Body Shot(7)

By: Kelly Jamieson

“No. I can’t talk to him. He’s too good-looking.”

Carrie snorted. “No, honey, that’s not how it works.”

Hayden shook her head, glancing at the bartender again. “Whatever,” she mumbled.

“Hayden Miles, you are a professor and a successful entrepreneur and one of Tech Mag’s top thirty-five innovators under thirty-five. You can flirt a little with a hot bartender.”

“He’s a bartender.”

“I didn’t say you have to marry him. Lighten up. Have some fun.”

Hayden rolled her eyes.

The bartender was carrying the tray toward them now, and he stopped in the middle of the long, polished wood bar to set the tray down, glancing to his right and left to assess the people there. His gaze landed on Hayden. He tipped his head to one side, forehead creasing. Then a slow smile broke out on his face.

Heat curled low down inside Hayden.

“Hey,” he said, moving closer. “I recognize you.”

Hayden’s cheeks warmed at the memory. “Um yeah. Hi. Again.”

“How’s the shoulder?”

“It’s fine.” She tried a casual smile. “Uh, thanks again for helping me out that day.”

“Not a problem. I almost didn’t recognize you.” His gaze moved over her bare shoulders and arms and then her face and hair. Heat slid from her face down to her chest and belly at his warm appraisal. “So you’re here for the tequila tasting?”

“Yes.” Hayden flicked her eyes toward Carrie. “My friend bought us tickets.”

He flashed a smile at Carrie. “Great. It’s gonna be fun.”

Marco, the man who’d greeted them, joined him. “And educational,” he added.

Hayden stared at the men, her heart flip-flopping in her chest at the sight of these two beautiful men. Both had dark hair, but Marco’s skin was darker, his hair short and beard stubble barely there, compared to the other man’s long hair, pulled back in a loose bun, and heavier beard.

“Marco is our tequila expert,” the bartender said. He looked up and down the bar again. “Well, we should get started. Hi, everyone. I’m Beck Whitcomb, one of your hosts tonight. This is Marco, who as I said is our expert tequila aficionado. Over there is Cade, who knows more about numbers than tequila.” All heads swiveled to the far end of the bar, where a man leaned against the counter.

He lifted a hand and grinned. “I know I like it.”

Everyone laughed.

“Wow,” Carrie whispered, leaning in close to Hayden. “He’s gorgeous too. This place is awesome!”

Hayden bit her lip on a smile.

“Tonight we’ll be tasting five kinds of tequila,” Marco announced. “But first, let’s talk a little about tequila in general. Tequila was first produced by Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century.”

“Hence the name of the bar,” Hayden murmured to Carrie.

Marco heard her and pointed at her with a smile. “Yes, you are right! Although the name of the bar has other meanings for the owners. So. Before tequila, the Aztecs were making another fermented agave beverage, called pulque. Today, tequila is made exclusively from blue agave.”

“What’s the difference between tequila and mescal?” Will asked. “Apart from the worm.”

Hayden shuddered.

“Good question.” Marco nodded. “Tequila can only be made with one hundred percent blue agave. Mescal can be made with as many as thirty varieties of agave. Because of that, mescal can vary in taste much more than tequila. Also, tequila can only be made in certain regions of Mexico…mostly Jalisco.” The way he said the Spanish words, with perfect pronunciation, made Hayden shiver. “As for the worm, I recommend you avoid those bottles. There really is no reason to put larvae into tequila.”

“Other than a good drinking game,” Beck said with a wicked grin, and everyone laughed.

“True,” Marco said. “Which is why many people think tequila is just a cheap drink for college kids.”

Carrie elbowed Hayden in the ribs and Hayden grimaced. She caught Beck watching them, lips quirked, and her cheeks flamed.

“But tequila is really a spirit that is meant to be sipped and savored,” Marco continued. “As true connoisseurs of the Mexican spirit will tell you, tequila is a refined and sophisticated beverage. Its long history makes each bottle on the tasting list tonight something to appreciate. I want to talk a little about how tequila is made, so you understand what makes a quality beverage. I’ll try not to bore you with too many details because I could talk about this forever.”

Hayden smiled at his enthusiasm, something she understood. Just not about tequila.