Melt For Him(2)

By: Lauren Blakely

She’d have noticed him. She’d have remembered him.

He wasn’t exactly forgettable, even with the shadows across his face.

“I’m actually forbidden by the Klutz Association from wearing these boots,” she said, picking up the thread of their banter and holding her leg out to show him the heel on her short red boots. “But I defied their orders.”

“I won’t tell them you’re a scofflaw then,” he said, in that warm and gravelly voice, the kind that could sell you whiskey or bourbon, or maybe even himself. Smooth but with a touch of something else—danger, perhaps. One faint streetlight shone across half his face, and the half she could see was hauntingly beautiful. Strong cheekbones, a touch of stubble, and dark eyes that looked as if they’d seen many things. Her eyes roamed to his arms, which seemed to be in a permanent state of flex. She bet he could lift a dresser and carry it easily, lay it in the bed of a truck with barely an effort. Because, yes, of course this man drove a truck. Probably red and scratched-up, the kind he’d drive to the end of a long dirt road with her, toss a blanket in the back, and then they’d get it on under the stars.

Hold on. They’d barely even exchanged words and she was already picturing tangoing with him in the back of a truck? That’s what a good pair of arms did to her. Made her mind tumble ten steps ahead. She’d always loved a well-built man. So sue her for staring.

But she needed to focus on why she’d taken this detour for the alley in the first place—to be alone. There was a reason she hadn’t stepped foot in the Panting Dog to hang out with Jamie, who managed the bar. When she’d peered through the window a few minutes ago, she had been met with the sight of a packed bar, patrons standing shoulder to shoulder, wedged inside. And after she’d spent most of her time in Los Angeles the last year trying to keep her ex away from that kind of scene, which had offered too many temptations to him, it was one of her least favorite sights. So she’d headed for the quiet of the back porch, hoping to read a book as she waited for Jamie to finish her shift.

But screw reading. As long as Becker wasn’t a fireman or a drunk, she’d be keen on chatting for a few minutes. Not that she lumped drunks with firemen. Not at all. But either type was a deal-breaker, though for different reasons. The bottom line was the same—they both could pulverize a heart.

“Anything else the Klutzes forbid you from wearing?” he asked in a teasing tone, continuing the thread of their shared joke.

Oh. Had he seen her starting to strip? Seemed a strong possibility. And so why the hell not run with it?

“Why would you ask?” she said, running a finger along the strap of her tank top, as if she simply had to adjust it right this second.

“No reason at all,” he said, trying to rein in a grin that threatened to curve up his lips. He tipped his forehead to Megan’s shoulder. “I completely didn’t notice that you were removing an article of clothing because I was trying to admire the ink on your skin. What’s your tattoo there?”

She laughed loudly. “Nicely done,” she said, her way of acknowledging that he hadn’t quite taken the easy road by asking directly about the lingerie she’d already ditched. That damn strapless bra had been bugging her. And he’d clearly seen her take it off. But then, he’d already seen her stumble, so on the scope of things in life she should care about, the prospect of a stranger having seen her go through the first level of solo strip poker didn’t bother her. Nor did it bug her that he was checking out the way her nipples were outlined against the cotton of her tank. Especially because she didn’t really want him to be a stranger right then.

“The thing you didn’t notice? I’m going to tell you a secret,” she said playfully, owning her moment of nearly eating the sidewalk, and owning her lack of a seat belt for her breasts. “Strapless bras suck.”

“I’m going to tell you a secret. You not wearing a bra right now? That doesn’t suck.”

She laughed, then patted her shoulder. “And to answer your question: that’s my owl.”

He leaned forward, the glow of the streetlamp illuminating him fully now, and holy smokes. He wasn’t just gorgeous. He was the very definition of smoldering. His eyes were the deepest of browns, his cheekbones were chiseled, and his hair was dark with the slightest wave. But those eyes—somehow they said he was more than just a fine specimen of muscle, and height, and beauty. There was something hidden, something dark in the past, and that lured her in like a magnet. Because it was familiar.