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

Still, there are times like tonight where I realize it can be lonely, actually, and it’s not just about sex but about companionship and having someone who looks at me like he’s waited all day for it. It’s about having someone there to distract me with movies or conversation or a warm body to help me fall asleep.

The register clangs as I push the cash drawer closed and hand a guy his change. I lift my head in the direction of Harlow’s laughter, and am surprised to see Luke and Mia now standing near the bathrooms, talking.

We all attended UCSD, so even though there are several schools within the university, it doesn’t surprise me that they might know each other. Still, it makes me laugh a little inside because I will constantly feel like there are so many details to be plugged into my working map of Lola’s friends.

I knew Harlow had famous parents, but only recently put it together that her mother was my mom’s favorite actress when I was little.

I knew Mia used to dance, but only recently learned that her trajectory was ruined when she was hit by a truck.

I knew Finn was close to his father and two brothers, but didn’t know until I put my foot in it and asked him what he was doing for Mother’s Day that his mom died when he was a kid.

My name is called from down the bar, and I blink back into focus. I run a tray of drinks out to a table and Harlow grabs me on my way back, pulling me into a fierce hug.

“Hey, stranger,” she says, her eyes moving over my face before she reaches for a strand of my hair. “Feels like ages since I’ve seen you. Think you could put some sunblock on and leave some cute for the rest of us? Jesus, you look like an ad for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, surfer girl. Fuck you and your adorable freckles.”

I give her a wide smile. “I should take you with me everywhere, Ego Boost.”

“Can you cut out and see a movie with us tonight?” she asks.

I shake my head and her lips turn down into a pout. “It’s just me, Fred, and one waitress here, and that new band is coming in later,” I explain.

“Maybe this weekend? All three Roberts boys are in town.”

I nod, perking up at the idea of a fun night out with a big group. “I’ll check my schedule.” Her husband, Finn, formerly a commercial fisherman, is now about to become television’s hottest reality star on The Fisher Men, a show featuring Finn, his father, and his two younger brothers out on the water.

Harlow’s eyebrows slowly rise and I realize my mistake. I may have only known Harlow for about nine months, but her meddling skills are legendary.

“Maybe we can get you and Levi—”

I’m already looking for an exit. “Nope. Nope,” I tell her, and glance up at the bar to see a few people waiting for service. “I need to get back, Miss Matchmaker, but I’ll text you tomorrow and let you know if I can make it.”

Harlow nods before turning toward her table. “All right, you stubborn shit!” she calls out as I head back.

When I get there, I see Fred pouring some beers, talking with some regulars. Just down the bar, sitting alone, is Luke.

He looks . . . well, he looks upset, with a serious expression I don’t imagine he wears often. Granted, I know next to nothing about this guy except that he has girls constantly watching him, looks like a total douchebag, yet sort of isn’t when you actually get him talking, and gets more texts in a single night than I do in a week. But what do I know.

I glance over to where Mia, Ansel, and Harlow are gathering their things and wave as they head toward Finn, standing near the exit.

“You okay there?” I say to Luke, pulling a shot glass from below the counter.

He nods, and as soon as he looks up at me, the serious face is gone, replaced again by the cute smile. On instinct, I look away, digging into the icebox with a small shovel.

“Just spacing out and thinking too much,” he says. “A bar seems like a good place to do that.”

I nod. And because he seems to be waiting for me to say something more, I do. “Best place to mull things over. Bad grades. Lost job. Money problems. First loves.”

His eyes catch mine again. “Speaking from experience?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I say, pouring him a shot of whiskey and sliding it across the counter. Even with the smile, he looks like he could use it. “Bartender experience. Maybe you just need a distraction.” I look over his shoulder to where his group of friends is sitting, along with the brunette whose eyes still track him everywhere. He follows my gaze and then turns back with a little shake of his head.

Luke lifts the shot, tilting his head back and swallowing it in one go. He sets the glass on the bar top and exhales, coughing a little. “Thanks.”

“No problem.”

“What about you?” he asks.

I move to the sink to set the glass inside. “What about me what?”

“Are you in need of a distraction?”

Inside, something sharp recoils into my lungs, but I manage a friendly smile. “I’m good.”

Luke dips his head, looking up at me through his lashes as he asks, “What does that mean, you’re ‘good’?”

I pick up a bar towel, looking down at it as I tell him, “It means I don’t date guys I meet at work.”

“I’m not asking you to go steady, Dimples.” With a sneaky smile, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out another dollar, tucking it away inside the jar. His eyes meet mine and something tightens between my ribs and belly button. His look is knowing, as if he can see that I had a shitty day, and I see he’s having a shitty night, and he likes that we both see these things.

I don’t like having this chemistry with him, don’t like the wordless connection.

Or maybe I don’t like how much I like it. I still have that choking-breathless feel from this morning, but it loosens inexplicably the longer he’s here, talking to me.

“Speaking of,” he says quietly, “I haven’t seen much of those dimples tonight.”

Shrugging, I say, “Let’s just say it’s been a day.”

He leans both elbows on the bar, studying me. “Sounds like you could blow off some steam, too.”

I laugh at this, unable to resist admitting, “Probably true.”

Reaching for a coaster, he spins it slowly in front of him. “Maybe someone could help you out with that.”

I ignore him and start wiping down the bar. It isn’t the first time I’ve been propositioned at work, not by a long shot. But it’s the first time I’m tempted to accept, because inside, I’m thrumming as I imagine what he’s offering.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” he asks, undeterred, and I shake my head.

“No,” I tell him. If the way his arms look in that T-shirt is any indication, I bet he looks fantastic naked.

I bet he knows he does, too.

It’s a sign that it’s been way too long since I’ve had sex if I’m even having this conversation with myself. The last thing I need in my life is a guy like Luke. I take a sharp breath and get some physical distance, stepping away a little.

Following me with his eyes, he asks, “So is this no-dating-guys-you-meet-at-work thing, like, an actual rule?”

“Sort of.” I fold the bar towel and tuck it into the back of my apron, meeting his eyes.

“What if I promised I was absolutely worth it?”

Why do I think he is absolutely telling the truth? He smiles shyly, but behind his honey-brown eyes, I can see he’s still hunting.

“I’m sure you’re amazing.” I lean back against the sink, staring him down and shocked that I’m even still standing here. “But I don’t even remember your name.”

“Yes, you do.” He leans forward, crossing his arms on the glossy wood.

I bite back a smile.

“What time do you get off tonight?” he asks.

I can’t help but look at his mouth and imagine how it would feel moving, hot and open, down my neck, my breasts, over my ribs.

It occurs to me that if one wanted to break a losing streak, one would go with a sure thing, right? Who better to bust me out of my sex drought than someone who clearly knows what he’s doing? And someone who wouldn’t need it to mean anything?

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