“Would you like a table?” a girl asks me in an Irish accent, pointing to a stack of menus. “Might be a bit of a wait. Or there are open stools at the bar.”
“I’ll sit at the bar, thank you.”
That’s the decision I make, but following through is more intimidating than I imagine. The bar is mostly occupied by men. Large ones in construction clothing. As gingerly and inconspicuously as possible, I take off my coat and hang it on the wall, sliding onto the last stool near the window, pretending not to notice when every single one of their heads swings in my direction. A few of them even elbow each other. Probably because I look like a fish out of water.
I need to come up with a drink order before the bartender gets here—
There he is.
My thighs slide together on the stool and I tug my skirt down, frantically trying to hide the clench of my sex. Whoa. What was that? What is happening?
This man is walking toward me and…oh, he is nothing like the male model back at the studio. He’s big. Tall. Barrel chested. Thick all over. Some might call him overweight, but there’s a shape to his arms and legs that suggests hard work. Manual labor.
And it’s just how he’s built, too.
My gaze travels down the front of his flannel shirt, lingering on the curl of black hair reaching out through the opening. The buttons strain a little over his stomach—a stomach that looks hard as a rock for all its girth. And his jeans. The zipper of his denim fly is straining, too.
Then he opens his mouth. “Need to check your ID.”
His gruff baritone makes my nipples spike.
The satchel slips off my lap and lands on the ground. Turning red, I jump down and stuff everything back inside of it, begging my body to calm the heck down. “My ID. Yes, of course.” God, my mouth is like a desert as I root out my wallet, untuck my Nebraska driver’s license and hold it out. “H-here you go.”
He watches me curiously under dark eyebrows for a moment, then takes the card, scanning it with light blue eyes that are such a contrast to the rough and ready rest of him. I use his distraction as an opportunity to study the harsh planes of his face, the close-cropped black beard, the nose that looks like it has been broken.
Finally, he gives back the ID. “Long way from home, Parker Hauser.”
“This is home now. Hopefully it stays that way,” I breathe nervously.
His brows pull together and there’s something about his eyes, the way they slowly take my measure, that turns my legs to wet noodles. “You want a drink, Nebraska?”
One of the men shouts from a few stools away, “Yo, Daws. I’ll buy her that drink—”
“I’ll buy all her drinks!” another one calls.
“Keep your money and shut the fuck up,” growls the bartender, turning to pin the men with a look. When they’ve buried their faces back in their beers, Daws slowly returns his attention to me. “First time?”
Oh my God. How can he tell I’m a virgin?
“W-well, yes…” I try to stutter through an answer, my face in flames, but nothing sensible comes out. “I haven’t dated much and—”
“First time in a bar,” he clarifies quickly, the resonant pitch of his voice sensitizing my skin, head to toe. He takes one heavy breath. Two. “You better hope I’m the only one who heard that slip-up.”
His fingers curl into fists on the bar. “I’ll be fighting these men off with a stick.”
“Would you?” I ask a little wistfully, without thinking. “Fight them for me?”
He seems to be trying to hide the longing in his eyes, but it slips through. It slips through and it rocks me to the soles of my high heels. His eyes meander down the front of my tucked-in white blouse, my short leather skirt, the length of my crossed thighs, and the Adam’s apple bobs in his throat. “Jesus Christ,” he says hoarsely. “Who wouldn’t fight for you?”
Moisture soaks into the strip of silk between my legs. Enough to make me gasp.
I’ve never had this reaction to any man before. I daresay I’m even more turned on right now than I get over the perfect, little black dress. A lot more. And it hits me.
I took this walk outside the studio to get some inspiration for my men’s line—and here he is. Standing right in front of me. “Daws?” I whisper. “I need you.”
This has to be a dream.
When the knockout blonde walked into my bar, looking like a fairy princess lost in the woods, I was already pinching myself. But then I got a close-up look at her. At that freckled nose, her wide hazel eyes and full upper lip. Now she’s whispering that she needs me and I know for damn sure I’m still asleep in bed. There is no way a pretty, little thing like her wants shit to do with my thick ass. Men who look like me don’t get this lucky.