“I bet you could bounce a quarter off that ass.”
A snort from my left has me turning to look at my best friend, and I can’t help but grin at the look of complete exasperation on her face.
“What?” I ask, trying to appear as innocent as possible. “It’s true. You know it is.” Then I return my gaze to the absolutely fantabulous buns that caught my eye in the first place. “I mean…just look at it.”
“Thanks, but I’ll pass.”
Rolling my eyes at Briar’s inability to play with me about this, I continue my attempts at persuasion. “Oh, come on. Having your own boyfriend doesn’t mean you can’t objectively objectify someone else. You’re dating, not blind,” I say, nudging her obnoxiously with my elbow.
Briar narrows her eyes and lets out a long sigh, then finally shoots a quick glance in the direction I’ve been blatantly staring at for the past minute or two.
“I’d give it a solid six out of ten,” she finally says.
My eyes widen, and I seriously begin to wonder if we should just end our friendship right now because…what?
“What?” I say, and not quietly. “That is just…completely false. His ass is at least a nine, easy.”
Briar scrunches her nose and gives her head a little shake. “Mmmmm, those buns aren’t for me.”
I look back at the man in question, trying to understand how in the hell we can have such differing opinions.
This guy is built like a linebacker. Tall and muscular and broad in a way that says he can pick a girl up and toss her over his shoulder. I’ve always wondered what something like that would be like, and I bite my lip, enjoying the way he shifts to dig his wallet out of his back pocket.
“You could not be more wrong,” is all I say, finally refocusing all my attention on her. “But I can manage to forgive you, just this once.”
Briar snorts again and takes another sip of her wine.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that her eyes can no longer acknowledge other sexy men considering the fact that she’s finally ditched the old asshat and found the man of her dreams. Now that she’s all swoony in love, even managing to get her to take a look at Sexy Buns Guy should be considered a success in and of itself. Now, she only has eyes for one man.
“What did I miss?”
Speak of the devil.
Andy Marshall sidles up to our table, setting his second beer of the night on a cardboard coaster and slipping an arm around Briar’s shoulders.
“Abby’s making me stare at other men,” she tells him, a faux pout on her face. Then she leans into him. “We’re rating butts.”
“Butt,” I clarify, emphasizing the last letter and holding up my pointer finger. “One. One butt.”
Andy hums, narrowing his eyes playfully before leaning forward. Briar and I follow his lead so we’re all huddled close.
“Which one?” he whispers.
Briar lets out a long string of uncharacteristic giggles, which means the glass of wine she’s been sipping on for the past while is finally beginning to have an effect. She points at where we’ve been looking.
Andy hums again, as if he’s really considering his score. Then he turns his head to me, a serious expression on his face. “That’s a five-star ass if I’ve ever seen one.”
Briar’s giggling increases, and I fall in with her, unable to help myself in the wake of Andy’s incredibly accurate but also very funny assessment.
“Thank you,” I say, turning to glare at Briar. “See?”
But she’s too busy giggling and taking another sip from her quickly disappearing glass of wine. Someone’s sure to have a rough hangover in the morning.
“So how’s the packing coming?” Andy asks. “Did you actually end up starting, or will it be a mad dash after Christmas?”
“Maybe a little of both,” I say honestly, wishing I could just snap my fingers and have all my stuff appear at the new place. “I’m actually a bit surprised by how much crap I have, so I’ve mostly just been throwing things away instead of packing.”
I might be getting the larger room in the little two-bedroom house Briar and I are moving into at the start of the new year, but it’s still a little two-bedroom house. It’s unrealistic for me to think I can keep everything I’ve amassed in my twenty-four years of life.
In just a few short weeks, I’m finally moving out of my brother Rusty’s house, the childhood home where we both grew up. It’s bittersweet, for both of us, and I think he might be taking it harder than he’s letting on. Still, we both know it’s time.
My brother is only six years older than me, and he’s been forced to serve as a pseudo-parent for far too long. That’s just one of the things that happens when you lose both of your parents before you become an adult. Well, Rusty was an adult at the time, but I definitely wasn’t, and it meant he became the person I relied on for everything.
Eventually I moved away from Cedar Point to go to college, and each of us got a bit of freedom from each other. Some room to spread our wings. But when I decided to move back to town after graduating two years ago, I had no idea just how difficult it would be to live together again.
It has kind of cramped my style.
When I was in school, I was able to do what I wanted, when I wanted, without worrying what anyone else thought of me. Being back in my hometown, though, means I’ve had to put my good-girl hat on. I’m a little jealous of the fact that my brother doesn’t seem to care at all what people here think about him.
I, on the other hand, am constantly concerned with how Cedar Point residents see the Fullers. There are only two of us left, after all, and my brother certainly isn’t doing the family name any favors with his rough-and-tumble attitude and propensity for hooking up with women who aren’t entirely available. Which means it’s up to me to keep us from being the main subject of town gossip.
Just for a night, though, I’d love to take that good-girl hat and chuck it in the bin. Get back to some of the fun I had when I was in college, some of the freedom to go out and drink and hook up and do whatever feels right.
My attention shifts when I hear a metallic slap on the table and catch sight of a large hand as it’s pulling back. I follow the movement until my eyes land on a man standing right next to me.
Holy shit, it’s the guy from the bar.
The five-star-ass guy.
And damn if he doesn’t look even better from the front than he did from the back.
“Let me know if you wanna use that later,” he says, a smirk stretching across his face.
I’m stunned speechless, which is a miracle in and of itself, and I take a long, long second to peruse the man before me.
Thick brows. Deep-set steel-blue eyes that sparkle with humor. Honey skin that hints of time spent outdoors. A chiseled jaw covered in just the right amount of scruff. And a dark twist of a tattoo peeking up the side of his neck from under the thick flannel shirt he’s wearing.
Before I can think to say anything in response, he winks and walks off, disappearing into the growing crowd.
I blink twice, fairly certain I just hallucinated the entire interaction.
But when I look down at the table, I know our brief encounter was very real. Because there, sitting in front of me, is a shiny silver quarter.
My eyes wide, I turn to look at my friends and find them both watching me in various stages of amusement. Briar’s eyes are bright, her hand over her mouth in surprise. Andy is trying to hide his laughter behind his pint of beer.
“Was I really that loud?”
Andy snorts. “Well, I could hear your ass talk at the other end of the bar, so my guess is he could too.”
I cover my face with my hand, the embarrassment washing over me as I realize my loud mouth has gotten me into trouble again. It’s the one thing about me I can’t seem to control.
I can work hard. I can be nice. I can volunteer. I can join in. I can be everything to everyone in any situation.
But the one thing I can’t seem to control is my damn mouth.
“Well, are you gonna go after him or what?”
My head flies up, and I look at Briar in shock. “Excuse me?”
She just shrugs, as if she hasn’t completely blown my mind.
“How many times have you told me you need to get laid?”
I glance at Andy and find his lips pinched together as he continues to fight his laughter.
Briar, oblivious to my embarrassment, continues. “Well, look where we are,” she says, spreading her arms wide. “We are at the ultimate source of one-night stands. Time to take advantage, sister. Put up or shut up.”
“Maybe we’ll just”—Andy slips Briar’s mostly empty wine glass out of her hand and scoots it across the table so it’s out of her reach—“call it a night on the drinking, yeah?”
As Briar protests and Andy tries to convince her that one glass was enough, my eyes float around the room, considering what my best friend has said. Yes, she’s slightly intoxicated. But she’s also not at all wrong.
We’ve talked numerous times over the past few months since she’s been home about the fact that I am in desperate need of some sexy fun in my life. It has been over two years since I’ve climbed into bed with anyone, and that was back when I spent every weekday on a college campus and had access to hot guys galore. The pool of available men in Cedar Point is a bit less crowded, and nobody has caught my eye since I moved back.
The bar we’re in right now, Dock 7, is known for being the place to go if you’re looking for some no-strings-attached fun and the hotspot for people in town on vacation. It’s why the locals call the place Lucky’s, and since it’s the week before Christmas, the restaurant-slash-bar is packed to the gills with locals and visitors alike hoping to grab a drink, take a break from too much family time, and possibly find a ho, ho, ho.
Okay, that’s kind of unfair, even if it is clever.
I purse my lips, my eyes looking off in the direction the mystery guy went, and then I look down at the quarter he left behind.
It was a sexy and funny way to get my attention, and I’m a sucker for a guy with a sense of humor. Maybe I shouldgo find him. I am majorly overdue to have a little fun, and who better to have a steamy night with than some kind of mysterious stranger who’s only passing through?
The longer I think about it, the more I realize I really do deserve it.
“Do you think he left?” I ask, my fingernails tapping along the side of my pint glass as my eyes continue to search the crowd.
“You’re not serious.”
I turn back to look at Andy, finding his expression stern and not at all as amused and playful as it was before.
“You don’t know the guy,” he adds. “It could be dangerous.”
I tilt my head and pin him with a glare. “Have you ever had a one-night stand before?”
Andy’s cheeks go pink, surely thinking back to the nights, years ago, way before Briar, when he and my brother would come here together looking for some of their own fun.
“Why? Because you’re big and bad and can protect yourself?”
Briar pipes up. “That’s sexist.”
“Thank you, friend. It is sexist.”
Andy lifts his hands in the air, clearly not wanting to be subjected to any more comments like that one. “Fine. I’ll be quiet about it. Excuse me for worrying that you’re going to go off and get murdered.”
“The only thing that will be getting murdered is her vagina.”
I slap a palm over my face at Briar’s remark.
“Okay, I could have lived without that,” Andy says, shaking his head and taking a long gulp from his beer.
Scooting around the table, I loop my arm into his. “Thanks for caring,” I tell him.
Andy has been friends with Rusty for a long time. He’s kind of like family, I guess, so it makes sense that he’d want me to be safe. But on a night I’m hoping to break some rules, a brother type is the last thing I need.
“And no telling Rusty,” I add.
“Trust me,” he says, pinning me with a look of his own. “I have absolutely zero interest in talking about this with your brother.”
I grin, my eyes returning to scan the area in search of the mystery guy. Thankfully, I don’t have to look for too long, because the crowd starts to shift and part at what seems like the exact right moment.
There he is, on the other side of the bar. Standing at another high-top table. Alone.
“All right, lovebirds,” I say, tucking my hair behind my ears and hopping off my stool. “Wish me luck and a night of fun.”
“Be safe,” Andy says. “Text Briar a picture of his license if you leave with him.”
“And his penis if you see it,” Briar adds, a big smile on her face and her eyes glassy as she leans into Andy.
“Yeah, good luck with her tonight,” I tell him. “She gets feisty when she drinks.”
“I’ve noticed,” he says, amusement coloring his voice.
Giving my friends a quick wave, I pick up the quarter and head off into the crowd, skirting around throngs of people to get to the other side of the room.
When I finally make it over there, I see the man of the hour leaning forward, his hands on his glass of beer as he twists it back and forth on the table between flat palms. Before I even have another second to think through what I want to say, he looks up, his eyes colliding with mine.
I register his surprise first, though it flickers across his face for only a second before that delicious smile from earlier returns. Just that look alone propels me forward until I’m across the table from him.
I take the quarter and set it down next to his glass, making the same loud slap noise he made when he set it down in front of me just a short while ago.
And then I say the most flirtatious thing I can manage to come up with, officially setting my good-girl hat on the shelf for the evening.
“I’m here to collect, if you’re in for a little fun.”