Nights With Him(5)

By: Lauren Blakely



* * *

Michelle hadn’t been expecting the barrage of questions, but what an eager bunch of counselors she’d encountered after her talk. She’d never felt so popular ‘til tonight, when she was nearly mobbed by fellow psychotherapists as she attempted to walk away from the lectern. They fired off questions for her on treatment and guidance for love and sex addicts, and she happily answered all of them to the best of her ability. Then she gathered up her notes, and made her way down to the lobby. She adjusted her purse strap, and sighed deeply, pleased with her work for the evening. Sharing insights and learning was a true passion of hers, and she’d had the opportunity to do so tonight with colleagues.

Tonight. The word reverberated through her, and she felt the slightest pang when she stepped off the elevator and remembered it was a Thursday. She and Clay had often had drinks on a Thursday night. While they still did from time to time, along with her brother, Davis, the get-togethers had been curtailed since Julia moved in with him. Understandable; the man was committed, and now he was married. Julia hadn’t cut them off; in fact, the redhead was lovely, and Michelle had visited Julia’s bar a few times. But it was simply too hard for Michelle to see them together that often, so she’d kept them in her life, but put herself on a restricted Clay-and-Julia diet.

Keeping a distance was a necessity, but she missed those Thursday nights. And she missed the drinks, truth be told. She could certainly go for a little nightcap to finish off the day. She’d always been comfortable in her own skin and with her own company, so a quick solo stop at the bar was no big deal.

She followed the music and sat down at the tall, sleek metal bar, ordering a vodka tonic that arrived quickly, and taking out her iPad. There was a new Tumblr feed she wanted to peruse, but that would only happen from the privacy of home and bed since it was a terribly naughty one. She had an article she wanted to finish, and then a novel to dive into about a con artist, and she’d even downloaded a new app for practicing Spanish phrases, partly because the male voice on the app was so deliciously sexy. Perhaps better to listen to that in her apartment, she reasoned, as she lifted the cool glass to her lips and took the first sip. Raising her eyes, she noticed that same man she’d seen earlier. He was seated at the end of the bar, drinking what looked to be a vodka tonic too. The glass hit his lips at the exact same moment, his moves mirroring hers. His blue eyes seemed to sparkle, a hint of wicked delight in them.

Same drink, same time, same absolutely smoking-hot guy she’d spotted an hour before. One barstool away. When she set the glass down, she said, “Jinx.”

“Jinx,” he repeated.

“Does that mean you owe me a drink?” she asked, and then nearly clasped her hand over her mouth. But instead, she went with it. “Sorry, that’s pretty much close to the cheesiest pick-up line ever.”

His lips curved slightly into a grin. “Does that mean you’re trying to pick me up?”

She laughed, and shook her head. The silvery metal surface of the bar revealed a rush of red racing to her cheeks as she answered. “No.”

She wasn’t, right? Those words had just tumbled out accidentally, not because she’d seen him earlier and memorized his face, and not because one quick glance at Mr. Cool, Calm and Collected had her adding him to an arsenal of possible late-night ammunition to feed her active fantasy life.

Very, very active, and she fed it regularly. With Tumblr, with toys, and with wild images of pleasure.

“That’s too bad then,” he said, and his voice was deep, with the slightest rasp to it, like velvet that had a rough edge. That edge in it sent goose bumps down her spine. Or maybe it was his words, the hint of possibility to them.

“Is it? Too bad?” she asked, tilting her head to the side, shifting her body language, one hundred percent aware that she was getting her flirt on.

“Not just too bad. It would be a travesty.”

She brought her hand to her heart, playing along. “How sad. I’d hate to be responsible for a disaster of that degree.”

“You could avert it, then,” he said dryly, arching an eyebrow, then taking another swallow of his drink. The sight of his lips on the glass had her mind galloping off to a naughty land, because those lips looked delicious. Soft and kissable, while the rest of him looked hard and strong. She liked the way his tie was loosened, and his jacket draped over his chair. A businessman in repose.

“I could, couldn’t I? If I were interested in avoiding such a sad turn of events.”

“Are you, though? Interested?” he asked.

Michelle was almost certain a butterfly had taken off in her belly because her stomach flipped, and it was primed to flop again. “I’m getting there,” she said playfully, enjoying the back and forth, the very fine layer of innuendo that lined this conversation like a cool evening mist after a hot day. She brought her glass to her lips and took another drink, hoping it would have the same effect on him that his sip had had on her.

“Excellent,” he said, giving her a quick, appreciative nod. “So . . . are you having a good evening?”

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