“I’ll leave my jacket in the car.” He shrugged out of his suit coat, removed his tie, and tossed both into the small backseat. Then he released the top two buttons of his shirt, revealing the hollow in his tanned throat surrounded by cords of muscle.
She licked her lips, unable to look away from the intimate glimpse of skin. She wondered if the rest of him was equally tanned and toned. He leaned into the car, offering a stellar view of his backside, and pressed a button on the dashboard. While the convertible top glided up to seal with the windows, he rolled his white shirtsleeves back on his forearms. His sexy look could’ve been printed in GQ magazine, one of those spreads where a gorgeous man in a thousand dollar suit was attempting to look casual and effortless. Only, Trey succeeded.
When the convertible roof slid into place, he locked his car and spread his arms. “This is as dressed-down as I can get on short notice.”
She entertained several descriptions—hot, delicious, and drool-worthy—but kept those to herself. “You look fine.”
He held the door open for her and they walked inside.
The muted lights, tobacco-stained ceiling, tacky wood paneling, familiar faces, and the jukebox waiting in the corner, filled her with fondness. A stab of nostalgia reminded her how much she loved coming here most Fridays after work to relax and unwind. No computers or keyboards, no deadlines, no one to impress or answer to. Just a fun group of low-key regulars who worked hard and played harder. She’d miss this place when she took the job offer and moved to Phoenix. Along with so many other things that made Denver home.
She scanned the bartenders, hoping to recognize one. When she recognized both, she smiled and waved.
Mo, wearing his signature flannel shirt with hacked-off sleeves, paused while wiping a glass. He elbowed Mitch, who dressed like he’d time-warped out of the 1980s hair band era. “Hey, she’s here.”
Mitch turned away from a cooler where he was stocking bottles. When his eyes met hers, she broke into a smile. “Hey, Snow. You abandoned us for three weeks in a row.”
“Snow?” Trey repeated with a blank look.
“They call me Snow White. The whole pale skin, dark hair thing, I guess.”
“I like it,” he said in a low voice that sent a quiver down her spine. “Where are your seven dwarves?”
“Pick one,” she said, gesturing to the row of regulars lining the bar. She tapped them each good-naturedly on the shoulder as she passed. “Happy. Sleepy. Slumpy. Wheezy. Drunky. They’re all here.”
The older men waved in succession and then proceeded to bicker over which name belonged to whom.
A strained look crossed Trey’s face. “Another legion of fans I have to contend with. Great.”
“What do you mean?”
He sent her a wry smile as they approached an open space at the bar. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the way your minions hang on your every golden word.”
A laugh caught in her throat at his misguided but entertaining observation. “Cheer up.” She patted his shoulder. “You can be my Prince Charming for the night.”
“Now that’s a job description I can handle.”
With a dazzling grin that made her knees weak and rivaled any Walt Disney prince, he pulled out her chair and waited until she was seated before he slid onto the bar stool next to hers.
Mo moseyed on over to them. “The usual?”
She turned to Trey. “Care for a shot of whiskey?”
“I’m in.” He reached for his wallet and handed Mo a red American Express card. “Whatever Devon orders, it’s on me.”
Mo regarded him with a sour expression. “We don’t take American Express.”
“Then here.” Trey tossed a shiny platinum card on the counter. “Again, whatever she wants.”
“Again. We don’t take Discover.”
Sensing Trey’s growing agitation, Devon interjected. “I’ve got it, Mo.”
Trey grabbed her wrist to stop her from reaching into her purse. He proceeded to slide a hundred dollar bill from his wallet and slap it on the counter. “Is this acceptable?”
Mo’s eyes bugged for a moment then narrowed on Trey. “Yup.” The bartender turned away and shouted to Mitch. “Grab me two Millers from the cooler.”
Devon glanced at Trey, who was in the process of sizing up Mo and Mitch. With his history of locating and confronting scumbags, he probably did that instinctively.
“Trey.” She rested her hand on his arm and felt the livewire tension that turned his muscles into granite. While his expression remained neutral, his posture was anything but. If the situation required it, he was poised to strike. “Trey,” she repeated, “ignore them. It’s nothing personal.”
“Sure as hell feels personal.”
“They’re just a couple of guys who own a bar that’s been in the family for three generations. They cater to blue-collar people who cash their checks on Friday and come straight here.”
Trey visibly relaxed. “Right. I get that.” When Mo returned with two shots and two beers, Trey added another hundred to the one resting on the counter and leaned over the bar. “Get everyone here a shot or whatever they’re drinking. Say it’s on the house.”
For a second Mo looked guarded, but slowly his face brightened. “Yes, sir.” He turned to the crowd and bellowed, “Everybody! Drinks on the house!”
A collective cheer rose up, people rushed the bar, and Trey settled back into his seat. He shook his head. “One year, and I’ve forgotten where I came from.”
She squeezed his forearm. “Thanks for coming out with me tonight.”
The look of reverence in his eyes stopped her heart for two beats. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” They shared a smile. He lifted his shot glass. “To old roads that lead to new horizons.”
“Cheers.” She clinked his glass and tossed back her shot.
With a twinge of guilt, she thought of her new horizon. Of the sun that would set on Denver and rise in Phoenix. While part of her wanted a new start, a fresh perspective, this is where she’d earned her professional stripes, found a sense of belonging—and she knew she would always have the roots of her foundation here.
Again, the word circled her mind like a hawk on a cloudless day. Home.
“You asked me a personal question, now it’s my turn.”
Extracting herself from her thoughts, she glanced at Trey. “Okay.”