Authors: Abby Brooks
© 2016 by Abby Brooks
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
or my Bill
, the man who taught me true love wasn’t just something in the movies. That it is, life-changing. You are my everything.
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ust because they
make it in your size, doesn’t mean you have to wear it!”
Ellie Charles cringed. That asshole and his loud-mouthed buddies at the bar certainly weren't making any friends here tonight. The guy who had just offended at least half the women in Fantastic Sam’s with his last comment had gotten louder and more abrasive over the last half hour, his words growing more hurtful as they got more and more slurred. And his friends weren't helping at all, laughing at every chauvinistic thing that came out of his mouth.
Apparently, Ellie wasn't the only one who’d had enough. “Just because you have a mouth, doesn’t mean you have a right to use it,” yelled a female voice from somewhere deeper inside Fantastic Sam’s—Ellie’s favorite bar in her hometown of Bliss, South Carolina. Well,
favorite bar, really. There wasn't a night that Fantastic Sam’s wasn't
place to be.
“And just because you
a dick doesn’t mean you have to
a dick,” yelled another female voice.
“Or get to use it,” Ellie muttered, loud enough for the people around her to hear. After the chuckles died down around her, she wiggled a little in her chair and tugged at her shirt, suddenly self-conscious that the asshole was talking about her. She’d agonized over what to wear tonight, afraid everything she put on was too clingy in all the wrong ways.
You look fine,
she told herself as she checked her watch.
Don’t let that jerk get in your head.
Of course, it looked like it wasn’t going to matter what she looked like since her date was edging past half an hour late. What a surprise. She was getting stood up. Again. Online dating really sucked when you had to find guys in the next town over because your own town was too small and you already knew you didn't want to date anyone in it. She traced a finger around the edge of her glass and sighed.
Her waitress—a barely-old-enough-to-be-legal bleached blonde named Ashley—sidled up to her table, eyes focused on the loud-mouthed jerk and his friends. “Ready for another?” she asked, barely glancing Ellie’s way.
“No, thank you. I’m thinking I’ll just call it an evening.” Ellie reached for her purse and paused when Ashley didn't take the hint and give her the bill.
“That guy’s really putting them down.” Ashley leaned forward, peering around Ellie to watch Mr. Drunk and Disorderly. With her elbows on the table and her boobs spilling out of her low cut t-shirt, she turned to Ellie. “But he sure is a looker,” she said and bit her lower lip.
Ellie just stared at the girl for a second. What was she supposed to say to that? Was she supposed to giggle and turn around and forget that the guy had been making a total ass of himself for the last forty-five minutes just because he was good looking? She was
over jerks. Over men in general, actually, since as far as she could tell, you couldn’t be a man without being a jerk.
The friendly smile fell off Ashley's face and she straightened. “So, uh, just your check then?” Ellie watched the girl fidget and pull at the edges of her extra-short shorts and felt bad. Sure, she was disappointed to have wasted an evening waiting on one more guy to let her down, but that wasn’t Ashley’s fault.
“I’m sorry,” Ellie said. “Bad night.” She flared her fingers and then pulled her long, curly hair up off her neck and draped it over a shoulder. “I didn’t mean to be rude.”
I’ll have to leave her a decent tip,
I’ve been at her table for forty-five minutes and only ordered one drink the whole time.
“Maybe you need something with a little more kick than plain old Diet Coke,” said the girl with a smile.” Turn a bad night into a good night.”
Ellie shook her head and sat back in her chair. “No, thank you,” she started and then paused. Why shouldn’t she let herself have a little fun? What else was she going to do? Go home and watch some TV? Here she was, all dressed up and sitting at her favorite bar, with people laughing and joking all around her. The band was setting up and there was sure to be dancing later on, and Ellie sure loved to dance. She didn’t need a guy here with her to have a little fun.
“You know what?” she said and pursed her lips. “Maybe I
need something a little stronger. One drink won’t hurt, right?”
Ashley sat back on her heels and jutted a hip. “Might even make things better.”
“Well, it certainly can’t get much worse,” Ellie said and ordered a Long Island Iced Tea. Ashley grabbed her empty Diet Coke and sidled away, eyes drifting back to the jerk at the bar on her way.
Could he really be that hot? Ellie couldn’t help herself; she turned in her seat to take a look. The light wasn’t great at Fantastic Sam’s but that didn’t matter because she’d know that guy anywhere. Mr. Drunk and Disorderly, the jerk at the bar who had managed to alienate just about every female in the room, the guy who was surrounded by a throng of asshats egging him on and patting him on the back every time he took a shot or said something else that made him sound like a class-A douchenozzle, that was James Moore.
James Moore. The second son of the wealthiest family in Bliss. Like
wealthy. Like, Ellie was pretty sure James had never held down a job in his life and still managed to have everything he’d ever wanted and then some.
To top it off, he really was the best looking guy she had ever seen, including guys on TV and in the movies. With his dark hair and dark eyes that always managed to look like he was seeing into your soul. With his tattoos winding up both arms and disappearing under the sleeves of his shirt. With his broad shoulders and seriously bulging muscles. For Ellie, James Moore had been sex on a stick since just about forever. The personification of everything she’d ever wanted in a man. She’d had a crush on him for as long as she can remember, but he’d been taken for just as long as she could remember, too.
Except, as of about two months ago, James Moore was finally single. After dating the same girl since middle school, after getting engaged to her and planning a wedding with her and getting his heart set on a future with her, they’d called it all off. Word on the street had been that she’d been cheating on him. And suddenly, the happy-go-lucky, quick-with-a-smile James, a guy that could make anyone feel special with just a few words, fell to pieces. Ellie had watched it all, her heart breaking for him as his broke in front of the entire town.
Ashley returned with her drink. “He’s smokin’ hot, right?” she asked, catching Ellie staring at James.
“He sure is.”
And always has been.
The band took their place on the small stage at the back of the bar and the crowd cheered, stomping their feet on the ground and patting their hands on tables. Ellie changed seats, telling herself it was because she wanted to watch them play, but knowing it had more to do with wanting to see James. Judging by his slurred words earlier, he’d really had too much to drink, but that didn’t faze him. As she drank her Long Island, Ellie watched him down shot after shot as his friends whooped and hollered, ignoring the grumpy looks they got from their neighbors.
This wasn’t the James Moore she knew. She couldn’t imagine the guy who came into Good Beginnings—the cafe and coffee shop she opened a year ago—and joked with her every Saturday morning being capable of being so … awful. So destructive. She didn’t recognize the guys he was with. Either they weren’t from Bliss, or they’d been hiding under a rock.
James slammed a shot glass down on the bar. “Fuck yeah!” he shouted and the apes around him roared their appreciation, slapping him on the back and calling for more drinks.
“Shut up, asshole!” yelled someone near the band.
That was all she could take. Ellie couldn’t watch this anymore. She finished her drink—nothing like a little liquid courage!—and stood up, catching Ashley’s eye and nodding towards the guys so the girl wouldn’t think Ellie had left without paying. She made her way through the crowded room towards James and his friends.
“Hey,” she said as she put her hand on James's broad back and leaned around him so she could see his face. “James, it’s Ellie Charles. How ya doin’?”
“Hey! Ellie!” James’s eyes lit up like seeing Ellie was the best thing that had happened to him that night. He opened his arms wide and pulled Ellie in for a tight hug, made all kinds of awkward by the fact that she was still half-leaning around him. The muscles in his arms were hard and the muscles in his chest were even harder and it almost hurt as he squeezed her tight against him.
“He’s out of your league, bitch. Step back.” The statement came from the guy sitting the stool behind her. Heat flared across her cheeks and she wasn’t sure if it was because she was embarrassed or just plain pissed off.
James scowled at the guy. “Hey.” He made one hell of a scary face and leveled a finger at his friend. “This is my friend Ellie and
league, so why don’t you shut the hell up?” A smile broke across James’s face and he released Ellie. Another one of his friends high-fived him while she readjusted her shirt.
So this is what it’s like at a frat house. No wonder I skipped college.
“Have a shot with me, Ellie.” James had his hands on her again, pulling her hips as if he wanted her to sit on his lap. Under any other circumstance, she’d have been all for it. This was James fricken Moore, for fuck’s sake! But, considering how much she'd seen him drink already this evening, she wasn’t interested in being one of his bad decisions.
Ellie pulled out of his hands and leaned on the bar next to him. “Hey, listen,” she said, lost in his sexy eyes.
I’ve never been this close to him before
, she thought and couldn’t help the smile that stretched across her face. Couldn’t stop herself from staring at his lips.
“What’s up?” he asked, and Ellie reeled from the blast of tequila on his breath.
“Do me a favor, okay? Why don’t you slow down on the drinks? In fact, you’ve had so much, why don’t you let me take you home?” Ellie swallowed, suddenly feeling awkward as all hell. Why didn’t she ever think before she did anything? Who did she think she was, coming over here and telling him how to handle his business?
James’s eyes went wide and he threw his head back and laughed. “I’ll make a deal with you, Ellie Charles, goddess of Saturday morning coffee. I’ll consider letting you take me home on one condition.” He leaned in really close and Ellie wasn’t sure if she was more turned off by the liquor on his breath or more turned on by the electricity charging the small space between them.
“What condition is that?”
“You come dance with me.” James angled his head towards the back of the bar, where the band played a fast song, the singer clutching the microphone to his mouth and tapping his head and foot as the guitarist's fingers flew over the fret boards. “Unless you think you can’t hang. Which I get ‘cause, you know, I’m one hell of a good dancer.” James shrugged and his gaze darted to her lips as he gave her the sexiest little smirk she’d ever seen.
She should say no. She should disengage and walk away. But, dancing with James had spent quite a few years on her bucket list and she was only human, after all.
“Alright, but, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into, my friend.” Ellie straightened and offered James her hand as she backed away from the bar. Ignoring the curious stares from the people around them and the nasty remarks from the guys on either side of James’s seat, she let him lead her out onto the dance floor.
He was right; he was one hell of a dancer. But Ellie was no slouch herself and before she knew it, she was laughing and smiling and enjoying the hell out of the smoldering eye contact he kept locking on her. Sure, he was drunk. Sure, he’d spent the last hour or so being an inebriated jerk, but right now? She was getting to dance with
James Moore and he was looking at her like she might be something special, too.
The song ended and the band started into a new song, a slow song, one hell of a sexy song. Without missing a beat, James pulled Ellie close, one arm reaching around her waist, the other clasping her free hand. God, he smelled good. And his body felt so hard and strong against her curves, the two of them fitting so perfectly together. She was pretty damn sure her cheek would feel amazing pressed against his shoulder and wanted nothing more than to melt into him.
But, she didn't melt. Ignoring everything her body was trying to tell her, she froze and tried to pull away. “Our dance is over.”
“That was only half a dance,” James murmured into her hair. “Give me one more.”
She never had a chance. James ran his hand up her back, paused at her shoulders, and then he let it slide down lower than it had been before, right above the curve of her ass. He pressed her hips forward, molding her body to his, and lowered his head until she had no choice but to press her cheek to his chest. He had her all wrapped up, held tight and swaying to the music as if they were long-term lovers and not short-term acquaintances.
Ellie knew she should pull away. Put an end to it. He was too drunk to know what he was doing and she’d be a fool to let herself enjoy this as anything more than what it was. James Moore drinking and flirting away his broken heart. This had nothing to do with her and everything to do with the woman he’d lost.