Talking Dirty(9)

By: Jennifer Seasons

She continued, obviously ignoring his comment. “And two, we both know that in no way do I resemble a Sports Illustrated model. Never have, never will. That magazine couldn’t handle all this jelly. So how much of your granddaddy’s hooch had you been drinking at the lake when you saw me all wet?”

He smirked. He couldn’t help it. One of the irritating truths about Apple was that she understood people. She paid attention. “I don’t remember how much, honestly. But that was also the day Aidan rode old man Taber’s prize Brahma bull, remember? So it must have been a respectable amount.”

Her eyes went big. “Oh God, I remember that. He’d never even ridden a horse bareback before, much less a rodeo bucking bull.”

Jake shook his head, a small smile playing across his lips at the memory. Dumb like only a teenage boy could be and drunk off backyard moonshine. To get Becky Hartman’s attention, a besotted Aidan had crossed the fence separating the lake from Taber’s field and jumped on the grazing bull’s back just like it was the PBR finals. It was amazing he hadn’t killed himself.

What was even more amazing was that they’d timed him and he’d lasted the full eight seconds—just like he was Ty Murray.

Apple dropped her chin into her palm, reminiscing now. “Wasn’t that also the night of your last performance with Redneck Rockstars?”

He shook his head. “Different one,” he said and watched a patron slide onto an empty stool two seats down from Apple and signal him for a drink. Scooting down the bar, Jake eyed the guy in the expensive outdoor clothing that still looked new and said, “Visiting?”

The man nodded and asked for a pint of signature ale, his perfectly trimmed salt-and-pepper hair and pale skin pegging him for a desk jockey. Jake noticed the Rolex and guessed stock market. Day trader. And the way the man was absently rubbing his left ring finger, Jake would bet recently divorced too.

Apple rotated her chin on her palm and inquired of Day Trader, “What brings you to Fortune?”

Jake was about to hand over the pint when the guy openly checked out her cleavage, and he had to fight a sudden urge to dump the glass on the asshole’s perfectly coifed head. “Yeah, what brings you here?” he said instead, more abruptly than intended.

Day Trader was clearly reluctant to pull his gaze away from Apple because he said with his eyes still locked on her, “Hiking trip with some buddies. We’re here for the weekend.” Then he reached out a hand to her, smiling now. “Hi, Steve Baker. Bond trader. Manhattan. And you are?”

Really close to throwing your sorry ass out of my pub.

Jake was about to open his mouth to say something to protect Apple’s virtue, when she straightened and placed a hand on her hip. She turned toward the rich douche, smiled widely, and slid the other hand across the glossy mahogany bar until it reached Jake’s. He jerked at the contact, at the surge of energy where their fingertips touched. Then she slipped her tiny hand inside his, so warm and soft, and he squeezed it tight for a heartbeat before releasing. Out of reflex, of course.

Why else would he do that?

With the nerves in his hand still jumping, he glanced questioningly at Apple, but she wasn’t looking at him. Her gaze was on the wannabe as she said sweetly, “Why, I’m Apple, and this big handsome guy is my fella, Jake Stone. He owns this place.” Then she pushed onto her toes, leaned over the bar, and planted a kiss on his cheek.

Feelings tumbled inside him, one after the other. So many he couldn’t name them. Didn’t want to, honestly.

Picking up on Apple’s cue, and trying to ignore the fact that his cheek was tingling, Jake played along. “Welcome to my place, man. This lady’s taken.” As soon as he said the words, something stirred deep in his subconscious—something base and male and primal. Something that seemed to very much agree with that statement.

Jesus, just what he needed.

The pasty number pusher in spanking-new North Face rose hastily to his feet, his gaze sliding quickly away from Apple now. “Great place you got,” he mumbled and walked quickly toward the open French doors that led out onto the patio, melting into the growing dusk.