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Your Honor by Kristi Pelton (1)

Chapter 1

DISCOVERY

LUCY

“Cheers!” our group toasted in unison holding the shot glasses in the air. Supposedly, the creamy liquid was going to taste like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Yes, the cereal, or so they said. Most shots were supposed to taste like some sort of concoction, yet for me, they tasted like gasoline scorching my throat.

For the past two years, I hadn’t partied. I hadn’t even had a drink. I’d barely left my apartment. Law school navigated my life, and in seven days I was starting my new job as an assistant district attorney in New York County. So tonight, we celebrated. I tossed the liquor into my mouth, I swallowed quickly hoping to avoid the awful taste.

“That wasn’t too bad,” Henley laughed, sliding her shot glass across the table.

I quickly glanced away as the flavor of Cinnamon Toast Crunch overwhelmed my taste buds.

Henley and I both gasped. “Oh. My. God! Cinnamon Toast Crunch!” We laughed and ordered two more.

“Hey, Lucy, these cupcakes are de-lish!” Kak said, filling her mouth with another bite.

“Thanks!” I replied. “My neighbor across the hall is a fantastic baker, and she’s just getting started, so I peddle her name out whenever I can.”

“They are decorated so cute.”

I made a mental note to tell Midge the compliments about the cupcakes.

The music from the other room grew louder as the night grew later. Our private party in the back room was symbolic of what would happen to our graduating class or at least our group. Some of us ventured out into the big room to meet other people, drink more and possibly dance. Others stayed in their comfort zone of the back room with familiar faces. Inevitably, the party would be over and our friendships too would likely fade. Sad really.

Henley and I, however, would undoubtedly be a forever thing. Four years of college. Three years of law school. We had endured her series of monogamous relationships and my unwillingness to date let alone dive into a serious relationship.

“Well?” she asked as we stood in the doorway of the club. A group of men sat around a bar table in the corner by us. One hot guy in particular glanced my way. I’d sort of forgotten how to do this flirting thing as I awkwardly looked away. I’d never been a flirter. My mother had done enough for both of us.

“Well what,” I asked, feeling the hot guy’s eyes on me.

“Have you picked him out yet?”

“Stop.”

“I am not going to stop. It’s time,” she said way louder than necessary. “Whatever lucky soul you pick is going to have to Indiana Jones that pussy. Those cobwebs are a force to be reckoned with.” The music just happened to transition from one song to the next during her not-so-subtle declaration, and the guys from the corner overheard, turning in unison to look at us. Blood crept into my cheeks.

“Indiana Jones that pussy? Really? You’re disgusting.” I swatted at her, crinkling up my nose.

“And please, for the love of God, tell me you waxed or shaved like I suggested. We certainly don’t want Welcome to the Jungle blaring out as you drop your panties.”

Laughter erupted from the guys in the corner at that remark, and when I glanced at them, the hot, older guy winked at me. I offered him the fakest of smiles, bowed and curtsied in their direction, then flipped around to my obnoxiously crude friend.

“Thank you for that,” I gritted, glaring at Henley.

She giggled, and then jerked my arm out of socket as she winked back at the table of guys and lugged me in the opposite direction.

“Whoever you finally give it up for after twenty-four years of no sex, he better be special or at the very least, memorable.”

I smiled and glanced back at the guy with the dark eyes.

The farther we walked, the louder the music revved up. Girls in skimpy clothes gyrated around the dance floor, grinding on guys and other girls—flipping their hair all around. Some girls bent over touching their toes while guys grinded on their asses. Damn, I really needed to get out more.

I glanced down at my attire. Black fitted dress slacks. Collared dress shirt. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t skanky. It didn’t shout ‘fuck me’ from the ceiling. It didn’t really shout anything though. Except maybe pussy cobwebs down below…

Jacque covered Henley’s eyes from behind. He’d been crazy about her for the past year, but she wouldn’t do it. His father was a tenth circuit judge and everyone knew that Jacque would do great things. Henley wanted to shine on her own. And one thing was for damned certain; she wouldn’t be outshined.

Henley twirled around and began dancing with Jacque. Her clothes were fun, flirty. After glancing down at my humdrum outfit, I shook off my own doubt and strolled to the restroom. The bright lights of the bathroom never did anyone justice, but when I laid eyes on the cute, scarcely dressed girls by the sink, I wanted to punch myself for dressing the way I did. It stemmed from my mother. Because of her fire engine red lipstick, I barely wore any make-up. I dressed conservatively because she didn’t and was always a cloud of embarrassment. She spent her time spreading her perfectly shaped legs for almost anyone, I’d sworn myself to a sexless life…until now.

Frustrated, I hit the door of a stall, laying a paper toilet seat cover over the seat and sitting.

My brain was foggy from the earlier shots and drinks; I stood, finding drunken courage that I normally wouldn’t have; I unbuttoned the top button of my dress shirt and the bottom three. After fastening my dress slacks, I tied the bottom of my shirt in a knot, allowing my belly button to show, flushed the toilet, washed my hands and strolled right back out into the club. I might be a nerdy little attorney but I could sexy this shit up real fast.

From the bar, I watched Henley and Jacque grooving away. They really would make the perfect couple.

“What can I get you?” the bartender asked, cupping his hand around his ear to capture what I requested.

“Um. How about a martini.” I didn’t drink enough to have a preferred drink of my own.

“Ok. What kind?”

I shrugged. “Never had one. Nothing sweet.”

He tossed a cocktail napkin in front of me. “Ok. Gin or Vodka.”

“Gin, for me,” a deep voice behind me said. “Dirty.”

“What’s dirty mean?” I asked the man whose dark eyes I’d locked with earlier at the back table. The brighter light over by the bar did him justice. Flirt, I thought to myself. As casually as I could, I glanced at his ring finger, no ring. This was him…Indiana Jones…I could feel my skin tingle.

“Make her a dirty vodka. Put it on my tab,” he instructed.

Ding. Ding. Ding. Bonus. He bought me a drink. “I know I’m just throwing it out there but would you want to have sex with me tonight? Like a no strings attached sort of thing,” I blurted out immediately.

The bartender chuckled. “Wow,” he said sliding the full martini glass my way. “Please tell me you two know each other.” He raised his brows at the man I’d just propositioned.

“Nope. Haven’t really even met.”

The bartender stared at me for a long second. “That was slick,” he added as he walked away shaking his head.

Wanting to magically disappear, I took a sip out of the fancy glass; the saltiness of the drink surprised me, and when I glanced up, the guy, who grew hotter by the sip, was staring at me.

“Sorry,” I said.

“Sorry for what?”

“Blurting that out. What can I say? This girl’s got game.” I grinned.

“I see nothing wrong with being upfront and honest.”

After a big gulp and devouring an olive, I shrugged. “I know you heard the cobwebs remark. So, it’s whatever.”

He shook his head of slightly gelled, brown hair. Well-shaped sideburns came down the side of his handsome face. “It was actually the Welcome to the Jungle comment that sealed the deal.” When he smiled, his entire face lit up.

“Are you gay?” I spat out, wondering why he hadn’t jumped at the chance of unobligated sex? Wouldn’t most guys?

He didn’t answer, only rolled his eyes and took another long drink.

“It’s ok if you are. I’m not saying that being gay is bad. It’s just…” I decided to quit while I was ahead, though I didn’t feel ahead.

The conversation sort of took an awkward turn after that. Self-doubt reared its ugly head as I began to gnaw on my bottom lip. I had asked a guy to have sex with me and gotten no response. Perfect. My confidence plummeted.

Pulling his hand from his pants pocket, his thumb freed my lip from my teeth. God, it had been so long. Just his finger touching my lip caused everything inside of me to tighten.

“What makes you think we should sleep together?”

“You mean besides the Temple of Doom sort of comment,” I laughed as the vodka began to swim freely through my veins. “And seriously, you need to be attracted to someone in order to even get it up, so if you’re not attracted me, that’s fine.”

“Getting it up isn’t a problem.”

“Honestly, it’s ok. In fact, the next guy that walks up to this bar, I’m going to ask him to have sex, and if he says yes, you are out of luck, buddy. You sat on answering way too long,” I teased.

I drew a hint of blood this time as I bit down on the same part of my lip. It had been a habit for as long as I could remember. Typically, I switched sides so the same spot didn’t get too raw. Once again, his thumb freed my lip from my destructive teeth, but this time his thumb brushed gently over my entire bottom lip and gave me a shit-eating grin.

“You’re beautiful. You don’t need me to tell you that. But, I must say, you are especially stunning now that you tied your blouse in a knot.”

He winked, a bucketful of butterflies tipped over in my stomach even though he was totally making fun of me.

“I know. Lame attempt with fitting in.” I shot back the martini—which I quickly learned was not a shooter on any level. Involuntarily, I blew out my now salty, dragon breath. “My God,” I whispered.

“Fit in with who?”

I motioned toward the dance floor. “Them. The Barbies trying to land Ken. You know, the skanks and ho bags.”

He chuckled, exposing perfectly aligned, white teeth.

“It sounds like you’re setting your sights high…are you shooting to be a skank or a ho?”

“Ho bag,” I corrected, swatting my hand at him. I rolled my eyes. “You know what I mean.”

“Is that why you asked me to have sex with you?”

When I glanced at him, his brown eyes seared into me making me nervous. There was something demanding about him…yet gentlemanly. A professional aura that rang out through his clothes and shoes.

“No,” I whispered, suddenly embarrassed of my request for sex. “That pretty much shouted skank though, huh?”

“You are clearly not a skank,” he said finishing his own drink.

It only took a second or two this time for me to stop chewing on my lip…well; it actually took his hand moving toward my mouth again for me to stop. His hand redirected, going in a different direction; his fingers intertwined with mine.

“And your offer still stands?”

“Hey!” a guy shouted as he stepped up to the bar. “Can I get two jagerbombs and two slippery nipples!” The size of his nose ring was larger than any I’d seen. My eyes widened.

The guy I’d been chatting with arched his brows and tilted his head toward nose ring guy. I’m guessing he was remembering my threat to ask the next guy at the bar to have sex.

I shook my head, grinning, then mouthed no.

“Let’s get back to your offer. Does it still stand?”

My swallow got stuck somewhere in my throat.

“My offer?” my voice shot up in shock as I realized this might really happen.

The most perfect slight smile touched his lips as he tilted his head—a silent reminder.

“Oh, sex?” I nearly shouted. “Yep! Offer still stands.”

The bartender glanced at us again, giving me a mocking thumbs up.

“Perfect. I’ll tab out, tell my friends I’m leaving and meet you at the door.”

As his stool scooted away from the bar, I grabbed his hand. “Wait, what’s your number?”

His dark eyebrows met in the middle. “My number? Why?”

Shrugging, I said, “Look at this place. It’s huge. I just thought I’d text when I got outside.”

His eyes scanned the massive crowd but he still looked at me with hesitation… skepticism. I quickly shook my head, warding off his look of concern.

“I just meant in case we got separated. I wouldn’t text you after if that’s your concern. I’d never do that. You’ll never hear from me again. I told you no strings attached. But for tonight, you’re committed.” I winked.

The darkness in his eyes was somewhat intimidating but seemed to soften with my poor attempt at humor. As I took a step back, his gaze searched my face for something, maybe honesty. His tongue peaked out between his lips.

“641-913-“

As quickly as possible I typed in his number so I could text him after telling Henley goodbye. He spat out the last four numbers so quickly, I wasn’t sure I’d gotten them right but didn’t want to make him repeat himself.

When I looked up from my phone, the vodka had gotten the best of my brain cells, and I accidentally stumbled into him.

“Did you drive?” he asked, helping me find my balance. There was a seriousness in his tone that sobered me a little. I knew nothing about the man I was leaving a club with. This had missing woman all over it. I could be on a milk carton by morning.

“Sorry,” I whispered, backing up. “No. I wouldn’t drink and drive. But seriously, I am a drink away from slobbering drunk.”

He chuckled and then turned and strolled toward his friends.

Quickly, I found Henley and whispered that I was leaving with the hot guy from earlier. She immediately shot a stare back at the table where the guys had been earlier, clearly searching for him. When I pinched her arm, she jerked away laughing.

“I want to see him!” she shouted.

“I’ll text you tomorrow.”

“Text me tonight! I want to know someone finally broke on through to the other side.” She knew I hated Jim Morrison.

I nodded. “If I wind up dead…”

She hugged me. “You’re not going to be dead. He was with an entire of group of professionals. But text me, ok?”

I took a deep breath ready for my night with Mr. Unknown. I glanced around, looking for him, but didn’t see him. I liked him enough already that I hoped he hadn’t bailed. I liked him enough already? Good conversation does not a relationship make.

The cool air was refreshing as I dashed toward the restroom to pee and freshen up, nerves suddenly getting the better part of me. A little uncertain, I texted his number:

 

Hey. This is me. That way you don’t lose me. ☺

 

Outside, the air wasn’t as cool, but the wind whipped my hair in my face. He, whatever his name was, wasn’t out there and he hadn’t texted back. I didn’t know his name. This was exactly something Pops would be angry about. My pops would have wanted his ID, his driver’s license number, phone number and social security number. The only number I had for him—he wasn’t responding to. And on a scale from one to ten…Mr. Martini was a 10.

A blacked out Audi pulled to a stop in front of me. The tinted window lowered and there he was—Mr. Fuck Me Tonight. When he smiled, my stomach turned over. He was way sexier than anyone I knew. Out of habit, I bit my lip, until his eyes narrowed playfully; I smiled so goofily I couldn’t bite it if I wanted to.

He started to get out of the car, and I hustled to the passenger side door before he could.

“This isn’t a date. Let’s not make it more than it is,” I said teasingly as I slid into the car.

The smell…his smell… swallowed me. A mixture of new car and sexy man teased my nose and an unfamiliar, tingling sensation flitted between my legs. Unintentionally, I arched my hips up.

“Everything ok?” he asked with a cocked brow.

I nodded. “Yes. It’s just a been a while and I think my body is ahead of my mind.”

“Why has it been a while? You’re a stunning girl.”

I didn’t like lying. When I noticed the sunroof, I pushed the button, exposing the sky.

“I had some things I needed to take care of first. I think we should have sex under the stars,” I suggested, relaxing my head on the headrest and staring at the white-sparkly, dark sky.

“Do you now,” he chuckled, shooting a U-turn in the middle of the road.

“Wrong turn?”

“Just an idea.”

Inhaling a deep breath, I hoped tonight was earth shattering in a non serial killer sort of way. After a few minutes, we darted into a parking garage. He parked, unlocked the doors and got out.

“Come on.”

I followed, and though he stayed right next to me, we didn’t really say much. The frosted-glass, automatic doors opened, exposing a Waldorf logo.

He brought me to a hotel? A freakishly nice one, but still… It was at least safe.

“Scared to take me to your house, eh?” I asked with a hint of playfulness.

“No. Wait here.”

My eyes followed him as he walked over to the front desk area. His body filled out his clothes nicely. My lids grew heavy as I waited, my head spun—one of the worsts side effects of alcohol. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was an alcohol induced decision… of course it was. So what, I needed to live a little.

“Second thoughts?” he asked, stirring me from my drunken, turned-on stupor.

“Negative.” I shot upright, wavering once again on my feet. The strength in his hands forced another cringe of tightening deep in my pelvis.

The heated tension between us in the elevator choked me, and my lips parted trying to catch my breath. I’d never given myself the opportunity to feel this…this desire with any man. I fought so hard not to follow in my mother’s footsteps that I’d abandoned that basic need and desire found inside all of us. When I tried to catch a glimpse of him peripherally, I realized how tall he actually was.

The tip of his tongue greeted my glance as he moistened his lips, and a smile nipped at the corners of my lips. He was going to kiss me, I thought. My heart pounded in my throat and my thoughts were fuzzy. Downing that martini in a single swig may not have been the best idea. He didn’t kiss me.

The ritzy suite was luxuriously chilly and a subtle shiver fluttered up my spine just as his hand rested at the small of my back. Coincidence?

“Would you like a drink?” he asked.

“No, thank you,” I whispered slowly, taking in the enormity of the suite. The bed was massive. I swallowed the reservations that crept up my spine and found him sitting on the arm of the sofa watching my every move.

“You know, you could kill me and no one would be the wiser.”

A gentle grin touched his lips. “Outside of our friends, the bartender, the guy at the front desk and every camera between here and there, you mean? Plus, they would discover where your cell phone pinged over the past few hours and oddly enough, mine would have pinged off the same towers. Then there is the little text that you sent. What was it you said?” He tilted his head to the side. “’Hey. This is me. That way you don’t lose me.’ Did I get that right?”

“You didn’t respond.”

“I don’t text.”

I spun around, my mouth gaping. “You do too.”

He shook his head, sliding his hands into his pockets. “No. I don’t.”

“That’s because you’re worried I’ll creep on you when we are done.”

“It’s not just you. I don’t text anyone,” he explained.

“Why?”

He shrugged. “Not a fan.”

“Well, I’m sure tonight will be so good that those little thumbs of yours will be texting away…chasing me as I walk.” My own words forced me to smile.

His knees cracked as he got to his feet. He didn’t seem that old. Heat spread through my lower half as he gradually made his way to me. “There are two things I don’t chase, liquor and beautiful women. Besides, I specifically recall a no strings attached stipulation.” He stopped, leaving about 12 inches between us.

“Trust me, when I give anything, including myself, it doesn’t come with strings.”

I wanted to know what he was thinking as his eyes darted back and forth between my eyes and my mouth.

Trying to break the ice, I kicked off my shoes and glanced toward the bed. “Well, since you can’t kill me…” I winked at him and tilted my head toward the bed.

His eyes darkened as he unbuttoned the cuffs on his dress shirt.

“Are we gonna exchange names?” I asked.

When his jaw ticked from a firm clench, I guessed that was a no.

“It’s ok.” For some unexplainable reason, I wanted to make him feel better about not telling me his name. “We could make up names, if that makes you more comfortable.”

A low part-grumble part-chuckle worked its way through his chest.

“And, what would your name be?” he grinned, exposing a white t-shirt beneath his navy and white checked shirt that he hung over a chair.

This suddenly seemed awkward…forced… as we both undressed…ourselves. “Monica?” I asked.

“Friends?”

I nodded. I honestly loved Monica.

“Fine. Then, I’ll go with Richard.”

I shoved him backward. “No way!” I shouted just like Monica would. “Tom Selleck was so freaking hot in that role.”

“Then, I’m perfect.” His mouth pulled into a lopsided grin.

He really was perfect. My slacks pooled around my feet, and in his t-shirt, with his jeans unfastened, he finished his stroll toward me. Muscles were way more visible now that he was only in his undershirt—a different sexiness than I’d seen earlier. My heart pounded in the back of my throat as he reached for the buttons on my shirt. What the hell, this was really going to happen. I’d never done anything like this in my entire disciplined life.

Once my blouse fell to the floor, his lips brushed over my shoulder, sending a flurry of goose bumps fanning out over my skin. He and I still hadn’t kissed. Maybe that was better. A kiss was so personal.

I didn’t realize his hands were near my bra, but when I felt the coolness of the air pebble up my nipples, I gasped. I watched as he deftly navigated my straps off my shoulders, letting the bra fall freely to the ground. My God. My body hummed with desire.

The back of his fingers grazed over my nipples and it was agonizingly pleasurable. A slight moan crept up my throat. Even though his lips didn’t touch mine, his eyes kissed every inch of me.

“You like that?” he asked as two of his fingers lightly squeezed my nipples.

“Yes.”

He turned me around toward the cushioned bench sitting at the end of the bed. “Sit.”

I did, without thinking about what he was even asking. There was something about him that demanded compliance. I watched him unbutton his pants and remove them, leaving only his boxer briefs on, which had a noticeable bulge. After creasing the pants, he folded them over a chair as well. His OCD tendencies were obvious.

In law school, I had learned to maintain a poker face, to not show my hand. I fought any reaction to the enticing bulge or to the mystery between us.

“Stand up. Please.” He added the please after I’d already begun to stand, and then he took the seat I had just vacated. He took my hand in his, pulling me toward him.

Before I could say a word, his fingertips grazed over the lace on my panties. Panties that Henley and I had carefully selected for exactly this monumental moment earlier in the evening.

“Sit,” he said again. He meant on him?

“Like on…”

He lifted my leg, placing one foot on one side of him and the other foot on his other side—straddling him.

I nestled down rubbing myself against his bulge, trying to act like I knew what I was doing. As if I had experience…as if. The darkness in his hooded and lust-filled eyes was seductive as hell. I wondered what he saw in mine.

I sat above him, my breasts near his mouth. When he leaned forward, I instinctively arched toward him. The anticipation of his mouth drove me insane. I wanted him to touch me, to taste me.

The warmness of his mouth…of his tongue… the way he knew to swirl around my nipple. The feel of his hands as he palmed and massaged my breast. Oh. My. God. I’d never felt anything like this. A fuel lived within his tongue that lit a fire inside me. My hips began to work back and forth trying to create friction between us.

When his arms snaked around my waist, securing me tightly next to him, a small gasp fled my lips. In a matter of three seconds, he lifted me, rotated us around and laid me flat against the bed, all while continuing to savor my breasts. I swore in my head I wouldn’t stop him. Ever.

But, then he stopped…I could tell my panties were wet. Drenched. I felt embarrassed at what little it took for my body to be completely ready for him. He began to work his way down my abdomen. He didn’t know me, and I was surprised he would go down on me, but who the hell was I to stop him.

“You don’t have to do that,” I whispered.

“Please,” he said with a low growl. “I already hear Axel and Slash cueing up.”

I smiled as his fingers broke the barrier of my panties. Thank God, I had shaved per Henley’s encouragement.

“You’re a liar. There’s no jungle,” he said with playfulness in his tone. Then in a single swift movement, his finger slid effortlessly through my wetness and penetrated me. He pushed my knees apart with his other hand.

“Mmm,” I hummed quietly as another finger joined the first.

“Mmm, is a perfect description,” he whispered.

But I swear to God on my future children’s lives—the feeling when his thumb began its perfect, circular assault, was the bomb that ricocheted anticipation tremors through my body. My hips arched to meet his touch. His mouth lowered over my breast and the mixture… My. God. The mixture of the unknown, the pleasure of the two-finger penetration, his thumb rotation, the soft swirl around my nipple. My God!

“I’m…” I wanted to articulate in some way that I was going to come. That it took only a minute or two to get me there. That I was going to explode by the hands of an actual man and I couldn’t even form the words to say it. This was happening so much faster than it ever had for me. T -10 seconds until detonation.

“Please, do,” he groaned, reading my mind. Then his mouth lowered over my breast again and with one swirl of the nipple…my lord…my uterus swirled into this century with an explosion of epic proportions. Pulse after pulse of contractions.

“Ahhh….” I moaned, and when I opened my eyes, his were above mine watching me. If any blood could have crept into my face, it would have.

“Sweet Jesus.”

His words surprised me. He hadn’t come, I had. I chuckled uncomfortably.

“Welcome back to the world as it should be,” he added. “Why the time away?”

“School,” I panted, lying again, sort of, and trying to catch my breath as his two fingers pulled out of me.

“Fair enough. I understand that. Come here for a minute.” He stood, pulling me to my feet before guiding me out two French doors onto a balcony. My legs barely held my weight without buckling.

“Oh, my goodness,” I said as I gazed out over the amazing New York skyline. The skyline I loved. “Richard. This is beautiful.” The night air had cooled a bit especially to a naked, overheated body.

“Don’t call me Richard. My name is Jenner.”

I grinned.

“I brought you to the hotel because you mentioned having sex under the stars. I’ve stayed here, in the penthouse before, and this balcony patio is perfect.”

The penthouse… My goofy grin turned into a full-blown smile. “Thank you.” It was as if he knew this was an epic moment in my life too.

I forced my head to stop overthinking what this was. Even if he had done something incredibly nice and even though he was freaking hot and even though he was being respectful and kind and seemed utterly perfect…this meant nothing.

Two lounge chairs with thick, padded cushions sat in a corner on the balcony. Trying to take the lead, I walked toward them. I bit down on my lip where he couldn’t see as I laid down on one of them. Under the stars…

I could feel my nipples harden without even looking at them. The wetness between my legs was cooled by the wind.

“And your name is?” he asked.

“Lucy. And please, no Charlie Brown jokes.”

His smile was beautiful as he shook his head. “I never would have thought of Charlie Brown. Lucille Ball is the only real Lucy.”

I put up a leg blocking him from coming any closer. “I beg your pardon. Though, I was named after her because of the red hair. The real Lucy is right here, baby.” I teased with a smile.

Why did I want him to like me so much?

“I’m going to nail Lucy as soon as she stops talking about things like Charlie Brown.”

“Whah whah whah whah.” I mimicked Charlie Brown’s teacher.

He laughed as he got closer, and I decided I couldn’t wait for him to nail Lucy.

A phone rang from the other room, and his brow pulled together. His entire posture transformed, and I, too, sat a little more upright.

“I have to get that. My apologies.”

Shocking me, he disappeared, darting into the French doors.

I closed my eyes, fighting to listen. Was it a wife? Girlfriend? Child?

“Yes?” he answered.

Shamelessly, I eavesdropped.

“Any priors?”

Hmm. I wondered if he was a cop. He didn’t seem like a cop. He seemed more professional.

Once his words became more garbled, I turned my head toward the sky. What seemed like a million stars decorated the night. Each one represented an angel…the stars and redbirds…Angels among us. That’s what Mimi and Pops always said—the best grandparents ever.

As I lay there, I picked Mimi out of the millions of stars like I always did. Whatever night, whatever day, she was always the biggest and the brightest. Tonight, she was super bright for some reason.

Mr. Make Me Come Just Right was still talking as I closed my eyes.

***

When I opened my eyes, the sun blared down, and I gasped for a breath. A down comforter snuggled around me, and I sprang upright trying to remember the night before. The balcony was chilly without the comforter. And mainly because I was naked!

Jenner. Jenner! “Jenner?” I said out loud, trying to recall what had happened after the phone call. I couldn’t remember anything.

No answer. On my feet, my knees wobbled for a minute before I gained solid footing. My head silently cussed me for the amount of alcohol I’d consumed the night before. Another reason to avoid alcohol.

Through the French doors, Jenner was still nowhere to be seen. My purse was where I’d left it, and after a quick trip to the bathroom to pee, I grabbed my phone. Sixteen texts and three missed calls from Henley. My battery was about dead.

It didn’t take me long to go from one end of the suite to the other and to determine I’d been ditched. The place was empty. Vacated.

I spotted a folded piece of paper next to the coffee maker and darted to it so fast, I pulled my hamstring. An L was written on the front.

 

“I’m sorry I had to leave. I hope your night under the stars was all you had hoped. Take care, J.”

 

“Take care?” I questioned out loud. “That’s code for farewell.”

I’d never been a jilted lover. Admittedly, his goodbye stung a bit. Not that we would be a happily ever after, but last night was the first time in a long time I’d allowed myself to feel. To want. And now I wanted more. I certainly wanted to shed the “V” card. Knowing how attentive Jenner was and knowing how skilled he seemed, I had really wanted to lose it specifically to him.

My phone rang, and I rushed limping to the counter with crossed fingers that it was Jenner. It wasn’t. It was Henley.

“Hey,” I answered.

“Are you ok? You never called. You haven’t texted. I’m at the farmers market.”

Shit!

“Yes. I’m fine. I forgot.”

“Is that because you got some boo-tay last night?”

“Hardly.” I slid my pants on and shoved my feet into my shoes at the same time embarrassed at not closing the deal.

“Where are you?”

“The Waldorf. Don’t ask,” I said with a threat looming. I shoved my bra into my purse, buttoned my blouse and untied the stupid sides I’d tied in a pathetic, feeble attempt to look sexy last night. “Let me get outta here. I’ll call you once I get close.”

Tossing my phone in my purse, I slung it over my shoulder and took one last glance around the plush suite that I hadn’t really gotten a chance to enjoy. We hadn’t gotten to enjoy. Then I spotted a bottle on the counter near the sink. Next to the bottle of water was a small packet of ibuprofen, a packet of acetaminophen and another small note.

 

Monica, My guess is your head hurts. Pick A or B or both. Hopefully, you’re not overthinking. No regrets. I believe, what little I know of you, you will be frustrated that you fell asleep (possibly passed out). But let me reassure you, the pleasure was all mine. Thank you. Richard

 

Wow, he read me well. Popping both sets of pills in my mouth, I downed them with a douse of water, tossed the notes in my purse and left the suite behind.

***

A line had formed at our normal spot at the Farmer’s Market—mostly the usual people, but I saw a few new faces. Henley was waiting for me. Hank had parked Pop’s dually into the spot. The entire bed of the truck was loaded with all the fruits and veggies. I loved that Hank and his sons helped with the harvest.

“Running late, darlin?” Hank asked.

I shot him a smile. “Just a smidgin’.”

Hank had been my grandfather’s best friend for most of his life. He was Pop’s best man when he married my Mimi. Heck, on occasion, Hank’s sons brought the truck when he couldn’t.

As I set a basket of strawberries on the table, he touched my arm.

“You ok, little miss?”

I nodded. “Yes. Just late. I’m sorry.”

“You look tired.”

Hank’s cowboy boots were tired. I grinned. “Late night celebrating, Hank. Maybe a little too much.” I winked at him. “Besides, when you tell a girl she looks tired, that’s code for she looks like shit.”

“Ah, little miss, never never.” He darted around me and started helping Henley load the tables with the crop. Before we knew it, we were up and selling for Pops.

All of our regulars came by the tent, and every single one asked about Pops. Most everyone knew about his condition and expressed condolences for the sad situation. Those same people loved chatting with Hank.

The sun warmed the late summer morning as we cleaned up the tables. Henley nudged me in the side. The ache in my head had subsided thanks to the pills. I smiled as I thought about Jenner’s considerate gesture. He didn’t have to write the notes, nor did he have to track down pocket packs of medicine, but he had.

“There’s the guy you wouldn’t tell me about.”

I froze with a wide-eyed stare, refusing to turn around. “The guy from the club?” I whispered.

She nodded slowly, following him with her eyes.

“Does he see us? Me?” I casually walked to the front of the truck to stay hidden.

What were the freaking odds of running into the man that had his fingers inside me last night? Dear God. The pounding in my chest stole my breath.

“Hey, Lucy, I got the truck loaded with the bushel baskets and…”

“SHH!” I shushed Hank, paralyzed in fear.

Seriously, the likelihood of seeing this man, less than 24 hours later, in New York freaking City? I massaged my temples trying to think.

“What’s the matter, little miss?”

“Guy trouble, Hank,” Henley answered.

“Is he with anyone?” I asked.

She nodded. “Yes. A woman.”

“He’s married. I knew it.”

“Well, unless he’s married to a sixty year old woman, I don’t think that’s his wife.”

For some odd reason, relief settled through me. The guy hadn’t asked to see me again. He hadn’t texted or called. It was what it was—a very lame one nighter because he just had to answer that damn phone and I couldn’t stay awake.

“Well, little miss. If I don’t say so myself, I’d have to say you’ve takin’ a likin’ to the guy or you wouldn’t care if he sees you.”

My eyes narrowed in the evilest of glares in Hank’s direction until I conceded that he was right.

“I did like him,” I said, my eyes darting between both Hank and Henley.

Henley excitedly rose up on her tiptoes. “I have an idea. Where is your phone?”

I pulled it out of my back pocket. “Why?”

“Do you have his number?”

“Yes,” I said, but then remembered that the man didn’t text.

“Text him. Some sort of ‘hey’ or ‘thank you’ or ‘want to do it again’ something or other.”

I bit down on my lip, hoping Hank didn’t catch on.

“Why would I do that?”

“Because we can see his reaction. If he smiles, he’s happy to hear from you. If he doesn’t, fine. Leave it alone.”

It was the ‘if he doesn’t part’ that threatened to hurt. Hurt? I’d known him for 12 whole hours, for God’s sake. I sounded like a pathetic, desperate girl. But yet, I stared at the phone in my hand.

“Whatcha got to lose?” Hank asked.

I unlocked my phone and typed, as his words came back to me, ‘I don’t text.’

 

Hey Richard. I was thinking…that room might have late check-out. Monica

 

Oh, I felt sick. This was so not me. I glanced up at Henley and Hank, and then hit send.

“What’d you say?” Henley asked.

I shrugged. “Just asked if he wanted to meet up later,” I lied for Hank’s benefit. Or mine. Whatever.

The three of us literally bent over the hood of the truck to see Jenner through the cab window. We all three watched as he slid his hand in his pocket, the same hand that got me off last night. I hoped he stayed facing this way so I could see his expression. Aviators covered his eyes but I waited to see if he smiled.

Score! Not a full-blown smile but a grin. Slight grin.

Henley squealed. My phone vibrated and I suddenly had two sets of eyes on me.

Opening the screen, a blue dot sat next to his number. I hadn’t even entered his name into my contacts. I pushed the text to open it.

 

This isn’t Richard.

 

I grinned too.

“What did he say?”

I texted back ignoring my audience.

 

Hey, Mr. Answer the Phone During Foreplay. Do-over?

 

When I hit send and glanced up, both Hank and Henley looked immediately toward Jenner, who stood behind the lady he was with while she bought a pumpkin. A bigger grin! My phone vibrated.

 

I wouldn’t have answered that call had I not been obligated to do so. Are you sober?

 

I giggled.

 

Sober-ish

 

I was stone cold sober. That text led to another smile.

 

Lucy sober. Interesting. Penthouse Suite 1402 in two hours?

 

My fists closed in a silent celebratory moment.

“Yes!” Henley hissed. “When are you seeing him?”

Hanks eyes flashed back and forth between Henley and mine, confused.

“Today. I need to go,” I told them, already thinking about what I’d wear.

“You two arranged a date without saying a word to each other?” Hank asked baffled.

Henley and I both laughed, patting Hank’s shoulder. “That’s how we do it now a days, Hank.”

He shook his head. “I might have to meet this guy, Little Miss. I’m not sure Pops would approve. Nor would I.”

There was no way to explain to Hank that this was strictly a booty call. Though the explanation of a hook up would be comical, I simply couldn’t bring myself to do it. Once we loaded up the truck, I bee-lined it for the apartment and a quick shower.

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