Returning my attention to the bar, I strained to hear her conversation with the random drunks gawking at her. Loud Mariachi music blaring in the background and annoying yells of over exuberant patrons made eavesdropping almost impossible. Trying to act bored as hell, I slipped into a seat at the end of the bar and leaned forward.“I’ll be with you in a minute.” Tilting her chin in my direction, she kept her focus on the sugary frozen concoction she created. Puckering her red lips, she blew a piece of hair out of her face that escaped the sloppy bun on top of her head.
A sloppy, candy red bun to match candy red lips.
The kind of lips that could tell a man any lie they wanted and he’d gladly buy any shit they sold for just a taste.
My dick twitched, reminding me it’d been a few days since I’d gotten laid. It didn’t help matters Emilio found it amusing to dress the bartenders in the tiniest denim shorts he could find, with black tank tops drawn across their chests so tight that the Caliente logo disappeared under their arms.
Well played, Emilio.
I’d never been one to chase women. I didn’t have to. They fell at my feet, crawled in my bed, and blew my phone up with calls and texts I never returned. But I found myself intrigued and unable to turn away as I watched Emilio’s new bartender flip through her texts, frown, and bite her lip, smearing the bright red lipstick that still had my pants in an uproar.
I watched her eyes glaze over as she muttered something under her breath and stared at the liquor bottles in front of her. With a long, drawn out sigh, she snuck a sweeping glance around the bar. Immediately, I dropped my eyes down to my phone, suddenly engrossed in a blank screen.
Do it. Be bad.
Satisfied no one watched, she bent down and pretended to tie her shoe, taking a bottle of vodka with her to the floor. Tucked safely underneath the sink, I shifted over the bar to get a better view of the show as she reached up with a slim, milky white arm and snagged a glass. Pouring two large shots, she downed them successively, grimacing at the eighty-proof burn.
Well, damn. She just became much more interesting to me.
I arched an eyebrow and fought a smile. “Bad day?”
“Bad life,” she shot back, narrowing her eyes and licking the remaining cheap vodka off her lips. Screwing the cap back on, she pushed off her heels and slipped the bottle back onto the counter.
“I would’ve gone for the Grey Goose myself. Drinking that shit is just asking for the day to get worse.” I should’ve stopped talking. I considered small talk to be a waste of time.
She dragged the back of her hand across her mouth. “I don’t remember asking your opinion.”
“Can I get a gin and tonic, please?” A man two seats down from me wore a pissed off impatient look I didn’t care for and waved a credit card in her face. My jaw ticked, but before I could put him in his place, pale blue eyes that could start a war pinned him to his seat.
“Here,” she drawled in a marked Southern accent as she threw a basket of chips on the bar. “Fill your mouth so shit stops coming out of it. I’ll get to you in a minute.”
Normally, that’d be cause for termination, but she amused the hell out of me. I couldn’t stand weak women, and this girl had enough fire for a room full of them. Plus, the asshole had it coming. I began to understand why Emilio spent so many nights at the cantina.
Catching my eye, a wicked smirk lifted the corners of her mouth as she placed her forearms on the bar and leaned in close enough for me to catch the scent of citrus and vanilla. It was a bizarre combination that lit a heated trail straight from my nose to my cock.
“So, what is it you want?”
You. Naked and spread out on this bar.
“I doubt you could handle it.” I refused to blink, holding her stare, making sure she understood the double entendre. I wanted to push her to see how she’d react, but honestly, I knew the answer to both meanings.
Nobody had been worth a fuck yet. I didn’t see why this would be any different.
My challenge seemed to piss her off and invigorate her at the same time. “Oh, I don’t know about that. Haven’t had any complaints yet.” Spreading her fingers wide on both hands, she slid her arms out and narrowed her eyes. “Give me your best shot.”
I’d give you my worst. I’d wreck you and leave you broken.
“Añejo tequila. Straight shot, in a stem glass—not a highball—room temp.” With her bizarre, intoxicating scent still fucking with my head, I realized she was knocking me off my game. I didn’t like it. So, being the ass I was, and remembering Emilio’s tendencies toward cheapness, I leaned in as well and towered over her. “And if it hasn’t aged at least three years, shove it up the owner’s ass.”
She brushed that damn stray hair out of her eye again and winked. “I’ll do my best.”
Swinging her hips all over the bar, she glanced my way a few times, making a big production of bending over unnecessarily to pick shit off the floor. More than once, I made silent deals with my cock to find it some uncomplicated pussy, if it’d calm the fuck down and stop trying to get a look at her ass too.
Before it could agree, a stem glass appeared under my nose just as I requested.
That’s a first.
Raising a questioning eye up at her, she smirked and nodded to the drink. “Well? Are you going to drink that or wait until Jesus turns it back into water?”
A full-chested laugh I barely recognized came from my mouth as I reached for the glass. “I think that was wine.”
She shrugged and waved her hand. “Whatever. Sunday School wasn’t my thing.”
As she watched me carefully, I hoped for the best and downed the shot with low expectations. The moment the liquid hit my tongue I knew I was fucked.
Dios mío, was I fucked.
By the smug look on her face, she knew it too.
Twirling the empty glass in my fingers, I studied the captivating woman with renewed interest. “How is it that you’re the only bartender in Houston who can get this drink right?”
Still grinning, she licked that damn lip again and returned the bottles to the shelf, the motion causing her tiny tank top to ride up and expose her flat stomach. “It’s not rocket science. Hell, some people would say I’m a hit or miss on making anyone happy.” Wiping down the counter, she shot me a look with untold pain hidden behind it. “Some people would even say I’ve never gotten anything right.”
“Some people don’t deserve to breathe your air.”
Fuck, I meant that. What was wrong with me?
Her face broke into the first genuine smile I’d seen from her all night not hidden behind a smirk or condescension, and my chest warmed. My fucking chest warmed, and it wasn’t from the tequila.
“So, you got a name, Danger?”
“Danger?” I tried for a flat tone, but my voice raised an octave, betraying my interest.
“Yeah, you know…as in, tall, dark, and dangerous?” She squinted her pale blue eyes and silenced an incoming text on her phone. “You look like you could get a girl in a lot of trouble.”
I wanted nothing more than to wipe that damn grin off her face. She looked so smug. So sure I wanted her.
Fuck, I wanted her. “You have no idea.”
Moments passed between us as we stared at each other in silence. That shock of red hair grabbed my attention again, and I couldn’t help but wonder who, or what, happened in her life to cause it. Nobody just did shit like that on purpose. Candy red colored hair just didn’t happen. It pissed me off that I even gave a shit. I wasn’t a good guy. I wasn’t even a decent guy. I didn’t ask girls their names, much less their stories.
“So, that’s it?” she asked, chin tilted and one hand resting on a cocked hip.
Shit, had she been talking to me this whole time? “What’s it?” I asked, trying to force a bored look.
“You really have no name?”
I shot her a pointed look, mentally slamming the door on her inquisition. “Danger works. I like it.”
I did. I liked it too damn much. And I hated nicknames. I thought they were childish and reserved for those annoying assholes who sat on the same side of the booth at restaurants. The ones who called each other ‘honey’ and ‘baby’ and fed each other bites of their own food and switched plates in the middle of dinner.
“Of course, you do,” she snorted in an unladylike, but oddly sexy way.
The bar started to get crowded, as patrons shoved bills toward her and demanded drinks. I watched them curiously, wondering what she’d do. To my pleasure, she held up a finger to them and kept her eyes on me.
Those eyes were what did it. Those pale blue eyes that tried to hide exhaustion exposed by the dark circles under her eyes and sadness well beyond her years. They sucked me in and broke one of my cardinal rules. “What about your name?”
“Hey, what about my drink? You think you could take a break from your date over there to do your job, honey?”
Her eyes flickered relief for a moment, then darkened, becoming void of emotion. “Duty calls. Glad I could meet your expectations, Danger.” She reached for the shot glass I held, and I grabbed her hand, my out-of-character reaction surprising both of us. Hesitating a moment, she lifted her eyes and met mine in a battle of wills.
I could tell we were both at war with what would happen next; I contemplated the consequences of fucking one of Emilio’s employees. He seemed fond of this one, and the moment it was over, I’d have no choice but to have her fired.
Shifting her weight, she made the decision for both of us when she released her hand from my grip and pointed toward the douchebag two seats down, now glaring at us. “Let me know if you want another.”
As she poured the asshole that cock blocked me a gin and tonic, I pulled three, twenty-dollar bills out of my wallet and placed them face down on the bar. The exorbitant tip wasn’t a handout, as I suspected she’d think after I left. I generally enjoyed her company. Which was exactly why I had to leave and never talk to her again.
She called me dangerous. If I was dangerous, she was fucking deadly.
My life revolved around the cartel, stray pussy, and money. I had no time for complications of anything else, and candy hair was a walking, talking complication. I knew in one touch, I had no business being near her. A woman like that could cause the destruction of a man like me.
While she argued with the dickbag about the amount of gin she shorted him, I slipped around the long end of the bar, through the kitchen, and out the back door. I cut myself off like a junkie jonesing for his next hit of short shorts and a-size-too-small tank top. After tonight, I knew I couldn’t afford the distraction.
Perfect drink or not, I was done with that girl.
So, I gave my business to every other bar in Houston and walked out of them pissed off and sober as hell for two months before I caved. However, I never returned to a barstool. Always sitting at one of the tables, I allowed young, annoying waitresses to serve me while I watched her flirt with a new man month after month until it got to be too much to take and stopped going altogether.
Cora Kenborn writes contemporary and romantic suspense novels with lots of danger, snarky banter, lovable bad boys, and damsels NOT in distress. She loves delving into the twisted mind of a dark villain as well as writing light-hearted romcom.
Cora gets a kick out of talking about herself in the third person and is a true Southern girl from Eastern North Carolina, who grew up on sweet tea, front porches, and the simple life. She says “y’all,” “fixin’ to,” and should you deserve it will “bless your heart.” She’s the proud mother of three hyperactive and occasionally adorable children, and wife to an understanding husband who tolerates her chaotic writer’s cave.
Although reading is her passion, she can usually be found taking notes during true crime shows, effectively freaking out everyone in the room. Cora admits to being a horrible cook, an even worse baker, and believes she’s more dangerous with a hot glue gun than any weapon on earth. Oh, and she and autocorrect are mortal enemies.