Martini glasses

Martinis & Pretzels

I sat at the island-themed bar. “I don’t suppose the kitchen’s still open,” I said when the bartender asked me what I wanted. He shook his head. “Pretzels it is,” I said, pawing at the bowl and ordering a martini to wash them down. I’d been at the resort for nearly a week, but being Kadeja’s maid of honor hadn’t left much time to enjoy the island—or my vacation.

The bartender placed the martini in front of me. “Compliments of an admirer.” He nodded over my shoulder.

When I turned to look, my breath caught in my throat. Kadeja’s cousin Kyle Hardison offered a sexy half-smile that made my toes curl.

He made his way to the bar, the subtle swagger in his hips making my cheeks flush. “Ms. Shaw,” he said in a voice that was a smooth as bourbon and just as intoxicating. I’d been hearing it all week, but my reaction to it hadn’t mellowed any. He slid onto the stool next to me. “Finally, a moment alone.”

“Well, alone together.” I tried to drown out the stupidity of that answer with gulps of my drink.

He leaned closer. “Alone. My kind of party.”

I forced a small smile. What the heck did that mean?

He signaled the bartender. “Two more.”

“No thanks.” I held up a hand. “One’s my limit. Early flight tomorrow morning.” I took another pretzel from the bowl. “Can’t oversleep the alarm.”

Kyle chuckled. “As if you’re going to be sleeping tonight.”

My hand froze halfway to my mouth, the pretzel dangling between my thumb and forefinger. Clearly Kyle didn’t understand the fine line between self-confidence and cockiness. He pulled my hand to his mouth and darted his tongue out to suck the pretzel into his mouth. Horrified, I watched as his tongue reappeared to slather saliva-covered pretzel crumbs over my finger.

The bartender interrupted this show to set down the drinks. I mouthed “thank you” to him and jerked my hand back. I took a healthy swig of my drink, then excused myself to race to the bathroom, where I scrubbed my hand clean. I took several deep breaths to clear my head before heading back to the bar, determined to end this night immediately.

I blinked at the empty bar stools.

“He left you a message,” the bartender said. He held out a key card. “He’ll be waiting to—and I quote—‘rock your world’ in his room.”

I snorted in a most unladylike fashion.

The bartender smiled and dropped the card in the trash. “Thank God. I was going to give up on the human race altogether if that line worked on you.”

“Oh, I don’t know. After that whole pretzel bit, I was putty in his hands.”

The bartender laughed. “Jesus, what was that, anyway?” He shook his head. “I’ve seen a lot of things in this job, but…” He shuddered in disgust.

“Yeah, well, you weren’t on the receiving end of that bit.” I held up my drink in a mock toast, then finished it off and slammed the empty glass onto the bar. I held out my hand. “Name’s Annie, by the way.”

He eyed my hand. “You did wash that thing, right?”

“Like seventeen times!”

He studied it a few more seconds before finally reaching out to shake it. “Nice to meet you, Annie. I’m Jake.”

“Jake. Now that’s a manly name.” I hiccupped, then slapped a hand over my mouth. When I was sure I wouldn’t hiccup again, I said, “Oops, sorry. I really shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach.”

Jake leaned both elbows on the counter. “If you can manage another thirty minutes or so until I close up here, there’s a mom-and-pop place just around the corner that sells the best island food you will ever taste.”

“Considering that I haven’t had any island food all week—”

“You’re kidding!” When I shrugged, he stood up and called out to the few patrons still in the bar. “Closing time, everybody. Pay up and get out.”

“Can you do that?” I whispered.

He winked at me. “I just did.”

The food was just as amazing as he promised, and the cook was all too happy to bring out dish after dish for me to sample, each one more delicious than the last. When he offered dessert, I begged off, so he and his wife brought a bottle of wine and joined us at the table, sharing stories about their fifty-plus years on the island.

The sun was peeking over the horizon when Jake and I said our thanks and made our way back to the hotel. We walked quietly, enjoying the early morning.

At the hotel’s entrance, Jake pulled me to a stop. “How soon’s your flight?”

I glanced at my watch and winced. “The airport shuttle leaves in twenty minutes.”

He grabbed my hand and pulled it to his mouth, lightly brushing the back of my hand with his lips. “Thank you, my sweet Annie, for a night I will never forget.”

“I’m sure you say that to all the girls with pretzel-covered fingers.”

He held my hand at arm’s length, feigning mock disgust, but he couldn’t keep up the act and soon we were both laughing.

We stopped when someone cleared his throat loudly. Kyle stood a few feet from us, frowning. “A night with me would’ve changed your life, girl.” His smooth voice was now snide and ugly, like crushed glass.

I gave Jake a sidelong glance. “I’m perfectly happy with my life right now.” I looked back to Kyle. “But thanks for the offer.” I hooked my arm through Jake’s and led him into the hotel. “Maybe I should extend my vacation for a few more days, actually tour the island. What do you think?”

He shifted to put his arm around my shoulders and leaned in to whisper, “Can I be your private tour guide?”

“Absolutely.”

He squeezed my shoulder. “Absolutely.”

 

***

This story originally appeared on Romance Novels in Color Love Bites 4 prompt.

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