I knew it. He’s totally hooked on me.

He’ll be the perfect guy to blow off steam with right before training camp. Before the pact.

He leans on the bar in front of me, eyeing my now empty glass.

“So, I’m guessing you thought that was better than a Bud?”

“Seems I did. You picked well for me,” I say, crossing my arms over my chest, letting him see the muscles earned from countless hard-core workouts.

“I’ve done this for a few years. I’m good at reading customers.”

“Yeah, I’d say you’re pretty damn good at that.”

“Some things are easy to read.” His eyes are on me—where I want them.

“I like it when that happens,” I say and the way this conversation is going right now, it’s time to reel him in. I take a quick glance around, then I say, “Glad I walked in here tonight. I’m digging the whole vibe.”

Emphasis on vibe.

Dean’s brown eyes spark in the light. “I’ll be sure to let the owner know you like The Magpie.”

“I do,” I say. “Great bartenders too. Very . . . attentive.”

Dean smirks, and the grin is so damn cheeky I want to kiss it off him with a punishing, devouring kind of kiss.

“He’s very hands-on, the owner,” Dean says. “Likes to know what’s going on with the front of the house.”

“Sounds like my kind of guy.”

Dean grabs my glass for a refill without me asking. He’s back in moments with the full glass. “Had a feeling you’d want more.”

“That’s exactly what I want.” I take a drink of the fresh stout. “How late does this boss of yours have you working?”

Another smirk from Dean comes my way and leaves my head spinning as he says, “Late. My boss works us pretty hard.”

I’d like to work him hard.

“I ought to talk to this guy. Tell him how impressed I am with his dedicated staff.”

“I’m sure he’d appreciate that.” Dean laughs. “Especially since you’re already talking to him. I’m the owner.”

“Oh, very clever. Well played.”

“It was, admittedly, hard to resist.”

I take a beat, then go for the close. “There are other things hard to resist,” I say, my tone making my meaning clear.

For a second, it looks like it costs him something to say the next words, but when they come out, they’re gravelly, smoky. “What sort of things?”

“Tell me what time you get off, and I’ll show you.”

He laughs, shaking his head, but it’s not a no. It’s more like What the hell have I gotten myself into? “But I don’t even know your name.”

I extend a hand to shake. He looks at it like he’s considering it, then he clasps it.

If I said there was a spark, that’d be cliché. It’s a goddamn handshake after all. I’ve given and received a million of them.

But I do like the way he feels against me.

I wouldn’t mind feeling his hands all over me.

“Fitzgerald,” I say.

He arches a brow. “Fitzgerald? Isn’t that a last name?”

He says it like he’s busting me, and I dig it, the way that he seems to want to question everything.

“Yeah. It is. But everyone calls me that.”

“And what does your sister call you . . . Perhaps, is it James?”

I think I just blushed at the way he said that, all flirty. I glance down the bar and see my sister giggling with her bartender, both of them looking my way. Dean must have passed by them when he was working with the other customers and overheard Emma say my name.

“My sisters call me James, yes. But you can call me Fitz.”

Dean glances at my drink, then down the bar. The bartender’s smirking in his direction, looking pretty satisfied about something. Maybe even a little smug. Dean rolls his eyes at her, then turns back to me.

“Look, Fitz. I’m going to be blunt. You are pretty much the hottest man to ever walk into my bar. You’re like one of those memes for a hot guy walking into a bar and all the ladies tossing their knickers at him.”

“I don’t want their panties.”

“Yes, I’m clear on that,” he says with a laugh. “But the thing is—I can’t go home with you. I don’t sleep with the customers.”

I grin. “So, you’re saying you want to sleep with me.”

“You’re relentless,” he says like he’s reining in a grin.

And he’s right. Whether it’s a man in a bar or a play on the ice, I am relentless.

And I always score.

Dean’s grin disappears as he stares at me, heat in his eyes, giving me a look that I both love and hate at the same time.

Because that look?

It promises that challenge that turned me on in the first place.

And it also promises me that nothing is happening tonight.

“The thing is – it’s a rule,” he says. “And it’s a rule I intend to follow.”

For a second, I let him think he’s won, that I’m going to walk away.


Tags: Lauren Blakely Romance
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