“Nope. Here’s a secret. I avoid alcohol. Working in a bar it’d be too easy to become a drunk. To be honest, I really don’t drink much.”
He crunched an ice cube and eyed the pile of cash in front of her. “So? How’d you do?”
“Well, I didn’t make as much as Mandy, but she is a professional. After I tipped Deke…” Willow’s hand froze. “Shoot, was I supposed to tip out to you too? Is that standard?”
“Depends on the bar. Back home, the waitresses usually give me a cut, even when I get my own tips. Some nights, I make more than they do.”
“Did you make tips tonight?”
“You do know it’s not polite to ask a man how much money he makes, right?”
“How much?” Willow repeated.
Blake angled his head toward her pile. “Ladies first.”
She sat up a little straighter. “I made one hundred eighty-two dollars and ninety-three cents.”
“That’s a nice chunk of change.”
“I thought so. Now spill your take.”
“You made two hundred and seventy dollars?”
Willow lowered her forehead to the bar and sighed. “I’m the lowest breadwinner of everyone. I’m gonna be working here all week to pay off the damages I caused, aren’t I?”
“Would that be so bad, Will?”
She lifted her head. “How long are you here?”
“Then I guess it wouldn’t suck.”
“Good to know.”
Willow pushed all the money toward his big tip jar. “One hundred eighty-two dollars and ninety-three cents down, four hundred seventeen dollars and seven cents to go.”
Blake drained the last of his soda. “You still coming upstairs?”
“You promised me dinner, remember?” She offered him a cheeky smile. “I was going to tip you if the food and the service were impeccable, but since you’re more flush with cash than I am…no dice.” She hopped off the barstool and impatiently tugged on his sleeve. “Feed me.”
“Be my pleasure.”
Blake’s dick got hard as he watched Willow suck pasta from her fork. Hearing her throaty moan of satisfaction only increased the pressure behind his zipper. “Good?”
“Amazing. Do you whip up stuff like this for yourself all the time?”
“Pretty much. It’s easy to cook for one once you get used to it.”
“Mmm. I could get very used to this type of food.” Willow waved her butter knife. “Not that I know the first thing about cooking, even though my mother tried several times to teach me.”
“My mom made sure I knew my way around a kitchen before I moved out.”
“She’s gotta be proud you turned out to be such a great cook.”
Thinking of his mom caused Blake a pang. He missed his folks. “I don’t cook for her that often.”
“You save your expertise for your dates?”
Hmm. She was fishing for information. “The last woman I cooked for was impressed.”
Willow’s fingers tightened on her fork. “Yeah? What’d she do to show her gratitude?”
“She married my cousin.” He laughed at Willow’s astonished look. “Indy and I were just friends. I did a little carpentry work in her shop. I only asked her out because my cousin was in love with her and he needed a kick in the butt to admit how he felt to her.”
“Did it work?”
“Yep. They threw a gigantic wedding at the community center a month later. Invited the whole town and everyone remotely associated with the McKay and West families.”
“Lots of drunken revelry?”
“Nah. Colt and India are both in A.A. But the party at the McKay Ranch after they left on their honeymoon?” He whistled. “Wild.”
“Did you get wild?”
“A little. Mostly I poured beer and tried to keep an eye on my cousin Keely McKay, who defined out of control.” Blake frowned. “She disappeared for awhile and when she returned, covered in dirt, she was fit to be tied. No clue what happened. She refused to talk about it.”
“Are you close to her?”
“Used to be before she went off to school in Denver. I hadn’t seen Keely since the wedding, until two weeks ago when Indy and Colt had their first boy. Hudson McKay.”
“That was fast.”
“Not really. They’d been best friends for years so it was a long time coming.”
“So…” She dragged the tines of her fork through the pesto sauce on her plate. “Anyone else you’re cooking for on a regular basis back home?”
Blake rested his hand on hers. “No. I wouldn’t be here if there were, Willow. I’m not that type of guy. Just because I work in a bar doesn’t mean I go home with a different barfly every night.”
“I didn’t think you did.”
Willow shook her head. “I can see where you’d get hit on a lot though. And in my experience—albeit limited experience—guys like you aren’t alone for long unless they choose to be.”
Guys like you. What the hell was that supposed to mean? Loser, lowlife bartenders? Or because he was big and muscled he had to be dumb and probably fell for any woman who crossed his path? At that moment, Blake was glad he hadn’t told her about being a sheep rancher and he was determined to keep the information to himself. “I don’t know whether to be flattered or insulted,” he said tightly.
“Flattered, definitely.” She threw her napkin on the table. “I knew I’d do this all wrong. I didn’t mean…heck, the truth is guys like you don’t date women like me.”
“You know, Willow, that’s the second time you’ve said ‘guys like you’ so maybe you’d better spell it out, slowly, so a guy like me can understand.”
Willow pushed her chair back and stood. “Do I really have to gush about how hot you are? How every time I’m around you this funny feeling flutters in my stomach? How I think your dimples are the sexiest thing about you until I look into your amazing eyes? And to top it all off, you’re a gentleman and you can cook like a dream and you’re so sweet…” Her eyes narrowed at him. “You are way too good to be true, Blake West, so tell me something bad about yourself. Right now.”
Blake wasn’t supposed to jump her after she rattled off all that flattery? Right. Refocus. He snapped his fingers. “I know. I left my dog, Rico, at my cousin’s place out in the country because he’d hate being cooped up in an apartment. As I drove away, he flopped on the porch with those big, sad blue eyes like I was abandoning him forever. That’s bad.”
She stomped over to him. “That’s the best ‘bad’ you can come up with? You care so much about your dog that you sent him for a week of chasing rabbits and squirrels so he wouldn’t be stuck above a smoky bar?” She snorted. “I’ll bet you are ‘bad’ to old ladies and little babies too.” She whapped him lightly on the arm. “Try again.”
Blake yanked her on his lap and pinned her wrists behind her back. “How’s this for bad? I really did invite you up here for an innocent dinner. But all I can think about right now is f**king you over and over until you scream my name.”
“Hmm. That is bad. But I don’t believe it.” Willow leaned in and brushed her mouth over his. “So why don’t you show me how bad you can be and prove me wrong.”
Ask her if she’s sure.
No! Slip a condom on and f**k her right here before she changes her mind.
But she’s had a hangover all day. Maybe it’d be best if she just got some sleep.
Please. Next you’ll be telling me you just want to “hold” her all night.
The devil inside his head even made sarcastic quote marks with his red hands.
The angel just harrumphed.
“Blake?” Willow prompted.
“You’re arguing with yourself about doing what you think is right and doing what you want, aren’t you?”
“How about what I want?”
His gaze snapped to hers. “What do you want?”
“I want you to take me to bed. I want to see your eyes eating me up like they did in the bar. I want to touch you. I want…everything.”
He clamped his hands to her butt and stood.
Willow buried her face in his neck. “You smell good. Even after being in a smoky bar all day and slaving over a hot stove, you smell great.”
Blake shouldered aside the bedroom door, glad he’d left the lamp on so he didn’t have to let her go. He was breathing hard. Not from exertion, from desire.
“You should put me down.”
He nuzzled her hair. “I don’t wanna put you down.”
“But how else are we going to take our clothes off?”
“Good point.” He allowed her to slide down his body. He kissed her. Not touching her besides holding her face in his hands. Letting the heat between them build with each kiss. Blake licked and nibbled and sucked at her mouth. When she began to squirm and arch closer, his hands drifted down her neck to the buttons on her blouse.
“Just kiss me, Will. No hurry.” He dove in for another hot, wet, consuming kiss.
She produced a protesting noise and ripped her mouth away.
“We’ve been completely honest with each other so far, right?”
Maybe not completely honest.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m not looking for careful seduction. I don’t want you to be a gentle lover. Let that naughty voice inside your head win for a change.”