Authors: Red Hot Publishing
Tags: #contemporary romance, #romance adult fiction, #romance adult contemporary
A man in his thirties wandering by us on the
sidewalk looks up at her words, checks out the lot of us from head
to toe, and smiles bright. We all laugh again.
“Seems unfair,” Heather says between gasps
of laughter. “Maybe we should put white-out on one of them and
insert a question mark… like lover’s choice?”
I slip my die in my purse, glad again I came
to Carla’s party. She loved all the gag gifts and seems to be
having as much fun as the rest of us.
We finally arrive at one of our favorite
bars, The Parlor, located in mid-town, and teeter in on our high
heels. There are two bars upon entering, one to the right and one
on the left. The left one is more reserved and smaller, more of a
place patrons wait to be seated in the back for dinner. And there’s
a downstairs, too. It’s all bar and empty floor space.
Some weekends they have a band, or a DJ
plays for dancing. We saunter into the bar on the right, listening
for signs a band might be tuning up downstairs. One of the
bartenders sees us and smiles at our attire. His attention draws
the eye of customers and half a dozen men turn to stare at us as
well. After all, we are all wearing pink sashes and some form of
zebra striped item. I bet we look a sight.
A blush warms my cheek and I smile in
surprise before I can stop myself. There’s something to be said
about drinking copious amounts of sangria and hanging out with
friends. I feel like I’m on top of the world. And considering I’ve
had trouble feeling anything but ambivalence for the past few
years, I’d say that’s a very good thing.
A handsome guy with dark skin and dark brown
eyes steps toward us, looking like he’s eager to venture into our
midst. He’s dressed in a suit, indicating he’s either traveling on
business or he came straight from work and has been at the bar ever
since. God, if that’s the case he could be pretty drunk.
I step to the back of our group, unwilling
to put myself out as available and interested. What’s the point
anyway? I may be the biggest pervert according to the questions and
what I’ve done in my life sexually, but ever since my sister’s
trouble years ago, I haven’t felt anything but polite interest in a
man, or a woman for that matter. And I sure as hell have tried.
“Go on, Katrina,” Heather nudges me to step
closer to the attractive, hopeful man standing in the middle of our
group. “You’re single. Live a little.” She snorts softly in
amusement. “Although, after hearing your answers earlier, I have a
feeling you’ve lived more than the rest of us put together.”
I smile, but stay firmly where I’m standing.
“If any of it had mattered, I’d still be with at least one of the
guys, don’t you think?”
Her face falls and I realize I’ve revealed
too much. I’m not going to be the Debbie Downer of tonight. I look
into the sea of bodies surrounding us, hoping for a diversion so I
can avoid her rejoinder. One man is staring at us with an intensity
he doesn’t hide.
He’s got wavy dark hair that’s a little too
long for corporate life, a thick build and broad chest, and a
devastating smile. He looks vaguely familiar, but I can’t place
where I’ve seen him before. He’s got a leaner, taller friend
standing next to him, too. Both look like they work out or at least
keep themselves active.
“Hey, do you know that guy, the one with the
dark hair?” I ask Heather, indicating the two men with my chin.
“He’s staring at us something fierce.”
Heather checks and her face brightens.
“That’s my boyfriend Tony. I think you met him when we went out a
while ago. I didn’t know we were coming here so he must have come
on his own.” She cranes her head while looking, reaching out a hand
to wave at him. “Oh, and his best friend Marcus is with him. Want
to meet him?”
Inwardly I cringe, but outwardly I smile and
nod. His friend has a dimple in his chin, a mischievous grin on his
face, and light brown hair that looks like it’s been streaked by
the sun. He looks pleasant enough. “Sure.” After all, what harm can
it do to talk to the guy?
Tony’s girlfriend Heather waves to us from her pack
of giggling beauties. I see Carla, and there’s a woman next to
Heather I vaguely recognize. Maybe she was one of the women out
dancing with her and Carla a couple of months ago. That was the
night I knew Tony had fallen hard for the long-legged woman. I
don’t think he knew it yet, though.
This time the other woman’s hair is
different. Short, spiky, and I think I see blue bangs. Who the hell
wants blue hair? Maybe it’s just supposed to be for fun. I never
know why women do half the shit they do anyway.
Like you’re one to talk with your manicured
They’re buffed and trimmed, not
I run a thumb over the nails on one hand.
Nothing wrong with a man keeping up his appearance. Well-tended
hands mean my fingers won’t snag on a woman’s silky skin or
stockings during the heat if the moment.
Sure. Keep telling yourself that. Has
nothing to do with a past of digging ditches you’re trying to
I stifle my inner bashings when the two
ladies head our way. I straighten and clear my throat. Heather’s
focused solely on her man, and her friend has a questioning look on
her face, like she’s unsure if she should approach with her.
The woman is good looking. I would totally
do her. Do I want another quick fling or should I respect this is
Heather’s friend and stick to polite but uninterested? No time to
decide before they’re upon us.
Heather launches herself at Tony like she
hasn’t seen him for weeks. He responds in kind, wrapping her into a
huge hug and kissing her in front of the whole bar. Can’t misread
I tip my head toward the kissing pair. “Not
sure when they’re going to come up for air, so I might as well
introduce myself. Hi, I’m Marcus. Tony and I have known each other
“Katrina,” the woman answers, offering me
her hand. “Nice to meet you. I met Heather in a yoga class over a
Our hands meet and the warmth of her palm
energizes me, sending a tingle of awareness up my arm. Now that
she’s closer, her unique blue-green eyes demand my attention.
There’s a spark of intelligence and experience I don’t normally see
from a young woman in a bar on Friday night.
Like she knows things.
The impression is fleeting and gone once she
drops my hand and moves her gaze away from mine.
She has piqued my curiosity. I wonder what
she does for a living. Hopefully she’s not some deadbeat chick with
enough outstanding student loans to choke a horse. God save me from
another woman hoping a guy will magically make all her debt
Heather and Tony finally disentangle their
limbs and remember they’re in a public place. “Sorry about that. I
was so surprised to see him here.”
“Yeah,” I say, with a little edge to my
voice. “We could tell.”
Tony shoots me a death look and draws
Heather closer to him, perfectly content to look like a Neanderthal
staking claim over his mate. I ignore his pointed glare and shift
my attention toward the bartender, motioning for a refill when I
catch his eye.
“Does anyone need a drink?” I ask.
Heather giggles. “We had plenty before we
got here.” She looks toward her friend and nods. “But one more
won’t hurt, especially if we drink it slowly. I’ll have a white
Katrina hesitates before nodding. “Okay,
I’ll have the same.” Her eyes flit to mine briefly and she says,
“Thank you.” Heather chimes in and thanks me, too. Nice to see
they’re not so far gone they’ve forgotten their manners. I hate it
when I buy a woman a drink and she acts like it’s owed to her.
Tony raises his full beer, indicating he’s
fine, so I place the ladies’ orders when the bartender drifts close
enough to hear me.
“Are those penises around your neck?” Tony
asks while leaning in closer to examine the necklace.
“Why, yes,” Heather says proudly,
straightening her spine a little. “They are.”
I check out Katrina, thinking Tony’s
observation is a nice way for me to look her over without appearing
like a cad.
The baggy black shirt she’s wearing doesn’t
reveal much, but the short sleeves end on the tightest biceps I’ve
ever seen on a woman. As my examination travels lower, I note
well-defined thighs and calves, too. This woman works out — a lot.
If my workouts and hours at the gym have taught me anything, it’s
that women don’t look that toned without some serious effort.
I’m intrigued in spite of myself. My perusal
ends at her shoes—hot pink with a zebra print on the heel. Wild.
And sexy as all get out. Those are some serious fuck-me pumps. A
woman who wears shoes like that must know something the rest don’t.
I wonder what that could be.
“Nice shoes,” I say, raising my glass in a
silent toast of approval.
Katrina tilts one foot out at an angle while
looking down. “Thanks. They wouldn’t be my first choice, but for
tonight they were perfect.”
Damn, there goes any hope that she’s wild
enough to wear shoes like that all the time. Then again, I’ve never
had a shoe fetish or anything before. On her they spiked my
Heather mimics Katrina’s pose with her own
zebra platform shoes. “They certainly are fun.”
Tony leans in and whispers something in his
girlfriend’s ear, causing her to blush. Horny bastard. Probably
telling her how he’s going to bend her over later while she’s
wearing the shoes.
I steal a glance at Katrina and can’t help
the images that conjure at such a thought. I bet she’s a moaner.
It’s always the ones you never suspect that are the most fun in
bed. All the yoga she mentioned… I bet she’s super bendy, too.
The ladies’ wine arrives and I hand them
their glasses. Katrina makes eye contact with me when accepting her
drink and I feel lucky. Like she doesn’t normally give a guy even
that much attention. Hmm… could she be interested? Damn the noise
level in the bar. It’s going to be impossible to carry a decent
“So, where do you work?” I ask, raising my
voice to be heard.
Katrina glances from the crowd to our group,
noting my attention on her and not the others. “Me? Oh, I’m sorry.
I own a health food store over near Washington Square Park.”
She owns her own business. That could be
good or bad. More than likely she’s got a good credit report or
she’d never be able to open her own store. It’s hard to turn your
mind off of money and finances when that’s what you do all damn
day. “Good for you. Was it a dream you always had?”
She looks at me funny, as if having a store
would be an odd dream. “Not really. Well, at least, not in the
beginning.” She shrugs and glances away. Obviously this one isn’t
much for conversation. Crying shame, too as she’s got gorgeous
eyes. I wouldn’t mind staring into them for a sweaty hour or
A crack of lightning illuminates the room.
Almost instantly a loud boom of thunder rumbles from outside,
vibrating through the floor to my legs, followed by the sound of
rain pouring down on the streets outside.
The lights on the wall flicker once and go
out, casting the whole bar in darkness. Raucous, good-natured
cheers from the customers buoy the crowd, while the staff struggles
to re-light small oil candles placed at all the high tables and
drink ledges. Soon the whole bar is lit with the small lights,
creating a softening effect on the drunken patrons. For some
reason, the candles have a quieting effect on conversation in the
bar, and it’s not nearly as loud as it was just minutes before.
“Crap,” Katrina mutters. “This is going to
be hell to get home in.”
“You’re not leaving yet, are you?” Heather
asks. “We just got here.”
Tony takes out his phone and taps on the
Katrina glances out one of the windows, a
worried expression on her face. “I wasn’t planning on it, but I’m
worried it’s going to get harder to make it home as the storm
progresses. I do have to work in the morning.”
“The local news reports power outages all
over Manhattan,” Tony says while angling his phone for us to see.
“Says most areas will be out for hours, maybe even the whole
“Well, that settles it,” Katrina says, a
determined tilt to her chin. “I better catch the subway while it’s
Heather grabs her arm. “Wait, sometimes the
subway stops working—with people still on it. I read how commuters
were trapped for hours a few weeks ago.”
Katrina’s pretty mouth twists in a scowl.
“Dammit, that means I’ll have to take a cab.”
“Assuming you can find one,” Tony says. His
face lights up and he points at me. “Marcus can escort you home.
He’ll help you get a cab.”
Before I have a chance to answer, she
declines. “No, I’m fine, really. No need to go to all the
I look at Tony, wondering what the hell he’s
thinking. Katrina cranes her neck to look outside again and I catch
Tony mouthing to me, “Payback’s a bitch.”
“Nonsense, Katrina. You’re not far from
Mercer Street, where Marcus lives. He’d be happy to see you home
Her face lights up, seeming to be more
accepting of the offer now that she knows I’m not going out of my
way. Her look of hope is so sweet I don’t have the heart to say
I stifle my annoyance at my old college
friend for ending my night sooner than I’d like and gallantly offer
my arm to the woman. Who knows, maybe she’ll give me her
She slips her hand in the crook of my arm
and we weave over to Carla and the other ladies to say goodnight.
Her grasp on my arm tightens as we head out the front door and
navigate the wet steps.