Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Excerpt of Hard Fall

Liam Derby stretched, letting the scarred back of the wood chair smack against the wall as he scanned the early evening bar crowd. The tall stools near the televisions were packed with local Red Sox fans but none of the people was anyone he knew.

Thank God.

“Need another, cowboy?”

After glancing at the nearly empty Rolling Rock bottle nestled in his right palm, he nodded to the overly attentive waitress. “Sure, thanks.”

She started to walk away, but hesitated, turning back to eye him cautiously from beneath dark lashes. “Um…Can I ask you a question?”

He lifted his eyebrows, silently inviting her to continue.

She pushed a few stray blonde curls off her cheek and giggled. “Is it true you—I mean cowboys…have sex with your, um—I mean their—hats on?”

Liam considered pushing back his hat to reveal his thick red hair or asking her if she’d ever seen an Irish cowboy, but that might force him into having to explain why he, a city slicker construction worker, was wearing a cowboy hat and an absurd Western-style shirt. The last thing he wanted to do was explain that. So instead, he winked and replied slowly enough to mask his Boston born-and-bred accent. “I never kiss and tell.”

Her slightly disappointed gaze darted up to the fresh-out-of-the-box black Stetson sitting atop his head down to his denim-covered crotch, then skittered back to his stunned face. But instead of saying something—which would have been the decent thing to do, she scooted off, dodging between the tables and giggling as she slid behind the bar.


What was it with women and cowboys?

Liam was about to check his watch again but the vibration of his phone stopped him short.

He flipped it open and checked the display.


“Where the hell are you?” he asked, not bothering with pleasantries like hello.

No reply from his brother, only deep laughter.

“What the hell? I’m sitting here in this fucking hat and this hideous shirt, nearly getting mauled by the waitresses, and all you can do is laugh?”

“So you’re wearing it? The hat? And the shirt?”

“Yes. And yes.” Liam glanced down at the snug, red and yellow-flowered shirt and fingered one of the white pearl snap buttons. “The least you could have done was gotten me a shirt that fits.”

After another burst of laughter, Crusher came back with, “Oh shit, I wish I could see it.”
“What do you mean wish?”

His brother replied but the words were lost in a burst of frustrated yelling when the batter from the Sox struck out again. When the noise lowered to a discontented murmur, Liam repeated his question.

“You’re really doing it? You’re sitting in Swifty’s wearing that stupid hat?” Crusher was nearly giddy with laughter.

“I lost the bet. I’m wearing the damn hat.”

“And flowered shirt?”

“Yes,” he ground out.

“Want to make another bet? We could add chaps if your team loses again.”

Liam checked the score on the screen. Texas 7. Boston 0. “No,” he grumbled. “You’ve made your point. Hurry up and get here so I can leave.”

After another burst of ear-grinding snickering, Crusher replied, “Can’t make it.”

The waitress slid up to the table, set down Liam’s beer with a gentle but firm thump, smiled, then slowly fell back, keeping her gaze connected with his until she nearly fell over backward when she bumped into a table. Still leering, she spun around and headed back to the bar, swishing her hips as she went.

Liam would’ve laughed, if he wasn’t feeling so stupid. As it was, he was in no mood to laugh.

“What do you mean, you can’t make it?”

“Got something going on with Natalie.”

Liam softened at the mention of his brother’s new girlfriend. She was a keeper, as far as he—and the rest of their very close family—was concerned. And it looked like she and Crusher were getting serious, which was a good thing.
But still—

“I know. You think I’m an ass. So we’ll make a deal. According to the bet you had to sit there until the end of the game. Since I’m not coming, you can leave.” He paused for effect, then added, “You’re off the hook. You have my permission to leave the bar.”

“For fuck’s sake, I—”

“You miss me. I know. I’ll make it up to you, I promise, so—”

While his brother was still babbling, Liam snapped his phone shut and slipped it back into his pocket. He leaned forward, dropped the legs of the chair to the floor, getting ready to leave until a sudden burst of excited shouting stopped him. A square shouldered old man was smacking palms with a wide-eyed college kid while a trio at the end of the bar started pounding on the counter, yelling, “Head for home! Run!”

Liam reached for the fresh beer, figuring he may as well drink it and see if his team could manage to climb out of the slump they’d fallen into. But all intentions of watching the game skittered from his mind when he spotted a woman make her way into the bar.

A skimpy white tank top that curved around a pin-up worthy rack, long legs and a short floral skirt so light that a gentle gust of wind could easily blow it up far enough to reveal a lacy pair of panties. Or even better, a thong. When she pushed back the long curls that cascaded down her back, she revealed delicate bone structure and lips that looked full, even from a distance.

Full and begging to be kissed.
Hard Fall will be released July 30 from Ellora's Cave.

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