The second shot of Cuervo went down easier than the first, and Becky Sue’s tense shoulders eased a tad. That’s better, the tequila said. You deserve to relax a little.
“Another crappy Valentine’s Day,” she muttered under her breath, pulling her straw cowgirl hat a little forward on her head, shadowing her face. “I can’t believe I lost the damn case.”
No one in the crowded, noisy bar heard her or paid her any attention, which was just as well. The court loss wasn’t a fact she was proud of. Her first real case and she’d blown it. Her client would have to pay civil penalties due to excessive noise from his duck ranch. Yes, a duck ranch. It was depressing. Her boss had given her quite a dirty look when she’d returned to the office, too. So much for making partner early in her career.
In addition to that, tomorrow would be her second Valentine’s Day alone since she’d come home from law school just over a year ago. Although Becky Sue was surrounded by men she knew and had known for years, they’d all moved on in their lives since she’d gone away to college. They accepted her back, of course, but more like a sister. Not that she was eager to start up something with one of the cowboys in the area. She’d gone off to law school to get away from cattle ranching and do something a little more intellectual. Of course, then she’d come right back home to her daddy’s ranch and Steddyville where the population was less than three thousand, with two lawyers’ offices.
Becky Sue figured she was going to have to get used to boring Valentine’s Days.
To top it all off, he was here. It was a hazard of living in a small town. Everyone came to the same watering hole because there was only one. Nick Papadakos and his supporters crowded around the other end of the long, maple bar, laughing and joking. Men Becky Sue had gone to school with slapped him on the back and congratulated him heartily. Traitors. He was new in town, some kind of wannabe small town lawyer. He should be unpopular and unwelcome.
Becky Sue turned down another offer to dance, though the music was good and the cowboy was good looking–another guy she’d gone to high school with. He was good natured, but a loyal family man. His wife was a friend of Becky Sue’s and was constantly trying to make sure Becky Sue wasn’t lonely. Generally, Becky Sue responded to the invitations with a smile and a thank you, and sent him back to where his wife was sitting, but, occasionally, a song really called for a dance. Not tonight.
Her eyes were drawn to the other end of the bar again, where Nick was downing a shot of something amber colored. Bourbon, maybe. It inspired her to have another shot of tequila, so she signaled the bartender.
Two minutes later, Carlos came over and leaned against the bar toward her. “It’s not that bad, Pinky,” he told her, using the nickname she’d acquired in junior high school when she wore her mother’s pink lipstick to school one day. It had been garish and nutty looking, and that nickname stuck. After a while, Becky Sue got used to it. No one took a name like Becky Sue seriously either.
“Pinky, hm?” came a low, rumbling voice from over her left shoulder. She knew that voice, far too well. Nick Papadakos.
Carlos gave him the hairy eyeball and then looked back at Becky Sue. “Another shot?”
“A double,” she said. She could either crash in the no-tell motel next door to the bar, or Carlos would drive her home. Another drink won’t hurt you, the tequila assured her. Besides, there was Nick to deal with.
He stuck a finger up toward Carlos. “On me.”
Carlos huffed, but walked away to get her the drink.
“I can pay for it myself.” His hair was blue-black glossy despite the smoky, dim light, and she had to look up to see his face. It was disconcerting that he was so classically-featured and broad-shouldered. She turned back toward the bar so she wouldn’t have to look at him.
“I insist,” he told her, pushing in past the rancher standing next to her. “It’s the least I can do.”
He laughed. “I’m not gloating. I know this was an important case for you. The drink is a peace offering.”
“Look,” he said. “I don’t want there to be hard feelings between us. Steddyville is too small a town for that.”
“Yeah, well…” It was true. If they were both going to practice here, they’d see each other often, possibly work together on a case in the future. She couldn’t honestly say she had anything against him. He’d played fair and square in the courtroom. He’d just been better at arguing his case.
Nick gave her a smile and the barrier between them lowered a bit. “Okay?”
“You sure look different out of the courtroom. Hair down, cowboy boots. I like it.”
Her roots needed to be lightened again, but with her hat on, he couldn’t see. She tried not to be self-conscious. Without glancing down at her tight jeans and pink tank top, she gave him a little smile and returned the compliment. “You seem a lot more comfortable out of your suit, too.” Realizing how forward that sounded, she amended her comment. “I mean, you…uh…”
“I know what you mean,” he said, patting her hand. “Pinky.”
Becky Sue removed her hand from under his in order to take the tequila Carlos slid in front of her.
Carlos nodded at Nick. “Get you anything?”
The bartender reached for the soda gun and poured a glassful, putting it in front of Nick. “Need anything else, just let me know,” he said, his eyes checking with Becky Sue. She gave him a small nod and he moved away.
“Protective,” Nick pointed out. “That’s one of the things I like about small towns. People care about other people.”
Becky Sue downed her tequila in one gulp. He stood so close to her, his big chest pressing against her arm. He was warm and smelled like…evergreen trees. She felt her nipples harden as she wondered what he looked like without his shirt on. He was pretty muscular, if his bare forearms were any indication.
It wouldn’t do to fraternize too much, though. It was unprofessional.
“Wanna dance?” he asked.
It was a slow song. The tequila wound its way through her, leaving her relaxed. Curls of attraction tightened in her core. He was too dangerous to her equilibrium. Unprofessional, she reminded herself.
Her mouth spoke before she could turn off the spigot, however. “Sure.”
Nick took her hand and pulled her gently onto the little dance floor. It was crowded with other couples swaying in time to a country ballad. He guided her hands onto his chest and held her close, his eyes traveling over her face, and a small smile playing at the corners of his lips. “I’ve been wanting to do this all night,” he said.
The curls in her belly tightened. The liquor in her system whispered, it’s only a dance. It’s not too far away from professional conduct. You can stand a little closer.
“Thanks.” Her voice was too soft, she thought. He’d get the wrong idea. “I mean, that’s nice of you to say.”
“I mean it. I’m very attracted to you, Pinky.” His grip tightened on her hands. “You don’t mind if I call you that, do you?”
She shook her head. Coming from his firm lips, it sounded like a caress instead of a joke. Becky Sue could feel his groin pressing against her belly, and the hard bulge there was flattering. Delicious, said the tequila. You want some of that. She wrestled with it for control. If she didn’t get hold of her libido, things would get out of hand fast. The last time she’d listened to that intoxicating voice, she’d ended up in the backseat of Jimmy Buchnell’s father’s Chevy Malibu. That was an episode she wanted to forget. Of course, it was in eleventh grade. She pulled away slightly and the pressure on her torso eased.
“Am I making you uncomfortable?”
“No.” The tequila was doing the talking for her. She was uncomfortable! It was a tempting kind of discomfort, though, the kind that made your panties moist. Get your mind out of your panties! she told herself sternly. “Yes, a little uncomfortable,” she amended. “I’m flattered and all of that, but, don’t you think we ought to keep things professional?”
He pulled her tight against him again, gently insisting on contact. “Why?”
“Umm…” She couldn’t remember why. Here was this great looking, successful guy, coming on to her and she was worried about professional conduct?
Right. Be professional. Definitely not professional to rub up against his cock like that. Stop resisting! It feels good. Go with the flow, said the Cuervo. Her fortitude slipped a bit and the response came out sounding weak. “We might have to work together in the future.”
“I can separate personal from professional,” he told her confidently. “I’ll bet you can, too.”
She hadn’t been in her profession long—just one year. Could she separate the two? That bulge up against her belly was scorching her right through her jeans. “Sure,” the tequila said through her mouth.
He nodded and let go of her hands to wrap his arms around her. She pressed her face against his chest without thinking about it. The fragrance of evergreens overlaid his personal scent perfectly, the two mixing intoxicatingly. Her body fit well with his, and she was so pleasantly peaceful there.
So much for professional.
They finished their dance and went back to the bar. Becky Sue didn’t protest when he tucked two fingers under her chin and tilted her face up for a gentle kiss. His lips were tender, and as his tongue teased the seam of her mouth, she had one more twinge of conscience, quickly squashed by the tingle between her legs.
“Come out to dinner with me tomorrow,” he suggested. “It’s Valentine’s Day; we’ll do something romantic.”
Tomorrow? What about tonight? protested the tequila. “I…umm…” Oh my God, he respects me! He isn’t trying to drag me to the motel next door for a sleazy quickie!
The Cuervo screamed in frustration.
“Good.” The next kiss was a little more aggressive, his tongue tangling with her own. Becky Sue responded in kind, taking it easy though she wanted little more than to throw her legs around him and press him against her wet center. Do it, Señor Cuervo said insidiously. Suggest the motel. He’ll go along. It was so tempting. She could imagine the sensation of running her hands over his bare chest, the feeling of his cock buried deep inside her. But he respected her. Most men wanted to get into her panties on the first blush, and those men she turned down flat, but this man treated her like she was special.
She sighed against his lips. The memory of the Chevy Malibu intruded and she argued with her liquor languor.
“It’s late,” Nick pointed out. “Carlos! Can you call Pinky a cab?”
The bartender walked over. “No cabs. This is Steddyville, remember?”
“Right. Uh… I’ll drive you home,” Nick said. “Is that okay with you?”
There was that respect again. It was glorious! And her father would be there to make sure she didn’t get too tempted to bring him inside with her and screw his brains out. There’s the motel… the liquor suggested, in one last-ditch attempt to corrupt her. Her stubborn streak asserted itself.
“Yeah, that’s okay. I shouldn’t drive.”
He smiled and put his hand at the small of her back to lead her out the door.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” Nick told her, his breath warm on her lips as they stood on the front porch of her parents’ house a few minutes later. The porch light was on and Becky Sue could see the warm fires in his dark eyes. There was something special going on here. Maybe something with a future. Becky Sue felt better about herself, more confident, more competent. Losing the case hadn’t been the end of anything. Maybe it was even a new beginning.
She gave the golden poison a mental thumb to the nose.
I’ll get you next time, Pinky, grumped the tequila.
“Not if I can help it,” she mumbled.
Nick pulled back a few inches, looking at her with puzzlement. “I’m sorry?”
“I mean, me, too.”
“Where would you like to go for our date? Maybe we should head out of Steddyville and spend Valentine’s Day up in Sonora.”
Sonora had a lot more to offer than Steddyville. But she wanted to avoid getting tangled up with Señor Cuervo again. “Anyplace but Mexican, if it’s all the same to you.”
His lips hovered over hers again and just before he kissed her, he said, “That’s fine. Tequila and I don’t get along anyway.”