“Tell me about your bad day. It will make you feel better, heal your soul, so to speak,” said the sexy, tattooed bartender. “And if that doesn’t, then another Soul’s Kiss will surely do the trick.”
“Really…” That was all Lexi could think to say, wanting more than anything to believe a drink could take away her troubles. Not even as good a drink as that Soul’s Kiss or whatever he called it.
But she knew no drink could ever erase what was really troubling her. She knew there was no way this hunky barman really wanted to hear about her shit-ass day. Imagine if she spouted off about the tragic death of the love of her life and then went on to tell him about Deakin, her recent disaster of a rebound boyfriend, who preferred to use his fists to make her into what he wanted. And then the icing on the cake, losing her job six hours before she walked into the bar. Well, this charming tattooed bartender who thought he’d heard it all would be in for a shock. Much more fun to play along and keep it light. Pretend. Yes, that was much better. For both of their sakes.
He shrugged as if to encourage her. “Go ahead, spill the beans. Whatever kind of crap day you’ve had, I’ve heard much worse before,” he said, busily mixing drinks.
I doubt it.
She became aware of a waitress tapping her fingernails impatiently on the counter near the far end of the bar, waiting for him to stop chatting with her and fill her orders. Lexi glanced down over at her and then at him. He slid the finished drinks across the shiny bar. They landed in a slow stop right at the waitress’s tray like a hockey puck on slick ice.
“Practice makes perfect,” he joked, catching Lexi’s poorly concealed amazement. “Now, go on. Tell me about this no-good day of yours.”
“Nah.” She shook her head, deciding the last thing she wanted to do was discuss the truth as he mixed drinks. “I feel better now that I’m out of the heat. It must have been getting to me,” she offered, well aware she was becoming more chatty than she wanted to be with him. He seemed to have that effect on her. Or maybe it was just her empty stomach and the booze. Whatever it was, it felt good.
He placed the drink he was making in front of her, and her body tensed. He smiled. “Glad your day got better when you walked in the door. I know mine did.”
“Oh crap,” she blurted out before her inner censor could flick on and save her from foot-in-mouth. “Maybe I shouldn’t have another after all. My head is already fuzzy from those Soul Kisses you gave me.” She realized how ridiculous it sounded the minute the words tumbled from her tongue.
He laughed, making her all warm inside. And something more than that.
She twined her fingers through her hair, something she rarely did unless she was turned on. Christ, I haven’t had that feeling in so long.
It hit her like a boxer throwing a punch right to the gut. The sensations she had once loved so much—her immediate attraction to Scott, feeling crazy to touch him, to taste him, had been eclipsed by the tragedy of losing him. She’d damn near forgotten how to…how to feel
. Maybe Deakin had been right. Maybe she was frigid after Scott died. Not that that gave Deakin the right to treat her the way he had.
Feeling unstable, exposed, Lexi pushed the untouched drink back toward the sexy barman, deciding it would be best not to let the booze unleash any more unwanted emotions. Seemed this guy had an effect on her, and it threw her as off-balance as his divine concoctions did.
“It won’t bite if you sip it real slow.” His tone was commanding yet alluring.
Conceding that she would much rather be sitting in the bar than back out facing life, she did as he suggested. Taking her time sipping, she made the drink, the Soul’s Kiss or whatever he called it, last as long as possible while she watched him make at least a dozen other drinks. The after-work crowd had begun to fill the bar. The low din of chatter began to gain in momentum. More patrons made him even busier as he mixed, shook, and stirred a myriad of drinks. Every so often he looked her way, making her flush at the knowledge he knew she was watching him.
It was easy to do. He was a feast for her eyes, that was for damn sure, with his strong jaw, deep-set eyes, and thick brown hair that made her want to run her fingers through it. Oh damn, it was official. She was getting drunk. Or was already drunk. As they say, when in Rome…
She gave a little giggle and fingered the delicate stem of the martini glass before swirling the last drops around in the bottom of the glass, making concentric, rippling circles of the delectable liquid. He looked over and gave her a smile before coming to check on her.
“Seems you took my advice,” he observed. “Would you like another Soul’s Kiss, or did you want to try something different?”
I do want another.
More than anything she wanted this feeling of being suspended in time, in this place, away from what waited for her outside this bar. It was much easier hiding from life, getting a little buzz from the delicious cocktails, and having a hunky bartender to pass the time with.
“Surprise me,” she said.
“Something different, coming up.” He nodded and reached for a fresh frosted glass. Her gaze followed his every move as he twined beautiful blue and green liqueurs into the drink. Like layers of the Caribbean ocean, just like Meagan’s Bay, where she and Scott had spent their first vacation together. Memories flooded her like someone tugging on her ankles, pulling her under. Her head spun with the tragedy of it all. Flashes of metal and the screeching of brakes still tormented her each day. Pushing the haunting thoughts away, she reached for the drink.
The bartender reached out his hand to stop her, his hand resting on hers. Intimate but not alarming.
“Your name… You didn’t tell me your name. I can’t serve you if I don’t know your name,” he said with a tone she definitely recognized as flirtatious.
Or maybe he is just being friendly.
Weren’t bartenders notoriously friendly, listening to everyone’s problems? Oh wait, that was just Cheers
. This was real life.
“Oh I see, you want me to guess, just like with the drink.” He flashed a sexy smile at her, and she blushed, aware his hand remained on hers. Her fingers still curled under his, around the stem of the drink.
“Lexi,” she said and was rewarded with his sexy smile.
“That’s better. Nice to meet you, Lexi,” he said and quickly removed his hand, leaving her wishing he hadn’t.
She lifted the glass of vibrant liquid to her lips; the blue and green liquor tantalized her tongue before she swallowed the divine concoction.