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One Night of Trouble


s of muscle rippling beneath the fabric of his shirt.

She was momentarily dazed, incapable of doing anything but full-on ogling.

Crap. It was impossible to dwell on the bad memories when he was smiling at her like that, especially when AJ’s only crime in high school was being too damn popular for his own good.

“So do I ever get to learn your name, or are you withholding it as my punishment for not knowing who you were?” he asked, that boyish grin widening.

“I’m Brett.”

“Brett…not usually a girl’s name.”

She sighed. “My mom was obsessed with Hemingway. She named me after a female character from one of his books.”

“The Sun Also Rises,” he said with a nod. “I love that book.”

It didn’t surprise her that he knew exactly which book she’d been talking about. Another thing she remembered about the guy—he wasn’t your typical dumb jock. Nope, AJ Walsh had been the absolute perfect package. Smart, funny, gorgeous, athletic. It was just too bad he hadn’t had better taste in friends.

“So tell me,” he said, sounding pensive. “What heinous crime did I commit back in the day to get you all grumpy and scowly?”

“Nothing. You did nothing.” She paused. “Some of your friends weren’t so nice to me, though.”

“Ah. Let me guess—the cheerleaders.”

A wry smile lifted her lips. “Bingo.”

“Who tortured you? Tamara? Edie? They were usually the ringleaders for any nastiness that went around.”

“Double bingo. Those two made my life miserable for a while.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

He sounded so genuine that she felt a pang of guilt for being rude to him before.

“If I’m being honest, I didn’t pay much attention to what the girls were up to,” he admitted. “I was pretty focused on football.”

“I remember.” She paused. “Did you ever go pro?”

“Yes and no.” Before she could question that cryptic remark, he changed the subject. “So what brings you here tonight? Did you come with friends?” He rapidly answered his own question. “Wait, of course you did. Those were a lot of margaritas you ordered.”

And not a single one had been for her.

Which was seriously ironic, because Brett couldn’t remember the last time she’d visited a club without the intention of getting plastered.

But that was the old Brett. The wild, up-for-anything Brett who used to climb on bar counters Coyote Ugly-style and dance the night away.

The new and improved Brett didn’t get into those kinds of shenanigans anymore, and truth be told, she was proud of herself for cleaning up her act. But with the pride came shame, which tugged on her insides as she thought of the conversation she’d had with her brother Mike last month.

When he’d flat out asked her if she was an alcoholic.

She’d honestly been able to answer no, but there was also no denying she hadn’t made the best choices in the past. Yes, she knew when to cut herself off, and she was perfectly capable of going for weeks, months, and even years without a drop of alcohol. Her problem wasn’t getting drunk, but the decisions she made when she was drunk.

Like hooking up with the worst possible men for her—ahem, Troy—or staying out late and missing work the next morning. Or not paying her bills on time because she’d been too busy partying to remember when stuff was due.

Now that her father and brothers were monitoring her like prison guards, she couldn’t afford to make those kinds of mistakes any more. She was twenty-six years old, not a dumb kid or a reckless teenager or a self-destructive young adult. It was time to grow up. Six months ago, she’d vowed to herself and her family that she would start making smart decisions.

“It’s my friend’s birthday,” she told AJ. “We’re here to celebrate.”

At the thought of Jamie, a lump of guilt rose in Brett’s throat. In her attempt to conduct a bad-influence cleanse, she’d had no choice but to distance herself from some of the more destructive people in her life, and unfortunately, Jamie and the girls fell under that category.

To make matters worse, her friends definitely weren’t on board with her new-and-improved lifestyle. From the moment the group had arrived at Sin, the girls had been coaxing her to get drunk with them, which was not only disappointing, but disheartening. If the roles were reversed, there was no way she’d be dangling carrots of temptation in front of her friends. She’d support their choices without question, and it saddened her that they couldn’t do the same for her.

“I think I’m taking off soon, though,” she added.

“I thought you were the DD,” AJ said with a frown.

The lie she’d told him brought another jolt of guilt. “Naah, not really. The girls plan on closing down the place and taking a cab home. I was going to head out around midnight. Do you know what time it is now?”

AJ pulled a cell phone from his back pocket and glanced at the screen. “Eleven fifty-eight. Looks like you’re about to turn into a pumpkin. Did you drive here?”

She shook her head. “I’m calling a taxi.”

“Or…” His eyes gleamed recklessly.

Brett’s throat went dry. “Or?”

“Or I could drive you home.”


Big uh-oh.

The awareness that had sizzled between them earlier returned in full force, leaving pinpricks of heat along her bare arms. The air was cool and she’d left her coat inside, but she wasn’t cold. Not by a long shot.

She knew exactly what would happen if she let AJ drive her home. She might have willpower when it came to alcohol, but around this man? With his sandy-blond hair and chiseled features and sparkling green eyes? And that incredible body? And throw in the fact that she hadn’t had sex in six months?

Willpower? Fat chance.

“What do you say, Brett? Do you want a ride?” No missing the way his voice went husky at the word ride.

Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

This was not the AJ Walsh she remembered. Back then he’d come off as a gentleman.

Right now there was nothing gentlemanly about him. His expression was downright smoldering, broad body