Page 1

Chapter One


“Wanna fuck?”

Lovely approach. “Does that line ever actually work for you?”

The tactless drunk at least has the decency to look a little embarrassed. “Not really.”

“Perhaps you should try opening with a compliment instead. We like that much better. Go ahead, give it another try.”

“All right.” He gulps back the rest of what will now be the last vodka tonic he’s served tonight and slurs, “You got a nice rack.”

I shake my head and move to the next table. So much for trying to help the clueless ass. After taking drink refill orders from a half dozen tables, I pause, my attention drifting to the small stage. A gyrating woman is pouring her heart out, butchering “Hey Jude.” The sound is akin to nails scraping down a blackboard.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Beatles. Obviously. But this poor song is way too long. It needs to be retired permanently from the karaoke catalog. The drunkards in the front row sway their arms back and forth in the air—joining in on the off-key, off-pitch, off-beat marathon sing-along. Somehow, tonight it still makes me smile. I walk to the bar singing along quietly to myself, “Na na na nananana, nananana, hey Jude.”

“We’re getting drunk as soon as this place empties out tonight,” Avery yells over the deafening crescendo of the chorus. Suddenly, the singer on stage goes for the last na na na nananana and her voice breaks into a horrific earsplitting screech.

“I may not be able to wait that long.” I tip my chin in the general direction of the small stage at the other end of the bar and shake my head.

“She’s not that bad actually.”

I make a face that conveys what I don’t say out loud, and Avery rolls her eyes as she finishes making my drink order.

“You know, you could always show her how it’s done.”

I load my tray with the four drinks she’s made and stick my middle finger up at my best friend before heading back to the table of four middle-aged women searching for liquid courage.

Stopping at the wall lined with framed photos, I straighten a crooked picture of my dad and Bruce Springsteen with their arms slung over each other’s shoulders. They’re both sweaty messes from an impromptu hour-long jam session. It was taken at the bar’s one-year anniversary party. Seeing Dad’s smile brings out mine. I close my eyes briefly. Step two, Dad. I’m making progress.

“You ladies going to get up there and sing tonight?” I ask, trying to be friendly as I hand off three mojitos and a tequila sunrise. It’s the third tequila sunrise for the redhead with the thick bun wrapped at the nape of her neck. She’s already feeling no pain.

“I would love to,” slurs the redhead, “but I need to have a few more drinks before I’ll have the nerve.”

I nod, never one to push people past their limit. Redhead’s wearing a cream silk button-down blouse—buttons fastened all the way to the top—with a navy pencil skirt and matching blazer, a string of pearls completing her conservative ensemble. The outfit pairs perfectly with the demure bun. But as I start to walk away, something under the table catches my eye—and it’s not her impeccably crossed ankles. It’s the shoes. They definitely don’t go with the rest of the package. Five-inch Mary Jane stilettos, the red soles a dead giveaway that there is more to the woman than meets the eye.

Spending six nights a week for the last seven years here at Lucky’s has taught me a lot about people. I can usually spot a closet Beyoncé wanna-be a mile away. I smirk to myself, picturing Redhead standing in front of her bedroom mirror—letting her hair down and singing into her hairbrush wearing nothing but those nine-hundred-dollar Louboutins.

The crowd has doubled in the last half hour. It’s Saturday night and the late movie across the street just let out. I jump behind the bar to help Avery for a little while and tell the DJ to throw on some house music so he can pitch in waiting tables until things slow down. Twenty minutes later, I notice the drink order Avery is making.

“Those for the same group that ordered them a little while ago?” She’s finishing off mixing another round of mojitos, and the colors settling in the tall tequila sunrise glass are already at full peak.

“I think so. Redhead with a bun?”

“Yep. That’s her. I got twenty she’s our flasher.” Flasher is a term we use for the patron who takes us by surprise. Without fail, there’s one every weekend. They come in looking conservative, wearing their sleek taupe Burberry raincoats cinched tightly at the waist. But a few drinks and a microphone later, they’re up on stage whipping open their coats, flashing us their flesh as they grind their hips like a pro stripper. “Bet she’s covering a red G-string under that knee-length skirt too.”

“Her? Are you joking? She’s wearing fucking pearls.”

I arch an eyebrow. “Is that a yes?”

Avery reaches into her pocket and digs out a twenty. She shoves it into an empty glass and sets it on a shelf holding liquor bottles behind her. “Put your money up and cover the bar. I need to get a close look at Pearls and make a stop at the bathroom.”

“You know, I’m still your boss for another….” I look at my watch. Nearly eleven o’clock. “Five hours.”

“I’ve known you since middle school. Who are you kidding? You’ll still be the boss even after I own half the place.” She kisses me on the cheek as she rushes by.

Ten minutes later I’m still alone behind the bar and Avery is nowhere to be found. I’m sure she’s in the back alley smoking, even though she swears every day that she’s quit. I check the IDs of three very young-looking pretty girls—they’re over twenty-one, but barely. I can’t miss their conversation.

“Seriously, he has to be gay.”

“Why, because he hasn’t noticed you yet?”

“No, because he’s too perfect to be straight.”

“Could we buy someone a drink?” one of the young blondes asks me.

“Of course. What do you want me to send over?”

They giggle for a few minutes, then decide on a Screaming Orgasm for their intended target. I mix the vodka, Bailey’s and Kahlua and pour it over a tumbler of ice.

“Okay. Who’s the lucky recipient?”

All three of them point to the other end of the bar and say in unison, “Him.”

Lord. That is one beautiful man.

The three blondes were clearly not the only ones to notice. The brunette next to him with her full boobage on display is giving him her rapt attention when I walk over. Yet I feel his eyes on me as I walk down the long bar. I’m used to being hit on. Men seem to find an attractive woman whose sole purpose is to deliver them alcohol an alluring combination. They tend to become even bolder after tossing back a few drinks.

Halfway down the bar, I stop to refill a beer for a patron. I don’t need to look up as I pour to know Beautiful Man is still watching me. The hair on the back of my neck is all the confirmation I need. He never takes his gaze off me, even when I turn, catch his eyes, and silently call him on his staring.

“I’m here to deliver you a Screaming Orgasm.” Damn, he’s even hotter up close. Sandy-brown, shoulder-length hair tousled just the right amount to make him look like he’s just gotten laid. Long, lean torso, tattoos on his forearms peeking out from his long-sleeve fitted shirt. Nice. Then he smiles. Dimples. Yep. He definitely just got laid.