Hot Honey Kisses (3:AM Kisses 17)
What do an obnoxious attorney, a coed gone wild, and a corpse have in common? Shep and Serena are about to find out the hard way.
Spending summer in Hollow Brook will be murder. …
*this is a standalone romance*
When Serena lets her roommate talk her into going to an exotic nightclub that promises to make all of her wildest dreams come true, she’s mortified to find the man behind the mask has an all too familiar obnoxious face. But it turns out Serena and Shep share more than a penchant for soft restraints—they share a propensity for trouble. Finding a corpse places Serena and Shep right at the top of the suspect list, and try as they might to unravel the mystery themselves, they discover that time has already run out for the two of them. Or has it just begun?
The place to be in Hollow Brook on a hot Friday night—and I mean hot in the most literal sense—is the Black Bear Saloon. Since the weather in Hollow Brook itself has devolved into Satan’s armpit, the Black Bear is about the only place to get decent air conditioning along with your fair share of hard bodies. It’s June. School is out and summer has descended upon us like fire-breathing cats and dogs raining down like a punishment. Everyone under the sweltering sun has arrived at the restaurant-slash-bar for a night of boozy festivities and all of the sleazy events that will ensue thereafter.
Of course, I’m here with my shortest skirt, my tightest tank top, in a quasi-manipulative effort to pull in the big tips. God knows I need them. The bigger, the better. I might have scored a scholarship to Whitney Briggs University, but that free ride sure doesn’t help with the incidentals of life, such as that cute cherry red bikini I’ve had my eye on and the perfect matching shade of fiery red MAC lipstick—all specifically chosen to highlight my auburn hair.
My sister, Lex, and I both have our deadbeat of a mother’s deep red locks. Although, Lex has an ebony undertone and I’m more Little Mermaid. Not that I mind the cartoonish nature of my beastly mane. I’ve come to embrace it. Hell, I’ve come to embrace just about every quirk and jerk about me—and I kind of mean the jerk part literally. In no way do I set out to come across as a jackass. It’s just that the constant stream of sarcasm that spouts from my mouth is often misconstrued as surly and inconsiderate—as detailed to me by my sweet cousin, Sunday.
Sunday has always been as puritanical as her moniker suggests—with the exception of that whole getting knocked up after a one-night stand gone wrong last winter, but I digress. It’s merely the beginning of summer, and the humidity is already creating a sticky situation. The place is pumping, and I’m hopeful that all of these moderately drunk bodies will equal more than enough to buy a string bikini or two once the night is over. Heck, I might even make enough to fill my gas tank and venture down to the beach to show off my new stitches. There is nothing like a North Carolina white sandy beach in the summer.
I’ve just crested the entry of this fine establishment, passing the overstuffed black bear that greets the guests just outside the doors. It’s usually mobbed by freshmen waiting their turn to sneak in the obligatory selfie, and tonight is no different with three prepubescent looking girls trying to dry-hump the poor thing in the process.
I glance to the floor as my fingers work in haste to tie on my apron, only to have a brick wall of a body slam right into me.
Crap. My nose just pushed in like an accordion, and my strawberry lip-gloss just smacked its way onto someone’s salty flesh.
The brick wall moves back a step, only to reveal himself as a tall heap of muscles—my lip print neatly pressed against his neck—greasy blond hair, and a dangerous smile on his equally greasy lips. Yes, he’s handsome, but he’s got a cocky air about him that says I’ve got a power drill in my pants and I’m not afraid to wield my tool belt. But that squirrely look in his wicked eyes spells out insanity more than it ever does the stable committed type, so I attempt to sashay to his left, but he sidesteps right along with me. His brows bounce in amusement, and I can’t help but note he has that perennial bad boy appeal—and not in a good way—I’m talking fresh out of the slammer tattoo factory, body is a coloring book right up to that lip print I gifted his neck, eyes red with rage and quite possibly the aftereffect of a quasi-illegal substance. He’s older than me by a decade at least. My guess is he’s no frat brat, just a roving troublemaker looking to get drunk and sunk between some poor unsuspecting barfly’s thighs. And as long as he’s got at least a ten-dollar bill with my name on it in that dingy pocket of his, I couldn’t care less what illegal substances or raging sluts this greaseball does to fill his downtime.
“Watch where you’re going, kid,” he barks it out like a reprimand while trying once again to charge right through me. Instinctively, I slap my hands over his chest, sending him sailing backward as his phone slips from his pocket along with a tiny white receipt.
His cell makes an awful slapping sound that penetrates the music blasting through the speakers, taking the decibels in this place to jet engine levels. Oh crap. That can’t be good.
“Did you just push me?” he barks once again, his upper lip set in a snarl as if he were a rabid dog—an insult to rabid dogs everywhere.
“You bet your greasy dollars I did.” My voice is a bit snippier than usual, but I can’t help it. This block of less than hygienic flesh has my blood boiling. “I suggest you watch where you’re going and think twice before referring to me in a derogatory manner—likening me to some kid. I’m all woman, moron, and don’t you forget it,” I shout up over the 12 Deadly Sins, the house band happily blaring away while Dirty Boy—and yes, I don’t mind one bit reducing him to the childish moniker—bends over to pick up his cell phone with an alarming lightning-shaped crack running the length of the screen.
Dear God, how I pray it was damaged well before our scuffle because I sure as heck don’t have two nickels to buy him a new one. I’m pretty sure a week’s worth of my measly tips wouldn’t be able to fix a cracked screen either. And a douchebag like Dirty Boy will certainly want to pin the blame on me.
His eyes narrow in on mine, dark and beady. “Honey, I’ve got bigger fish to fry. Stay out of my way. And if you’re still around by the end of the night, I’ll gladly take you out back and teach you a lesson or two on how to be a real woman.” He winks while brushing his finger over my cheek, and I gag on a thousand different expletives. Dirty Boy dives to my left and thankfully disappears in a flurry of bodies.
“So help me God, I will kill or maim that jackass before the night is through,” I mutter. And just as I’m about to rush over to clock in, the receipt that fell from his pocket catches my eye and I pick it up myself. “On top of being a sexist idiot, he’s a damn litterbug, too.” I glance at it a moment. It’s just a string of numbers written across the front. I plunge it into my pocket without thinking. It’s probably last night’s bed-hopper’s number. I bet after a few beers he’ll be willing to fork out the big bucks to get this valuable promise of STDs back in his possession.
Cole, the bartender, nods my way as I make my way over to clock in. Holt, one of the owners, is usually working alongside him, but he and his wife, Izzy, just had a sweet baby girl named Paige.
Baby fever seems to have swept through Hollow Brook this last year as evidenced by my sweet and yet not-so-innocent cousin Sunday getting knocked up after a one-night stand that she happened to have with the love of her life, Seth. They’re officially together now—engaged to be exact.
Sunday wants a simple courthouse wedding, but there’s no way in hell I’m letting that legal nightmare ensue—the courthouse, not the wedding. Lex and I are gunning to surprise her with something nice at the overlook come Fourth of July. Seth says he’s fine with it, but if the moment arrives, and Sunday decides it’s not what she wants, we’ve agreed to pull out of the endeavor. Pulling out isn’t something in which Seth is an expert, thus the fact their baby is due in September. But, overall, Seth is a great guy, and I just know they’re a perfect fit.
Seth’s sister, Misty, is married to Sunday’s brother, Nolan, so it’s kind of cozy that they’re keeping things in the family quite literally. Nolan, Sunday, and their brother, Rush, are my first cousins on my aforementioned deadbeat of a mother’s side. Since they lost their own mother more than a decade ago through a tragic accident and I lost mine due to negligence on her part—rumor has it, an old boyfriend and a casino had a starring role in the tragedy—my older sister, Lex, stepped in and played the part of mama bird to us all. It’s ironic, of course, since Lex was the least likely of the bunch with a maternal instinct. She’s sort of an anti-nurturer, but she did her best and we’ve all grown up in appreciation of her efforts.
As much as I love my sister, I’ve tried to keep my distance ever since I set foot at Whitney Briggs. Suddenly, she’s a tad too maternal now that my virginity has a glaring spotlight over it—no thanks to the fact Sunday had a fire sale on her own. Nevertheless, I plan on bumping into more than my fair share of bad boys while I’m at WB—sans Dirty Boy and that greasy grin of his. I’d like to teach him a lesson out back—with the working end of my stiletto.
I clock in before heading straight to my area and cringe at the matrimonial sight before me.
A bride seated at a table set for twenty. A very bedraggled looking, sour-faced, pissed off bride with a dress that looks as if she just yanked it out of the bottom of a trash can, wrinkled, grimy—and is that a tire track across the front? I’m guessing the nuptials didn’t go the way God intended.
“Welcome to the Black Bear Saloon,” I say, hopping next to her while whipping out my notepad. “Can I get something started for you while you await the rest of your party?” Like a good divorce attorney perhaps, I want to add but shockingly don’t. Tonight seems to be taking on a life of its own. It sure doesn’t need me running off my mouth, even though Lex’s husband, Axel, is a perfectly good attorney turned restaurateur—and this poor bedraggled bride looks as if she needs the brightest and the best in the legal department. Axel and a couple of his buddies opened up a similar bar-slash-eatery over on the ritzier, far less studious, side of town called The Sloppy Pelican. Axel’s brother, Shep, is an attorney as well. I make a face without meaning to. It’s sort of my go-to response when that public defending nuisance comes to mind, and I do my best to swat him away like the mental gnat he is.
“She’s younger than me. She’s got big boobs, too.” The bullish and yet somewhat blushing bride smirks up at me.
Whoa. I take a step back in hopes to duck out of the toxic current she’s just emitted. It looks as if she’s coming in hot with a full tank of ethanol judging by that slight slur in her speech coupled with the vodka breeze.
She slaps her left hand on the table, and I can’t help but note there’s nary a sign of any ring or bling. “Hell, he probably calls them tits because men are pigs that way.”
“Uh…right.” No matter how much I agree with her I’m about to steer this conversation in a culinary direction when a mob of women in alarmingly matching, slightly dingy, bedraggled wedding dresses storm in. And sadly, I’m not in the least surprised.
At the moment, I’m talking to who I guess to be the head bitter bride, an older woman with severe bags under her eyes. Her face looks blotchy and bloated, as worn out as that gray dress she’s donned. A ratted veil is staked into her thick blonde hair, and it looks as if she just plucked it off a corpse bride—not that she doesn’t qualify as one herself. I clear my throat. “You know what?” I muse as the bitter bride brigade falls into their seats like a coven of angry witches whose spells have all just backfired. “Why don’t you ladies take your time with the menu? I’ll be back in just a bit to take your order.”
The head bride lets out a mean whoop while waving in another whole legion of runaway brides in this direction. “Oh, honey, this is going to be one hell of a breakup bash. I came within inches of that unholy altar before I saw the light, and believe you me I’m damn thankful. You just keep the margaritas coming. Hell, we can cut out the middleman. Just send the damn bartender this way. We’ll figure out what to do with him.” The entire table breaks out into cackles over that salacious remark.
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Hot Honey Kisses (3:AM Kisses 17)