She’s dreaming of a life of excitement and romance. He’s searching for something real.
When rock sensation Joe Hawk wanders into the diner where Liss works her dark night is brightened by his incredibly blue eyes and sexy smile. The attraction is immediate and every moment is charged with erotic heat.
The first impression is easy. Taking the next step is much harder. The plus sized beauty has to overcome her insecurities to take a risk on a man whose life is the opposite of everything she’s ever known and changing faster than either of them realizes.
From the first electric touch their chemistry is undeniable and the possibilities are endless.
Liss leaves everything she knows behind for an adventure of a lifetime. Life on the road is wild and intoxicating, a constant party that ends every night with laughter and passion. But when the plus sized beauty finds herself falling in love with Joe but out of love with his lifestyle, she has to decide who she wants to be and where that leaves her budding relationship.
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This book is also available in serial format of three novellas:
I sighed, put down the towel I was using to wipe off the counter and walked the few steps to roll my eyes where he could see me. “Darrell, I’m right over there and we only have one customer. I don’t think the bell and the yelling are necessary.”
My boss shrugged and pushed the plate of eggs across the pass at me. “Sorry, kiddo. This old dog ain’t learning nothing new. I been ringing that bell for a hundred years and I’ll be ringing it on my way down to Hell.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. As much as working all night left me tired and out of sync with the rest of the world, I did enjoy Darrell’s folksy weirdness. Over the past month, we’d fallen into a comfortable rhythm to keep each other entertained while the diner was basically empty.
“You’re not that old, boss,” I reassured him as I grabbed two slices of toast to deliver to the only other person in the place.
Darrell rang the bell again to get my attention. “God hates liars, kiddo. I’m older ‘n dirt and just as sour.” He laughed and went back to humming along to the radio that played softly in the kitchen.
I put the plate down in front of our customer and asked if she needed anything else, wondering idly if dirt was actually sour. That would probably depend on what kind and where it came from. There could be sweet dirt and spicy dirt. Sour dirt and bland dirt.
Depressed at the fact I was even thinking about it so much, I shrugged my shoulders a few times to clear my head. We needed to get the television fixed so there’d be something besides the all-night oldies station to distract me before I went crazy – crazier? – and started taste-testing from the empty planters.
Trying to maintain what was left of my sanity, I checked all the napkin dispensers and straightened up the prep area. By the time that was done, our only customer had finished and left and all was even quieter. I collected my twenty-five cent tip, showed it to Darrell with a sarcastic happy shimmy and sat down on a stool at the counter to wait for the sun to rise. Outside, I could see a steady stream of people heading away from the diner. The concert venue down the street had just let out and the audience was clearly energized by the show, but not enough to want a middle-of-the-night grease fix.
Darrell saw where I was staring and sniffed. “They used to flock in here. Sleep in the booths, puke in the restrooms, but it was fun to watch. Now they hit the fast food down the road and never even turn this way.”
“That’s a shame,” I said automatically, not really paying attention. My mind was elsewhere, imagining I had the kind of life that involved concerts with scores of friends and wandering down the street towards home together, high on the show and whatever we’d ingested during it. I missed having my pack of friends around me for nights of fun and laughing ourselves breathless. I could imagine the kids I saw out the window doing that, dancing until they collapsed and falling asleep with smiles on their faces. But that was not my life.
I shook off the fantasy as the door opened and someone stepped inside.
“You still open?” he asked the mainly empty room.
“Uh, yeah. Sit anywhere.” I stumbled getting up and darted around the counter awkwardly to grab him a menu.
The guy sat down right in front of me and flashed an exhausted but bright smile. I stared at him like a lobotomized fool. He was insanely hot. Like magazine cover hot. Tall and thin, but with clearly defined lean muscles under a tight black t-shirt. His hair was dark and slicked back, or maybe just wet. It framed a tanned face and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. His mouth was almost femininely full and red, but that wide smile was slightly crooked in a way that made my insides turn to molten lava. There was a smudge of what looked like eyeliner or mascara under his left eye, and it took all my self-control to keep from reaching out to wipe it away.
“So, can I see that or do I have to guess what’s in it?”
“Huh?” I looked down at my hand and realized I was gripping the menu like a security blanket. So uncool. “Oh yeah. Sorry.” I handed it over and when his fingertips brushed mine a shock went through us both.
“Oops.” He laughed and dropped the menu, unopened. “You okay?”
“Uh huh,” was all I could manage.
“Sorry about the shock. Happens a lot after shows.”
“Oh, were you at the concert?”
He narrowed his eyes as if he thought I was making fun of him or something. “Yeah…”
“That explains the makeup under your eye.”
“Oh shit. I am not a normal guyliner wearer, I promise. Just lost a bet.” He swiped at his face a couple of times, managing to miss the little smudge completely. “Did I get it?”
I laughed. “Not even close. You can use the bathroom to check if you want.”
“Thanks,” he replied. “But I’m starved. I’ll order something first.”
“Okay. I’ll give you a minute with the menu.” I went to leave but he reached out a hand and touched my arm. His fingers were long and thin, but strong. Three had silver rings with mysterious symbols on them. I thought one might be a bird of some kind.
“Wait. Forget the menu. Tell me what’s the best thing for a late night hunger.”
I stared at him for a moment and thought the best thing for my late night hunger would be a long session involving the two of us on a bed in a dark room. But aloud, I recommended the french toast and bacon.
“Yeah? How come?”
“Sweet and salty. Perfect for this late hour. Plus we make the bread here. Very yummy.”
“Works for me. And a big glass of water, please.”
I scribbled the order down and then shoved it at Darrell, who’d been uncharacteristically quiet so far. He arched an eyebrow at me and then turned to the griddle, still not saying anything.
I shrugged, poured the water and delivered it to the new guest star in all of my future sexual fantasies. “Anything else?”
“Nope. I’m good-uh, what’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Liss,” he said, sticking out his hand to shake. “I’m Joe.”
I took his hand and he shocked me again. This time, it actually kind of hurt.
“Shit, sorry. Again.” He pulled back his hand and placed it on the counter. “Which way’s the bathroom?”
I pointed and he smiled as he stood. “I guess our chemistry is electric, Liss.”
If Darrell hadn’t laughed at me, I would have stood there the whole time Joe was gone with my mouth hanging open in surprise. Was he flirting? With me? Nah, impossible. He was a sexy, too-cool-for-school type with incredible eyes and stunning good looks. I was a chubby waitress with messy hair and mustard on my apron. Definitely not flirting. Right?
By the time Joe sat back down, I’d thoroughly convinced myself it was ridiculous to even consider that he might be interested in me and settled back into my night-long funk. When I brought over his food, he smiled and dug in. Not wanting to hover, I stood over by the register and looked at my watch every five seconds to keep from staring at him.
However, he did notice and looked kind of hurt. “Um, I am I keeping you guys open?”
“No.” I laughed weakly. “We’re twenty-four-seven here. I was just, um, trying to figure out how long I’ve been up.”
Joe grinned, mouth full of food, with a drop of syrup caught in the corner of his mouth. On anyone else it would be gross, but he made it work. The drop of syrup sliding down his chin helped. I wanted, with all of my heart, to lick it off for him. Oh my god, I felt terrible. Practically drooling on myself like I’d never seen a man before. But the truth was, I suddenly felt like I hadn’t. At least not one that mattered. Joe was art in human form and close enough to touch.
“…know what you mean. Last week I was up for like forty-five hours straight. I think I might have started hallucinating. Weird colors everywhere.”
I had no idea what he was talking about, having been lost in a reverie of feeling bad for myself and my underutilized ladyparts. It’s possible that my habit of referring to them as “ladyparts” was a big part of the problem. That and most of the men I met at work were either over the age of seventy, long haul truckers or really skeevy. In some cases, all three at the same time. The diner served good food, but considering the neighborhood, the clientele wasn’t exactly A-list.
Of course, neither was I. Most of the girls my age were either off in college, married with kids or working real jobs downtown. Me and my oversized thighs were stuck out here where the entrance of Joe was the most exciting thing to happen all year. Possibly for all of my life.
“…nothing like it. The comedown is rough but you can stay up for a week.”
He looked at me and I returned the gaze blankly. “Um, yeah. But I won’t bore you with my stories anymore.”
“No!” I cried out, a little too loud. “I mean, you’re not boring. I’m being rude.”
He grinned that wide, lopsided smile again and my knees actually felt week.
“I understand. And sorry for talking your ear off. It’s just…I don’t get to talk like a normal person much lately.”
I gave up on my pathetic attempt to play it cool and went to stand in front of him. Behind m,e I could hear Darrell washing dishes and scraping down the grill, which was my job. What the hell? Must have been my lucky night. Hot friendly guy in the place and getting to skip my least favorite chores? Nice.
“So how come you don’t get to talk like a normal person?”
“Well, you know,” he replied, running his fingers through his hair. It was drying in spiky cowlicks all over his head. Kind of adorable. “Ever since the single, things are pretty wild.”
He looked embarrassed for some reason I couldn’t fathom.
“Yeah, I can see that.” I actually had no clue what he was talking about but didn’t want him to think I wasn’t paying attention. Again. So I just played along and nodded.
There was an awkward silence and I watched him fidgeting with his fork, noticing his beautiful hands again. “Are you done? Want something else to eat?”
“Nah. Hey, since it seems pretty quiet in here, why don’t you come sit by me? We can talk some more and you don’t have to feel like you need to keep serving me stuff.”
I looked over my shoulder into the kitchen but my boss was turned the other way, writing something. Probably inventory notes for the morning shift. “Hmm, okay. For a minute.” I walked around the counter, smoothing down my apron and climbed up on the stool next to Joe.
“So, what do you want to talk about?”
He turned to face me and I couldn’t help notice how tight his jeans were. And artfully distressed. “Anything. Tell me about your day. Or night, I guess. Anything interesting happen? Weird orders? A regular who loves strawberry sauce and peanut butter on his burgers or something?”
I laughed, finally relaxing, and told him the few fun stories I had from the night shift. Most involved people falling asleep in their food and cops getting emergency calls while stopping in for coffee, but Joe seemed to like them just fine. He kept his eyes trained on mine as I spoke, giving me all of his attention. It made me blush and smile.
Before I knew it, we’d been talking for hours. Or rather, I had. After I ran out of diner stories, I’d told him about my family, moving out on my own, high school stories and summarized the plots of the last three books I’d read. Joe had piped in with questions and comments occasionally, but whenever I tried to steer the conversation to his life instead of mine, he deflected it. It felt nice to have someone listen to me, if a little strange.
I was in the middle of explaining my favorite method of getting the first slice out of a pie cleanly when the morning staff of the diner walked in, their customary banter loud and jarring in the early morning. Joe seemed uncomfortable as soon as they entered and he reached into his pocket and dropped some money on the counter as one of the dishwashers eyed him strangely.
“Guess I better go. Thanks for the grub. And the company.” He grinned and walked out.
I’d wanted to say something—anything—but didn’t get the chance. I was surrounded by my co-workers and their chattering.
Still in a daze, I finished my work, clocked out and left, the sun rising as I said goodnight. In the light the entire night felt like a dream. But as I rounded the corner there was Joe, leaning against the wall. He’d pulled on a pair of sunglasses so all I could see in his eyes was my own reflection. After such a long night, my bedraggled appearance was not a welcome sight, even if he was. “Hey.”
“Hi. Sorry for leaving like that but I, uh, wasn’t expecting a bunch of people to show up.”
“No problem.” I looked up at him and shrugged.
“Is your car parked nearby?”
“At my place. It barely runs and I live close.”
“Okay, then maybe I can walk you home?”
“Don’t you have somewhere to be? In bed?”
His face was inscrutable behind the glasses but the corners of his mouth quirked up a bit. “Don’t I wish.”
Joe held out his arm and I took it, leading him down the street towards my apartment. Once again, I found myself questioning his comments. Like before, it was off-handed but kind of flirty. And he had waited for me.
I decided to stop torturing myself and just see what happened. In the incredibly unlikely event he was flirting, it would become obvious. And if he was just lonely and looking for someone to talk to, that was fine. Better than fine. I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with friends lately. In the three years since high school, it seemed someone else disappeared from my circle every week. Party invitations dwindled, nights out became quick coffees and I spent more time with Darrell than anyone else in my life. Even one night of pleasant conversation with Joe was worth it.
We walked along arm-in-arm in silence for a while. Then Joe asked me a question about the name of the street we were crossing and I found myself explaining the history of the neighborhood, from the shipyard that had closed when I was a kid to the clubs and bars that had been steadily leaving the area for the past few years. Aside from the small concert hall and a jazz club a few blocks up, the once-hip neighborhood had become quiet and rundown. Which was the only reason I could afford to live there, but still. It was kind of sad.
Once again we’d passed a lot of time with mostly me talking. When we finally reached my building, I didn’t want to stop. Usually I hit the front steps exhausted from the night and barely able to drag myself upstairs. But with Joe, I was energized and a little hyper.
“This is me,” I said, unwinding my arm from his.
“Oh.” He looked up at the crumbling brick façade. “Nice building.”
I snorted. “No, it isn’t. But it’s safe and clean and cheap.”
He nodded. “And close to work.”
I found myself staring at his mouth and chin while he talked. There was a little cleft in it I hadn’t noticed before. Super sexy.
“Huh? Oh yeah, close to work. Right.”
“Right.” Joe shoved his hands in his pockets and his shirt rode up, revealing a strip of smooth skin I wanted to run my tongue across.
That thought screaming in my head, I blurted, “See ya!” like a total dork and started climbing the stairs.
But before I made it two steps, he was next to me again. He grabbed my face and turned me to him, planting a kiss on my lips. It started soft but grew deeper when I stopped moving away. My lips parted and he took it as an invitation. Joe’s tongue touched mine and I gasped. Reflexively, I returned the kiss and sagged close to him, lost in the moment. My hands landed on the waistband of his jeans and we stood there in front of the juststarting-to-wake neighborhood exploring each other’s mouths.
The sound of a trash truck going by jolted me back to reality and I pulled away, breathless. I guess that answered the flirting or not question after all.
Joe looked nervous and it somehow gave me confidence.
“Wanna come up?” I asked quietly.
I pulled out my keys and he took my other hand. We went into my building and held hands the whole way. Only when we were inside my tiny studio apartment did he release me.
Joe flung his sunglasses onto a table and circled the room.
Suddenly shy again, I tried to read his mind from facial expressions. “See? Not much going on here.”
“It’s small but really nice, Liss. Warm and comfortable. Exactly what I’d expect your place to be like.”
It warmed me to know he’d been thinking about what my apartment would look like. I gestured at one of the chairs next to my miniscule table. “Have a seat. Want something to drink?”
Joe grabbed my hand as I went to go by him into the kitchen. He spun me around and pulled me close enough to smell him. A hint of sweat under soap. Delicious.
“You’ve served me enough today, Liss. Relax.”
I looked up into his eyes and my whole body tensed in a wonderful way. This time, I kissed him, picking up where we left off downstairs. There was no shyness or questioning. Our lips parted and tongues danced together.
Joe pulled me tight against his body and I could feel every muscle in his long, lean form. His arms wrapped around my waist and I sighed into his mouth, gripping the back of his shirt. The kiss deepened and he nibbled at my lower lip before sucking my tongue back into his mouth. His hands slid down over my butt, yanking me still closer. Joe’s heart thudded in his chest against mine. His arousal ground against me and I ran my hands up his back, beneath the shirt. His skin was soft and warm under my fingers.
We careened away from the center of the room and over to my single bed in the corner. I said a brief thanks for whatever inspired me to make the bed before leaving for work as we tumbled down in a mass of arms and legs. Joe pulled me on top of him but I rolled to my side, not wanting him to bear my full weight.
His thigh was between mine and I snuggled closer, relishing the sensation. My hair fell into my eyes and covered both of our faces, but I was too busy exploring the tight sheets of muscles in his back to do anything about it. Joe’s fingers crawled up over my belly and then grazing the underwire of my bra.
Feeling the flat of his palm on my skin brought me back to reality and I broke off the kiss and squirmed backwards as far as possible.
“I’m sorry,” he said breathlessly. “Too fast?”
Pulling my shirt down, I shook my head. “No, it’s just…my stomach.” I blushed and looked away.
Joe grunted. “Don’t be stupid. Your body is amazing. I couldn’t stop staring at you in the diner.”
Really? “I didn’t notice.”
“I’m glad I was slicker than I thought about it, but yeah.” His hand reached out to touch me. “God, Liss. You’re gorgeous.”
I licked my lips and finally met his gaze again. “You’re not so bad yourself, Joe.”
He smiled and scooted closer to me. There was blistering desire in his eyes. “Prove it.”
His lips seared mine when they met. Any nerves about him touching my decidedly-imperfect body disappeared and I gave myself over completely to making out with him. Within minutes, my bra was unhooked and his shirt was on the floor somewhere. A line of tattoos snaked up his right arm over the shoulder and one looked just like the bird on his ring. I briefly considered asking about it as I ran my hands over his bicep, but his fingers found my nipple at that moment and I decided it could wait. I moaned and arched my back, heat flaring brighter in my core.
Joe’s lips slid down over my chin and throat, coming to rest where my pulse thundered under the skin. “I want you so much,” he whispered against my neck.
I was about to reply when something under my hand vibrated. A second later, rhythmic beeping sounded. “What’s that?”
“My phone. Ignore it,” he barked, before kissing his way over my shoulder, pushing my shirt out of the way.
“Okay.” And after it stopped making sounds, his phone was forgotten.
Joe slid down my body and started kissing a line down my center until he came to the waistband of my jeans. His fingers gripped my hips and I moaned just as the phone rang again. He let loose a string of curses and yanked it from his back pocket, resting his chin right below my belly button and keeping his eyes on my face as he answered the call.
“What?” He paused, trailing fingers lightly up my arm, raising goosebumps. “No.” The silkiness left his voice and he sat up, frowning. “Fine.” He cast a glance at me and smiled tightly. It wasn’t the freewheeling crooked grin I’d grown to adore so quickly, and I knew he was leaving. “All right. I’ll get a cab and be there in a few minutes.”
I pulled my knees up and hugged myself.
Joe hung up the phone and looked at me again. “I have to go.”
“That was my manager. We have a thing that I forgot about and everyone’s pissed.” He stood up but then bent down to rub his stubbled cheek against mine. “Believe me when I say I’d rather stay with you all day.” His hand grazed my breast and he sighed. “Really, really want to stay.”
“I understand.” I didn’t.
He stepped away slowly and just stared at me for a long moment before grabbing his shirt and heading out the door. “Call me later, okay? We’re staying at the Griffin Hotel.”
“Okay,” I said, and as the door shut behind him, I collapsed into a heap of frustration.
I woke up a couple hours later still mostly dressed, incredibly uncomfortable and grumpy. I rolled over and looked around my apartment. When my eyes landed on Joe’s sunglasses, I smiled, wondering how soon I could call him so I could return them. Figuring he’d still be busy with whatever he was doing, I decided to just find the phone number for the hotel. So it was convenient when I did call. Much later. Not at all immediately, like the desperately smitten girl I was.
First I stripped down and put on a robe, piling my clothes into the over-full hamper. I turned my phone on and went to search for the Griffin Hotel. I copied the phone number down and clicked over to read emails, snuggling back into bed.
Nothing looked very interesting, so I read some headlines and came across a news story about the club down the street from the diner. The article talked about the show last night, a surprise set from Dream Defiled, some local band whose new album was selling incredibly well. The gig was a real coup for the club, down on its luck since the area started going downhill. The writer seemed to think that one performance from the band on the cusp of fame could turn the whole neighborhood’s luck around, which seemed silly to me. Hell, I’d never even heard of the group before. I searched for them, wondering what all the fuss was about and saw that I did know their music. The single, “Full Dark,” was everywhere the past few weeks, and I was intrigued.
My heart stopped when I opened a link to their Wikipedia page. There was a picture of the group and right there in the middle, half turned away, familiar spiky hair and strong naked back, stood Joe. Joe Hawk. The lead singer and songwriter of Dream Defiled. Who’d just left my apartment. Who I’d been kissing and groping. Whose stubble had left red marks on my neck.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”
The whole night suddenly made more and less sense that the same time. He’d assumed I knew who he was and why he was in the neighborhood. And his manager had called, probably for an interview or photo shoot or whatever the hell rock bands did while they weren’t on stage.
I’d been making out with a guy on the cusp of mega-stardom. In my teeny apartment. Oh god.
A day and a half later, I was still reeling from the shock. Not only had I been making out with a really hot virtual stranger, but he turned out to be the front man for a famous rock band. Too weird. Too crazy for my life.
After many hours of rehashing on the phone, my friend Kelly got sick of me going on and on. She asked me to join her and some friends from her college at a bar. I was planning on spending my night off in pajamas reading, but I owed her one after making her listen to my ranting all afternoon. And so I found myself standing against a wall sipping a beer while Kelly and her friends did shots and acted wild.
I wasn’t sure when it started, but my whole life, it seemed I ended up the adult around my friends. From skinned knees in grade school to missed curfews in high school and even now, I was sober and making sure they didn’t get out of control. Hell, I didn’t even really like crowded places. And I certainly didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of a hundred people.
It wasn’t that I wanted to be the one dancing on the bar. I wasn’t remotely coordinated enough and no one wanted to see me shaking my big butt up there. But still, it would be nice to feel like part of the party once in a while.
After checking the time, I groaned. It wasn’t even midnight. I’d be stuck there for another couple of hours and then probably have to help Kelly get home. By the time I managed to make my way back across town, it would be almost morning. Just like I’d been at work and about as fun.
Though, of course, one recent night of work had ended up being pretty entertaining. Joe’s sexy, crooked smile flashed through my head and I smiled, taking a long drink. My brush with a rock star. I could see the gossip blog headlines already. Not that I’d ever do something like that to Joe. Or that anyone would believe me. A picture of my frizzy hair and less-than-fashionable curves would scream “obsessive loser and liar.”
But Joe didn’t feel that way. He liked my body. He’d said so, yeah. But I knew it was true by the way he’d looked at me. How he’d touched me. Excitement flooded through me again and I sighed, wishing we’d gotten to finish what we started.
There was some kind of commotion in the bar and as I looked for the source. As if I’d conjured him up with wanting, there was Joe, shoving through the crowd with three other guys I now recognized as his bandmates. He was even sexier than I remembered. He was in total rock mode. Super-tight dark pants and a t-shirt that looked painted on. His arms were bare, tattoos almost glowing under the lights. He clearly hadn’t shaved since I’d seen him and the stubble was dark and close to being an actual beard now. The framing of dark hair on his head and face made his bright blue eyes stand out even more.
Even from twenty feet, he took my breath away and made long-neglected parts of my body tingle. I smoothed my hair and clothes while telling myself that I wouldn’t go over and talk to him.
Kelly ran over and grabbed my arm. “Is that him?”
I nodded, keeping my eyes on Joe. He’d managed to snag a table and seemed to be coordinating drink orders. Meanwhile, all around them, the crowd pressed closer. Girls casually strolled into their line of vision, each one angling to get some bare square of flesh in sight.
“You gonna stand there staring at him all night or go say something?”
“Neither. I’m going to go hide behind that pole on the other end of the bar.”
A song ended just as she screeched, “What?” and half of the heads in the place turned to look at us. Joe included.
I groaned and prayed to be invisible, to no avail. But he barely glanced at me, before turning back to his friends. That stung. Whether he didn’t recognize me or didn’t care, I downed the rest of my beer and headed up to the bar for another.
I spent the next thirty minutes tucked into the far corner of the bar, close enough to flag down the bartender but hidden from sight from most of the rest of the crowd. I’d spotted Kelly wandering around trying to find me a few times but managed to evade her. What I really wanted to do was go home and hide but I wouldn’t leave her without warning and wasn’t ready for that conversation just yet.
After another two beers, I’d practically forgotten about Joe. Which is exactly when he sidled up to the bar next to me, of course.
“Liss, where’d you go? I’ve been looking for you.”
“Yes.” His words were a bit slurred and he didn’t look very steady on his feet.
“I’ve been right here.”
“Oh. Look,” he said, running his fingers nervously through his hair. “I know you don’t want to talk to me but I just had to say hello.”
Now I gave him my full attention. “Why do you think I don’t want to talk to you?”
“You never called. You didn’t come over and say anything when I saw you earlier. I got the message.”
“Joe…” I started, but didn’t know what to say next. I’d been so busy thinking he snubbed me when I’d done the same to him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to interrupt your group and I’m not really comfortable in crowds.”
He nodded. “This place is a little nuts tonight. We’re only here because of me. I used to sneak in here in high school and thought it would be cool to visit again legally before we head out on the road again.” With that admission, he grinned and I melted.
Looking around at the trying-too-hard décor and drunken flailing customers, I laughed. “Was it as wonderful as you remember?”
He chuckled. “No. But you are.”
Every part of me warmed, and it wasn’t just the beer.
Joe moved in close, draping an arm over my shoulder and putting his lips almost against my ear. “I am really sorry about the other night. Or morning. Whatever. I get it if you’re mad at me for bailing like that.”
I could smell whiskey on his breath, sweet and smoky. “It’s fine. I was bummed but you had something to do. It wasn’t like we planned to spend the day together.”
“Yeah, but I would have. Day, night. Anything.” He was practically purring in my ear by this point and it made my stomach do flip-flops.
“Next time,” I gasped.
“What about right now?”
“Aren’t you supposed to be hanging out with your friends?”
He slid his hand down my back and kissed me on the cheek. “I spend twenty-four hours a day with those guys. I want to be with you. In every sense of the word.”
I closed my eyes and willed my heart to start beating again. I don’t know if it was the beers or the way he touched me but I nodded. “I have to say goodnight to my friend.”
“Okay. Let’s go.” Joe took my hand and we eventually found Kelly. She saw our entwined fingers and just waved goodbye. I felt a flash of guilt for ditching her, but then Joe yanked me to his side and I forgot everything except how much I wanted to kiss him.
We struggled through the throngs of people out the door into the cool night air. The quiet and space were wonderful but I didn’t have much time to enjoy either. Joe pushed me roughly against the wall and slanted his mouth over mine. In a moment, I was breathless and wrapped in his tight embrace. His kiss was as sexy as I remembered and I let myself get lost in it.
“I’ve been thinking about this since I left your place,” he murmured. “I could take you right here.”
I laughed. “You’re drunk.”
He pulled back and nodded. “True. But I would feel the same way sober. You drive me wild, Liss.”
“Right back at you,” I said, before kissing him again. This was so not me. Making out in front of a bar where anyone could see? Not me at all. But I couldn’t stop myself. And as Joe pressed tighter against me, I knew he felt the same way. Drunk he was more forceful than the other day. And strangely, I liked it. Liked his strength and passion. He made me feel sexy and cherished instead of awkward and lumbering.
We kept kissing, ignoring a group who catcalled and whistled as they left the bar, or the car honking. My hands were laced behind Joe’s neck as he ground his lower body against mine, hard and hungry.
Finally I gathered my wits enough to push him away. I took a minute to catch my breath and smiled. “We can’t keep going like this. We’ll get arrested.”
“Good point. Let’s get out of here.”
His blue eyes glittered in the streetlight. “Hotel’s just a couple blocks away.”
We practically ran, both sobering up as we went, moving faster and surer. By the time we got to the front door, I was ready for anything.
Joe didn’t touch me at all while we rode up the elevator, but I could feel his eyes on every part of my body like a caress. I was suddenly glad I’d taken the time to get dressed up cute for the night.
He led me down the hall and into his hotel room. Once inside, I caught a quick glimpse of the messy floor and generic furniture before he was on me, dragging me down to one of the beds, shoving a pile of clothes out of the way. I wondered briefly if he had a roommate who might interrupt us, but then his lips met mine and I left rational thought far behind.
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