Wicked Sexy Liar (Wild Seasons #4)(2) by Christina Lauren

They seem pretty typical for the UCSD guys who come in here: tall, fit, tan. A few are wearing graphic tees and others wear collared shirts. I study them in tiny flickers of attention as I mix the drinks, taking an educated guess from their height, physique, and tans that they’re water polo players.

One of them, with dark hair and a jaw you could probably have sex with, looks up just as I do, and our eyes snag. He’s good-looking—though to be fair, they’re all pretty good-looking—but there’s something about this guy that makes me do a double take and hold his gaze for the space of a breath, not quite ready to let it go. Unfortunately, he’s gorgeous in that unattainable, brooding douchebag sort of way.

With that reminder of the past, I immediately disengage.

I turn back to Fred and pull a second glass jar labeled CAR FUND from under the counter and place it in front of him. “I think we both know you don’t have to worry about me,” I say, and he smiles, shaking his head at the jar as he finishes his pours. “So is it just the two of us tonight?”

“Think so,” he says, and slides the beers onto the bar. “There aren’t any big games this weekend. Expect it’ll be steady, but slow. Maybe we’ll have a chance to get through some inventory.”

I nod as I finish the drinks and ring them up before washing my hands and checking my station for anything else I’ll need. A throat clears behind me and I turn, finding myself now only a foot away from the eyes that were all the way across the room only seconds before.

“What can I get you?” I ask, and it’s polite enough, delivered with what I know to be a friendly-but-professional smile. His eyes narrow and even though I don’t track them moving down my body in any perceptible way, I get the feeling he’s already checked me out, made up his mind, and filed me away in the same way all men categorize women: fuckable, or not. From my experience, there isn’t a whole lot of in-between.

“Can I get another round, please?” he says, and motions vaguely over his shoulder. His phone vibrates in his hand and he glances down at it, tapping out a quick message before returning his attention to me.

I pull out a tray. I don’t know what they’d ordered since Fred brought them their first round, but I can easily guess.

“Heineken?” I ask.

His eyes narrow in playful insult, and it makes me laugh.

“Okay, not Heineken,” I say, holding up my hands in apology. “What were you drinking?”

Now that I really look, he’s even prettier up close: brown eyes framed with the kind of lashes mascara companies charge a fortune for and dark hair that looks so soft and thick I just know it would feel amazing to dig my fingers—

But I assume he knows this, and the confidence I noticed from across the room practically saturates the air. His phone buzzes again, but he gives it only the briefest glance down and silences it. “Why would you assume Heineken?” he asks.

I stack a handful of coasters on the tray and shrug again, trying to nip the conversation in the bud. “No reason.”

He’s not buying it. The corner of his mouth turns up a little and he says, “Come on, Dimples.”

At almost the same time, I hear Fred’s “Goddammit” and hold out my hand, ready when he slaps a crisp dollar bill into it. I smugly tuck it into the jar.

The guy follows my movement and blinks back up at me. “ ‘Car Fund’?” he asks, reading the label. “What’s that about?”

“It’s nothing,” I tell him, and then wave to the line of draft beers. “What were you guys drinking?”

“You just made a buck off of something I said and you’re not even going to tell me what it was?”

I tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear and give in when I realize he isn’t going to order until I’ve answered him. “It’s just something I hear a lot,” I say. In fact, it’s probably something I’ve heard more than my own name. Deep dimples dent each of my cheeks, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say they’re both my most and least favorite feature. Couple that with sun-streaked—often wind-blown—hair and a smattering of freckles, and I’m about as Girl Next Door as they come.

“Fred didn’t believe it happens as often as I said,” I continue, jerking my thumb over my shoulder. “So we made a little bet: a dollar every time someone calls me Dimples, or references said dimples. I’m going to buy a car.”

“Next week at this rate,” Fred complains from somewhere behind me.

Dudebro’s phone chirps again, but this time he doesn’t check it, doesn’t even look down. Instead, he tucks it into the back pocket of his jeans, glances from Fred to me again, and grins.

And I might actually need a moment.

If I thought this guy was pretty before, it has nothing on the way his entire face changes when he smiles. A light has been switched on behind his eyes, and every trace of arrogance seems to just . . . evaporate. His skin is clear and tan—it practically glows with a warmth that seems to radiate out, coloring his cheeks. The sharpness of his features soften; his eyes crinkle a little at the corners. I know it’s just a smile but it’s like I can’t decide which part I like more: the full lips; white, perfect teeth; or how one side of his mouth lifts just a fraction higher than the other. He makes me want to smile back.

He spins a coaster on the bar top in front of him and continues to grin up at me. “So you’re calling me unoriginal,” he says.

“I’m not calling you anything,” I tell him, matching his grin. “But I appreciate that it seems to be true, because I am raking in the cash.”

He considers my cheeks for a moment. “They are pretty great dimples. I can imagine a lot of worse things to be known for. Nobody’s calling you Peg Leg or the Bearded Lady.”

No way is this guy trying to be cute. “So back to your beer,” I say. “Bottle or draft?”

“I want to know why you assumed I’d order Heineken. I think my wounded pride deserves at least that much.”

I glance over his shoulder, to where his friends are ostensibly playing pool but currently attempting to hit each other in the balls with their cue sticks, and decide to be honest.

“Typically—and by ‘typically,’ I really mean ‘always’—Heineken drinkers tend to be big with the self-esteem and suck with the modesty. They’re also the first person to need the bathroom when the check comes and a third more likely to drive sports cars.”

The guy nods, laughing. “I see. And this is a scientific study?”

His laugh is even sweet. It’s goofy in the way his shoulders rise just a tiny bit as if he’s a giggler.

“Rigorous,” I tell him. “I performed the clinical trials myself.”

I can see him biting back a broader laugh. “Then you’ll be comforted to know that I was in fact not ordering Heineken, and was actually going to ask what you had on tap because we just had a round of Stella, and I wanted something more interesting.”

Without looking down at the row of draft beers, I list, “Bud, Stone IPA, Pliny the Elder, Guinness, Allagash White, and Green Flash.”

“We’ll go with the Pliny,” he says, and I try to hide how much this surprises me—an occupational necessity. He must know his beers because it’s the best choice there. “Six of them, please. I’m Luke, by the way. Luke Sutter.”

He holds out his hand and after only a moment of hesitation, I take it.

“Nice to meet you, Luke.”

His hand is huge, not too soft . . . and really nice. With long fingers, clean nails, and a strong grip. I pull my own hand back almost immediately and begin pouring his beers.

“And your name is . . .” he asks, the last word stretching into a question.

“That’ll be thirty dollars,” I tell him instead.

Luke’s smile twists a little, amused, and he looks down at his wallet, pulling two twenties out and placing them on top of the bar. He reaches for the first three glasses and nods to me before he turns. “I’ll be back to get the rest,” he says. And he’s gone.

The door opens and a bachelorette party files in. Over the next three hours I make more pink drinks and sexually explicit cocktails than I can count, and whether it’s Luke or one of the other guys who ends up grabbing the rest of their beers, I don’t notice. Which is just as well, I remind myself, because if there’s one rule I’ve made that I stick to hard and fast, it’s that I don’t date guys I meet at work. Ever.

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