All Bliss Kaufman wanted was a sandwich and a nap after a grueling day beautifying this week’s bridal party. So when a bartender with a panty-melting grin offers her dinner and a ride on his motorcycle, Bliss swerves from her plans for one unexpected night with Talan McGregor. Just one. It was never supposed to go further. But once isn’t enough for Talan who returns demanding more--and his timing couldn’t be worse.
A life-changing diagnosis forces Bliss to abandon her carefully crafted plans. Even though she can make anyone beautiful with enough makeup and hair product, she can’t fix everything with her 50-pound bag of beauty tricks. Bliss is starting to think she might need Talan after all, but letting him in means cracking open her heart and embracing a life without a safety net.
After all, love is life’s greatest complication, and might just be worth the risk.
*Due to sexual content and graphic language this book is intended for readers 18+*
Set up: Bliss has just completed hair and makeup for a bridal party at Villa Sonoma Winery. Starving, she heads to the tasting room and cafe for a snack before heading home to San Francisco.
“May I order food here? I’m starving and there’s no room in the rest of the cafe,” I ask the back of the bartender nearby. I swallow when he turns toward me. Can you say “hot bartender?” Because that’s all that’s going through my brain. It must be my lucky day. I feel my cheeks heat when he takes his time to scan me from head to waist, where the bar cuts off his visual tour. Walking over slowly and with purpose, he props his elbows on the bar, getting within a foot of me.
“What can I get you, beautiful?” His smoky voice and the smile on his face could melt my panties right off.
Ah, he’s one of those bartenders. I can totally play that game. I play it cool while I check him out right back. I can barely make it past the long lashes that match his short dark hair and rim his unusual eyes. They start out brown around the pupil but fade to a clear blue and finally a navy ring. I want to stare at his eyes for hours to figure out just where the delineation of color starts and ends. How can they be so mesmerizing?
A straight nose, full lips, and a strong jaw covered in at least a few days’ worth of stubble completes his perfect face. I want to rub my hand over his cheeks to see if the scruff is softer than it looks. Following the lines of his neck, I take in his broad shoulders that fill out the simple black button down he is wearing. I love that he has the sleeves rolled up to expose toned forearms. They beg to be touched, but I keep my hands to myself. His hands are idly twisting a bar towel as he waits for me to answer.
Uh, yes, I’ll take one of you, please and thank you.
“What do you have?” I give him a flirtatious smile and bat my lashes. I can just tell he would be the kind of guy that would bump me into walls as he tore off my clothes in unfettered passion. He could totally be a real life romantic comedy guy. And I don’t even believe in that kind of guy.
“How about you look at this menu, and I’ll take your order when you’re ready.” He slides a menu toward me before patting the bar and heading off to pour wine for a few people doing a tasting.
Wait, what? I twist my pink streaked hair around my finger. How did I read that interaction so wrong? I totally thought he was checking me out and flirting by calling me beautiful. He just brushed me off like it was nothing. A cold dose of reality douses my internal inferno of lust.
Duh. He’s a freaking bartender. They flirt with everyone to get better tips. Complimenting a girl is standard for him. I smack my forehead and wonder where my brain has taken off to. Clearly, I am running on too little sleep and not enough calories. I take a look at the menu Mr. Schmoozy bartender gave me and figure a sandwich will do a world of good for my brain power.
“So beautiful, what will it be?” Oh, he’s back and dishing out the charm again. This time I’m not falling for it.
“I’ll have a turkey and goat cheese sandwich and a big glass of water, please.” I’m thankful my voice has lost the breathy flirtatiousness and sounds normal again. I won’t let him get me all riled up for nothing.
“That sandwich would go great with one of our whites. The slight sweetness of our Riesling really complements the turkey.” He gives me an easy smile while leaning on the bar. I like him close by. I can smell his clean, earthy scent over the pungent fragrance of wine.
“Sure, let me try a glass of that, I guess.” Hopefully he’ll take his super sexy superior wine knowledge and go put my food order in.
“I’ll need to see your ID. You look a little young. I want to make sure this establishment isn’t serving minors.” His smile is smug. I still want to lick him.
I laugh at my own thoughts and reach for my wallet so I can show him my ID, which indeed proves I am of drinking age. Barely. “Happy now?” I ask him when he hands my license back after some serious study.
“A little. Now I know that your name is Bellissima and you live in San Francisco. And you happen to have a January birthday, like me.”
“Bliss.” I stuff my license back in my purse and try not to think he paid extra attention to my information, but was actually doing his job.
“Bliss? What do you mean?” He cocks his head in a confused manner that is quite sexy. I kind of want to pet him as much as lick him now.
“My name. I go by Bliss, not Bellissima.”
“Hmm, Bliss.” The gravelly way he rolls my name around his tongue sounds explicit. He just fucked my name, and it sounded like screaming orgasms. “That’s appropriate. I can just imagine that your name is exactly what it would be like to be with you.”
His eyes are focused on my mouth as he speaks. I lick my pink glossed lips and catch his pupils dilating in response. Sucker.
“It’s my pleasure to meet you, Bliss. I’m Talan.” He extends his hand over the bar for me to shake. I don’t reach out right away, as I am still processing his comment about my name. I mean, flirty bartenders don’t really say shit like that, do they? So, flirty bartender or interested guy?
I finally take his hand and just go with flirty bartender. “It’s nice to meet you, too, Talan. Now, is your name a reflection of you? Are you sharp? Maybe you’re a little dangerous?” I opt to play his game as I tickle his wrist with my fingertips and give him a sly smile.
He continues holding my hand as he considers my question. “Sharp mind, certainly. I wouldn’t say dangerous so much as...mysterious, maybe. But I can make whatever you want happen.” He shrugs. “You will just have to get to know me and decide for yourself, Bliss.” He winks at me, playing right along with my fun and games.
Small warning bells ring in my brain. This guy is way too smooth. Typical bartender, knowing all the right things to say. I’m willing to keep playing his game. There’s no problem with enjoying his company while I eat. He’s fun, and I love fun.
“Show me what you got for the next hour or so and I’ll give you my verdict. But I need that sandwich first, or all bets are off. My brain won’t be of any use running on empty with so little sleep. Remember, I told you I was hungry?”
Talan releases my hand and ducks under the bar for a second. When he returns, it’s with a bottle of white wine that he expertly uncorks and pours.
“Start with the Riesling while you’re waiting on your food. It’s on the house, to soften your disposition in judging my character.” Talan throws me a cheeky grin before he heads off to the cafe to place my order.
I sip the crisp wine and laugh quietly as the fruity scent tickles my nose. I like this Talan guy as much as I like the wine. Unlike Talan’s dark and sensual vibe, the wine is just barely sweet and crisp. Both are exactly what I like. The wine is easy to drink too much of, making him the kind of guy that I’d take home for one night of hedonistic pleasure. I guess I will just settle for taking a bottle home. Hopefully this brand isn’t too expensive, as I have zero extra cash to waste on wine, no matter how tasty. Apparently, I also have low standards for flirting. A few well-placed “beautifuls” and panty-scorching smiles during a minute of flirting is all it takes to put me in the best mood I’ve been in all week.
Adrian R. Hale loves sugar and spice and everything nice--so of course she loves a good happy ending, in fiction and otherwise.
When she’s not writing, she is making people beautiful as a hair and makeup artist, or trying to run off her overconsumption of sugar. A born and raised California girl, she now resides in Austin, TX with her husband and fur babies.
Playing with her imaginary friends is as common to her now as it was when she was a child; the only difference is now she lets other people know about them through her writing. She would love to hear from you at email@example.com or Facebook.com/adrianrhaleauthor.