“I am,” I said, not flirtatiously. “And I’m thirsty this time around.”

His light eyes gleamed at me. “And what can I get you?”

There was no mistaking the deepening of his voice, or the innuendo in it.

I stubbornly ignored it. “Do you have Fuligni wine? A glass of Brunello di Montalcino if you have it.”

His mouth kicked up at the right corner. “Coming straight up, Ms. Bacall.”

I tried to hide my amusement as he alluded to my penchant for the forties era in my personal style. He turned away from me to pour a glass of wine and I drank in his broad back, feeling the lust stirring in my lower belly.

Bugger, bugger.

He turned back to me, his eyes glimmering with flirtation as he slid the drink slowly across the bar to me.

“How much do I owe you?”

“We’ll put it on a tab.” He leaned his elbows on the bar, bringing his gorgeous face closer to mine.

I found myself falling into the blue-green depths of his heated gaze.



I snatched up the glass and took a rather unladylike gulp.

For some reason this made the bartender chuckle. He held out a hand to me as I lowered my glass back to the bar. “I’m Craig.”

Not really wanting to shake his hand, but not rude enough to ignore it, I slipped my hand into his and sucked in a breath when his grip tightened. He pulled me gently forward in the stool.

“I’m Rain.” I tugged on my hand and he released it, but only after brushing his thumb over my skin and making it tingle.

“Rain.” His lips twitched again.

What was it about me he found so vastly amusing?

“Rain Alexander.”

“Rain Alexander,” he repeated. “Stunning name for a stunning woman.”

I cocked my head to the side and studied him. Last night when he wasn’t watching me he was flirting with all of his female customers. Flirtiness just exuded from this man’s pores.

Unfortunately for Mr. Flirt, I didn’t know how to flirt back.

In this case that was fortunate for me because I didn’t want to flirt back!

“You should really stop flirting with me,” I said matter-of-factly.

He raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“I don’t know how to flirt back. I never learned the art of it.”

“I find it hard to believe that a woman as beautiful as you doesn’t know how to flirt.”

“That right there is why I never bothered to learn to flirt. It’s all bullshit.” I shrugged.

Craig laughed. “Okay. I’m listening.”

Glancing around the quiet bar I realized he really was settling in to listen because there were no other customers to distract him. I looked back at him, hoping what I had to say next would offend his sensibilities enough to get him to leave me to my “work.” “Last night I watched you flirt with every female customer. I bet my life on it that you call them all ‘gorgeous,’ ‘beautiful,’ ‘stunning,’ no matter if they’re any of those things or not. So . . . when you say those words to me, they mean absolutely nothing. The flutter I would get in my belly if another man said them to me, that flush of pleasure I’d feel along my skin, it doesn’t happen when a man like you says them to me . . . because the words have become so throwaway, so overused, they’ve lost their meaning entirely.”

I studied Craig as he processed my words, and he seemed genuinely perturbed by them. He leaned farther across the bar and I got a whiff of the delicious, spicy cologne he was wearing, and that flutter his compliments didn’t provoke suddenly awoke in my belly. I flushed and then thanked my mother’s Puerto Rican heritage for my tan skin that didn’t blush.

“See, that’s where you and I disagree,” he said softly, and the low timber of his voice, combined with the heat in his eyes, only wreaked more havoc on my body. “I believe that there is something beautiful about every woman, so when I say they’re gorgeous, or they’re beautiful, I do mean it.”

I liked that. But I wasn’t convinced it wasn’t a line. “You’re a connoisseur of women,” I guessed, curling my top lip at the thought. “You know just the right thing to say.”

His eyes were drawn to my mouth and I shivered at the naked thoughts in his gaze. “I just say what I feel in the moment.” His gaze flicked back up to my eyes. “Right now I’m thinking you have the most luscious fucking mouth I’ve ever seen in my life.”

A shiver rippled down my shoulders and around to my chest. My nipples tightened and their reaction caused that telltale tingling between my thighs.

Oh bugger, bugger, bugger.

I fought hard to mask my reaction and I think I succeeded because Craig narrowed his eyes in thought as he studied me.

I gave a huff of laughter. “What do you want me to say? I’ve already told you I can’t flirt back, and that with someone like you it doesn’t affect me. You don’t make me feel special when I’m just one in a million.”

“You’re very honest, aren’t you?” he murmured, not looking at all disinterested like I’d wanted him to.

“I say what I feel.”

“And I’m trying to tell you I do the same.” He grinned at me suddenly and its boyish charm practically melted my insides. “I’ve decided I’m not going to lose heart. I’ve got all night to convince you.”

I frowned at his tenacity. “You might not have all night. I’m probably going to leave after I finish my wine.”

“No, you’re not.” He leaned over the bar again. “Because you’re here for a reason. You’re up to something.” He trailed a finger along the inside of my wrist and I couldn’t mask my shiver this time. His eyes brightened knowingly and his grin turned smug, arrogant.

I narrowed my eyes and snatched my hand away from his reach. “I just happen to be sensitive there. Don’t get cocky.”

Craig pinched his lips together to stop himself from laughing, but the effort was railroaded by the laughter in his eyes.

I felt an answering tug of amusement at my own lips and I looked away, hoping the absence of his face would stifle it.

“So who are you looking for?”

My gaze snapped back to him at the question but thankfully I didn’t have to answer because a group of girls wandered into the club, laughing and making a lot of noise. They headed straight for the bar.

Craig winked at me and strode away to help Jo serve them.

Even knowing I shouldn’t, I watched him as he chatted and flirted with the girls. Part of me admired the fact that he didn’t suddenly stop flirting with them in order to make some headway with me, but another, much larger, part was disappointed.

The truth was I’d craved affection my whole life, and since much of my childhood was spent receiving so little, I’d become especially greedy in my adulthood. Since my first boyfriend when I was sixteen, I’d longed to be the only female (who wasn’t related to him) to matter to anyone I dated. I wanted to be a man’s whole world. Like . . . he’d die for me kind of love and vice versa.

When I was fourteen, lonely and starving for affection, I’d fallen in love with romance novels, and ever since then I’d hoped for an epic love story of my own.

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