Author: Lorelei James

“Where am I supposed to put my stuff?”

His gaze reconnected with hers as he tried to forget how perfect she looked naked. In his bed. “There’s a locker in the breakroom, which is next to the bathrooms.”


His eyes narrowed when Willow was back in a flash.

“You’re scowling at me like I’ve already done something wrong.”

“It’s hard to grasp your sudden change of attitude.”

She shrugged. “You know the saying, ‘When life gives you lemons’. Speaking of…” She pointed to the fruit piled on the bar. “You making juice? Or a fruit basket?”

“Neither.” Blake pushed away from the barback. “You’ll be slicing them after we go over a few things.”

“What things?”

“Learning to take orders, to start.” He handed her an old-fashioned waitress order pad and a small round tray. “It might be easiest for you to write down the orders to begin with.”

“Write them down for you?”

“No, for yourself. The only time I’ll need a paper copy is when you have a big table, ten or more people, and they’re all ordering at the same time.”

“Got it.” She supported the tray on her hip. “Okay, hit me.”


She gestured impatiently with the pen. “Name some drinks. See if I can keep up.”

“Tangueray and tonic. Bud Light. Jack and Coke. Fat Tire. Seven and Seven. Fuzzy Navel. Diet and Captain. Chardonnay.”

Willow rattled them back.

“Good. Except for beer. Verify if they’re asking for a draft or a bottle.” He sipped his Coke. “How are your math skills?”

She offered him a droll stare. “Is this part of my punishment? You’re going to make me do story problems?”

Blake laughed. “I hated them in school too. No, I’m talking simple addition and subtraction. But fast addition and subtraction.”

“Can I use a calculator?”

“Nope. You can use your pad if you need to. Ready?”

“For what?”

“To tell me how much the drink order I just gave you costs.” He flipped the pad around on the tray. “Here’s the price list. Top shelf. Premium. Domestic bottled beer. Imported bottled beer. Tap beer. Wine. Soft drinks aren’t listed, but usually those are free for the designated—”

“Forty-one fifty?”

His mouth dropped open. “You figured that out already?” When her stare turned into a challenge, he backtracked. “Wow. You’ve got a head for numbers.” In addition to being a hot little number that makes my damn head spin.

Willow reached up and patted his cheek. “And don’t you forget it. So what’s next?”

“Wiping down the tables. The rags and cleaner are below the sink. I’ve gotta grab the cash drawer from the office and then I’ll help.”

He’d only made it a few steps when she said, “Blake. Wait.”

He stopped.

“I’m sorry for all the problems I caused last night. For being so touchy this morning.”

I wish we’d been a lot touchier this morning.

Blake bit back his retort and listened.

“You probably don’t believe me, but I’ve never done anything like this before. I mean, when I’m mad I yell and get in people’s face, but drinking until I pass out? Waking up n**ed in a strange man’s bed? And finding out I performed a strip tease for you—”

He whirled around. “You didn’t strip for me.”

“I didn’t?”

“No. After the sheriff left, you were upset so I took you up to the apartment. I’d planned to drive you home after I locked up the bar. But when I came back a couple hours later, you were n**ed and snoring on my bed. I slept on the couch. Nothin’ happened.”

The relief on her face was comical. “I hate that I don’t remember. Sounds like I was lucky to end up with you and not someone…less honest.”

Blake looked at her thoughtfully.


“As long as we’re bein’ honest? My gentlemanly streak only goes so far and it’d been long gone last night if you had stripped for me. No way could I’ve kept my hands off you. No way. It was damn hard.” His gaze swept over her. “It’s still damn hard.” Boy-howdy was that statement true in more ways than one.

She blinked. “So my behavior didn’t repulse you?”

“Far from it. But fair warning. Next time I find you n**ed in my bed? There’s gonna be a whole lot happening. And I guarantee you’ll remember every single second of it.

Willow didn’t unfreeze until Blake disappeared. Then she sagged against the barstool.

Holy moly. She’d wondered if she’d imagined Mr. Hottie Bartender’s attraction to her.

Apparently not.

Blake was the first man she’d been attracted to in a long time—even before her forced abstinence during her reign as Miss Firecracker. She had no clue what to do about the attraction. Men like him didn’t usually give her the time of day, let alone the I-wanna-lick-you-up-one-side-and-down-the-other sexy stare.

Forget about it.

Grabbing the bottle of disinfectant spray, she blanked her mind to everything but scrubbing the scum from the tables, when she noticed the chunks out of the wall.

Her stomach clenched. What if she had connected with Norbert’s head? She might’ve killed him. What could he have done or said that’d caused her to swing a barstool at him?

Willow traced the deep gouges and scratches with her fingertips. Evidently she’d held onto the seat portion and the chair’s legs connected with the wall. Repeatedly. Luckily she could fix the damage with Sheetrock mud instead of having to cut out the ruined section and install a new piece, which would require taping and lots of sanding.

Blake’s footsteps stopped behind her. “It could’ve been worse.”

“Yeah, I could be in jail for attempted murder.” Willow faced Blake. Or rather his chest. Her gaze traveled up his broad torso until she met his remarkable eyes.

“Old Norbert hit the ground pretty fast the second you picked up the barstool. So in your defense, I don’t think you meant to hurt him, just to scare him.”

“Why? Do you have any idea what he said that might’ve made me act so…rash?”

“Mandy, the cocktail waitress, said Norbert propositioned you.”

“Eww! He’s older than my dad!”

Blake’s mouth hardened. “Dirty old man. Mandy also claimed he grabbed your butt and tried to bury his face in your cleavage.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“Yep. It’s also sexual harassment and I don’t put up with that crap in my bar. If the sheriff hadn’t banned Norbert for his part in last night’s events, I would have. So you don’t worry about him showing up tonight.”

“Good.” She swiped the table one final time. “Done.”

He whistled. “You’re fast.”

“Efficient. Now what?” She glanced at the door. “Are we open for business?”

“Yeah. Been slow this time of day. Picks up around four when all the events let out. That’s when Mandy comes in.”

Willow followed him behind the bar. “So we’re alone?”

Blake spun around so fast she smacked her face into his chest. His hands landed on her shoulders to steady her. “You aren’t afraid to be alone with me, are you?”

“No. Geez. I woke up n**ed with you this morning, Blake. I think you’ve proved yourself trustworthy.”

“And here I was hoping you’d try to find my hidden wild streak.”

“Do you have one?”

“Everyone has one. I can’t wait to see more of yours.” He smiled and chucked her under the chin. “Let’s finish prep.”

He showed her how to load the glass washer behind the bar. Then he demonstrated the best way to slice the fruit for drinks.

Willow stared at him as he dried glasses.


“Tell me about yourself, Blake West.”

Unease briefly skittered across his face. “Not much to tell. I’m your basic, boring bartender.”

“I don’t believe it.” She let her gaze wander from the mass of curls, down his rugged face, across that solid chest and sculpted abdomen to his lean hips. Don’t look lower. Yet, she wondered if he was well proportioned everywhere. Withholding a smirk, she met his eyes and pointed the knife at him. “You can do better.”

“All right, all right. I’ll talk if you quit waving that knife at me and get to work.”

“Fine.” She turned. Thwack. The knife halved a lemon. “Start talking.”

Heavy sigh. “I’m a born and bred Wyomingite. I’ve lived outside of Sundance my whole life.”

“Really? I went to Devil’s Tower once. Gorgeous country.”

“Yes, it is.”

“You a cowboy?”

Pause. “Not really.”

“How do you know Dave?”

“We went to high school together. He married a woman from here. They ended up divorced and she moved on, but he stayed.”

“Are you married?”


“Ever been married?”

“No. I have a dog though.”

Willow snorted.

“See? Told ya I’m boring. What goes around comes around. Why don’t you fill me in on Willow’s world.”

Thwack. Another lemon drawn and quartered. “What do you want to know?”

“Your day job. How you got to be a beauty queen.”

Willow peeked at him over her shoulder. “The last one surprised you, huh?”

“No. Why would you say that?”

“Because it shocked everyone else in the county.” Jerks. Thwack.

“I think we’ve established I’m not like everyone else, Will.”