Rush stood, white-knuckled fingers gripping the bar, thumbs hooked under the curved timber edge, wondering what the fuck was wrong with him.
He couldn’t remember what the hell he was supposed to be doing.
He’d pulled days of double shifts before and never had a problem concentrating on his job in spite of the long, exhausting hours on his feet.
He knew all too well what his problem was, he just didn’t want to admit it.
A curvy, five-foot-six-inch package of distraction had him so far off kilter he wasn’t sure which way was up anymore. And to top it off, that distraction was no longer here.
He couldn’t go for a walk and find her wandering the grounds enjoying the spring sunshine. Wouldn’t see her smiling face across the bar late at night.
Like every other guest’s, her vacation had ended and she’d gone home. She’d left, and he hadn’t thought to get her fucking phone number.
But he could get it. All he had to do was tap into the lodge’s reservation system…
Goddammit. Scrubbing a hand down his face, he closed his eyes on a growl.
She’d been gone a week—seven days—and unlike every other woman he’d hooked up with over the fifteen years he’d worked at the lodge, he couldn’t get this one out of his head.
She wasn’t his type.
He went for older women, ones who’d been around the block a time or two. Ones who knew the score, knew all he offered was a tumble in the sack, mutual pleasure for a night—or the duration of their stay, if they were inclined—but nothing beyond sex. And he’d happily rolled from one bed to the next without a backward glance for years.
Different from the start with her fresh-faced innocence, smoking-hot body and a complete lack of pretense, she’d drawn him in. Had him seeking her out when he wasn’t working and doing things he’d never done with any woman who’d sought his attention.
He should have known she’d get under his skin. Christ. She hadn’t made the first move, he had. One more thing he’d never done before Reena. Fuck. He’d done a shit-ton of stuff that had never been on his radar.
Hiked up to the ridge for a picnic. Rowed a boat to the middle of the lake and floated around in the afternoon sun. Held hands beneath the star-filled sky, talking until dawn peeked over the top of the mountains.
With Reena, it hadn’t been about sex.
Sure, he’d wanted in her pants. She was hot. He was male. Only way he wouldn’t want in her pants was if he swung the other way, and in the twenty years he’d been indulging in that particular pleasure, he hadn’t even looked the other way.
They’d spent more time together clothed than not. In fact, he’d only gotten her clothes off once.
The night before she left.
And while there had been passion and explosive chemistry he expected, there’d been something different, something…more. Something he couldn’t put his finger on…
She moaned in his ear as he pressed the hard length of his cock against her thigh, her body still shuddering with the orgasm he’d stroked her to.
“Reena,” he pleaded with a rock of his hips. “Let me have you.”
Rush wasted no time stripping her of her jeans, stripping his own. His fingers trembled, his limbs shook, need razor sharp as it clawed at his balls. He sheathed his cock, barely keeping it together long enough to roll the latex down and get back between her thighs—
Snapped from the vivid memory, he jerked, his hips bucking forward, slamming his erection into the metal racks beneath the bar. “Fuck,” he grunted, pain ripping through his groin.
“Damn, sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.” His boss rounded the bar to stand beside him. “Where was your head? I called out twice on my way across the room.”
Rush turned his face to Cam but kept his body pressed up against the bar. The last thing he needed was for his boss to see where his head had been. Christ. If the man knew Rush had been screwing around with a guest, he’d probably fire him on the spot.
Cam studied him closely. “You all right?”
He forced a smile. “Yeah. Tired. Been a long week.”
“That’s what I want to talk to you about. Thanks for doing all the extra hours. What do you think of the new staff?”
“Good. They’re good. Competent. Fast learners, and Desi is a wiz with cocktails. I’m thinking we should utilize her skills somehow. Maybe do a specialty cocktail on the weekends. See if we can’t draw in more customers.”
“Hmm…we could theme them with food or an event… Remind me at the next department meeting.”
“Sure.” Relieved to discover talking with his boss had deflated his cock, Rush moved away from the bar and picked up the clipboard he’d left beside the register before he’d forgotten what he was doing. Again. “I’ll have this order on your desk within the hour.”
He wasn’t on until tonight but with training the five new bartenders over the last week, he hadn’t gotten around to placing the liquor order and they were getting low on supplies. The local brews were easy to restock but everything else was trucked in, and they needed to get the order processed today or they wouldn’t get a delivery this week.
“Can someone else do that?” Cam asked, reaching for the board. “Me?”
“What? Why?” Rush stared at Cam. Was he worried about overtime? “It’ll only take me a few minutes then I’ll be out of here.”
“I’ve rearranged the schedule. You’re off for the next six days.” Before Rush could form a question, Cam continued. “You’re owed holidays, but I’m not taking this time out of your leave. You’ve worked your ass off for the last week and even when you aren’t pulling double shifts, I’ve noticed you’re always working. Take a break. We’ve got the staff to cover it now and with the reading of Harry’s will week after next, we’ll be dealing with a new owner—and I’m sure more long hours.”
“They’re finally reading the will?” God. It had been three weeks since Harry’s death.
Rush swallowed the lump in his throat that formed every time he thought about the lodge’s owner. He still couldn’t believe the old guy was gone. They’d been close before Harry had taken a step back to take care of his adopted daughter and granddaughter and hired a GM to run the lodge. Now he was gone.
“Any idea who Harry left this place to?” Rush asked.
Cam shook his head. “No. But there’s plenty of rumor and speculation circulating.”
“Usually is around here.” Rush frowned, wondering how he’d managed to keep his own liaisons with guests secret over the years when the favorite pastime for locals was gossiping, especially among the staff here at the lodge.
Cam rubbed the back of his neck and Rush noticed the fatigue stamped on his face. It was obvious his boss could do with a few days off too. He opened his mouth to suggest they split the week when Cam sighed, his gaze darting around.
In a low voice, he said, “Listen. I need you fully on deck when the new owner shows up. There’s bound to be shit hitting the fan when whoever it is discovers how bad things are around here, and I’m down to only a couple of management staff I trust.”
Rush hadn’t been sure what to think of Camden Newell when he’d shown up five weeks ago to take on the general manager position, but the guy had proven he knew what he was doing and wasn’t out to run the place into the ground like the last GM had done for the past four years.
With everything that was going on, it didn’t make sense for Rush not to be here though, and it went unsaid that neither of them could guarantee they’d have a job once the new owner showed up.
“Why the hell are you giving me time off? You need me here to cover your back,” he argued.
“This is the calm before the storm. Take the time while you can. We’ll be working our asses off, or be out on them, once the new owner arrives. I think—no, I know we’ve got things turning around. I want that to continue but that won’t happen if I run my best employees into the ground. I’d rather you took some time now. We’ll have a few days to get a battle plan together before the will is read and whoever Harry left this place to takes over.”
“Are you sure? A few normal work days will have me back up to speed.” Hell, if he could clear his head of a certain distracting woman and get a good night’s sleep, he’d be back to normal by morning.
Cam waved him off. “No. Not good enough. I’ve checked your timecards. You never punch in overtime.”
Rush shrugged. “I love the job. I’m not here for the money, and living onsite means that’s not something I have to worry about.”
Besides, he had a trust fund. Not that anyone around here knew about it.
“I don’t give a shit whether you need money or not. You do the job, you get paid or compensated.” Cam stepped closer and tugged the clipboard out of Rush’s hand. “Take the week off,” he snapped in what Rush figured was his do-as-you’re-told voice, one Rush hadn’t heard from the man until now.
With a grin, he saluted. “Yes, boss.”
Cam returned his smile with a muttered, “Smartass.”
Rush believed once things settled—if they were both still here—Cam would be someone he’d not only call boss, but friend. They’d already forged a connection and he was actually looking forward to working with someone he respected and trusted. It would be a complete turnaround after the last few years.
“Your next shift is Saturday night.”
“What about tonight?” Rush frowned. “I’ve got six ’til close.”
“Not anymore. Desi has it covered.”
“Oh. Okay. It looks like you have every protest countered.”
“I do. Get out of here. Go have some fun and make sure I don’t see your face in here before next weekend,” Cam said over his shoulder as he walked into the storeroom at the back of the bar.
Fun? The last time he’d had fun, he wasn’t alone.
Rush’s mind ticked over. Six days.
How long would it take to drive to Baltimore? Eight hours?
He glanced at his watch. Eight fifteen. He could be on Reena’s doorstep by tonight if he got on the road now. They’d have a week together.
When had he decided to chase after her?
For seven days, the only thoughts in his head regarding Sabreena Howe were memories. Regrets. And now he was thinking about hitting the road and driving hours to see her?
To do what, exactly?