Johnny Devlin is a devil-may-care charmer with a sullied past. Stealing cars landed him in jail, but he learned his lesson. The last seven years working in Websters garage have taught him how to work hard and play even harder.
Lara Valley has grown up lower middle class and she can’t wait to escape. To get her nursing degree, she works at a dive bar while taking classes at a community college. She has no time for dating, and especially not for Johnny—a playboy too handsome for his own good.
Johnny has always had his eye on the pretty bartender with the rockin’ bod and soul-deep eyes. But she’s rejected him more than once. Still, that doesn’t mean he won’t come to her aid when some dirtbag mauls her. When she asks him on a date to thank him, he can’t say no. And then he’s saying nothing but hell, yes.
Before she knows it, Lara is doing things she’s only ever fantasized about. But she doesn’t want to settle down with trouble. She’s been surrounded by it her whole life. Except when her Mr. Fix It bad boy decides he wants her by his side, he makes it nearly impossible to resist saying yes when she should be saying no. When danger comes calling again, she’ll have to decide what’s more important—being with the man she loves, or hoping for a future in a better section of town.
Grinning, he left the guys swearing at the table and nabbed a free place at the crowded bar. Lara, Sue, and a few others were hopping, grabbing drinks, and pouring like mad. Behind him he heard a scuffle break out, and he turned to see two guys who used to be friends hammering on each other.
“That’s rough,” a biker covered in tats next to him said. “But then, Jim should have known better than to hit up Sheila with her new guy right there.”
“He really needs to lay off the tequila.” Lara sounded exasperated. “I told Earl to keep an eye on him.”
Johnny turned and locked gazes with her. She had her long brown hair pulled back in a familiar ponytail. The silky mass reached her lower back, and he was dying to see her hair down just once. She wore minimal makeup, a bit of liner and some thicker mascara. Growing up around women who glammed up for a living, he’d learned early on about a woman’s trade secrets. But he doubted the red in her cheeks came from blush. More like from the heat in the place. And damn, it would have been nice if everyone around him cared about personal hygiene as much as he did.
He wrinkled his nose when a new guy replaced the one next to him and leaned toward Lara, wafting his less-than-pleasant scent. Lara wiped her hand over her nose and pretended a cough.
He and she shared a grin, and his pulse galloped like a racehorse. The sight of her smile, and that heart-stopping dimple, always made it hard for him to breathe. More than physical beauty, Lara possessed a warm inner core that got him hazy and drunk faster than a hometown IPA.
“So, you the bartender?” Smelly drunk guy wanted to know.
She glanced at her black T-shirt that read “Bartender” in bold white letters. “Um, yeah.” Lara gave smelly guy a fake smile. “Another beer?”
“Yep. And keep the change.” He slid a grimy twenty her way.
She poured his beer and handed him back a few bills. “You gave me a twenty. You sure about me keeping all that change?” She was so sweet, so honest.
Way too good for you, Devlin. Leave her alone.
The guy belched, then pulled back ten, giving her a few bucks. “Thanks, honey. I’ll be back.” He stumbled from the barstool, which was quickly occupied by a new customer. Thankfully, this one a woman who smelled like cheap perfume instead of BO.
“What can I get you, Johnny?”
He loved hearing his name on Lara’s lips. She had a husky quality to her voice, and he could too easily imagine it whispering her pleasure while he showed her why she should take a chance on him. Foley thought he had oral foreplay down to a science, but Johnny could have written a book on how to please women, a virtual connoisseur by age sixteen.
He cleared his throat and tried to will away his lecherous thoughts. “A pitcher for the crew.” He nodded to the guys across the bar then leaned closer to her, to be heard above the crowd. “So what’s with Sue? I hear she and Foley split.”
Lara rolled her eyes. Of all the staff at Ray’s, she and Rena seemed the most levelheaded. No drama for them. “She’s pining for the guy. I warned her about him, but did she listen to me?”
“Foley’s a good guy.” He felt the need to defend his friend.
“Sure, but he’s not a permanent guy. None of you are,” she said with a direct gaze that aroused and annoyed him at the same time.
“Maybe we just need to find the right woman.” He gave her the Devlin smile.
For a second it looked like he might have connected with her, but then she laughed and shoved his pitcher at him. “For you guys, there’s a right woman, and a left woman, and a woman on the side…”
The woman next to him laughed. “Seems like she’s got you pegged, sexy.”
He gave her the Devlin smile and winked, and she stared at him, her lips parted. So at least he hadn’t lost his magic. He took the pitcher from Lara, and their fingers brushed. He felt the tingle all the way to his cock and swallowed a groan. Pasting on a sly grin, he said, “But, Lara, if I had you, I wouldn’t need any of those others.” He drew her hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it. “See you later, gorgeous. And you know, you ever change your mind about mixing pleasure with pleasure, you have my number.”
“You mean business with pleasure,” she corrected.
“Do I?” He grinned and left, doing his best not to look over his shoulder at her, but it was damn hard. Especially when she laughed. The sound carried like wind chimes, and he felt a shiver start from his toes and work its way up his body. That hollow in his gut hit him, because he had a crazy urge to go back to the bar just to stare at her. Take in her joy with life.
I am such an asswipe.