Reckless King Chapter Reveal
I hopped up to return a pitcher to the bar, using it as a chance to get a little better look at the woman sitting there. Nearly bumping into our server, I slid it across the counter and ordered another round. My back pressed into the shiny wooden bar as I leaned against it. Despite my best efforts, Miss Purple didn’t look over once.
The women on either side of her had no problem checking me out, but suddenly I felt invisible. I didn’t mind working harder. The bartender set the full pitcher down. I reached for a stack of napkins at the same time Miss Purple did. Our hands touched before she jerked hers back. Her gaze collided with mine, and I broke out into a smile that probably made me look like a moron.
I opened my mouth.
“Heath, bring the pitcher,” someone called out from behind me at the same time the bartender slid a piping hot and massive burger in front of her. Her hands froze, and she peered over at me. I could wait.
Pitcher of beer in hand, I went back to our table and I lowered myself into my seat. She fidgeted at the bar. I wanted to help her smooth out all those nerves and show her that coming out tonight hadn’t been a mistake. Like it was broadcasting her innermost thoughts, the tension in her back practically called out for my hands to knead the stress away.
Someone called my name in a way that let me know it wasn’t the first time they’d said it. Tearing my eyes away from the beauty at the bar, I joined back in on the conversation at the table. Olivia maintained her spot no more than five feet from Ford the entire time she was there. I couldn’t tell if Ford was oblivious to her or ignoring the way she kept trying to get his attention.
Declan was all wrapped up with Makenna. Thank God they’d gotten back together. His shooting had been absolute shit when she’d ghosted him. It had been depressing as hell.
The final call for food came around, and Colm zeroed in on Olivia. He was the opposite of a fairy godmother and spirited her out of there and back to the hotel room so she’d miss out on the partying. Grant’s offer to walk her back was summarily and hilariously vetoed by Colm.
“What the hell is he going to do when she’s down here for college next year?”
Declan shrugged. “Probably have her implanted with some kind of tracker. At least we’ll be around to keep an eye on her.”
“Hey, can I buy you a drink?” A woman flanked by a few of her best girl pals brushed up against me as I switched seats to the end of our table to get a better look at my mystery woman. Most of the guys had dispersed to the dance floor, picking up someone or having someone pick them up along the way there.
I checked on Bar Girl, and she was tucking into the last of her burger. She had a notebook and scribbled away. Tapping the pencil against her lip, she stuck it up in her hair. If I hadn’t liked her already, I was dead set now. But it wasn’t the best time to go over. She was eating, probably self-conscious, trying to chew and talk at the same time.
I was crazy patient, especially when it was for something I knew would be worth the wait. People thought I acted without thinking; it was probably scarier for them to think I did the things I did by fully thinking them out. I made my patience and calculations look reckless and carefree, but they were nothing like that.
“No, it’s cool. I’ll get us all a round of drinks.” Buying a drink for all meant I wasn’t showing favoritism, and they'd be less likely to freak out when I bailed on them. Gently letting someone down had become a specialty of mine.
I watched as no more than three guys approached Miss Purple while she was eating, and she shut them down before they could even sit, pointing at her food and her full mouth and then making a walk away gesture with her fingers. Chuckling, I left the table.
The small dance floor was packed with hockey players and puck bunnies. I kept dodging invites. The first set of ladies left me behind with a few numbers tucked into my pocket. One even tucked hers into the waistband of my jeans before I grabbed her hand and removed it. And people said guys were handsy. I’d had my ass grabbed more times than I could count.
Miss Purple picked at the last of her fries and wiped her mouth. She lifted her straw to her lips and finished her drink. The bartender retrieved her plate, and I slid away from the women approaching me, not wanting to miss my window. Miss Purple could leave, or worse, some guy might try to move in on her now she wasn’t crushing her food.
I slid onto the bar stool beside her and drummed my fingers along the smooth wood, channeling my nervous energy. The bartender walked over to me and slung the towel over his shoulder.
“I’ll have a Yuengling, and another of whatever she’s having.” I pointed at her, and she looked over her shoulder, thinking I was talking about someone else before pointing at herself.
“For me?” Her eyebrows were almost at her hairline.
“No, that’s okay. I…I was going to go. You don’t need to do that.”
“I know I don’t need to, but I’d like to. Technically, it’s not even me buying you the drink.” I leaned in conspiratorially, and she leaned in too. “It’s my friend over there. He’s treating us all to a night out, so it’s not even like I expect anything. It’s not my money. This is a no obligation, I'm-glad-you-came-out-for-a-drink-when-you-didn't-have-to drink.”
Her mouth fell open, and she sputtered. “What makes you think I didn’t want to come out?”
I leaned back, checking her out, and she did her best to relax.
“No friends with you, which tells me it was a spur-of-the-moment thing. Maybe you needed to get out of the house and no friends meant if you chickened out, there was no one to call you on it.”
Her cheeks pinked up a little, and the bartender returned.
“One beer and a vodka on the rocks.” He slid the bottle to me and the glass to her.
Damn! “Straight vodka? You trying to get hammered as quickly as possible?”
“Maybe I really like plain vodka and I can hold my liquor.” She toyed with the straw of her drink, the ice clinking against the glass.
“Maybe, but you also put your coat on about thirty seconds before I got here.”
She glanced down at herself like she’d forgotten she’d done it.
“Maybe I was cold.”
“Maybe you were.” I grabbed my beer and gulped some down. She sipped her drink. “Do you think you’ll be leaving after finishing this drink?”
“I don’t know. I guess it would depend on my mood and the company when this one is empty.” She shook her glass at me.
“I think I help on both fronts. What were you running from when you came out tonight? Let me guess. Guy problems.”
She shook her head vigorously, and I did an internal sigh of relief. I really didn’t want to be That Guy cleaning up the pieces of a girl’s broken heart, but for her I’d make an exception.
“Work troubles? Or school troubles?”
She smirked and shook her head. Her full, pouty pink lips shined, coated with her drink. When they wrapped around that straw, I bit back a groan.
She pushed against my shoulder playfully. First contact, yes! “How did you know? Oh I know, because you went through every possible area of life someone could have trouble with.” Her laughter was like music to my ears.
“I didn’t hit on space exploration or solving world hunger.”
“You can write that on your list.”
I reached up and tugged the pencil out of her hair, a little disappointed it didn’t make her curls drop and cascade down her back. Waving it in front of her face, I dropped my hand and let it brush against hers. She didn’t shrink away from my touch. I think I’d finally warmed her up.
“Were you studying?”
She grabbed it out of my hand, her fingers sliding across mine. The smooth softness of her fingers only made me think about how she’d feel everywhere else. Her eyes darted away.
“No, I was writing. I’m a writer. I was looking all over for that.” She laughed and shoved it into her bag. “Kara.” She extended her hand, and I wrapped mine around hers.
“Nice to meet you, Heath.” Her bright smile was nearly blinding even in the dim bar lights. Stunning.
The music kicked up a bit, and we had to lean in to hear each other. She smelled like Christmas. Like warm cinnamon rolls on a cold winter morning.
“What were you writing before?”
“Oh you saw that. Nothing really. Thoughts, worries, dreams.”
“What are some of them?”
“Huh?” She scrunched her eyebrows.
“What are some of your thoughts, worries, and dreams?”
She hand waved them away. “Nothing too important.”
“If you’re writing it down, it must be kind of important. Lay it on me.” I leaned back, giving her a little space.
The cocoon of the bar sounds seemed to give her courage. “Family stuff. Sometimes it’s easier for me to write the things down that I have trouble saying out loud. The things I’m sometimes scared to say out loud. Somehow putting it in here.” She tapped her bag. “It makes it less scary. Less real and more real all at the same time. Whatever it is, I need to get through it all.”
“I totally get needing to work through stuff like that. For me, it’s when I skate. When I’m out on the ice, I see everything so much clearer than I do in real life.”
“Totally.” She echoed. “Sorry I unloaded on you.” She grimaced and stared down at her empty drink.
“It’s fine. I have that effect on people. I think it’s my honest face.” I held both my hands under my chin and made me eyes as big and puppy-dog-like as I could.
She burst out laughing and slapped her hand against the bar. “I’d say your face is definitely a few things, but honest wouldn’t be in the top five.”
I cocked my head to the side. “What? You don’t think I’m honest?”
“Not that, but I think there are a few other adjectives I’d use first.” She slid her drink away and turned back to me, chuckling. I dropped my hand to her jean-clad thigh and felt her muscles tighten.
“And what would those be?” I stared into her eyes as they fixed on mine. Her pupils got huge, and the tension between us swelled from playful to something else.
Her lips parted, glistening and full, and she took a shuddering breath. “I don’t remember.”
“Do you want to dance?” I lifted my hand from her leg and held it out to her. She glanced between me and the dance floor, nibbling that bottom lip.
“I’m not really that good of a dancer.” She leaned in, resting her hand on my shoulder as the music got louder. Her words skimmed across my cheek, and a spark of electricity shot down my spine.
“Neither am I. We can go out there and look like idiots together.” Another look between me and the dance floor and she nodded, shrugged her coat off. She slung her bag over her shoulder.
We found a spot on the small dance floor. Our bodies moved together in time to the music, my hand drifting down to her ass as she lifted her arms over her head when the thumping beat of an old-school dance song came on. Her eyes got wide as I tugged her toward me.
Watching the tension leave her body was a reward all its own, but going home with her tonight would be the national championship. And I wasn’t even thinking with my dick, although he was in full agreement. We stayed out on the dance floor for at least five more songs, each one bringing us a little closer together. Lips so close but never connecting. Fingers and hands taking liberties with each other’s bodies but never going too far. All it managed to do was make me a second away from getting a hard-on in front of everyone. The tension was thick between us. It was a game we were playing. The hunger in her eyes had me looking for the nearest exit, and I’m sure the look mirrored my own. Time to put it to the test.
Leaning in, I let my cheek settle against hers. A shudder shot through her as my words skimmed across the shell of her ear.
“I’ve got two choices for you, Kara. I buy you another drink, say goodbye, and I head out with my buddies…Or we leave this dance floor right now together.” I leaned back and held her gaze as she stared up at me. She licked her lips, and her eyes darted away. Maybe it had been a miscalculation on my part. Moving too fast, but I hadn’t wanted her to slip away from me.
“What about option three?” Laughter and desire twinkled in her eyes. It made me want to hold her tighter.
“What’s option three?” I lifted one eyebrow, trying to figure out how she’d use it to end the evening and tell me to get lost.
“We get one more drink and then we leave together.” She smiled brightly at me, and I tucked her under my arm, rushing for the bar.