“Something tells me that willpower of yours is just going to melt—and soon,” Maeve says with a smirk as she snatches the rag from my hand and whips it at my leg. “And when it does, it won’t just be money you’ll lose. It’ll be your heart.”

“As if.”

“Just you wait.”

She sashays away, past the bottles of expensive booze that line the walls of our clean but elegant bar. She cues up the music for tonight, the usual jazzy standards, and then opens the doors.

Soon, the customers will come in. I imagine someone that’s just Maeve’s type—chiseled jaw, witty sense of humor, rugged good looks—walking in.

Walking in and securing me my pool table.

The thought gives me an idea.

Maybe I need to edge this bet in my favor.

It might be time I set a trap for my victory.

A tall, sexy trap that is the perfect fairy tale for Maeve.



For the next few hours, I serve and chat, and I study the guys who walk into The Magpie. I look each of them up and down as I search for the type I need to finally sink Maeve.

A businessman with a tight suit and trim blond hair? No, she’ll think he’s too pretty.

Or maybe that guy with hipster glasses and ripped jeans? He’s cute with an edge, but she’ll think he’s too grungy.

More guys weave in and out, ordering pints and whiskey sours, all of them too basic or too drab, too loud, or too impressed with their own jokes.

And then, I spot him.

A guy with so much potential it’s practically radiating off him.

He strides in like he’s walking into his bedroom at home, an effortless swagger to his movements. His large build is flanked by two women who giggle and laugh, already a little tipsy by the look of it. With inked arms and a trim beard, he has that rugged and dangerous quality she adores, right down to the dark jeans and tight white shirt.

He is the kind of man Maeve would call “sex on a stick.”

In short? He’s my new target.

I glance at Maeve, mixing a gin and tonic a few feet away. I catch her eye and mouth, You’re so going down, then tip my forehead to the man in question, raising a brow. “Your type,” I whisper.

She answers with an epic eye roll before returning to her customers.

She thinks no one here will tempt her tonight.

And I’m about to show her how wrong she is. If she kisses this guy, there’s a list of chores waiting for her to pay up—painting that wall, sanding that table, reupholstering that stool. If she goes home with him, I’ll be on my way to the pool table. The two-tiered system keeps us both in check. With a bar that’s been a fixer-upper, the list of chores has been endless. The threat of a Saturday lost to scrubbing has kept me pretty chaste, at least in terms of customers.

And I intend to stay that way.

I check out my target. He’s moving through the crowd, peeling himself away from the women as they head to the loo and he heads straight for me. I stare as he struts, jeans clinging to his body, hugging his muscular legs.

Oh yes, there is a definite strut in his walk.

And oh yes, Maeve will lose tonight.

Especially when she gets her eyes on his ink. I have a feeling that those tribal-band tattoos disappear somewhere beyond his broad shoulders.

And I wouldn’t mind seeing where.

Shit, what am I thinking?

I need to focus. This is an acquisition for Maeve. Not eye candy for me.

I shake away thoughts of his full lips as the man sidles up and sits on the stool in front of me.

“Welcome to The Magpie. What’s your poison?”

“Depends what’s good around here,” he says in a raspy American accent. His dark-blue eyes roam the taps.

I’m about to make a suggestion when he meets my gaze. There’s a glint in his irises as he says, “How about a Bud?”

I flinch at this sacrilege. “No. Just no.”

His lips twitch. “Maybe a Corona, then?”

“That won’t happen either,” I say, stern. “We have standards here.”

“How about Pabst?” The question comes out thoroughly deadpan, and that’s when I realize he’s playing me.

And I can go toe-to-toe.

I point to the door. “If you keep this up, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

He laughs, a warm rumble of a sound. “Beer snob. I like it.”

“And let’s be frank, beer snobbery is completely warranted.”

“Couldn’t agree more. What about music snobbery though? Is that warranted too?”

“Hell, no. Listen to whatever floats your boat. Jazz, show tunes, rap, or anything by Sam Smith, Daley, or Leon Bridges.”

“Excellent choices. And how do you feel about book snobbery then? Is that acceptable?”

“Never. Reading is heaven, and everyone should do it often and indiscriminately.” I realize that I haven’t even gotten the man his drink because I’m having too much fun talking to him.

Tags: Lauren Blakely Romance
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