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One Night of Trouble


He was too focused on his pixie’s irritated face, which shone beneath the light fixture over the door.

“You’re still here,” she said flatly.

“Yup.” He cocked his head. “And you’re just telling lies all over the place, huh?”

Those mesmerizing dark eyes narrowed. “What the hell does that mean?”

“You just mimed to your friend that you’re coming out for a smoke.” He shrugged. “But you’re not lighting up. And you told me I didn’t do anything to piss you off, but obviously I did. So…” Another shrug. “Lies.”

There was a pause.

And then she exploded.

“I pretended I was going for a cigarette so I wouldn’t have to explain to my friend that I was actually trying to get away from this nosy bartender who won’t leave me alone! Dude, why are you even out here? Do you harass every chick who orders a drink from you? Maybe I should be siccing one of your bouncers on you.”

He sighed. “Tell me what I did to upset you, angel, and then I’ll go.”

“Would you stop calling me that?” she grumbled.

“What—angel? Why would I do that when it suits you oh so well?”

He brought his hand close to the tattoo on her forearm, his fingers lingering in the air. He hadn’t planned on touching her, but those dark eyes that fascinated him so damn much went heavy-lidded, and then she tentatively leaned into his outstretched fingertips.

As he gently skimmed the tattoo, she let out a shaky exhale, and AJ’s groin promptly stirred again. He traced the outstretched wings of the ethereal figure inked on her skin, then followed the angel’s wispy dress to the tangle of vines at her feet.

Lord, her skin was hot to the touch. Silky smooth. And he didn’t miss the throbbing of her pulse at the base of her slender throat, or the way her small breasts rose as she drew a deep breath.

Oh yeah. She liked having his hand on her skin. Just as much as he liked putting it there.

AJ shifted his feet again, praying her gaze wouldn’t drop south. The bulge straining against his zipper was impossible to hide. His pants suddenly felt too frickin’ tight, and his primal reaction to this woman made his head spin. He was usually more controlled than this, but damn it, there was no controlling the erection trying to poke right through his pants.

Or the relentless need to kiss the living daylights out of her.

“Do you really not remember me?” she blurted out.

He froze. “Do we know each other?”

Chapter Two

Ugh. Why were men so clueless?

Brett Conlon stared into the vivid green eyes of the golden boy of Hawthorne High, wondering why she’d bothered telling him the truth. She should have just pretended she didn’t know who he was. At least then she’d be spared the embarrassment of him not recognizing her.

Granted, there was no reason for the star of her high school football team, Mr. Popularity personified, to remember the artsy, hell-raising girl who’d been three years behind him in school. And even though she’d hung out with an older crowd, she and AJ Walsh definitely hadn’t traveled in the same circles. He’d been friends with the we’re-God’s-gift-to-the-world kids who made up the school’s popular group, which included the snobby cheerleaders. A.k.a. the awful girls who had no qualms about harassing girls like Brett.

When she’d walked up to the bar earlier and seen AJ, all the nasty comments she’d endured back then had buzzed in her mind and instantly triggered her hostility. She’d probably been ruder than she should have, considering AJ had never ganged up on her the way his cheerleader friends had. But he’d still been present for it, and when she’d spotted him behind that counter, her hands had involuntarily circled into fists as long-ago anger and embarrassment crept in like a puddle of oozing tar.

“C’mon, you’re not allowed to drop a bomb like that and not follow through,” he said quietly, intently studying her face as if trying to place her.

Brett met his gaze head on. “We went to high school together.”

A crease dug into his forehead. “No way. I would totally remember you if we did.”

“Why? Because of the tats?” She gestured to her ink. “I didn’t have these back then.”

“Not the tats.” Heat darkened his expression. “Your eyes. They’re so dark they’re almost black. I’d never forget eyes as sexy as yours.”

Oh God, he was flirting with her.

AJ Walsh was flirting with her.

She suddenly had the most ridiculous urge to sprint to the ladies’ room and make sure she looked okay. That her hair wasn’t tangled and her mascara hadn’t run. It was sad, really, how one blast from the past could turn a person into a stammering, insecure teenager all over again.

Or how one flirty remark from a guy who’d never given her a second glance in high school had caused the teenage girl inside her to do wild, excited cartwheels like the cheerleaders AJ used to hang out with.

Fortunately, the older Brett stepped in and kicked teenage Brett in the shin before she could make a total fool of herself.

“Yeah, well, my eyes haven’t changed, and trust me, we went to the same school. AJ,” she added meaningfully.

“The same grade?” he challenged.

She almost lied, just to make him feel bad about not knowing who she was, but she wasn’t that much of a jackass. “I was three years behind you,” she admitted.

Triumph lit his expression. “Ha. See? I definitely would’ve remembered you if you were in my class.” He shrugged. “I didn’t really chill with anyone younger than me.”

“Too cool for us young’uns, huh?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

The teasing smile he shot her made her heart skip a beat, and when he took a teeny step closer, she was floored by the sheer size of him. Whoa. He was a lot bigger than she remembered. He’d always been tall, but now he was ripped.

As his broad, muscular frame towered over her, she couldn’t help but gape at his arms. Sleek, powerful biceps poured from the sleeves of his snug black tee, and his chest was so deliciously defined she could see the individual ridge