“I’m trying to think of something a little classier than come here often?”
The deep, throaty voice coming from two barstools down shook Kinley from her stormy mood and pity-driven dark hole of thoughts.
“I’m sorry?” Kinley replied.
“Oh, I’m just trying to provoke a little conversation and I’m clearly out of practice,” the man let out a defeated laugh. “You look a little lost over there. What is that, number five?”
A crooked glance landed on her face as she tried to piece together what she was missing. “Number…five?”
“Drink. Drink number five? Wow, I really am out of practice. Jace Detweiler, town pediatrician and terrible flirt.” He tossed her a wink and a half-assed grin, clearly in a funk of his own.
“Nice to meet you, Doc. Kinley Reed,” she extended her hand for a friendly shake, “washed-up dancer and town…town…”
Her words trailed off as the thought of who she was, or was not, bounced around her head, deepening her sense of woe. Stirring her drink with the long green olive spear garnishing it, a little chuckle escaped her.
“Just Kinley, I guess. This isn’t even my town,” she finally admitted.
“Well, just Kinley, that sounds serious. Tell me, where is your town?” the man asked, seeming genuinely curious.
“That, my new friend, is a loaded question. I’m from all over, really. Home was New York, but…not anymore.” Kinley tipped out her toned, tan left leg in his direction and pointed to the back of the lower half where there was an angry scar. “Career ending injury. Or that’s what the headline was.”
“Headline? Career ending? Wow, am I in the presence of greatness?” Jace joked.
“Ha! I never quite got there.” Her stare moved from the swirling green olives to the handsome Doctor Detweiler beside her. “Got my big break on Broadway. Moved to the Big Apple, and I was on everyone in the industry’s radar…dream come true. Then the male lead let me down too hard from a twirling lift. I shattered my ankle and several bones in my foot.”
“Oh, wow. I’m really sorry. I don’t even know what to say.” As a doctor, Jace understood more than most what that kind of injury could mean for someone like her — a lifetime of physical pain from shattered bones, and emotional pain from shattered dreams.
“Yeah, well…” Kinley let her words trail off with a matching shrug. “What’s your story, Doc? I haven’t been counting, but I’m guessing you had about a drink or two head start on me.”
A mega-watt smile crossed the man’s face. Jace’s night looked a little less bleak at Kinley’s comment. If she knew he had a head start, it was because she knew Jace was there first, which meant Kinley noticed him when she walked in. That also must have meant Kinley chose to sit nearby, given her close proximity, and the ample amount of empty barstools to choose from. Maybe the night wasn’t going to be a total bust for the doctor after all.
“Blind date,” the handsome doctor said.
“Blind date?” Kinley looked around, trying to identify the date she had clearly missed and hadn’t noticed once in the hour or so she had been there. The only other person sitting at the bar was the older gentleman to Jace’s left, who was currently eyeballing her.
Kinley pulled her hand to her chest in surprise. Her mouth gaped and eyes went wide when she realized what she’d missed. “Oh! Oh, I am so sorry.” Kinley leaned forward a bit to address the older man to the doctor’s left, who still had rummy eyes on her.
Waving a hand between herself and the two men, she said, “I didn’t mean to interrupt, I’m so sorry. I misread…well, didn’t think you were…gah! I’m sorry to have interrupted your date, guys.”
Temporary confusion crossed the doc’s face, quickly followed by a humorous look of shock and a bit of amusement. Kinley thought Jace was there with the older, somewhat inebriated, man. Temptation to run with it tickled Jace’s senses as a cocky smirk led the way in his half-buzzed attempt at revealing some sort of sense of humor. “Oh, him?” Jac thumbed in the older man’s direction. “Not much of a date. I’ve been paying for my own drinks all night.”
The old man tossed a disgusted look at the doc before getting off his stool and saying, “Not my type, bud, but this ought to cover it.” He tossed a few bills on the bar and quickly left, mumbling under his breath while shaking his head.
Kinley turned five shades of embarrassed. “Oh my God. I am so sorry. I just ruined your date…I…”
Jace let out a robust laugh — the kind that came with tear-filled eyes and left you gasping for breath — the kind you couldn’t help but laugh at too. “No…don’t be. He was a little too salty, and not my date.”
Kinley’s slightly snockered mind stalled at the laughing admission, not sure she was interpreting correctly. “Wait, what? He’s not…wait…what!”
“My date didn’t show. She is one of my nurse’s, sister’s, neighbor’s, cousin’s, uncle’s, gardener’s daughter type of set up. You know, the kind that don’t…show up,” Jace finished with a sarcastic grin and a huff under his breath.
“Oh. I see. I’m sorry.” Kinley dropped her head, feeling a little guilty that she was actually happy the doc’s date didn’t show — that meant he was fair game. Not that she was looking for anything serious ever again. “Wait…you let me think…? Well, well, well, the doc’s a smartass. Interesting!”
“I’m sorry. The look on your face, the nosey old man, five or six drinks…it seemed funny in the moment.” Jace shook his head while wearing a menacing grin before taking a long pull from the bottle of beer that had been placed in front of him. “I feel a little redeemed after that failed pick-up line I dropped a few minutes ago.”
“So, it was a pick-up line.” A statement, not a question. Kinley liked where this was going.
Jace Detweiler was the hottest kid doctor Kinley had ever met — not that she’d met many kid doctors. Dark hair, steely gray eyes, and what appeared to be a pretty fit physique by the way that taut t-shirt was hugging his body. Unless the moms in this small town were blind, she’d have to guess business was booming for the good doctor — and none of the kids were really sick.
“Well, it was just chitchat at first. It’s not like me to hit on a really pretty girl at a bar. Or old guys, but you already know that.” The wink he finished with gave her a cheap thrill that danced its way through her like a flock of drunk, horny butterflies in her belly. Oh yeah. Doc Detweiler was flirting, and he had been wrong before — he was really good at it.
“I see. Well, Jace Detweiler, where do you pick up the pretty girls in this town? I’ll make sure to stop in there instead.” Clearly, the alcohol was talking and shocking the shit out of Kinley. She had never been so forward in her life. Maybe this was the new her. Maybe it was where and what she was destined to be now that her dancing career was over — a bar-hopping floozy.
“From where I’m sitting, it appears she just got to town…” Jace’s tone deepened with each word as his eyes darkened, pinning Kinley with a look of seduction that drummed through her, striking her core with a bang. “She’s right where she should be, just a few stools down.”
“Oh really…” Kinley’s response was breathy, eyes heavy with drunken desire. “Want to get out of here, Doc?”
Jace’s smile could set panties on fire and get him anything he wanted. If Kinley had it her way, he was about to get exactly that.
Jace Detweiler was contemplating his next move, desperately afraid of screwing it up. He was a good-looking guy, never had to try too hard to get a woman’s attention, but was awkward as much as he was confident when it came to situations like this. Truth be told, he hadn’t picked up a girl in a bar before, or anywhere really. Jace wasn’t sure what he was supposed to say that didn’t make him seem too eager or come across like a horny teenager. If it were any other day, or any other girl, he would say thank you kindly and move on. But there was just something about Kinley, and he wanted to figure out what it was…especially the part under that skirt.
“You’re staring at me, Jace Detweiler…is that a good thing or a bad thing?” Kinley wasn’t sure what to think, between the booze and hum this man provoked, she felt cheap and desired all at the same time. She was okay with both. If the night ended the way she hoped, Kinley would hang her head in shame tomorrow. “I know a place…nearby.”
Tossing money on the counter, Jace left his barstool, grabbed Kinley’s hand, and dragged her toward the door while tossing a wave and saying goodnight to the grinning bartender.
“It’s right up here,” Kinley said, leading Jace down the dark sidewalk, “on the corner.”
“The dance studio?” he questioned. “Aren’t we going to get in trouble?”
Kinley snickered at the concern in his voice, finding his fear of getting in trouble both charming and endearing. “It’s okay. I have keys. Sadie is my sister.”
He stalled, pulling her back from her swift movement, where she nearly fell. “You’re Sadie’s sister?” He knew Sadie, well in fact, and wasn’t sure if this was a good idea anymore. How much did he need to share, how much should he share, and how much would feel like a cold shower on their near steamy night?
“Is that a problem? I mean that she’s my sister?” Kinley questioned.
Jace shook his head. “Uh, no. No, not at all. I mean, I’m the town pediatrician, so I know most of the moms in town, it’s just…”
“If this is weird for you, we can totally cancel,” Kinley said with a shrug. “I’m not one to kiss and tell — hell, I’m not one to do something like…this at all! My point is, it’s not like my nephew Cooper will know his doctor is kissing his aunt or anything.”
Kissing. Somehow, the trance she had Jace in was reinstated with a single word. What he wouldn’t give to kiss her full red lips right then and there — and anything else she was willing to share with him. His concern wasn’t that Kinley’s sister, or nephew, would know about them. It was more about how much of his life he should share with Kinley. Right now, he didn’t think it mattered. This was just a late-night Pine Valley hookup, or so he hoped. This was much easier in the city — small town bar pick-ups were anything but easy. The details would have to sort themselves out later — if there was a later.
“Lead the way, beautiful.” Jace winked. There was no turning back now; he was all in.
With a smile and urgency in her pace, Kinley led them down the rest of the block to Twinkle Toes Dance School where she taught with her sister. It was closed, it was late, and it was dark. Totally private — just what Kinley wanted.
With a quick look around, taking in the empty streets and closed shops, she was reminded of the benefits of a small town. The sun goes down, the people go home. It was just them out there. Kinley opened the door and guided Jace through the dimly lit waiting area to the dark, empty room in the far back where the only light was compliments of the moon and many skylights across the high ceiling.
“Are those…uh, poles? For, um…stripper like…pole…things?” Jace cleared his throat a half a dozen times as he took in the contents of the room. It was sprinkled with shiny brass, or maybe it was silver — it was dark — poles staggered throughout the space. Something about those shiny poles, and the way Kinley was swinging from one, left Jace with a more personal pole aching to be used.
“Well…if that’s your thing, then yes…they can be used for stripping,” Kinley teased. “We use them to teach.”
Jace’s voice went high in excitement, and he nearly choked on his own words. “You teach stripping?”
“Not exactly,” Kinley laughed. “It’s more of a fitness and movement class, clothes required, but yes, I teach the women to…work the pole.” Kinley’s last words were slow, loaded with heat and innuendo.
Kinley kicked off her shoes and began to move more purposefully on the pole. With her head tossed back, long dark hair dangling behind her, and feet against the base of the pole, she began to spin. As her pace quickened, her feet left the ground, her body firmly against the pole.
Her legs split in a V, her short, flowy skirt revealing her perfectly toned thighs and a glimpse of her perfect ass with each turn. Coming to a near stop, Kinley pulled herself higher on the pole before wrapping her legs around it in a tight crisscross and letting go with her hands. How she was spinning again was anyone’s guess, but Jace wasn’t complaining.
Her skirt nearly around her waist, shirt rising, revealing a taught, sculpted stomach. Kinley’s hands traveled up her body provocatively, eventually wrapping themselves around the pole. If this was her idea of flirting, or even mild foreplay, Jace was all in if his now too tight jeans were any indication. Her legs parted in that same perfect split, this time leaving little to the imagination, before Kinley flipped backward, feet landing on the ground.
She continued her dance with seductive purpose, eyeing the good doctor as she did, tempting him with the rhythmic sway of her body, teasing him with her sultry stare. In the back of her mind was a tiny voice screaming, What the hell are you doing?, while a bolder voice chanted, Taking what I want! Jace Detweiler was the good guy type, and from the look he was returning, he was having the same struggle with his conscience — do I or don’t I? God, Kinley hoped it was do.
In a completely uninhibited way, Jace grabbed her, pulled her into his arms, and kissed her.