Home > First Night (Seductive Nights 0.5)

First Night (Seductive Nights 0.5)
Author: Lauren Blakely

CHAPTER ONE


Eight inches.

Julia longed for eight inches.

Or really, eight inches and a brain.

Was that so much for a woman to want?

Some days it seemed like it. Julia had yet to meet a man who could hold his own on all accounts, and judging from the parade of guys who seemed to think getting into a bartender’s pants was as easy as ordering a drink, she wasn’t sure her luck was going to change anytime soon.

Like this guy. The one with his tongue practically falling out of his mouth as he ogled her while she mixed his third Purple Snow Globe.

“Here you go,” she said as she slid the sugar-rimmed martini glass to the young hipster, decked out in too tight-pants, a plaid shirt and a goatee that needed to have been shaved off.

He wiggled both eyebrows and wobbled in his chair. “And how about a phone number too?”

She flashed him her best “not a chance in hell, sucker” smile. “I’ve got a phone number for a taxi cab and I’d be mighty happy to provide that for you soon.”

Seriously? Did he think that line was going to work? She headed to the other end of the bar to tend to a pair of blondes in low-cut halter tops, hoping they’d be less likely to hit on her. It was San Francisco though, so you never knew. But then, she was used to it. Being propositioned simply came with the territory of tending bar, and Julia Bell let all the come-on lines she heard roll off her every night, like water off a duck’s back. Most of the time she barely even noticed them – they became the white noise, along with sounds of beers being poured, glasses being washed, music being played overhead at the bar she was part owner of.

Some days though, she’d like to be propositioned by a man with a brain, a witty mouth and who had the kind of body she’d want to be tied up with all night long.

Or to tie up. She was pretty sure that with the right man, she might be into some equal opportunity bondage. But he’d need to be bringing eight inches. Anything less was a deal breaker. Though, truth be told, she had little room in her life now for either eight inches or for romance. Not after the pile of problems her ex had left behind for her. A heaping mass of problems, to be precise.

She popped into the back of the bar to restock swirly straws when her phone rang. She nearly bounced as McKenna’s name flashed across the screen. Julia was expecting big news from her sister tonight. After all, she’d helped McKenna’s boyfriend pick out the ring.

She crossed her fingers, but then she was damn sure McKenna would say nothing but a big fat yes.

“Tell me everything,” she said into the phone.

“It was amazing! He proposed to me right before the play started that his sister is in.”

Julia shrieked, and wished she could wrap her sister in a big happy hug right now. “And you said yes, I hope?”

McKenna laughed. “Of course I said yes! I said yes about twenty times.”

“So how did he do it?”

“Right on the frigging stage, Julia. On a Broadway stage! He proposed to me on stage!”

“Before 2000 people?”

“No, dork. Before the play started. But oh my god, I’m so happy.”

Julia was grinning in the supply closet, bursting with happiness from head to toe. Her sister had been through the wringer in the romance department, but when Chris landed in her life everything changed for the better. Sunshine and roses.

McKenna shared more of the details and Julia oohed and ahhed all throughout the tale. “You better make me your maid of honor,” she said.

“As if I’d pick anyone else.”

“Good. Now that we have that settled. Are you going to get married on the beach like a proper California girl?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far ahead. But listen, enough about me. Chris’ sister is involved with the director, and the director’s buddy Clay is coming to San Fran tomorrow night for business. I told him to go to Cubic Z and say hello. I told him you were gorgeous too.”

She rolled her eyes. Her sister could never resist playing the matchmaker.

“Great. But no free drinks just cause he’s a friend of a friend or whatever.”

“Never. But Jules,” McKenna said, lowering her voice to a whisper. “The guy? Clay? He’s smoking hot.”

Her ears pricked. “Yeah? How smoking?”

“Un-be-lievable.”

* * *

Clay Nichol’s redeye to San Francisco was slated to leave in two hours, but business was business, and this deal needed to be ironclad. If he had to push the flight back, he would. He loved nothing more than negotiating and closing a deal. Fine, there was one thing he loved more than deal making. A fiery woman, the kind who could dish it out as well as she could take it. But he hadn’t met anyone in the last year who excited his mind as much as his body. So for now, business was his focus. It was opening night of a new Broadway play that his friend and client, Davis Milo, had directed, and that the audience had loved. Man, that made Clay one proud entertainment lawyer since he’d sewn up the deal for Davis to direct the show, and the next one his buddy was eyeing too – a production in London.

The two men were lounging in the empty seats at the St. James Theater, chatting with the London producers.

Davis shook hands with the producers then clapped Clay on the back. “He can handle the rest. I need to go.”

His friend took off, and Clay wrapped up the final details of the contract, then left the empty theater and slid into a town car. As soon as the door was closed, he loosened his purple tie; it was his good luck-tie, and he always wore it on nights like these. He unbuttoned a few buttons of his crisp white shirt, stretched his neck from side to side, and reached for his phone. He hadn’t been to San Francisco in a while, but he found himself googling a certain bar on the way to the airport. Who knew if he’d make it to Cubic Z, but the woman who’d been proposed to before the show had told him that her sister worked there, then added, “She’s gorgeous, and the best bartender in the world.”

He shrugged to himself as the car sped to LaGuardia. He wasn’t sure if he’d have the time to stop by a bar in San Francisco during this trip. But he found himself wondering about the gorgeous bartender, and whether she might be the fiery type.

* * *

That had been a bitch of a deal the next day. Too many attempts at nickeling-and-diming his client – a high-profile TV talk show host in the Bay Area. Pissed him off. Clay didn’t take that kind of shit and he’d made damn sure the network knew that they’d walk. That’s when the exec caved and finally started playing ball. That was the secret to negotiation. Always be the one willing to walk. In the end, Clay had landed nearly every point he’d wanted for his client. But he’d felt battered and bruised with their petty ways, so he tracked down the nearest boxing gym, worked off his frustration with a long, sweaty bout with a heavy bag, pounding and punishing until his muscles screamed, and even then a little more. After, he returned to his hotel for a hot shower.

It was damn near scalding temperature as the water beat down hard on him, and he leaned into the stream, washing off the day.

When he stepped out from the water and toweled off, he was nowhere near ready to crawl into bed and call it a night. Negotiations like that warranted a drink, and as soon as the thought of a drink touched down in his head, he remembered the name of the bar, and the name of the supposedly gorgeous bartender.

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