myself out of it, I cup the back of her head with my hand and lower my mouth to hers. I capture the faintest hint of her lip gloss – strawberries and cream – before she gasps. Taking advantage of her surprise, I stroke my tongue across hers.
The taste of Baileys and butterscotch race across my tastebuds. Desperate to consume more of her, I deepen the kiss. Her lips are so soft underneath mine and the way she mewls and tries to cling to me, even with the bar between us, leaves me hard and aching for her. It’s probably just as well that there is a bar between us. Had the barrier not been there, I would have had her out of her dress and down on the floor. Or, as I’ve fantasised about several times already this evening, I’d have her spread over the bar in front of me while I slide into her from behind. The thought of taking her like that nearly makes me lose my mind. The need to bury myself in her is as strong as the need to breathe; the way my heart jackhammers in my chest a direct echo of the throb in my dick.
Claire has been my fantasy woman for nine years; the woman I wasn’t supposed to think about or dream about, or ever pursue. But tonight she set this thing in motion between us, giving me the chance to act on every dirty, secret fantasy I’ve ever had about her. I let them all race through my head, every tawdry possibility, before I reluctantly let her go.
She’s panting as she stares at me.
“You’re too late,” she says, but her voice is shaky and holds no conviction.
“I’ll tell you what.” I lean on the bar again. “Hear me out tonight and if you’re not happy with what I have to say, I’ll back off. Not just on this, but about everything.”
“You’ll drop the big brother act?”
I hold up both hands in a sign of surrender. “I’ll never warn another guy off again.”
Though, thankfully, the stranger that was hitting on her has turned his attention elsewhere, so I don’t have to worry about him for now.
“Okay,” she says, albeit reluctantly. “You have a deal.”
“Don’t go anywhere,” I instruct.
“How much do I owe you for the drink?” she asks before I can turn away.
“The house owes you, Claire. And so do I. You really came through for me tonight.”
“I had fun,” she says with a small shrug. “But I guess you do owe me.”
“I’ll make it up to you tonight if you let me,” I say suggestively.
She’s playing at dubious, but she can’t quite hide the smile tugging at her lips, nor can she hide the anticipation that mirrors my own.
“Hell yeah,” I grin. “Cross my heart, hope to die.”
A/N: Thanks for reading! 🙂 Please like, share or leave a comment if you enjoyed the chapter, or please just keep reading.