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Hot buttered rum standal.., p.26
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       Hot Buttered Rum: Standalone Romance (Silk Stocking Inn Book 4), p.26

           Tess Oliver

  I pushed the blindfold off and squinted into the daylight filled room. I scooted the pillows up to the headboard and rested back. Beck stretched his long, hard body out next to mine.

  I kissed his shoulder. “That was amazing.”

  “Just want to make sure we don’t leave any of those fantasies unfulfilled.”

  I laughed. “Trust me, what you just did went way past any fantasy I’ve ever had.” I ran my fingers along his chest. “I’m a librarian with sensible shoes, after all.”

  “I’ll be looking at books a whole different way after this weekend.” He pulled me into his arms. “So, what else do we need to do to check off some of those wild daydreams?”

  I thought about the question and something snapped right into my mind. “Well, if you’re not busy tonight, I’d like to go back to the Hanky Dory. There’s something I’ve been wanting to do.”

  “As long as Hank isn’t still pissed at me, I think we can work that out. Does it have anything to do with playing pool?”

  “Nope, not pool. Just the dark corner table and this incredibly hot man stretched out next to me.”

  Chapter 18

  My hostess and resident mind-reader had somehow left a dress hanging from the hook on the door to my bedroom. I’d opened the door at least half a dozen times since we’d gotten home from the lake, and I had somehow neglected to notice the buttery soft purple dress. There was even a pair of chunky sandals to go with it. To go along with all the other unexplained happenings at the inn, it fit as if it had been handsewn just for me. It was a lot shorter and a lot snugger than I was used to, but the deep, plunging neckline and shimmery material was the perfect style for the outing.

  Of course, by the time the hour came around to leave for the Hanky Dory, I’d spent a great deal of time questioning my decision to go through with it all. Then Beck, the central character in this particular fantasy, showed up at my bedroom door in a black shirt and jeans with his black leather jacket slung over his shoulder. His tattoos looked especially crisp and menacing, and his silver plugs gleamed in his ears.

  “Ready?” He stopped and glanced down at the dress. “That was a stupid damn question. How the fuck do you expect me to last through a pitcher of beer at the bar when you’re dressed like that, sweetheart? Hell, we might not even make it to the place.”

  I spun around once and cool air brushed my legs. “Like it? Coco left it. It’s like she lives in my head and knows everything I’m thinking.”

  “Yeah? How about me? Do you know what I’m thinking right now?”

  I tapped my chin, knowing full well that the tension in his jaw had nothing to do with anger and everything to do with me and the dress. I smiled. “Actually, I do know—and hold that thought.” I grabbed his hand and spun him around to follow me down the hallway. “You’re going to need it soon enough.”

  We walked down the stairs. “We could walk over to the Hanky Dory,” Beck suggested.

  “We could. As long as you don’t mind denying me another fabulous ride on that bike of yours. I’ll get over the disappointment, eventually.”

  “You’re right. What was I thinking?” We walked down the porch steps. He glanced over at me. “Guess I was thinking that dress wasn’t the most practical for a motorcycle ride.”

  “Tonight is not a night for practicality.” The night air was brisk and a shiver went through me. “It’s also not a night for a short, paper-thin dress, but I’m wearing it anyway because it fits my mood perfectly.”

  Beck stopped before climbing onto the motorcycle and wrapped his arms possessively around me. I nearly bounced off his hard chest as he pulled me to him. “What mood is that, library lady?”

  In stereotypical library fashion, I lifted my finger to my lips and shushed him. “You’ll see,” I whispered.

  I motioned to the bike. He threw his long leg over the seat and fired up the rumbling motor. I stared at the seat and glanced down at my dress.

  He looked over his shoulder with interest, apparently waiting to see just how I would tackle my impractical wardrobe. Either I was going to do this right or not at all. I pinched the tight fabric that fit almost like a tube dress and yanked it so that the already short hem came up to just below my panties.

  “Fucking hell,” Beck muttered, seemingly to himself because he had no further comment.

  I threw my leg over and tucked myself against him as my arms wrapped around him. “I’m ready.”

  Chapter 19

  Considering there were no other houses or neighborhoods in the vicinity, the Hanky Dory pulled in a respectable crowd on a Sunday night. Beck parked the bike. While I loved riding on the back of a motorcycle, I was thankful for the short ride tonight. My legs were icy cold by the time Beck turned off the motor.

  I climbed off, yanked down my dress and stared at the place, which was loud and boisterous as if packed to the gills. A few butterflies suddenly made themselves available for a rush of nerves. It was just a silly little fantasy, harmless really. Beck would probably find it almost comical. It had all started with the biker in Kennedy’s Korner. Something about him had made me want to try life on the rowdy side for a change. I wanted to throw caution and propriety out the window and not worry about what other people were thinking. In fact, if we garnered a few looks of distaste all the better.

  Beck climbed off the motorcycle and stretched to his full, breathtaking height. He was absolutely everything I’d ever fantasized about and more. I wrapped my hand around his arm and we walked toward the entrance.

  “Do you think your table at the back will be available?”

  “Hard to say. It’s pretty crowded in there.”

  He opened the door. Music, loud conversation and cue balls clacking together reverberated through the small building. More than a few people waved or said hello to Beck as we walked through. Hank, the owner, looked up from the tap where he was hurriedly filling pitchers of beer. He did a double take as Beck and I walked up to the counter. Hank turned a gruff expression toward me and then back at Beck.

  “No trouble tonight, right?”

  Beck gave him a quick salute to assure him there wouldn’t be any. Just like the night before, the place was filled with an eclectic mix of customers. I breathed a sigh of relief when I didn’t see Derek amongst the faces.

  Beck ordered two beers, and we carried them through to the pool room. Still no Derek, but there were plenty of people, mostly men, at the tables. One guy in particular, wearing a blue sweater and an icky grin, made a point of watching me walk past in my dress that was suddenly feeling way to snug. Beck’s entire body seemed to tense with anger as we walked past the smirking creep, who seemed oblivious to the fact that I was walking in with a man who could, metaphorically speaking, crush a cue ball in his hand.

  We reached the corner table. It was perfectly situated, dark and semi-private, but I was feeling beyond silly. We slid into the booth. It seemed as if every eye that wasn’t on the game was on us. It might have been because of the scene the night before when Beck had nearly strangled a man for calling me a bitch, or it might have been the skimpy dress, a dress that was just asking for attention. But most of all, I couldn’t help feeling that everyone knew what I’d come here to do. I was being paranoid, of course.

  Beck nearly filled the table bench as he slid into it and rested his arm back along the top of the seat. I sat close to him and cradled my beer as if it was life support. I sipped it and stared out, absently, at the people playing pool.

  Beck noticed my tension immediately. “Em, you’re holding that beer as if it might run away from you, and from the way you’re barely sipping it, it seems you’re not really a beer drinker.”

  I unpeeled my white knuckled fingers from the cold glass, placed it on the table and sighed. “I do like beer. I thought it would loosen me up. Only now I see that I have no idea how to do

  “Do what?”

  “Loosen up.”

  His booming laugh caught the attention of some of the people playing pool. They looked our direction. I shrank down, suddenly worried that they were all staring at my two sizes too small dress.

  “Sweetheart, I’ve just spent the best damn twenty-four hours with you, and if you haven’t loosened up, then I can’t fucking wait to see what’s next.”

  I shrank down more, and my face heated with a blush. “You make me sound like a—” My throat tightened. I moved to scoot out of the seat, but he took hold of my arm.

  “Emmie.” He shook his head. “Shit, why do women do that to themselves?”

  “Do what? Allow themselves to fall right into bed with anyone who asks?” A sob fell from my lips. The last thing I needed to do was cry, but there they were, the usual, traitorous tears.

  He spun to face me and the table rocked from the movement. “So, I’m just anyone? And what was different about your behavior than mine? For fucksake, Em, we are two consenting adults who happened to find ourselves deeply attracted to one another. That doesn’t make you loose or me just any guy.” He wore serious very well on his all too handsome face. “Unless, of course, I am just any guy to you.”

  “Of course you’re not. Jeez, you stepped out of that fog, and for a second, I wondered if the romance gods had just dropped you there because I’d been wishing so hard for someone like you.” I swallowed to relieve some of the tightness in my throat. “You’re right. I’m being hard on myself. It’s this dress, and the whirlwind twenty-four hours with you—my first, second and third wish from the bottle genie.”

  “I liked the whole romance gods thing better.” That slow half grin that I’d grown extremely fond of appeared. “Exactly why are we here when we could be at home doing all those loose things right now. Since I’ve seen you in that dress, I’ve thought of little else.”

  “Except maybe that beer.”

  He lifted the glass of beer. “Well, Hank does stream a damn good beer from that tap.”

  I watched in my usual state of fascination as he swallowed the beer, his Adam’s apple moving up and down in an almost provocative way.

  He clunked the glass down, snapping me out of my trance. “So, what’s this fantasy you have dreamed up?”

  I shook my head, and the embarrassed blush returned. “It’s nothing.”

  “Tell me, library lady. Otherwise, I might just start one of my own and it will involve you and one of those pool tables and Hank kicking me the hell out of here for good.”

  I blinked up at him. “You have no filter at all, do you?”

  “Nope,” he said proudly. “So tell me.”

  “I guess it’s just me always being tired of acting the goodie two shoes. With the exception of the last twenty-four hours.” I nodded with a raised brow. “The most freeing of my life, I might add. I just thought it would be fun to make out in the back of some seedy, dark saloon with an incredibly hot man. Not all the way, of course. I never really relished the idea of a mug shot and jail time. I just thought, you know, like two really horny teens in the back of a movie theater.” I waved it off and took a nervous drink of my beer. “It’s silly and not all that wicked.”

  The second I lowered the beer to the table, he yanked me into his lap. I gasped as I landed solid against his chest. “You’ve got the seedy saloon, the incredibly hot man, or so I’ve been told. Which means, sweetheart, you’re just one long, make out kiss away from checking off a fantasy.”

  Beneath the table, where no one could see, he slid his hand beneath my dress and caressed my thigh as his mouth covered mine. That’s when it dawned on me, the location meant nothing. It was the man holding me who fulfilled the dream. Everything else fell away, and all I could think about was Beck, holding me, kissing me and simultaneously stealing my heart.

  We kissed, just as I’d imagined, like two teens stealing away in the backseat of their parents’ car. I’d missed those opportunities, always trying to do what was right, or at least what I considered to be right. It was strange how straight and narrow I’d marched, and, all the while, my mom had been laying a wildly, curvy path for me to follow. I was rebelling, in every sense of the word, but it was my mom who had been the true rebel. And she’d always been happy to be just that. Even when times were tough for us, she smiled and laughed through it all, never taking life too seriously. Deep down it had bothered me, that she never fretted about where we would live next or how many schools I had to move to. So, I’d played the adult, and she’d played the carefree, indifferent child. Now I saw it. All this time, she’d had the secret to a happy life, only she hadn’t kept it secret at all. I’d just ignored her advice.

  I lifted my face. My lips tingled with numbness as I gazed down at the brown eyed man who had deftly charmed me into deviating from that dull, straight path. I was finding my way back to the unexpected right and left turns and enjoying the new, uncharted path. Of course, it helped that my guide was completely irresistible.

  “Thank you for that,” I said.

  “Was it all you imagined?” Beck asked with a tilted grin.

  “Considering the arms that are holding me—yes, it was, and more. I need to head to the ladies’ room. That, unfortunately, was never part of the fantasy, but nature calls.”

  Reluctantly, I climbed off Beck’s lap. His beer was empty. “I’ll go order another beer. What do you want?”

  “Wine would be nice.”

  I got up from the table. Plenty of glances were still being shot our direction. The make out session might have attracted more attention than I wanted. Two guys, both who looked as if they were a good beer pitcher past drunk, stared openly at me from their pool table as I scurried toward the restroom.

  I finished my business and stopped for several moments on the way out of the restroom to straighten my hair and beam proudly at my particularly swollen lips. The woman looking back at me was a whole different person. I was having a blast. There was no denying it. It was the complete opposite of how I’d been feeling with David. The one item that weighed heavily on the whole thing was that I had no idea how this would end. Would Beck just give me a peck on the cheek and ride off into the sunset or would plans be set to see each other once we left the Silk Stocking Inn? The notion of driving off and never seeing him again left me feeling nothing short of despondent. I needed to ask him. A glass of wine and I might find the courage to find out just what he had in mind.

  I slipped back out of the ladies’ room and headed into the pool hall. I hadn’t gone three steps when a firm hand took hold of my arm. It was the drunken pool player who’d leered at me on my way to the bathroom.

  I pulled my arm, but he tightened his grip. Beer fumes flowed from his mouth as he leaned closer. “Shame you’re wasting all that kissing on a biker when you could be sitting on my lap instead.” He could barely keep his heavy lids open as he lunged toward me with his gaping mouth.

  I pulled hard just as he lost his slipshod grip. I flew sideways and landed painfully on the edge of the pool table. He came after me, but before he managed to touch me again, the man went sailing backward against the wall. Beck spun around and lunged at him, even though the inebriated man had been stunned by the blow against the wall. Unfortunately, he was still drunk enough to stupidly fight back. He pushed up to his feet and waved his arms uselessly. The beer had dimmed his aim. His opponent was big and fast. Beck easily ducked out of the reach of his fists.

  “You can keep the slut all for yourself,” the guy spewed as he lunged toward Beck. I could sense the anger in Beck’s shoulders as they tensed hard like iron. He grabbed the man and pulled his arm back to hit him.

  “No!” I cried.

  A loud cracking sound snapped the air behind us. Everyone’s attention, Beck’s included, turned toward the oversized and extremely mad bar owner. He
’d cracked a wooden pool stick over a chair and held the broken end with its shards of splintered wood in the air.

  “Beck, that’s twice in the same weekend. Get the hell out of my bar.”

  Beck reluctantly released the man, who slumped to the floor dead drunk. Beck turned around and looked at me. His face was still tight with rage, but he shook his head. “Damnit, Emmie, what the hell have you done to me?”

  I fled from the room and the bar. I heard Beck’s footsteps behind me, but I didn’t stop to find out how close he was. I ran all the way to the inn without looking back. I flew through the front door.

  “Back so soon?” Coco called from her kitchen.

  I didn’t stop to chat. I raced up the stairs to my bedroom and shut the door behind me. I guess I had my answer without even working up the courage to ask the question.

  I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror with the too tight dress and the swollen lips. What the heck was I doing? Why did I think I could step so far out of my comfort zone? It was all just a desperate mistake. I flopped onto the bed and cried.

  Chapter 20

  There was a knock on the door. I looked around the dark room through bleary eyes. It took me a second to remember where I was. Another few head-clearing seconds and the ugly end of the night came back to me.

  “Emmie, it’s me.” How could his deep, soothing voice already sound so familiar? “Just want to make sure you’re all right. Open up.”

  I scooted off the bed and caught yet another reflection of myself in the mirror. I’d fallen asleep in the dress, and my hair was bunched up like a bird’s nest. Puffy eyes smeared with mascara topped off the entire look beautifully.

  I rubbed my thumb beneath my eyes to minimize the raccoon impression and shuffled to the door. I took a deep breath and opened it. Another deep breath followed, this one because it was hard not to pull in oxygen when Beck was standing in front of me. He’d pulled on his jeans, but he was shirtless, unless you counted ink as fabric. Then he was fully clothed.

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