Jamie presents a flamboyant and slutty attitude to the world because he’s been hurt before. Even though it’s mostly an act, he hides behind his persona to keep people at arm’s length. With only a small group of trusted friends, he’s vowed to never allow a man to have power over him again. Power to hurt him. Power to take away his freedom. Power to label him as a predator for the rest of his life.
Reed and his sister run a home preschool for toddlers. His focus is on getting credentialed so he can take some of the burden from Abby. He doesn’t have time for friends, much less a lover, but when he meets Jamie, he recognizes something in the man that makes him want to get closer.
Unfortunately, Jamie’s past prevents him from truly integrating into Reed’s future. It’s not just a matter of the heart. It’s a matter of the law.
The Unicorn is packed for a Wednesday night. Lots of new faces blend in with the regulars and I’ve been running nonstop since I got here three hours ago.
“Hey, hot stuff.” Ross, a big meathead that comes in practically every night, is reaching for my wrist as I pass by him. “Bring that sweet ass of yours over here, would you?”
“Just a minute, sugar. I’ll be right back.”
After dropping off the drinks at table seven, I head to a two top in the back corner where a new guy is sitting with a book. I don’t see many people reading books in here. In fact, I think this is a first.
His light yellow polo shirt and baggy jeans aren’t the norm either, but he probably didn’t come here for fashion advice. Like everyone else in this bar, he’s here for a drink and I’m here to serve him.
“Hey there. Can I help you?” I use my mellow voice. I have many voices when I’m at work. The high-pitched whine. The sexy drawl. The bitchy diva. Throughout the course of the night, I’ll work them all in with each of my different customers. Everybody wants something different out of me. And if I want decent tips, I have to give them what they need.
But this guy doesn’t seem like he’s looking for any of that. He’s not looking for entertainment. At least, it doesn’t seem like it. Sadly.
His eyes quickly scan my leather hot pants and pink mesh tank top. This is practically my work uniform.
“Yeah, can I just get a Coors light?”
I’m tempted to ask if he’s in the right place, but I hold back. “Sure thing, honey. Are you gonna be ordering any food?”
Looking up at the bar, he’s probably surprised that we even offer food. Truth is, the stuff we serve can barely be classified as edible, so he should consider himself lucky when he shakes his head and turns back to his book.
Okay. Not one for small talk. No problem. I turn around and slink over to Ross, leaning against the table so I’m facing him. “Hello, sweet thing. What can Jamie get for you?” His hand wraps around my thigh and slides up until his fingers are playing at the swell of my ass. I smile tightly and try to scoot away but his strong grip keeps me in place.
“Ross…” I try to keep my tone light while letting him know this isn’t okay.
“I love how you say my name, baby.” His fingertip presses against my hole as he looks at me. “For now, I’ll take another long island iced tea. But when you get your next break, I’ll take this,” he says as his finger rubs my pucker.
“You know I can’t do that, sweetie, but I’ll get your drink back here in two shakes.”
I give my ass a couple shakes as I walk away to punctuate my point. Ross is always flirty, especially when he’s drinking tequila, but this is the first time he’s been so physical. Usually it’s just words and rough smacks, but the fucker almost penetrated this time. I glance over at Billy, the manager. He’s watching me, so I know he saw what happened. As soon as I place the new orders with Trixie, I walk over to him.
“Can you keep an eye on Ross?”
He nods. “You okay?”
“I’m okay, but he’s getting a little more handsy than usual. I think he might… Well, just keep an eye on him.” Billy nods and his narrowed eyes shoot straight to Ross.
Ross isn’t even paying attention to me. The group of guys he’s with are all laughing about something when I bring his drink back a few minutes later. Ross tries to pull me into his lap, but this time I know better and twist out of his grip. “You know the rules,” I say as sweetly as I can. I still need his tips.
“What time do you get off tonight?” He isn’t slurring his words yet, but he’ll be there after this next drink. God, I hate drunks. Really hate drunks. That’s why I work here. Keeps me from getting too close to anyone.
“Really late.” I take a step back, trying to seem disappointed. “And I know you need to get on home. But don’t you worry, I’m sure you’ll find somebody in here who can take care of you much better than I can.”
Ross lunges forward and grabs my thigh, pulling me closer to him. I almost fall trying to support the tray in my hand, but manage to keep it steady. Without even having to look for him, Billy is standing over me. His huge hand is wrapped around Ross’s wrist.
“Let the fuck go and I won’t have to hurt you.” Billy is built like a tank. An old school biker bear with the leather and chains and all. He’s my height, about 5’ 10”, but he’s 220 pounds of solid muscle.
Ross doesn’t let go immediately, but after a stare down with Billy, he slowly releases his grip and spreads his fingers wide. I slip away and head straight to table nineteen to drop off their beers.
When I approach the cutie with a book, his eyes are wide. I frown, knowing that he saw everything. “Here you go, honey.” I bust out my perky voice, dropping the beer in front of him. “I’ll be back to check on you in a few minutes to see if you need a refill or if you change your mind about food.”
“Hey,” he says quietly as I turn to leave.
I stop and look back at him. “Yeah?”
“Are you okay?” He seems genuinely concerned. Seeing an emotion other than lust or superiority in someone’s eyes is new. For a minute, I don’t even know what he’s talking about. Then I realize he’s referring to Ross.
“Oh, that? Yeah. That happens all the time.” I shrug. “Comes with the job.”
“They allow that here?” he asks, glancing at Billy. I follow his gaze and watch as Billy none-too-gently escorts Ross out of the bar.
“Nope.” I nod my head toward the exit. “Billy took care of it.”
“Wow. That must suck.”
“It’s fine. Sometimes guys are assholes, but you just got to deal with it. Right?”
“I guess.” He shakes his head and turns back to his book. I leave him to read as I work the room, picking up empties and taking refill orders. When I make my way back to him twenty minutes later, he’s still sipping that same beer.
“So is this more relaxing than a library?” I tease, watching him try to concentrate on the book in his hands. Kneeling down on the other side of the table, I read the cover out loud. “Child Development in a Plugged In World. Sounds deep.”
He looks embarrassed as his hand brushes the cover like he’s trying to hide the title.
“I’m taking a class,” he shoves a napkin between his pages and lays it face down on the table, “and I really needed a beer after the day I’ve had.”
I cock an eyebrow and smirk, clearly letting him know I’m not buying it.
“Well,” he further explains, “I don’t keep alcohol at home, so I figured I’d hang out here and have a beer. I’m used to a lot of noise, so the music and people in the background doesn’t bother me. It’s kind of comforting, actually.”
“Okay.” It’s not how I like to cuddle with a book, but whatever floats his boat. “Are you sure you don’t want another beer?”
He tips his bottle to see how much is left then shakes his head. “Thanks, but one is enough for me.”
“Alright then. Just holler if you change your mind.”
“Thanks.” He’s checking out my chest, probably looking for a name tag.
“Jamie,” I say, winking at him. “Just call for Jamie and I’ll be right there.”
“Alright. Thanks, Jamie.” His smile is almost shy as he peeks up at me from under his dark lashes. I want a better look at the brown eyes that seem to be avoiding mine, but I just tip my chin and walk away.
Born and raised in beautiful California, Aria enjoys the year round sunshine and laid back environment of the west coast. Her career started out in tech writing and web development and has evolved into all things marketing with fingers in everything related to book publishing. She lives with her husband and two children and more pets than she can keep track of. Despite her crazy schedule, she loves the time she carves out to read and write. Whether it’s on the beach or on the couch at 2am, she is a woman obsessed! She loves to hear from readers so please feel free to drop her a note or visit her at www.ariagracebooks.com. If you’d like to know when Aria’s next book is coming out or where she’ll be signing, join her mailing list at: http://bit.ly/AriaGraceFanList