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I haven’t had sex in more than a year. Tonight, I have every intention of changing that. All the late nights of studying, constant emails between professors over assignments or potential careers, and leaving work or barbeques with friends early to make sure I’m getting everything with school finished have finally paid off. I’ve landed my dream job and it’s time to celebrate—but more importantly, relax. And what better way than with some good old-fashioned one-night stand sex?
That should be easy to do, too, since I’m in Rockland, Colorado, visiting my good friend Liam—who, thankfully, is the only person here who knows me—and not back home in Wind Valley, Wyoming. Although, I’ll be headed back tomorrow to prep for my first day as a working woman. It’s a long stretch to get an assistant to the marketing director position straight out of college, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let all that hard work go to waste.
I scan the inside of the bar, searching for the perfect fling material. I come up short of prospects, taking in the fact it’s only six in the evening and there aren’t very many people here. There’s a group of women in the corner near the bathroom hallway, wearing pastel pink, blue, and green dresses that just scream spring. Only two of the four pool tables lined against the back wall are being used, and there’s a couple sitting at one of the round tables in the middle of the open room. Not a lot of choices for me at the moment.
“All I’m saying is that it’s a risky move,” Liam says. He’s the manager, working behind the bar tonight at The Silver Tap. It’s the sister bar to the one where I work in Wind Valley —now only weekends—The Black Alcove. That means free drinks for me. This is perfect, because as much as I am mentally shouting, “Yay, one-night stand,” I’m also mentally shouting, “Don’t do it. STD.” Vodka and the splash of cranberry in front of me is definitely going to make one of those thoughts disappear. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to go find the grimiest guy in the bar. I have standards, even if I say shit, fuck, and speak my mind way more than a person should. I don’t really have a filter, but that has nothing to do with how I pick my men.
“I want to get laid, Liam. Since you and I have no attraction whatsoever, a stranger is going to have to do,” I tell him. But I also prefer it this way. I want sex, not a relationship. Easy as that.
Liam squeezes his eyes closed and turns away from me. Probably thinking of how he attempted a night of lust but I just couldn’t do it. Yeah, he’s just under six feet, all muscle, and dark hair, dark eyes, but I don’t know … maybe it’s because I was friends with him first. That and my refusal to commit to a man—even when we go months without keeping in touch—could cost us our friendship. Anyway, every now and then, by the way he brushes an arm against me or voices his concerns about me always being alone or how I should see someone about my hesitation to jump into an actual relationship, I still think he has a thing for me. A small thing—I hope.
He releases a long sigh as he busies himself making drinks from the tickets he just tore off the printer. “At least pick the guy here, all right? Then I can see his face and maybe card him for his drink to memorize his address or something before you leave with a complete stranger who could murder you in the back of his car.”
“First of all, I still have those handcuffs you gave me at Christmas.” I pause, letting him laugh it off. It was a gag Christmas gift. Well, so he thinks. I really do plan to use them one day. “And second of all, you’re being dramatic. That’s not going to happen.”
“You don’t know that.” He isn’t laughing anymore.
“Considering I am planning on using the bathroom here or my room at your place, since that is where I’m staying, I do know.”
“The bathroom, Beth, really?” he asks.
“At least you’ll know where I am.” I grin at him. I’m trying to help the guy release some of his discomfort with my evening plans. His lack of a smile says I’m not doing a good job.
A customer walks up a few stools down and Liam excuses himself to take care of the bald-headed man.
My phone lights up, as if my mother knows I have a free moment and was going to use it for something illicit. I let it ring.
It’s not that I don’t want to talk to her, but also that I don’t. If she wants to talk about something other than my dad, sure, I’d love to chat. But ever since my dad started dating someone new, she’s been extra needy. Not to mention her drinking has increased. Right now, I want to tell her to suck it the fuck up. You’ve been divorced for ten years. He’s allowed to date again and so are you. But of course, I’d never say any of that. My parents are the perfect example of why commitment is bullshit.
“So, tell me again how this new job works. They don’t just hire you?” Liam asks once his customer has left.
“Yes, I’ll going into the office every day and earn a paycheck, but I’m on a ninety-day trial. So yeah, if I don’t earn the position, they let me go.”
I really hope they don’t.
“Do a lot of places do that?” he asks.
“I think it’s more popular with bigger companies.”
“What are you going to do if you don’t make it?” he asks.
I sit up with my arms crossed in front of me. “What do you mean if, Liam? They’ll keep me.”
“But what if they don’t?” he prompts.
“I need a new subject,” I blurt out. “You’re depressing me with your lack of excitement and clear confidence in me.” Instead of the small sips I’ve been taking I start to gulp down the remainder of my drink. It would be fantastic if this liquor would work faster.
“Hey, I’m thrilled you got this marketing job. I know you’ve been working hard for it and I’m sure you’ll keep it, but sex with a guy you don’t know seems like a pretty manly way of celebrating.”
“Whoa, sexist. What are you trying to say?” I unintentionally slam my glass against the counter.
He releases another sigh as the entrance door opens, streaming in the last little bit of daylight over his face as the sun is beginning to go down.
“Nothing. I take that back. It’s just an odd way to handle victory is all,” he says.
I let the word settle in as a group of rowdy men step inside the bar. They’re all donning suits and ties. But they look young. Possibly somewhere around my own age of twenty-five. Thirty, max. One man stands out in the crowd, not only because he’s the only one to wander to the music box, but because he is the only one who has well-groomed scruff that covers his face. It’s shaved so perfectly that his jawline is more pronounced than normal. I’ve never been a fan of facial hair, but tonight, I think I could be.
He taps away at the screen, searching for what I hope is a song I’ll enjoy. After all, he did just cut off the playlist I lined up on the damn thing. Took me over an hour, too.
Bands. Every bar should stick to live bands.
He shifts from his right foot to his left, sliding every finger but his thumb into his right pocket. His left thumb of his other hand rests against his lips as he pauses. I like those lips. They aren’t too plump and they aren’t so thin that I’ll feel like I’m kissing his chin more so than his mouth. They look like nice kissing lips. His tongue glides over them, leaving a glistening coat. Yes, those are positively kissable lips. I’m still staring when he turns. He must have sensed he was being watched because a pair of bold, golden brown eyes settle right on me. He smiles and then winks. I twist back around to face Liam.
“Looks like you found your guy,” he says, full on rolling his eyes at me like a girl.
“No, I’ll keep looking,” I say.
“Why? He is clearly into you?”
“Yeah, he also caught me looking at him, which means he thinks I’m into him, which also makes him think I’ll be easy.”
“But you’re specifically searching for a man to have sex with. What am I missing here?” Liam asks.
“Yeah, well I still want the guy to work for it. I mean this”—I point to my face and my body—“is not just something you get. You have to earn it.” I’m not conceited, but I know every woman, beautiful or flawed, deserves to be wooed properly. No matter the circumstance. And tonight, even though I’m not going to focus on any part of my life but sex, I still want to feel wanted by whoever I choose. The trick now is finding the right guy and turning tonight into one of the best nights of my life.
“You slept with our client’s wife.”
My father, who doubles as my boss, paces behind his desk. He’s not asking a question. He already knows the answer. It’s more like he’s waiting for me to confirm the accusation. Which I will, because it’s true. I just hate that I’ve disappointed him. Again. It’s like senior year when I told him I wanted to follow in his footsteps in the family marketing business instead of taking the college football scholarship in Tennessee. Most fathers would have been thrilled. Not mine.
He had to have known I would make that choice. He interned me with the company every summer since eighth grade, and some nights after school, we’d sit and spitball ideas back and forth for hours. I never did it as an excuse to spend time with him after mom died in my junior year of high school; I did it because he loved it, and because he loved it, so did I. So now I’m here, eight years later, working with him and struggling to accept that what I did shouts how much I haven’t grown up.
“I didn’t know she was his wife. Most wives attend the meetings instead of waiting in reception,” I say.
His stride stops and he turns to face me, leaning forward, palms flat against his desk. “You cost the company a seven-figure deal, Maverick.”
He had to remind me. I’ve beaten myself up more than anyone over this since six days ago when this same mentioned woman came into our office, bringing her husband to meet me so he’d know she wasn’t lying. I’d say they had some problems going on at home and I was her ticket out. But no matter their issues, I’m the one who made the mistake.
“Had I known who she was, it wouldn’t have happened.” I lean back in my seat, cross one ankle over the opposite knee, and loosen the collar of my shirt. “You know I would never intentionally cost us a contract.”
Closing a seven-figure deal will always get my blood pumping. No matter how many times I’ve watched the owner of a company sign his name after I’ve pitched him the most brilliant marketing proposal he’ll ever hear, it never gets old. I’m not a cocky jackass like most people think; I’m just good at my job. Extremely good. Others—coworkers, friends, people I meet in passing—choose to call me a jerk rather than admit they wish they could do their job the way I do. I have a 95 percent success rate. Who doesn’t want to say that about themselves?
Most people think I’m in this position because my own father is the president of this company, Mitchell Marketing. The degrees hanging on the wall behind my desk in my office say otherwise.
“No, no I don’t know that. Not with these juvenile actions,” he says.
His hard stare matches my own.
“Dad, I’ve closed more contracts than almost everyone here combined. Not including you, of course.”
Great, now I’m mixing a little bit of whining with bragging. This is not my style.
“Sealing the deal doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have respect for our company. Your uncle and I didn’t create this business for our kids to come in here and tarnish the hardworking and loyal reputation we’ve built.”
“That’s all Austin’s doing,” I say. My cousin is a spoiled idiot who blows through my uncle’s money doing everything he can to avoid growing up.
“After this stunt, I’m not so sure he’s alone.”
“Maverick, I’ve always known you love marketing. I knew you’d be great at making the pitch to our clients and that you’d be the best man to replace me as president when I retire, which is why I hired you as soon as you had your degree. But now, I’m not so sure I made the right choice.”
“Whoa, Dad, I messed up. I know I did, but you don’t need to fire me.” I sit up, resting my arms on my thighs. “I’ll find a way to make back the number we lost. You can trust me.”
A sly smile crosses my father’s lips, the same one he used to display after my games in high school when he’d hear people talking about what a great arm I had. He’s always loved knowing something other people didn’t.
“I know I can, and that is exactly why first thing Monday morning, you will start new hire recruitment for the assistant to marketing director position in Wind Valley under your uncle’s guidance.”
I sleep with a client’s wife and instead of punishing me, he sends me to Wyoming to choose who the next person we hire is?
“Uncle Bart wants me there?” I ask. I haven’t seen the man since my graduation. Talked to him on the phone and emailed him through the company for business, yes, but on a personal level, no. And not once in any of our work conversations did he show any type of acceptance of me. Mostly because I was able to skip the recruitment phase myself. I got lucky. Although, I have no doubt I would have come out as the best recruit for whatever job they were hiring for at the time.
“Of course he does. In fact, he was the one who mentioned the idea to me,” Dad answers.
“Wow, I don’t know what to say. I’m honored you have that much faith in me. I won’t let you down. I’ll pick the best candidate.” I stand, straighten my tie, and turn for the door.
“Yeah?” I twist back around.
“You’re not going to be selecting a recruit.”
“No, you are one of the recruits.”
I blank on any response.
“Prove to me and this company in the next ninety days that you want to be here and I’ll bring you back to Colorado. You can resume your current position as VP project director, and we can discuss the idea of my retirement in the next couple of years. If you don’t succeed in earning your place back, then you no longer have a job here.”
“I made one mistake; it’s not going to happen again,” I repeat myself.
“Then you should have no problem proving that to everyone else in the company who will one day, hopefully, look up to you as an employer.” He nods, once, his clear tell sign that this discussion is over. I return his nod and again head for the door.
“One last thing,” his voice stops me. “You’ve got to start placing the needs of the company before your own in certain areas. Your love life and career need to be fully separate. Mixing the two is the perfect recipe for disaster.”
“Yes, sir,” I say with no hesitation and finally leave his office.
Don’t worry, Dad. If mixing sex and business together is going to set me back every time, I can guarantee it will not happen again.
I follow a group of men inside the bar. The men, like me, are all sporting suits. I’ve heard that downtown Rockland includes more office buildings in a five-block radius than most other cities in the northeastern part of the state. The Silver Tap, the bar I’m walking into right now, is conveniently in the middle of those five blocks. Whoever opened this business right here knew the opportunities a placement like this would provide them. The average working human enjoys a drink after work. This location is a brilliant move if you ask me, considering I fall into average right now.
The crowd that enters in front of me veers to the left, claiming the table nearest the door. I take a quick scan of the room. I’m meeting my sister, Tiffany, for drinks, possibly two. She wants to talk about what happened. Not as head of human resources but as my sister.
I spot a jukebox out of the corner of my eye and head that direction. I press a few buttons and ponder my choices of music: country, rock, rap, and more. It’s a basic selection. I settle on some oldies. A rack of pool balls breaking rattles behind me. A round sounds like a great distraction, considering my sister is going to jump right into the discussion of what she thinks I should do when I get to the office on Monday.
I look over my shoulder to see if there is an empty pool table, but I don’t get a chance to find a free table before a solemn woman with fiery red hair who’s seated at the bar grabs my attention. She’s staring right at me and doesn’t even flinch once I send her a wink and grin. All things considered, finding a random hookup isn’t the best choice to make right now, but hell, I may as well go all out tonight if I’m going to be all business for the rest of the summer.
Red’s expression doesn’t change before she twists back around. The bartender braces his arms against the bar top before saying something to her.
She flips her hair over her shoulder where it ends gracefully at the middle of her lower back. She wearing black shoes that could easily be mistaken for socks. Her dark blue jeans are ripped at the knees and her black t-shirt barely meets the waistband of her pants. She looks over her shoulder once more and I barely catch the spark of emerald in her eyes before she reverts her gaze forward again.
My type has always been suits and success, but something about this woman won’t let me pull my eyes away.
“Can I get you something?” a blonde waitress in a navy mini skirt asks.
“No, I’m all right. Thanks. I’m just going to have a seat at the bar,” I answer. She nods and passes me to her next table.
There are about ten empty barstools at the bar, but I head straight for the one beside Red.
The bartender shifts away from her to greet me. “What can I get ya?” he asks.
“I’ll take a Coors Original, please,” I say and steal a glance at the woman next to me.
She makes a gagging gesture with her finger before she turns to me. “Of all the beers you could pick, you pick the most repulsive one available.”
I chuckle. “And what would you have recommended?” The bartender hands me my beer and I take a swig, waiting for Red’s answer.
“Maybe a Sam Adams or something else not so boring.”
“Boring,” I repeat. “I’ve actually never been told that my taste of any kind is … boring.”
Her lips twitch right before she licks them and narrows her eyes at me. I hadn’t been expecting her to be so quickly responsive to my comment.
“I take it we’ve moved past talking about beer,” she says.
“Well, did you want to continue small talk or get right to point of why I sat next to you?”
Her gaze flashes between me and the bartender, who is now at the other end of the bar and not paying attention to us.
“I’m going to step outside for some air. Would you like to join me?” she asks, spinning on her chair and standing.
I chug the remainder of my beer and rise. “I’d love to.”
Ninety-five percent perfect success rate.
I follow behind her, catching the moment she glances back to the bartender, again. I do the same and am struck with arms folded across his chest and a glare. Perhaps I should be worried that I’m about to steal another man’s woman for a bit, but if they were actually together, he would have been over the bar top by now with his fist in my face. I mean, if I had a girl who looked like the one with the swaying hips in front of me, I’d work overtime to make sure men knew she was mine.
We step outside and Red heads straight for the side of the building. The second I turn the corner she pushes me up against the faded red brick. I expect her to dive right into kissing me, but she doesn’t. The way her sultry eyes roam over my body makes the decision of what to do next for me.
My lips capture hers and my tongue invades her mouth before she can protest. Bracing my hands on her hips, I spin us around. I lift her and she wraps her legs around me before it’s her turn to be pressed against the wall.
Her hands rest on my face as she kisses me harder. Her fingers curl in my hair, and the way the tips massage my scalp each time her tongue collides with mine sends a newfound sense of desire from my head all the way to my toes. The evidence of how much I’m enjoying this presses against her stomach, only fueling her kisses. We’re basically rubbing against each other where anyone can see us. A splice of jealousy that someone could see her like this when it should be meant only for me runs through my body. No woman has ever given me a single thought even close to that one, and I pull away.
Warm eyes gaze up at me. I lean down to kiss her once more and then release her legs till her feet are planted back on the ground.
Red bites her bottom lip and the action makes me dip to take over for her. I could kiss her all day long.
“Your place or mine?” she says before I get the chance.
A woman who knows what she wants. Man, this one just keeps getting sexier and sexier.
“If we exchange names, that might—”
“Make things complicated,” she finishes for me. “Look, if you don’t want to do this, I don’t care.”
“No, I do,” I say a bit too eagerly. I take her hand and start to lace our fingers so I can lead her back to my place—probably the worst idea I’ve ever had—a couple blocks away when she jerks her hand away from my touch.
“Sex. Just sex. No hand holding or anything else.”
“It was an innocent move,” I say, holding back a laugh.
Instead of taking off for my place, I press my body into her, my legs parting hers as I lean forward, kissing just under her ear.
“I don’t want commitment. If you’re looking for one night with a guy who will treat you right and put all your needs before his, I’m your man. I’ve never been arrested and I have a clean bill of health. I’m twenty-six and my name is—”
“Stop.” She holds up a hand and smiles. “The less we know about each other, the better.”
A smile tugs at my lips. “Really, no names?”
“No names,” she repeats.
She full out wants to have a complete one-night stand. I’m not sure whether I should be appalled or impressed.
A growl comes from deep in my throat as my lips devour hers again. Her head falls back the best it can as I kiss down her neck to her chest. I lift one leg to my side, allowing myself to grind into her, a preview for later.
Later must not be something she wants, because her hands glide under my jacket and before I know it, she has unlatched my belt and pulled down my zipper.
“You can’t be serious!” Both Red’s body and my own freeze at the high-pitched shrill behind us. “I’m ten minutes late and you’ve already moved on to new plans for the night.”
I immediately twist my body to shield Red and the display of my very pronounced erection.
“What are you doing? Oh, my god!” My sister yells one more time as she observes me and Red with a furious gaze.
“Tiff, stop yelling” is how I start but am immediately cut off from saying any more.
“You have a girlfriend!” Red scolds and shoves me back.
“What?” I ask and jerk my pants back into place. “No … I—”
“You’re a pig,” Red snaps, yanking her shirt back down.
“Wait,” I call out just as she is almost around the corner. “I don’t have a girlfriend. That wasn’t—”
“Yeah, clearly you don’t now that she caught you.”
“No, I mean, can we just try this again?”
My sister lets out a huff as she crosses her arms, glaring at Red while she watches our interaction. That certainly doesn’t help.
“You’re kidding, right? One-night stands are supposed to be easy. This was a train wreck, and thank fucking god I never have to see you or your girlfriend again. All girls deserve more than what your sleezeball ass has to offer.”
With that, she marches back inside the bar.
I slouch back against the wall. Well, that was a disaster, but I can’t say it was the first time that’s ever happened to me. It is, however, the first time I want to tell my sister to fuck off.
“Mav, you can’t be distracting yourself with a woman right now. Might I remind you that’s how you got yourself into this mess?”
I press the heel of my palm into my eyes. “It was just sex, Tiff.”
“I’m sure it was,” she says, placing her hands on her hips as she glares at me. “You want the president spot, you need to be focused.”
“If I want sex in my life, Tiff, no one is going to tell me I can’t.” I push off the wall and look down the street. I’ll need another bar if I want some drinks.
“Mav,” she says, her tone laced and ready for an argument.
“Tiff.” There isn’t anything she can say about this entire situation at work that I haven’t already told myself.
We have one of our typical brother sister stare downs that usually end with her winning. Not this time.
“Fine,” she snaps. “You’re right.”
“I know I’m right,” I say. She shoves me as we walk away from The Silver Tap.
“You might be a little right, too,” I say. “I’ve let Dad down enough this last week. I don’t plan on doing it again.”
“Ever the family man, that guy,” she replies. “He just wants what’s best for you, Mav.”
It’s true, Dad is all about running a successful business, but he’s even more about having a family. He wants it for both of his kids, but neither of us have made that commitment yet. And I sure as shit haven’t been going about it the right way.
I take a look over my shoulder as we make our way down the street. I could go back, explain Tiff is my sister, and probably get back to where I left off with Red, but that’s a lot of work for one night of sex. And besides, I need to focus on developing an approach to the next three months. I’m not letting this job slip out of my hands. That’s what I should be worrying about, not thinking about how the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever met now thinks I’m the world’s largest scumbag. I should probably just pretend this evening never happened and feel lucky that the chances of ever seeing her again are slim to none.
JUST ONE SPARK releases on April 12, 2017!
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