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Tripped out, p.12
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       Tripped Out, p.12

         Part #8.5 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James
 
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  “Like you’ve been waiting to get naked with me for a lot longer,” she finished.

  Liam lifted his head and looked at her. “You feel it too.”

  “Of course I do. We’ve known each other ten months, Liam. We didn’t like each other. Or at least pretended not to like each other so it masked our mutual attraction. We certainly didn’t take the time to get to know each other outside of work.”

  “Have you had a life outside of work in the past year?”

  Stirling blinked those beautiful blue eyes at him. “No. There’s so damn much to do around here. So much more that I want to do. Even if I’m onsite fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, it isn’t enough.”

  “Exactly.” He pushed an errant dreadlock over her shoulder. “Our work selves are who we are. There’s no mystery to me, Stirling. It’s embarrassing to admit I’ve always been this…”

  “Work obsessed?”

  “Yes. I recognized that common element in you before we dropped the attitudes and started communicating on a different level.”

  Smiling, she pressed a soft kiss to his chin. “I prefer this more intimate manner of communication anyway. I was running low on prank ideas.”

  Liam stared at her, wondering if she’d taken their pranks at face value. When to him they’d always been so much more.

  “Why so serious all of a sudden, Dr. Sad Eyes?”

  “Just…hypothesizing.”

  She rolled her eyes. “Scientists.”

  “Tell me five personal things you learned about me during our prank wars.”

  “Why?”

  “So, suspicious, Miss Gradsky.” He planted a quick kiss on her mouth. “I need to prove a theory.”

  “If I do it, you have to do it too.”

  “Of course.” And I intend to win this “What I Like About You” face-off.

  “You listen to blues music in your lab when things are going well and no music when you’re frustrated.”

  “Excellent observation. That’s one.”

  “You whistle in the break room if you’re by yourself.”

  His face heated.

  Stirling laughed. “It’s cute. And it’s cute how you blush.”

  Cute. Great. “That’s two.”

  “You enjoy talking to Hip in the drying room. You two can blather on about nuances of varieties for hours. The first time I ever heard you laugh you were shooting the shit with him. If Hip gets behind, you help him. You even let him tell you what to do, which annoyed the piss out of me.”

  “Hip is a West Coast guy. He knows his weed. You’re up to three.”

  “You have the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen. Your eyes are a silvery light gray, unless you’re angry and then they darken to pewter.”

  “While I appreciate the compliment, that’s not a valid answer. Another personal example, not a physical attribute.”

  “Fine. You wear the same watch every day.” She tapped the face of it. “Four months ago…you showed up on a Tuesday morning, sans watch. You were so bad tempered, I worried if you’d lost it, you’d blame me for taking it. Then two weeks later, the trusty watch was back on your wrist.”

  “Gramma gave me that watch for college graduation. It quit working and the repair guy wasn’t sure he could fix it. But he did.”

  “Luckily for all of us.”

  “Last one.”

  Stirling’s fingers slid up the back of his neck and she scraped her nails against his scalp. A groan escaped. Damn. That felt good. “This super trendy haircut looks awesome on you. Total dick move on my part to leave the ‘What Your Haircut Says About You’ article in your lab along with a pair of scissors.”

  He chuckled. “I get it. Jumanji, budtender supreme, rocks the man bun. I didn’t. I did need a haircut. Flattery won’t change the fact that answer is invalid, so try again.”

  She stared at him so long he began to sweat whatever answer she was wrestling with.

  “Are you stumped?”

  “No, I could give a dozen more examples. But the one that’s most telling about you, Dr. Argent, is that you take out the trash every night. It started the first month we opened and Shanna got accosted by the homeless guys hanging out by the Dumpster. You saw how upset she was. The very next day Macon handed down an edict that no one was to go out there alone and at the end of shift, all trash should be left in the back entryway. The employees assume the cleaning service handles disposing of it. Sometimes they do. But most of the time, it’s you.”

  “I had no idea you noticed that, Stirling.”

  She fiddled with the collar of his lab coat. “That means if we do this, it wouldn’t just be a fuck that we could blame on elevated emotions. It wouldn’t be an ‘oops, we were high’ excuse either.”

  “That’s what I’m saying.” He framed her face in his hands. “I want you so fucking bad that I locked the goddamned door on the off chance I’d get to bend you over your desk.”

  She gave him a coy smile. “Given how things have gone for us in the past three days… That’s just begging the universe for an untimely interruption, isn’t it?”

  “Undoubtedly. Especially when you consider you called me Liam in front of your assistant, and not Dr. Argent, Dr. Asshat, or any of your other colorful nicknames for me.”

  “Shit. I did call you Liam, all friendly-like, when as far as she—or anyone else who works here believes—we’re still in deep dislike of each other.” Stirling squirmed to be let go. “I’m surprised Shanna’s gone this long without interrupting.” She started to walk past him but he caught her arm.

  “Will you tell her that we’re…?”

  “Currently not fucking? I’m pretty sure she already knows.”

  It surprised him this conversation made her nervous. Or perhaps the idea of telling other people about them brought out her flippancy.

  “Look. I want to keep what happens between us…private, okay?” Stirling said.

  “Meaning we resume bickering and trying to one-up each other during working hours?”

  She blew out a breath. “No. We’re beyond that. But all joking aside, we’ve both been burned by relationships with coworkers. Neither of us needs to have our professionalism questioned.”

  He furrowed his brow.

  “What?”

  “So fucking you over your desk isn’t a possibility?”

  Stirling laughed when she realized he was joking. “Not today.”

  But the truth was he was only half-joking. “Seems a shame to put the condoms I stashed in my lab coat pocket back into the box.”

  “You don’t have condoms in your pocket,” she scoffed.

  “You sure?” Liam fought a smile when he challenged, “Maybe you should find out for yourself.”

  “You probably put a joy buzzer in your pocket.”

  “I’d prefer you stuck your hand down my pants and wrapped your fingers around my joy stick,” he said and stole a kiss. “Don’t be scared.”

  “Scared? As if.” Stirling locked her gaze to his, inching her hand down the center of his body. “Did you dress left or right today?” She smirked. “I mean, left pocket or right pocket?”

  Ridiculous how fast his heart raced just from her touch. “Left.”

  She switched the angle of her hand and slipped it into his pocket. Shifting his lab coat to the right, she squeezed his hard-on once, then her hand exited his pocket holding a fistful of condoms. Amusement danced in her eyes. “Only ten, Dr. Ardent?”

  He shrugged. “I thought twenty might be overkill.”

  “Maybe. Since we’ve yet to use even one.”

  “Don’t pout.” Liam snagged the strip out of her hands. “How about this? I’ll put these back…except for this one.”

  “Why is it special?”

  Watching her face, he ripped the top packet off with his teeth and bent down to nuzzle her cleavage, tucking the condom into her bra cup. He softly kissed a line up her chest to her mouth, pausing to show her the heat in his eyes. “Let me know when you’re ready t
o use it. The ball—or maybe I should say my balls—are in your court.” He shoved the long strip back in his pocket and walked away.

  Chapter Nine

  Why would Liam put the decision for when they became lovers solely in her hands?

  Because he didn’t care one way or the other?

  No. He’d shown up in her office with condoms. He wasn’t exactly “whatever” about them getting it on.

  Maybe you should stop worrying about funny business and get back to running your business.

  Good plan.

  Stirling lasted three hours—most of which she’d spent on the phone—before she decided to check on the installation of their newest piece of equipment.

  The designated space housing the new machine was across the hallway from the lab. The door was open and she heard clank, clank, clank, then “Motherfuck!”

  “Is everything all right?” she called through the door.

  Liam’s face appeared on the left side of the CO2 tank. “Macon may’ve gotten a great deal on this, but it should’ve been industrially cleaned before they sold it.”

  “It’s not defective?” she said with alarm.

  “Not that I can tell. Just dirty. When the technicians arrive they’ll hear it from me. There’s no excuse for poor maintenance of lab equipment.” Liam’s head disappeared for a moment and then he shuffled toward her.

  Stirling couldn’t believe her eyes. Dr. Argent’s pristine white lab coat? Filthy. Grease stains were smeared down the front as if he’d actually used it as a towel.

  He said “What?” a little tersely.

  “Dude. A truckload of Tide bleach pens won’t do the trick on those stains.”

  “As I’m aware.”

  When she looked at his face, she couldn’t help but break out in laughter.

  “Find my dishevelment amusing?”

  “I wouldn’t say…amusing.”

  “What would you say?”

  “Surprising. I’ve never seen you less than perfectly put together. You look like one of those hot-rod mechanics, dirt on your face, smears of grease on your clothes, oil on your rough, knuckled hands. Your tattoos peeking out just adds that rugged-around-the-edges hotness.”

  Liam stalked her for the second time today. Her back hit the wall and those big, dirty hands were right next to her head. “Is that what turns you on? A guy with workingman’s hands?” He put his mouth close to her ear. “Do you imagine your man coming home from an honest day’s labor, pulling a cold beer out of the fridge, and seeking you out before he changes out of his stained work clothes?”

  He brushed a kiss below her earlobe, eliciting her shiver.

  “When this blue-collar fantasy man sees his sexy-as-fuck woman wearing a tight skirt that molds your perfect ass, and you turn around, your hard nipples taunting him under your sheer white blouse, does he drain his beer in one long drink, never taking his eyes off of you? Do his work boots thump against the floor, matching the fast beat of your heart, as he comes closer and pins you against the wall?”

  Her heart rate went wild.

  “Does he put those big, dirty hands on your tits and capture your mouth in a brutal kiss? As he’s touching you everywhere, kissing you, rubbing his body on yours, determined to take what’s his…” Liam’s lips moved to her neck, placing a line of kisses to the center of her chest. “Do you even care that he’s left grease stains on your chest, your ass, your thighs, and your throat? Or do you wear those dirty marks with pride?”

  “Liam—”

  “Answer me,” he demanded, his mouth against her throat.

  “No, I don’t care.”

  “Why not?”

  She swallowed the ball of lust in her throat. “To feel—to see—firsthand that kind of sexual need directed at me, knowing I brought it out in him? Knowing I’m what he desires above all else in that moment in time? That I’m the one who can satisfy him? That’s heady stuff.”

  Liam allowed enough space between them to gaze into her eyes.

  His expression convinced her to confess, “Especially when I’ve never had that.”

  A beat passed and he said, “You do now.”

  Oh. Fuck.

  Then he retreated. “I’ll put a pin in that fantasy for now.”

  “What? You’re just…” Leaving me here all wet and horny?

  “Ushering you back to work? Yes.” A cocky smile curled his lips. “We’re acting professional, keeping this a secret between us, not risking our reputations…blah, blah, blah… Sound familiar?”

  Stirling blushed. She had said that. Fuck. Why had she said that?

  “I’m following your lead, Miss Gradsky.”

  That cleared her lusty thoughts. “And why is that? Why leave the decision about our first sexy time up to me?”

  “Because you have more doubts about this than I do.”

  “Not true, Dr. Delusional. You asked me to help prove your theory. I shared five observations about you. Instead of participating, you handed me a condom and bailed. Which indicates that you couldn’t come up with one thing you learned about me during prankfest, to say nothing of five.”

  “Wrong.”

  “Prove it.”

  The muscle in his jaw flexed like he was gritting his teeth. “One. You have half a dozen pairs of cowgirl boots, but when you have an important meeting and need an extra boost of confidence, you wear your beat-up brown leather boots, because you consider them lucky.”

  Dammit.

  “Two. You keep a bag of cat food behind the seat in your monster truck to feed the strays by the fence.”

  Her mouth dropped open. “How do you know that?”

  “I noticed the bag when I filled your truck cab with ‘I Love Nick Jonas’ balloons.”

  “The joke was on you that time, because I’m a Joe Jonas fan.” She sighed. “That guy is fucking fine.” Actually…when she thought about it… There was a resemblance between Joe and Liam.

  “Three,” he continued tersely, “you won’t drink citrus-based sodas, even if 7Up is the only kind left in the vending machine. But you love Diet Mountain Dew.”

  “Everyone who works here knows that, so number four needs to knock my socks off.”

  “You brush your teeth at work at least twice a day. You have a special pink plastic case you tuck in your purse.” He tipped his head closer and licked the seam of her lips. “As a man who’s had my tongue in this delectable mouth, I thank you for the attention to oral hygiene. I could kiss you for hours.”

  Stirling forced herself to ignore the sexy growling noise he made, even when her pulse sped up. “Finish it. Number five.”

  “I noticed you in Macon’s office the first time I met him. When he excused himself to take a call, I wandered to the shelf behind his desk and saw a picture of him standing next to the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Her smile lit up the picture, so I couldn’t fathom how formidable that smile would be in real life. The casual way she leaned into Macon, her dreadlocks a complete contradiction to the business suit he wore, showed a woman confident with who she is.” His gaze encompassed her entire face. “I’d never envied a man as much as I did Macon in that moment.”

  The intensity in his eyes made simply breathing difficult.

  “When Macon returned and saw me holding the picture, I told him his girlfriend was stunning. He laughed and said, ‘That’s my little sister.’ And he said nothing else. Not that if I agreed to work for High Society, I’d see your mesmerizing smile every goddamned day. Not that we’d detest each other on sight. Not that we were exactly alike and we’d immediately become BFFs. Not that we’d develop an intimate connection through crazy, stupid pranks.” He put his mouth on her ear. “And most definitely not that you and I would throw enough sexual sparks off each other to power all the lights in the grow house.”

  “Liam.”

  “I’ve gotten more satisfaction from fighting with you the past ten months than I’ve ever gotten from fucking any woman.”

  “Okay, you win,” she s
aid in a breathless rush.

  “I’d say we’re both winners.”

 
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