Abandoned by a mother who chose drugs over her, Jamie Charles barely got out of her own addiction alive. Now, she pours her pain into her art while pouring drinks at a local bar. To Jamie, love is a four-letter word—until she meets Miles, a charming ad exec with piercing blue eyes who makes no secret about his desire for her.
Miles Copeland has family demons of his own, but his unhappy upbringing drove him toward hard work and success. He’s determined to win Jamie over, and when he finally does, it’s worth every moment he spent waiting. But when he confesses that he’s falling for her, she panics. Sex is one thing, but love requires more than she can give.
Jamie can’t deny her feelings, but she’s haunted by her past. Miles knows his heart, but Jamie’s lingering doubts have him questioning their future. It might take the threat of losing him forever for her to realize that refusing to let love in is the worst mistake of all.
Author’s Note: Jamie is a pistol and she’s lived a hard life. Her pain is raw and she has no filter. So expect that her language will reflect that. Also, please note that this story addresses contains discussions of past sexual abuse, which may be a trigger for some.
“Rough night, huh?”
Jamie looked at the man who’d taken a seat at the bar. He wasn’t one of the usuals. She’d never seen him before. But he was the type. Tahlia’s wasn’t a dive bar, like the ones she’d worked at in the past. It was an upscale bar and grille that catered to affluent tastemakers. In fact, the only reason they’d given her a shot, with her jet-black hair, penchant for black leather, tattooed arms and nose piercing was because Tahlia Vega was a friend of a friend of Ellie’s. She’d landed the job because she was good.
The man flashing his brilliant white teeth at her definitely fit the bill. Ridiculously gorgeous—like every line of his face had been precisely chiseled from stone by Michelangelo himself. A nose befitting a Greek god. A faint moustache was perched above his upper lip and a barely there beard crawled its way along a jawline with just enough of a pleasing curve to prevent it from being described as square. His hair—a sandy brown just a shade or two shy of venturing into blondiewood—was slicked down on the sides, with the top longer in a fairly conservative faux hawk. But those eyes…they were the color of pristine Caribbean waters. So blue they made a girl want to get naked and go for a swim in them. He was wearing a navy linen blazer with a crisp white shirt beneath it. The large face of the stainless steel TAG Heuer on his wrist nearly matched the color of those eyes.
Rich, gorgeous and probably spoiled. The only thing missing was the rail-thin model-type hanging on his arm. He was definitely the Tahlia’s type. He just wasn’t hers.
“Everything’s great,” she said to him. “I was just thinking about…I was making sure we had enough lemons, that’s all. Can I get you something?”
“You take your citrus inventory very seriously, I see.” An animated smile spread across his handsome face, and his eyes flickered with amusement as they followed her movement. “Well, I for one appreciate your dedication.”
She bit her lip and wiped the counter with a rag. If she’d still been working at Chuck’s Biker Bar, she’d have told this guy to go fuck himself. But at Tahlia’s, the customers were far more delicate. They didn’t appreciate being cursed out by the help. “If I can get you anything, let me know.” She turned to walk away.
“Wait. Actually, I would like something. I’d love a Satan’s Whiskers. It’s—”
“One ounce gin, one ounce orange juice, half an ounce of dry vermouth, sweet vermouth and Grand Marnier, a dash of bitters and a twist of orange peel. Or would you prefer it curled rather than straight?” Teeth clenched, she pressed her lips into a hard smile. Maybe she didn’t look like the dainty little bartenders he was used to, but she knew her shit.
“I apologize.” He ran his hands through his spiked crown, giving his hair a tousled, just-tumbled-out-of-bed-and-I-wasn’t-alone look. “I didn’t mean to imply that—”
“Forget it. Anything else?”
“You guys serve food, too, right?”
“Absolutely, would you care for a table? I can—”
“Actually, I’d like to eat right here at the bar, if that’s okay—” he leaned in closer and squinted at her name tag, “—Jamie. I think I’d prefer your company to eating alone.”
Don’t do me any favors, buddy. She surveyed the man, struck by how his blue eyes danced when he smiled at her. Her knees wobbled slightly. She was glad he couldn’t see them.
“If that’s what you’d like.” She reached behind her and handed him a bar menu. “Just let me know when you’re ready. Would you like your drink now or with your meal?”
“With my meal, please. Until then, how about a glass of water? I’ll take it with one of those lemons.” His devilish smile widened.
Was he making fun of her, or just trying to piss her off? If it was the latter, it was working. “Coming right up.” She forced the words through a smile so fake it’d give Barbie a run for her money. She grabbed a glass, dumped in a scoop of ice, filled it with water then put a lemon on the side. “Here you go. Just call me when you’re ready.”
“Sure thing.” He pulled out his phone. “But I’ll need your number first.”
The overwhelming desire to punch the dude in the face subsided the moment she saw that big, stupid grin. He was a harmless flirt. She could deal with that, no problem. “Ha-ha.” Her face remained expressionless as she tucked the rag into her apron.
He laughed. “Okay, that was pretty corny. I apologize. I’m usually far more clever than this, but today…I got nothing.”
“Rough day, huh?” She crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow.
“Touché. And yes, it has been a challenging day.” Lifting his chin slightly, he stroked his beard, regarding her with amusement. “But things are beginning to look up.”
Leaning against the bar, she shifted her weight as she surveyed his expensive haircut and clothing. She’d bet anything he was wearing a pair of overpriced loafers the kind of guys she preferred had never even heard of, and that he drove an “entitlement” car. If she talked to him for a few more minutes she’d be able to determine whether he drove a Beamer, Benz or Bentley and could make a reasonably accurate guess as to the color.
The guy might be goofy and slightly aggravating, but he had the potential to be a good tipper. No matter how irritated she was, she knew better than to fuck that up. Jamie took a deep breath and gave him a dead-eyed smile that skirted civility without encouraging further interaction. “Maybe you’ll feel better if you tell me about it,” she said. “After all, isn’t that why you came here?”
“Hmm…I’ll bet you get that all the time. Rich bozos sitting here whining about their wives, mistresses and tennis elbow.”
She choked back the laugh rising in her chest before it could escape her lips. Covering her mouth, she cleared her throat and managed a straight face. “My customers are not bozos.”
“How politically correct of you to say so.” He tapped the bar lightly with his index finger. “But I have an idea. How about we turn the tables tonight? Tonight, why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you?”
This guy was really beginning to bug her. Since when did a complete stranger give a damn about what was bothering her? Where was this guy from anyway, Mayberry?
A regular came in and sat at the bar. She was glad for the distraction. “I’ll be right with you, Pete,” she told him before turning back to the man who’d managed to get under her skin. “Excuse me—”
“You called him Pete, right? Well, I’m Miles. Miles Copeland. It’s nice to meet you.”
She cleared her throat, her jaw tight. “I’ll be back to check on your order in a few…Miles.”
“Bad” by Wale – Jamie is a tough, damaged character whose life got off to a rough start. She is sexually confident, but guards her heart at all costs. “Bad” perfectly captures who she is when we meet her in the beginning of the story.
***Warning: Strong language.***
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