Cold Hearted Bastard
Okay, he’s good.
I’m taking a breather outside in the back of the bar, sitting on top of a decrepit, abandoned picnic table. My cell rings and I look down to see Jillian’s name on the display. “Hey.”
I blow out a breath. “Well, other than being constantly on the verge of going at it like a couple of wild animals, it’s going about as well as can be expected.”
She laughs. “Oh my god, I’m going to have to come down next weekend because I have got to see this.”
I sniff with indignation. “There’s nothing to see. Well, unless you want to stare at his ass.” God that ass. His whole body is custom designed to drive me insane. I want to dig my nails into his skin and feel the flex of his muscles under my hands.
Jillian’s next statement rips me from my lust-filled thoughts. “Gwenie, he’s throwing you off your game. This is awesome.”
“Whatever.” There’s a rustling over the line. “Tell me everything.”
“I’m not the first one to make him an offer—”
She cuts me off. “No, not that. Tell me everything about him.”
I frown. “There’s nothing to tell. He’s so hot he should be illegal. He oozes sex appeal, melts the panties off every woman he comes in contact with. He’s arrogant, thinks he’s god’s gift, and grumpy as hell. He’s hardly an original. What else is there to say?”
“If that’s the case, why is he getting to you?”
I prop my elbows on my knees and narrow my eyes on the bar. It’s constructed like a house—white frame, Southern, and charming—like the kind of place you’d go to for tea. “He’s not getting to me. It’s sex. Pheromones.”
It’s like I’ve been having foreplay for hours. Since we’re not pretending we’re not attracted to each other, and we both clearly get off on verbal sparring, we’ve been taunting each other all day. I bite my lip.
Is it weird I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun? He’s not like other men. He’s gruff, rough, and has a terrible outlook on women that offends all of my feminist sensibilities, but he doesn’t treat me like other guys do.
I like it.
Usually I have a male eating out the palm of my hand in about five minutes flat. I’m not bragging, it’s just the way it is. In my experience, men fall into three distinct categories: There’s the romantic who wants to write sonnets about my beauty and put me on a pedestal to be worshiped. Those are the worst guys for me because they are so nice they force me to be extra gentle and sweet with them. In turn, my behavior reinforces their perception of me, but has little to do with who I actually am as a person. It’s not long before I grow frustrated at not being able to be myself while they grow infatuated with me.
Type two is the douche bag that thinks because they’re hot and I’m hot that it’s enough. That we can workout together and have threesomes, and call me babe. They’re usually not that bright and I have zero patience for them.
Then there’s the third type that I try really, really hard to be attracted to. They are smart, successful and driven. Just like me they are dedicated to their profession and aren’t looking for a woman to be all needy and clingy. They have secure egos and like showing me off to their business associates. These are the men I normally date. But I don’t know—I like them, we usually have fantastic sex, but they don’t know me. They don’t understand what makes me tick and because of that we’re always a half out of step from being truly engaged.
But in these last—I glance at my watch—fourteen hours with Jackson I feel engaged and alive in a way I never have in my life. Which is why he’s so incredibly dangerous. But here I am, unable to resist playing with fire.
I suck in a breath and blow it out, realizing Jillian has been letting me think for the last five minutes while she sits patiently on the line.
Softly, she says, “You okay?”
“I know, maybe you should just go for it.”
“If I do, he’ll say no to working for me, and I won’t be able to change his mind.”
“Do you think there’s a chance he’ll say yes?”
I drop my head and press it into the palm of my hand. “Probably not, but if I sleep with him there’s no chance. He’ll never look at me as a boss.”
I think of the mozzarella stick he gave me. I glanced at the menu and he’d pretty much given me the most basic thing on it, by design, of that I was sure, and it was still on my list of the top twenty-five things I’ve ever put in my mouth. And remember, I’ve eaten all over the world, been invited to all the best restaurants, been prepared private meals by top chefs. So the fact that he made a cheese stick, he wasn’t even trying at, taste like a wet dream is a testimony to his genius.
I’m obsessed with him in more ways than one. “Jillian, it has to be him.”
“I will be.”
A touch more in control, I go back inside to see Beau has arrived and is talking to Jackson.
I slide back onto the stool I’ve occupied most of this morning and Beau swivels his head to look at me, raising a brow. “You back, red?”
I smile. “Yep. I’m back.”
He glances at Jackson. “Interesting.”
Beau crosses his arms and kicks back against the back counter. “She sprained her wrist and with her vacation she’s out of commission for a few weeks.”
Jackson scrubs a hand over his jaw. “No way Jeanie can pick up all her shifts, we’ll have to pull in some favors and find someone to fill in.”
Beau’s expression widens with surprise while Jackson’s darkens like a summer storm cloud. He scowls at me. “You will not.”
I turn away from him and appeal to Beau, who has no interest in getting rid of me. “I’m in town for a couple of weeks, I’ve worked in restaurants since I was sixteen and own a place in Chicago. There’s not a job in this place I can’t do with one hand tied behind my back.” I flick a glance at Jackson. “Including bartending.”
A slow, lazy smile curls Beau’s lips. I was so distracted by Jackson last night I didn’t notice that while Beau’s older, probably in his late fifties, he’s quite handsome himself. He tilts his head. “And why would you want to do that, girl?”
Beau laughs and shoots a sly glance at Jackson. “Leave it to you to be stalked by a gorgeous redhead. Can’t you do anything right?”
Jackson shakes his head. “No. Not going to happen.”
“You are not going to sit around here for two weeks. No way. I’ll throw you out if I have to.”
This doesn’t dissuade me because, despite his words, I see the fire in his eyes when he looks at me. He wants me around. He just doesn’t know it yet.
I put my hands together in prayer and turn to Beau. “Please, please, please?”
Beau chuckles. “Works for me.”
Jackson actually growls.
“Fabulous. When should I start?”
A group of guys come in and park themselves at a table. Beau juts his chin at them. “Might as well start right now, game’s on in thirty and we’ll be filling up soon.”
Beau claps Jackson on the back. “Gonna get some paperwork out of the way.”
He takes his leave and I grin at Jackson. “I win.”
He glares at me, picks up a black apron and tosses it to me. “Get to work.”
So this is it, I have my in. Nonstop access to Jackson with nothing to do but wear him down. Of course, this requires me resisting his vampire-like magnetism effect he has on me. I jump up and tie the apron around my waist. “This is going to be fun.”
I laugh, grab a hairband out of my bag and get to work.
What the fuck?
These appear to be the only three words I can use in dealing with Gwen Johnson. After four hours of watching her work, my jaw aches from gritting my teeth. She’s a snake charmer, that’s what she is. The devil.
A witch sent to drive me insane.
She’s brilliant. Men want her. Women want to be her. And she’s got the most gorgeous smile I’ve ever seen.
I want to throttle and hate fuck her simultaneously.
I glare at the group of guys, drunk now after countless rounds, too much testosterone and Gwen. A blond guy that looks like a linebacker puts his hand on her ass and I think about breaking his fingers.
Gwen, of course, handles it like a pro, grinning and giving him a playful wag of the finger, before moving out of his way. The truth is, she’s probably had to remove a guy’s hand from her ass ten thousand times and she knows just how to handle it. How to handle them.
How the hell am I going to deal with her for two weeks?
“You’re gonna break that bottle.” Beau’s voice rips me from my primal, caveman-like thoughts.
“Shut up, Beau.” I give him a death glare. “Wasn’t it last night you wanted her to stay away?”
“Well, fuck you.”
He laughs, low and lazy. “She’s gonna break you, boy.”
“You know she’s looking to hire me away?” I shoot him a sidelong glance to catch his reaction.
“Yeah, that’s how I figured it. No other reason for her to show up.”
“It’s not gonna happen.”
He gives me a sly smile. “That’s not the kind of breakin’ I’m talking about.”
I shift my attention back to Gwen. Maybe I’m approaching things all wrong. Maybe pounding into her is just what I need to get her out of my system. Even if I were interested, even if it were possible, which it ain’t, there’s no way in hell I’d ever work for her, so what am I resisting?
I look away. I know the answer to that and don’t like it. I shake my head. “Not happening.”
“Son, the two of you won’t last the day.”
“Fuck off.” She bellies up to the service station in her tight jeans and black tee, scooped low so I can see the swell of her breasts. I walk over to her and jut my chin. “What do you need, darlin’?”
“Probably.” I try to tear my gaze away from her mouth and fail.
With hungry eyes she rattles off her order. When she’s done she swallows hard. “Most men can’t pull off a darlin’.”
“Most men you deal with are city.” I’m unable to resist raking my eyes over her chest, pausing to imagine sucking her nipples into my mouth. “This is the South, we pull off a whole lot of things down here.”
“I’m seeing that.”
I move away and grab her drinks, wondering if I’m going to spend the two weeks she’ll be here with a serious case of blue balls. Fuck. I need to get laid.
A brunette, with her top tied under her tits and shorts so short you can see the curve of her ass, has been hitting on me since the second she got here. She’s a hot little piece, and twenty-four hours ago I’d have already had her sucking my cock in the back room. Today I haven’t looked at her twice.
I need to rectify that.
My plan’s in place, but then I turn back to Gwen and put her drinks on the tray. Without even thinking about it, I wrap my fingers around her wrist, rubbing my thumb over her pulse just to feel it pound under my touch. “I’m not most men, darlin’.”
She doesn’t pull away but her fingers flex and tighten. “I hate you.”
“I hate you too.” Looking into her electric-blue eyes I forget all about the brunette.
I am playing with fucking fire. “Tell that guy to stop touching your ass.”
Her expression flashes. “Tell that brunette to stop raping you with her eyes.”
I grin. “You had to fuck yourself in the bathroom yet?”
Jesus Christ I like this girl.
Which is why she’s trouble.