Covering All the Bases (For the Love of the Game)(3)

By: Jody Holford


A gin and tonic appeared in front of her. “Here you go. You want something to eat?”

Isla blinked up at him. “No. Thanks, though. Lee?”

His brows scrunched together. Once again leaning in, she saw he had thick, dark, enviable lashes. His confusion didn’t make sense to her.

She picked up her drink, fiddling with the straw. “The blonde. She called you Lee.”

Until that moment, Isla didn’t know men rolled their eyes. When the bartender did, it made her laugh, and that loosened the knots tangling her heart into a mess.

“My name is Liam. She thinks if she shortens it, she has a better chance of ending up in my bed,” he said. There was no arrogance in his statement or his tone.

Isla sipped her drink, cringing a little. Alcohol wasn’t her thing, but she thought it was supposed to provide inner heat. Maybe that was just whiskey?

“Hmm. That’s a weird assumption on her part. And somewhat clichéd that she thinks you’ll want to take her home with you just because you’re serving her drinks.”

One dark brow rose in what Isla could only hope was amusement. Usually she kept her ramblings in her head, but she didn’t seem to have a filter at the moment. All the more reason to find a place to stay for the night. Cordelia hadn’t even offered a room in the penthouse apartment where her grandfather had passed. Which was fine, because it would have been strange to try to sleep there. But she would have liked to have stayed.

She tried to offer help, a shoulder, anything, but the woman made it clear her grandfather had wanted her there, but Cordelia did not. Her own family didn’t extend simple courtesies, so she wasn’t sure why it bothered her so much that Cordelia had asked her to come and then been as inhospitable as possible. She lost her husband. Cut her some slack.

“What’s your name?” Liam asked. Other bartenders worked the length of the bar, pouring drinks for waitresses and customers in a steady tandem.

“Isla,” she said, sipping her drink again before setting it down.

He looked at the glass. “You want something else?”

She shrugged. “Not really. I’m not much of a drinker. I just needed to get in out of the rain.”

“How about some hot chocolate?” He grinned around the question. Isla was reminded of both the Cheshire cat and the dark-haired bad-boy brother on Vampire Diaries. A strange, yet oddly compelling combination.

Your brain is fried. You need some sleep and a meal. She wasn’t sure what would follow that. Most likely booking a flight back home to Colorado.

“I would love a hot chocolate,” she said, her words rushing out of her like she’d made an important decision.

Liam’s rich, bold laughter surprised her and pulled her out of her own head for a moment. Get it together. He probably thinks you’re a lunatic. Not that she was overly concerned with what he thought of her but, as a successful businesswoman, she took pride in presentation. Of her work. Her abilities. Herself.

Usually.

“Coming right up, Isla. Pretty name. Unique.” He shook his head as he walked down the length of the bar and chatted with the other bartenders.

Unique. She’d been linked to that adjective since she was a child. Isla picked up her phone and texted her mom, knowing there was no point. Her mom was a smart, vibrant woman, but she was as inept at texting as Isla was at forming coherent conversation when she was as tired as she was right this minute.

She’d already texted Addie with an update but sent another, letting her know she was going to find a place to stay. And she responded immediately. Two simple words that helped even more than the good-looking man and the drink: Love you.

She wasn’t completely alone.

When Liam came back a few minutes later, he had hot chocolate with whipped cream swirled on top, and Isla had no clue why that brought tears to her eyes. The sweetness of the gesture. The reminder of being young and thinking whipped cream was the best thing ever. Her throat felt thick when she brought the mug to her lips, licking some of the whipped cream before letting the hot liquid wash over her tongue. It was warm but didn’t burn, and she was almost positive that was intentional. Again, the thoughtfulness was touching.