I walked into the Mad Hatter just at the start of happy hour and looked around the crowded room for my friends. I was meeting Kate and Isobel for drinks to celebrate Kate’s promotion to junior partner in her law firm. All of the tables in our usual watering hole were taken so I grabbed a wooden stool at the bar and placed my purse and jacket over two empty stools to hold them for my friends. I smiled at Phil, one of the regular bartenders, and ordered my usual gin and tonic. I didn’t even like gin so it was the drink guaranteed to keep me from overindulging. The pub was cluttered with mismatched wooden chairs and tables occupied by white collared urbanites having a drink to unwind at the end of a busy workweek. Photos of famous Bostonians graced the exposed brick walls and dark wooden beams crisscrossed overhead. The shabby chic space was noisy, crowded and there was a bustling exuberance proclaiming the arrival of the weekend, just as there was every Friday evening.
I sipped my G&T and tried not to grimace. Phil caught my eye and chuckled, as he was wise to my tried and true strategy. I fished my phone out of my purse and noticed I’d missed a text from Kate. She was running late and ordered me to hang tight. My phone chimed announcing the arrival of another text, this one from Isobel saying she was at Kate’s office waiting for her and they’d walk over together. Damn my tendency to be early for everything.
Phil placed a glass in front of me. “Tequila. Compliments of the guy at the end of the bar,” he grinned and winked.
“Geez. He didn’t waste any time,” I grumbled, looking in the direction of Phil’s nod with low expectations. Much to my surprise, the mysterious drink buyer was impressive in a slightly older, and if I’m being completely honest, jaw-dropping way. He had to be late thirties with dark hair shot through with grey and a three-day old scruff that not all men could pull off. He could. He was striking. He definitely stood out amongst the stuffy suits and loosened ties most of the men were wearing as he leaned against the bar as though he didn’t have a care in the world. He was dressed more casually in a button-down black shirt stretching over broad shoulders and jeans. He looked virile, rugged and commanding. My breath hitched. My thighs clenched. Uh oh. Definite physical reaction. I smiled and lifted the glass in a silent thank you. Tequila was my drink of choice when I did want to overindulge. Interesting coincidence or perhaps Phil was giving away my secrets.
Oh God. The tequila-buying stranger was coming over. Well of course he was going to follow up with an introduction after buying me a drink. I had a split second to muse about what his pickup line might be and hope I didn’t have lipstick on my teeth.
“Hello there,” he smiled, as he leaned his back against the bar so he had to turn his head to make eye contact with me. Non-threatening pose, I thought. Understated but effective greeting, just enough to tease me with his deep, rich voice and make me long to hear more.
“Hello,” I replied. “Thank you for the tequila.”
“Phil said it was your favorite drink.”
“Ah, so he is giving away my secrets,” I grinned
“Not all of them. He wouldn’t tell me your name,” he raised his eyebrows expectantly.
It would be too easy to simply tell him. If he was really interested, I wanted him to work a little harder for my name. And number. “Is this what you typically do on Friday nights? Buy drinks for random women in bars?”
“Only the one I’m going to marry.”
I had chosen that unfortunate moment to take a sip of my drink and my surprised chuckle at his words made me cough. Hard. He stepped toward me and his hand moved to my back to steady me as I caught my breath.
“Hey. Are you okay?” His eyes darkened with concern as his hand lightly stroked my back.
“Yes,” I rasped, grateful bahis siteleri the coughing had stopped. I grabbed a paper napkin off the bar to dab at my teary eyes. His hand lingered on my back, lightly stroking through the fabric of my blouse.
“I’m so sorry. I really don’t want you to choke on our first date.”
“Oh you are a presumptuous one, aren’t you?” I didn’t know if I should be amused or annoyed as he filled up my personal space.
“You don’t know this about me but I always get what I want.”
“That’s good to know but what if I tell you that I’m already spoken for? That my heart belongs to someone else?” His hand stilled its lazy caress of my back.
“Are you? Taken?”
I wasn’t sure how to play this scene. I wasn’t dating anyone. I secretly pined for an unrequited love from graduate school days but God knows where Blake McKenzie had ended up. We had lost touch but the memory of his handsome face and tall lean body still fuelled most of my fantasies. I guess I waited too long to answer the stranger’s question because he asked me again.
“Are you involved with someone already?”
I sighed, ” No. I’m hoping an old college crush will realize that he can’t live without me but it’s been ten years with no contact so I’m not overly optimistic.”
“He’s a fool.”
“Well the truth is I’m really not interested in dating or getting married.”
“That was before you met me.” His fingers resumed their soft trek up and down my spine.
“This conversation is surreal. Does this usually work for you?”
The stranger smiled and held my gaze. I tried to seem unaffected but I couldn’t look away. His eyes were dark brown. I’d expected them to be blue with his coloring but no, they were dark chocolate brown. And they turned down a little on the outer edges making him seem sad-eyed, even when he smiled. It was charmingly distracting. He was tall. At least 6’3″. His shoulders seemed even broader up close. Oh but those eyes. I could drown in those dark depths. My friends arrived at that moment, breaking the spell. I was relieved. And disappointed.
“Hi,” Kate said, “who’s your friend?”
Before I could speak, the brown-eyed stranger extended his hand, “Jackson Spencer. Nice to meet you.”
I thought Kate’s eyebrows would wing clear off her forehead. “Not Jackson Spencer of Quantum International Securities?” she asked, still pumping his hand.
I looked from Kate to Jackson, surprised that she knew of him. Was he famous or something? His name didn’t sound at all familiar to me and I’m pretty sure I’d never forget his face had I seen him before.
“Guilty,” he smiled. “And you are?”
“I’m Kate Howell. I work with the law firm contracted by your company for legal counsel.”
“Nice to meet you, Kate,” Jackson smiled, reclaiming his hand.
Not to be left out Isobel quickly jumped into the mix and introduced herself, smiling up at Jackson, her right eye giving a long slow blink that wasn’t quite a wink. She swore it wasn’t something she could control. Kate and I dubbed it her signature move as it brought most men to their knees.
Jackson smiled politely but seemed unaffected.
He turned back to me and said, “Your turn.”
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“I don’t know your name.” He leaned closer and lowered his voice for my ears only, “I should probably know that little detail before I officially propose.”
I honestly contemplated not telling him but I had become even more curious about him since his exchange with Kate. And besides, his dark, sad eyes were completely unraveling me. Dammit.
“Jennifer Samson,” I said, extending my hand. Instead of taking my hand in his for the requisite handshake, he interlocked our fingers. The physical connection lasted for only a few seconds but it was oddly intimate and left me feeling shaken.
“I’ll leave you to enjoy your friends for canlı bahis siteleri now, Jennifer Samson.” He pressed his lips against my cheek, nodded to my friends and walked back to his leaning spot at the far end of the bar.
“Holy shit, Jen,” Kate hissed in my ear, “how on earth did you hook up with Jackson Spencer?”
“We haven’t hooked up,” I said defensively, clutching my glass to steady my trembling hands, “he merely bought me a drink. And then declared that he was going to marry me.”
“I’d marry the hell out of him,” Isobel sighed. Like me and Kate, Isobel was also single but obsessed with getting married and starting a family. We teased her mercilessly about her mission to find a suitable husband and sperm donor.
“So who is he?” I asked.
Kate looked as though she might burst at the seams. “He’s CEO of Quantum International Securities. It’s a small company that specializes in high tech security systems but they are starting to make strides in international markets. I don’t work with the legal team contracted by Quantum but I’ve heard great things about Jackson and his company. He has a reputation for having impeccable instincts and is tough but fair. His employees love him, especially the females. He is one of Boston’s most eligible bachelors. I believe he’s on some Top 40 under 40 list. He’s mouth watering in person.”
“Well if that’s the case why is he slumming here and hitting on me? It doesn’t make sense.”
“Of course it makes sense,” Isobel said, “you’re beautiful and he couldn’t resist.”
“Oh please,” I scoffed, and then had the most horrible thought. “Do I look desperate? Like I’m trying too hard?” I vowed to never become one of those women in her thirties who pathetically hung out in bars hoping to get hit on.
“Will you please shut up,” Kate spat, she did not suffer fools gladly. “You are not desperate. We’re here celebrating my promotion, not looking for hook ups. Enjoy the attention! And get his number later. But for now this is evening is all about me! Let’s drink up ladies. That means tequila for you, Jen.”
“Why not,” I raised my glass. “To Kate successfully taking her next leap in world domination!”
A couple of drinks later, a table opened up so we moved our stuff from the bar and ordered dinner. Kate and Isobel were two of my best friends and we always had a blast together, no matter what we were doing. I tried to stay in the moment and not steal glances at the handsome Jackson Spencer. It was increasingly difficult to ignore him as he kept the tequila flowing and bought drinks for my friends, too. Perhaps he wanted to marry all of us. Ha!
The cover band started up at ten and the small dance floor was soon crowded with gyrating, graceless and intoxicated bodies. Kate and I were encouraging Isobel to talk to a man from her office when I felt a presence behind me. I swear my spine tingled with some sixth sense.
“Dance with me,” a voice, that voice, brushed against my ear, as Jackson leaned in behind me, his hands resting on the arms of my chair. The man had no regard for personal space or boundaries.
The band had mellowed and was doing a decent rendition of one of my favorite Amos Lee songs.
“Go already,” Kate shouted, practically pushing me out of my chair.
I stood and swayed a little in my heels, realizing I had probably consumed considerably more tequila than I intended. Jackson took my hand and led me to the already overflowing dance floor. He pulled me into his arms and honestly, I felt something shift inside. His arms settled around my waist and I had little choice but to loop mine around his neck. He was tall and solid and even though I was 5’9″ in my bare feet, he made me feel feminine and delicate. It was an unexpected and unfamiliar feeling. His scent was as intoxicating as the tequila, a mixture of soap and some woodsy scent that was subtle canlı bahis and suggestive. It felt right to be in his arms. I know that sounds completely corny. Perhaps it was the influence of the tequila but I think it had more to do with the man. I was enchanted by him. Curious and interested. And aroused. Just from the sound of his voice. His scent. His arms around me during an innocent, meaningless dance. Thought it didn’t really feel innocent. Or meaningless.
“Have dinner with me tomorrow night,” his voice was husky against my ear and it sent another rush of shivers down my spine.
“You move fast, don’t you?”
“Only when I know something is right.”
“How can you know this is right? You don’t even know me.”
“That’s true but I’ve always trusted my instincts. They rarely fail me. They’re telling me you’re the real deal.”
“What if your instincts are wrong this time? I might be a shrew or psychotic. Or lousy in bed.”
“Are you a shrew or psychotic?” he asked, his eyes shining with amusement.
“Well of course not, but you just can’t take my word for that.”
“Sure I can. Are you lousy in bed?”
“Yes.” I smiled at him with feigned innocence.
“I don’t believe you,” he chuckled. “Tell you what, I’ll slow down if you have dinner with me tomorrow.”
My heart was hammering in my chest and I barely recognized the sexy, throaty voice that answered his request, though it was mine. “Dinner. Tomorrow. In a restaurant. I’ll meet you there.”
“Perfect. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” I smiled, feeling insanely happy in his arms.
“I’m going to kiss you now.”
And right there in the middle of that jam-packed dance floor in that noisy bar, the world turned upside down. Or stopped spinning. Or did both. This time I knew it wasn’t the tequila. It was all Jackson. One of his arms remained firmly circled around my waist and his other hand moved to softly stroke my jaw line, finding a resting place tangled in my long curly hair at the nape of my neck. He gazed into my eyes as he slowly lowered his head. My eyes drifted shut as his lips claimed mine, so gently that my lids lazily opened again. His eyes were open, watching me. My heart slammed against my chest. Nothing about this man was predictable or expected. After a long, sweet moment, his teeth nipped at my bottom lip and when I gasped against his mouth, he deepened the kiss, his tongue lightly exploring. I had expected him to be more aggressive and commanding but this gentle assault of my senses was the most erotic thing I had ever experienced. When he pulled back I realized I was grasping his shirt and my breath was ragged. I held on to him, not certain that my trembling legs would hold me. I wondered if he could hear the deafening beat of my heart in the noisy room. Every erogenous zone in my body was throbbing. He smiled and brushed his lips against my mouth again and then rested his forehead against mine.
“I want to do that again. And again. And again,” he said, his voice husky. He pulled me hard against him as the song moved into its final refrain. I could feel his arousal pressing against my hip. My eyes flew to meet his knowing gaze. He was affected by the kiss too.
We slowly moved apart and he took my hand again as he walked me back to my table.
His fingers lightly stroked my face, “I have to leave now but I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.”
“Me too. Good night, Jackson.”
“Good night, beautiful,” he kissed my forehead, said good night to my friends and with a lingering squeeze to my shoulder, he tore his gaze from mine and walked out of the bar. I instantly felt bereft. The room seemed empty and hollow despite the throng of humanity surrounding me.
“So,” Isobel asked, “what’s the deal? We saw him kiss you on the dance floor.”
“We’re going to have dinner tomorrow,” my voice sounded incredulous even to my own ears as the events of the past couple of hours started to sink in.
Both of my friends raised their glasses to toast my potential new romance and laughed in delight. I joined them.