A Wildly Seductive Night(11)

By: Lauren Blakely






9





Julia considered the array of bottles on the kitchen counter at her friends’ home. She brought her index finger to her lip, tapped it, then pointed to the pink drink.

“Try that one,” she said to Charlotte, her next-door neighbor and the owner of the leashed balcony cat, Fido.

“Gladly,” the blond woman said with a smile. Charlotte lifted the fruity vodka-based concoction Julia had whipped up and took a sip.

Her eyebrows rose. “I like,” she said.

Julia beamed. “You do?”

“It’s yummy.”

“But does it blow your mind?” Julia said, bringing her hands to her head and miming an explosion.

Charlotte offered a sweet smile. “It’s yummy, but I don’t know that it’s the best I’ve had in the whole world.” She screwed up the corner of her lips. “Sorry.”

Julia wagged her finger and stared pointedly. “No apologies. I do not want you to go easy on me. You are my guinea pig, and I need total honesty from my guinea pig.”

“You’re just trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me, aren’t you?” Charlotte said with a wink, as she bumped her hip against Julia.

Julia pinched Charlotte’s butt, and her friend pretended to squeal. “Don’t you know it, girl. I’ve always wanted a blonde.”

Julia adored her neighbors, Charlotte and Spencer. They were in the same business, and the pair of newlyweds owned and operated three popular bars in Manhattan called The Lucky Spot. The funny thing was Charlotte and Spencer had actually been inspired to start their business one night a few years ago at Speakeasy after they’d tried Julia’s signature drink. They’d come to Julia’s establishment on her recommendation to Spencer. Now the late twenty-something couple was married and Charlotte had moved into his home, so they were neighbors as well as colleagues.

“Okay, so this Pinkie Pie drink is a no-go,” Julia said, dumping the rest of it down Charlotte’s sink. Julia had been mixing like a chemist the last few days in the hope of demolishing the whippersnapper on the show. Clay had sampled a few of her drinks, but she wanted input, too, from those in the biz. Clay was busy with Carly, so this Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to test her creations.

“Bye, bye, Pinkie Pie,” Charlotte said in a singsong voice, waving to the remnants of the drink that circled the drain.

Julia parked her hands on her hips, and studied the range of bottles on the counter, debating which to test next. “Vodka? Gin? Tequila?” Then she realized what was missing. “Brandy!”

Charlotte’s big brown eyes sparkled. “I have an idea. What if you tried something like a Jack Rose?”

Julia hummed her approval at the suggestion of the applejack-and-grenadine-based mixed drink. “That’s not a bad idea! I could try a little variation on the grenadine to make it feel new and fresh. Maybe add a splash of another spirit?”

The two women grabbed keys and purses, made a quick journey to the store, and returned with applejack brandy, lime juice, and pomegranate juice instead of grenadine. When they returned, Julia worked her best magic as she mixed up the drink.

As she handed the cocktail glass to Charlotte, she heard the front door open. Charlotte snapped her gaze toward the noise as her husband strolled in from a run, clad in basketball shorts and a gray T-shirt with streaks of sweat beading down the front.

“Hello ladies,” he said playfully, his green eyes lighting up as he took in the sight of the kitchen, the counters covered with liquors and potions, and two women concocting all sorts of flavor profiles. “No one told me we were having a party on a Saturday afternoon.”

“We’re trying to help Julia destroy JT,” Charlotte said, catching Spencer up on the challenge the contestant had thrown down.

Spencer sneered. “That guy is such a tool,” he said with a scoff. “How did you even let him on the show?”

Julia held up her hands as if she were wiping them clean of the man. “I don’t handle the casting! I’ve got to assume the producers thought he’d make for good entertainment, and he seems to have done just that. But how do you know him?”

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