“You bitch. You’re going to pay for this.” Petros’s voice is strained, and he’s bent over, cupping himself, his forehead glistening with sweat. He seems to be in terrible pain.
Good. I hope I caused permanent damage.
“You’re fired. You’ll never work in advertising again. And I want you out of my apartment,” he screeches.
I have no contract safeguarding my rights as a renter, but even if he didn’t kick me out, I don’t wanna have anything more to do with him anyway. I stride to my desk and sling my bag over my shoulder. “Worth it,” I yell. Remind me I said that tonight, when I’m jobless and homeless.
I dart out the door and onto a mostly empty sidewalk. The sun is almost completely down, and there are no taxis in sight. Can this day get any worse?
Thunder cracks overhead, and a fat drop of water lands on my nose. That’ll teach me not to tempt fate.
Because of course the weather is my fault. Everything is, according to the asshole I just kneed in the balls. My fault we lost the biggest account my predecessor landed. My fault my assistant found a better job with double the pay. My fault Petros has blue balls and can’t think straight.
I’ll take responsibility for the last one now, since I probably bruised them.
I kick a can that dares to lie in my path, and soda sprays all over my foot and across the sidewalk.
“Hey. Watch it.” An older lady glares and sidesteps me. She mutters something under her breath. I think she called me an idiot.
Yeah, well, at least I’m not a bitch. I spin on my heel to tell her so, and a bucket of water is emptied over my head. Or that’s what it feels like, as the rain picks up to the point I can barely see my sodden ballet pumps. The lady who called me an idiot has an umbrella. I don’t.
Lovely. Some deity up there must really not like me.
I wipe water from my face, and look around, shielding my eyes from the rain with my hand. There has to be a place to wait out this storm. The area is full of offices, but most businesses let off at five, and the nearby coffee shops never stay open past six. It’s now after seven, and I’d be home, if that asshole Petros hadn’t made me stay extra late to talk about my prospects.
Prospects, my ass. Literally. My butt was all he was interested in, the moment we were behind closed doors. I’m a smart girl. I should have known the only thing going places in there was his dick, and that I was expected to be the next place that thing visited.
And that made it sound like I was to blame for not expecting to be sexually harassed. You know what? I should have prospects, and Petros should have wanted to talk about them, and he’s the only one to blame, but somehow I’m the one without a job or a place to live.
Fuck, I hate having to move.
A bright light catches my eye through the haze. It’s a neon sign. Denny’s, it reads. I’ve heard of this place from the girls in accounting. Only bar in the neighborhood, and the owner is supposed to be sex on legs. Sofia wanted us to have drinks here her last day with the company, but I had to wrap up a presentation.
Water pours down the nape of my neck and slides all the way to my butt crack. Awesome.
I hold my bag to my body with both arms, hoping the leather will keep more water from soaking into my chest and hurry across the street toward the bar. A man is at the entrance, taking up most of the space under the overhang. I catch a glimpse of his profile when he shakes his head. He seems to be in his late fifties, and he reeks of alcohol when I step up behind him.
My heart sinks at the CLOSED sign dangling from the small suction cup adhered to the frosted glass that takes up the top half of the door, but the guy keeps pounding on the heavy wooden frame.
“Hello?” he calls out. “Hey, I’ve got a delivery for ya.”
I raise my voice, to be heard over the whoosh of the rain. “Says they’re closed.”
From how he half-jumps as he turns to look at me, I must have startled him.
He moves to the side and motions for me to squeeze in beside him and escape the rain.
After a moment’s hesitation I do.
“Someone’s inside,” the man says. “I heard them. Besides, the lights are on.”
I squint but only make out a hazy glow, and no sounds reach my ears above the din of the rain. We wait a couple heartbeats, and then he raises his fist to knock again. Before his knuckles make contact, the door is thrown open and a gorgeous, enviably dry guy, possibly over two meters tall, gazes down at us.
His green eyes are fringed by thick lashes that droop in a bored expression, as he says, “Can’t you read? We’re closed.”
When he makes to shut the door again, the guy next to me sticks his foot in the opening. “I’ve got a delivery for you,” he says.
Green Eyes glances at me. “And what do you want?”
A stiff drink, a steady job, and a cheap apartment, no creeps involved, but I say, “Just to wait out the rain. Maybe have a drink. But if you’re closed—”
“Give the girl something dry to put on. She’s gonna catch her death.” The delivery guy pushes the door all the way open and nudges me forward. “Go on, sweetheart. I can drive you home when I’m done. My daughter is about your age, and I’d hate for her to be stuck in this weather.”
I mutter a thank you and slide past the huge, now-scowling man.
The interior is all dark wood, burgundy-colored leather, and warm, soft lighting. My shoes squelch, and the sound echoes now that I’m out of the rain. “Oh God, I’m sorry. I’m dripping on your floor.” As if that helps, I prop my bag on the nearest table, to form a puddle on that surface too.
“Get the woman a towel,” calls out the most deliciously gruff male voice I’ve ever heard.
I snap my gaze up to the only occupied table in the establishment. Fuck, did I walk in on a male-model convention?
The man who spoke has chestnut-brown curls down to his so very wide shoulders. When he gets up, I see he’s as tall at the man who got the door. His eyes are the color of dark honey, and his smile lights up the chiseled features of his face. Three more men remain seated at the table, one more stunning than the next, all with dark hair and those shoulders that span the width of a Mini Cooper.
Actually, the one with the scar may be even wider…
A woman I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t notice until just now gets up. She glares at the blue-eyed guy at the head of the table, and he stands too, though with a long-suffering sigh. They follow the gorgeous brunet, who prowls toward me, and I stop noticing them, because this guy oozes raw sexuality. He’s the embodiment of every naughty thought I’ve ever had, only better. I bet his lips taste like dreams and promises.
He must be the sex-on-legs owner.
And I’m wet. Like, all over. From the rain. While I ogle him, pneumonia is probably making itself comfortable in my lungs.
He motions me toward the bar as he approaches. “I have a hoodie and sweat pants you can borrow. Was gonna hit the gym later.” He ducks behind the counter.
Guess I’m getting a drink first. I wouldn’t mind changing out of my soggy clothes right-freaking-now, but at least the chill isn’t seeping into my bones in here. I climb on a stool—not to take a better look at how his T-shirt stretches over the muscles of his back when he bends lower. When he straightens, holding a gym bag, I suck in a breath. He’s even more beautiful up close. A silver ring circles the brown in his eyes, and the stubble on his cheeks and chin imbues his good looks with a roughness that makes me squirm.
Only, he seems way less impressed than I am. He opens and closes his mouth a couple times, then drops the bag on the counter between us and says, “The employee bathroom is over there” He points to his left. A sign that reads Employees Only hangs on the door near that corner of the room. “Get changed.” Is he avoiding my gaze? To no one in particular, he says, “Well? Is someone getting that fucking towel?”
“Aren’t the clean ones in the bathroom, Denny?” the woman asks. “Where she’s going?” She smiles sweetly and gives me a little finger wave.
I return her smile and begin to say thank you, but Denny barks, “Need to get something. From the back. It’s heavy. Sei, come help me?”
“How heavy is heavy?” Blue Eyes asks.
I don’t hear what Denny’s answer is, but then he calls out, “Ares, sign for the order, and then get this girl a drink, so she can be on her way.”
The man who got the door for me and Delivery Guy sounds pissy when he asks, “Why me?”
“Because you’re the reason Argyro left. You owe me.” Denny—shouldn’t be thinking of him as sex-on-legs—growls and stomps away, while I try to be discreet about watching his amazing ass bunch beneath the denim.
Focus. I hop down from the stool and make my squelching way to the bathroom. The employee bathroom is locked, but the key is in the lock. I turn it and let myself into a room definitely cleaner and brighter than I expected. The walls are tiled with what looks like marble. I leave the bag on the large bench beside the sink, to the right of the door. Lockers line the wall across from me, and the stalls are to my left. And there’s a glass-enclosed shower too.
Spacious, spotless, and well lit. Cool.
I grab a fluffy towel from the shelving unit in the corner—that also holds a basket filled with female hygiene products—and wrap it around my head. It stays in place while I take off my shirt and peel my wet jeans off my legs, but I need to leave it aside when I pull Denny’s way-too-large hoodie over my head. It’s soft and warm, and smells faintly of expensive cologne.
I roll up the sleeves and look down. No need for the pants. This thing covers me to right above the knee. I use the towel to squeeze water from my hair, and then tie the wet strands into a low bun. A drop of water trickles down my spine. It tickles, but is nowhere near as bad as how I felt moments ago. I make a valiant effort to salvage my shoes with paper towels and the hand-drier, but they still feel icky against my bare feet.
I lay out my wet clothes on the bench, to dry as much as possible till I’m out of here, and return to the bar just in time to see Green Eyes—Ares—slip behind it. Delivery Guy is carrying one box after the other inside, grumbling about the weather. The other two men are up and helping him stack the crates.
“What’ll it be?” Ares asks me. “Keep in mind I don’t do silly, girly cocktails.”
I snort and go reclaim the stool I sat on before. On second thought, I sit on the dry one next to it. “Anything sweet will do, as long as it packs a punch.”
He pours me a shot of yellow tequila.
“Seriously? This is sweet?” I arch both brows. God, I forgot to check my face in the mirror. I must have panda eyes.
He shrugs, no hint of remorse in his expression. “I’m not a bartender. You want something else? You get it yourself.”
I don’t need to be told twice. I join him on the other side of the bar and make myself a Cuba Libre, like I used to have it in college, a million years ago.
Ares watches me, eyes narrowed. Before I can bring the glass to my lips, he snatches it from my hand and takes a sip. “Huh.” Takes another sip. “This is good.”
I chuckle. “Doesn’t exactly take a genius to get it right.”
“You’ve mixed drinks before?” he asks as if I didn’t speak.
This isn’t mixing. Cocktails don’t get any plainer than rum, cola, and lime juice. “Only at friends’ parties,” I say.
“Good enough,” he says more to himself than me. “You don’t happen to need a job, do you?”