“You’re not trying to pick up a girl?”
My analytical brain did not miss his use of the past tense. As in… he hadn’t been trying to seduce anyone before, but perhaps he was now.
I took another look at him. He was grinning now—white teeth, jaw stubble that made him look downright delectable. Yep, I was definitely seducible. And that thought alone was enough to send me into shock.
“What’s your name, love?”
Love? LOVE! Still dying, here.
“Is that a line?”
I blushed crimson. “No, it’s my name.”
“Lovely name for a lovely girl.” The timbre of his voice went into that low register that made my insides curl in on themselves—it was like my uterus was tapping out a happy dance on the rest of my organs. God, I was dying the longest, most tortuous, and arousing death in the history of the world. Was this what it always felt like to be turned on? No wonder sex made people do crazy things.
“Well, Bliss, I’m new in town, and I’ve already locked myself out of my apartment. I’m waiting on a locksmith, actually, and I figured I’d put this spare time to good use.”
“By brushing up on your Shakespeare?”
“Trying to, anyway. Honestly, I’ve never liked the bloke all that much, but let’s keep that a secret between us, yeah?”
I was pretty sure my cheeks were still stained red, if the heat coming off of them was any indication. In fact, my whole body felt like it was on fire. I wasn’t sure whether it was mortification or his accent that had me about to spontaneously combust in front of him.
“You look disappointed, Bliss. Are you a Shakespeare fan?”
I nodded, because my throat might have been closing up.
He wrinkled his nose in response, and my hands itched to follow the line of his nose down to his lips.
I was going crazy. Actually, certifiably insane.
“Don’t tell me you’re a Romeo and Juliet fan?”
Now, this. This was something I could discuss.
“Othello, actually. That’s my favorite.”
“Ah. Fair Desdemona. Loyal and Pure.”
My heart stuttered at the word pure.
“I, um,” I struggled to piece together my thoughts. “I like the juxtaposition of reason and passion.”
“I’m a fan of passion, myself.” His eyes dipped down then, and ran the length of my form. My spine tingled until it felt like it might burst out of my skin.
“You haven’t asked me my name,” he said.
I cleared my throat. This couldn’t be attractive. I was about as sociable as a caveman. I asked, “What’s your name?”
He tilted his head, and his hair almost covered his eyes.
“Join me, and I’ll tell you.”
I didn’t think about anything other than the fact that my legs were like Jell-O, and sitting down would prevent me from doing something embarrassing like passing out from the influx of hormones that were quite clearly having a free for all in my brain. I sank into the chair, but instead of relief, the tension ratcheted up another notch.
He spoke, and my eyes snagged on his lips. “My name is Garrick.”
Who knew names could be hot, too?
“It’s nice to meet you, Garrick.”
He leaned forward on his elbows, and I noticed his broad shoulders, and the way his muscles moved beneath the fabric of his shirt. Then our eyes connected, and the bar around us went from dim to dark, while I was ensnared by those baby blues.
“I’m going to buy you a drink.” It wasn’t meant to be a question. In fact, when he looked at me, there was nothing questioning in him at all, only confidence. “Then we can chat some more about reason and… passion.”
I couldn’t tell whether the burning sensation in my chest had to do with the hooded look Garrick was giving me or the remainder of my first Jack and Coke that I just downed like it was water.
A waiter arrived at Garrick’s beckoning, and I took a moment to give myself a silent pep talk while he ordered himself a drink.
“Bliss?” Garrick prompted.
His voice sent shivers through me.
I looked up at him, then at the waiter, who happened to be Bartender Boy from earlier. I opened my mouth to ask for another Jack and Coke, but Bartender Boy stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. “I remember—Jack and Coke, right?”
I nodded, and he threw me a wink and a smile. I paused wondering for a second how he knew my order. I was pretty sure the girl bartender had served me last. He was still smiling at me, so I forced myself to speak. “Thanks, um…”
“Brandon,” he supplied.
He glanced at Garrick, and then focused back on me.
“Should I tell your friend up front that you’ll be right back?”
“Oh, um, sure, I guess.”
He smiled in response, and stayed there staring at me for a few seconds before he turned to head back to the bar. I knew I had to look at Garrick again, but I was terrified I’d melt into a puddle of arousal and awkwardness if I met his gorgeous eyes again.
He said, “You know, sometimes I wonder if Desdemona was as innocent as she let on. Maybe she knew the effect she had on guys, and enjoyed making them jealous.”
I met his eyes then, and they were narrowed, studying me.
I swallowed my nerves and studied him back.
“Or maybe she was just intimidated by Othello’s intensity and didn’t know how to talk to him. Communication is key after all.”
“It could have solved a lot of their problems.”
“In that case, I’ll endeavor to be as clear as possible.” He picked up his chair and placed it mere inches from mine. He slinked down beside me and said, “I’d rather you didn’t go back to your friend. Stay here with me.”
Swallow, Bliss. I told myself, you have to swallow or you might start drooling.
“Well, my friend is waiting. What will we do if I stay?”
He reached out a hand and pushed my hair over my shoulder. His hand skimmed across my neck, pausing at my pulse point, which must have been going crazy.
“We can talk Shakespeare. We can talk about anything you want. Though I can’t promise not to get distracted by your lovely neck.” His fingers traveled across my jaw, until they reached my chin, which he pulled forward slightly with the pressure of his index finger. “Or your lips. Or those eyes. I could woo you with stories about my life, like Othello does Desdemona.”
I was already sufficiently wooed. My reply was embarrassingly breathy, “I’d rather not parallel our evening with a couple who ended with a murder/suicide.”
He grinned, and his finger dropped from my chin. My skin burned where he had touched me, and I had to stop myself from leaning forward to follow his touch.
“Touché. I don’t care what we do as long as you stay.”
“Okay.” I was immensely proud that I managed a calm reply instead of the Dear God, yes, I’ll do whatever you ask that was currently running through my mind.
“Maybe I should lock myself out my apartment more often.”
I’d prefer we locked ourselves in, actually.
My pocket started vibrating, and I rushed to answer my phone before my embarrassing boy band ringtone came on.
“Did you fall in or what?”
It was Kelsey.
“No, Kelsey, I didn’t. Listen, why don’t you just head home without me.”
Garrick’s eyes darkened, and my breath hitched as his gaze dropped to my lips.
“You are not getting out of this, Bliss. You are getting laid tonight if I have to do it myself. “
God, could she be any louder? I thought that Garrick had to have heard, but his eyes never left my lips.
“That won’t be necessary, Kels.”
I tried to think of a cryptic way to tell her that I’d already found my guy, when I heard an intake of breath followed by “OH. MY. GOD.”
I glanced over Garrick’s shoulder in time to see Kelsey’s grin widen, and the crude hand gesture that followed.
“Yeah, okay, so I’ll talk to you later, Kels?”
“You most certainly will. You’ll call and tell me every drop dead gorgeous detail.”
“ You better do a lot of seeing tonight, honey. I expect your eyes to be fully opened after this evening’s encounter.”
I hung up without a reply.
“Your friend?” he asked.
I nodded, because his stare currently had my blood boiling. Never in my life had I felt so completely turned on by someone who was not even touching me. Sex rolled off the man in waves, and I was surprised to find how interested I was in learning how to swim.
I nodded again, every muscle in my body drawn taut. If he didn’t kiss me soon, I was going to explode. Just when I thought he might, Bartender Boy returned with our drinks. He came up with a smile, which dropped upon seeing how close Garrick and I were.
“Sorry it took so long. We’re swamped up front.”
I latched on to the distraction.
“It’s no problem, Brandon.”
“Sure. You need anything else?”
“No, I’m good.”
Brandon’s eyes flicked to Garrick, and then he leaned a little closer to me.
“We’re sure,” Garrick tagged on curtly before handing him a few bills. “Keep the change.”
Brandon checked on one more couple that was a few tables away, and then he left for the front of the bar again. When he was out of earshot, I turned back to Garrick. I noticed his arm had made its way around my chair.
“Are you the jealous type, Garrick?”
I raised an eyebrow, and he smiled unabashedly.
He said, “Maybe this discussion of Othello has set me a bit on edge.”
“Then let’s talk about something else. What time did the locksmith say he’d be around to your apartment?”
He glanced briefly at his watch, and I took the chance to eye the incredible build of his arms. “He should be there fairly soon.”
“Should you go and wait for him?” It was hard to pinpoint exactly what I wanted in that moment. I definitely liked him, and I definitely wanted him to kiss me, but I was so used to sabotaging things like this so that they never got too far. I was always searching for a backdoor, the way out.
“Are you trying to get rid of me?”
I took a breath. No backing out. No backdoors, not this time. I bit my lip, and looked at him. I hoped he couldn’t read the fear thrumming beneath my confident façade. I said, “I guess, we could go and wait for him.”
He looked at my lips again. Dying… I was dying for him to kiss me.
He stood and offered me his arm. “My lady?”
“You don’t want to finish our drinks?”
He took my hand, and pressed his lips against the inside of my wrist. “I’m already intoxicated.”
I laughed, because the line was ridiculous (and because I didn’t want to admit that it still worked).
He grinned. “Too far? What can I say… the Bard gives me a flair for the dramatic.”
“Let’s try for some realism instead.”
He said, “I think I can do that.”
I’d barely processed his words before he’d pulled me up from the chair and covered my mouth with his own. His scent overwhelmed me—citrus and leather and something else that made my mouth water. I was almost too shocked to react. I was acutely aware of the fact that he was kissing me in the middle of a bar, until he nipped at my bottom lip. Then I forgot about everything but him. My whole body shuddered, and my heart dropped toward my stomach like the force of gravity had doubled. My head was swimming, but I didn’t care. I opened my mouth, and immediately his tongue swept in, taking control. My hands clutched at his back, and in response, he pulled me closer. His kiss was slow and then fast, tender then punishing. We were pressed together so tightly that I could feel every plane of his body, but still I wanted to be closer. His hand slid up the back of my shirt—hot fingers pressed into my already over-heated flesh. A moan escaped my mouth at the intimate contact. Immediately, I regretted it, because the sound seemed to clear his head, and he pulled away.