One Night of Trouble (After Hours Book 3)
by Elle Kennedy
A sexy category romance from Entangled’s Brazen imprint…
No More Mr. Nice Guy…
The moment AJ Walsh sees the sexy, tattooed pixie walk up to his bar, it’s lust at first sight. He’s always been labeled the “nice” guy?opening doors, buying flowers, and never, ever having one-night stands. But with this wicked little angel with red lips and unfathomably dark eyes? Oh, yeah. Tonight, “nice” has nothing to do with it…
Brett Conlon is trying to convince her family that she’s put away her reckless wild girl side for good. Nothing?and no one?could be better for her reputation than golden boy AJ Walsh. So they make a deal: if he plays The Good Boyfriend for her family, he can be a very, very bad boy with her. Now their one naughty night is about to turn into a whole lot of trouble…
Excerpt One Night of Trouble
“Hey, hot stuff, what do you say you meet me out front after you get off?” the busty blonde cooed as she sauntered up to the bar. “And then we can get each other off…”
AJ Walsh was torn between groaning and laughing. He found himself on the receiving end of some seriously shameless pick-up lines on a nightly basis, but this one was more blatantly sexual than most, accompanied by the seductive batting of mascara-thick eyelashes and a lewd display of lip-licking.
“Sorry, sweetheart. I’m flattered, but I’ve got a girlfriend,” he told his would-be pursuer.
“So?” She didn’t even blink.
He raised a brow. “So I’m not on the market.”
The blonde wrinkled her nose in distaste. “Loser.”
She took her teased hair, skintight dress, and four-inch heels, and sashayed away from the counter without ordering a thing.
The second she was gone, AJ released the laughter bubbling in his throat. Well. That was new. Being called a loser for not wanting to cheat on his girlfriend with a clearly drunk chick at a nightclub? If that made him a loser, then he didn’t want to be a winner.
On the other hand, he was a liar, because he definitely didn’t have a girlfriend at the moment. Nope, he was flying solo and hating it, but after three years of tending bar, he’d learned that sometimes a little white lie was the best way to get the more persistent women off his back.
He glanced at the other two bartenders, pleased to see them hard at work slinging drinks and chatting with the customers. Henry and Sue were his most reliable employees, and he made a point to always schedule them on Friday, the club’s busiest night. Technically he didn’t even need to be there tonight—his people had everything covered—but he enjoyed making drinks and getting to know his clientele.
When he’d first opened Sin with his two best friends, it had been a no-brainer as to who would handle what. Gage, the toughest and most intense of the three, was in charge of security and oversaw their team of bouncers. Reed, the most antisocial, worked in the upstairs office area and dealt with the business end of things. And as the “people person” of the trio, AJ tended bar and managed the servers.
The arrangement suited him just fine, and since their grand opening three years ago, Sin had quickly become one of the most popular clubs in downtown Boston. It had even turned a profit in its first year of business, which AJ was pretty damn proud of.
The only downside to his job was the onslaught of graphic come-ons from women he had no interest in, a turnoff that was kinda ironic considering he was a thirty- year-old, red-blooded male with a healthy libido. Other men would kill to trade places with him, AJ was fully aware of that, but he wasn’t about to take advantage of the usually intoxicated females who threw themselves at him. It didn’t feel right.
He’d never indulged in a one-night stand, but if he ever did, he wanted it to be with a woman who was coherent enough to know what she was doing.
As a dark head entered his line of vision, AJ voiced his standard question without even glancing at the customer. “What can I get you?”
In the beat of silence, he focused on the woman in front of him, and his breath hitched when he got lost in a pair of bottomless brown-bordering-on-black eyes. He shifted his gaze, soaking in her delicate features, full red lips, and shoulder-length raven hair before doing a sweep of her petite body, clad in all black.
Her tank top left her arms bare, which meant he didn’t miss her tattoos—a painstakingly detailed angel on her left forearm, a cluster of stars on her right biceps, and a ring of roses around her left wrist. The tats were surprisingly feminine and insanely sexy, and he suddenly had the craziest urge to strip her naked and find out if she had more ink beneath her tight top and skinny jeans.
Man. It’d been a long time since he’d experienced total lust overload. He encountered attractive women all the frickin’ time, but this tiny pixie of a woman was more than attractive. The sexy combo of fragility and badassness hardened his cock, and he shifted his position so that the counter hid his lower body better.
When he realized she still hadn’t spoken, he raised his voice over the pounding dance beat reverberating through the main floor. “What’ll it be?”
She snapped out of whatever trance she’d fallen into, but still looked startled. A tad wary, too, but he had to be imagining it.
“Three margaritas and a Coke,” she replied after another long pause.
“Coming right up.” It was difficult to tear his gaze off her, but he forced himself to act professional, sliding to the other end of the counter to prepare her drinks.
He jiggled the stainless-steel margarita shaker more vigorously than necessary, a sense of nervous energy overtaking him. Fuck. He wanted to talk to her. Find out her name.
Convince her to go home with him.
And wasn’t that a mind-boggler. He spent most nights turning down offers for sex, and all of a sudden he was imagining screwing a complete stranger?
His friends would die of shock if they could read his thoughts right now. Gage and Reed viewed him as Mr. Nice Guy, the man who held doors open for his dates and didn’t sleep with a girl until they’d been seeing each other for a proper amount of time. The guy who offered women his shoulder to cry on and bought them flowers for every damn occasion.
But he supposed they had every right to see him as the nicest guy on the planet. It was the image he tried to project most of the time, the label he’d been striving his entire life to live up to.
Christ, if people only knew. How hard he worked to be that polite, dependable guy everyone could rely on. How badly he fought to suppress the wild urges that arose more often than not. How frustrating it was to dutifully play the part of prodigal son, good friend, reliable boyfriend.
He didn’t always succeed, though. Sometimes the need to truly let go couldn’t be ignored. He had to ease it, and in the past, he’d used fighting to do that. He’d heard that people frequently used sex or violence as an outlet for release, as a way to feel alive, and he couldn’t deny that his days as an MMA fighter had certainly soothed the darker, restless part of himself that he usually hid from the world. Sex, on the other hand, didn’t achieve the same result. It had always been more intimate for him, tangled up with love and relationships and all that emotional stuff.
But for some strange reason, the raven-haired woman at the counter had unleashed his carnal, reckless urges. Because suddenly the idea of going home with a stranger had become very, very appealing…
“You gonna take those over to the customer? Or just keep staring at them?”
His head jerked at Sue’s teasing voice. Ignoring his aching cock, he glanced down, realizing that the drinks he’d poured were now sitting on the bar top waiting to be delivered.
“Naah, I’ve got it. Just spaced out for a second.” He plastered on a smile, then carried the drinks over to where the woman was waiting—and staring. Staring hard, in fact, and her plump lips were puckered in the tiniest of frowns.
Unease washed over him, but he tried to ignore it. “Three margaritas and one Coke,” he announced.
She gave a polite smile in return. Very, very polite…so polite it was clearly forced, and his wariness only heightened.
“Thanks,” she said tightly. “How much do I owe you?”
His gaze stayed on her as she dug around in her purse for her wallet. Her body language was as stiff as her voice, a clear indication that she was ticked off about something.
“Here. Keep the change.” She dropped a twenty on the counter, then lifted her head and noticed him staring. “What?” she said irritably.
“You okay there? You look kinda pissed.” His eyes narrowed as a thought occurred to him. “Is anyone giving you a hard time? The crowd’s a little wilder than usual tonight—say the word and I’ll sic one of my bouncers on whoever’s bugging you.”
His concern didn’t spark warmth or gratitude, but more hostility. “I’m just peachy, pal. And FYI—if someone was harassing me, I’d take care of it myself.”
He studied her slim, no taller than five-two frame, his lips twitching in amusement. “Uh-huh. I’m sure you would, angel.”
“I might look small, but trust me, I can kick some serious ass,” she retorted.
She picked up two of the margaritas and took an abrupt step away.
AJ spoke before she could hurry off. “Is it something I said?”
A cloud of annoyance continued to hover over her. “Nope. Thanks for the drinks. I’ll be back in a sec to grab these two. Make sure no one messes with them, okay?”
This time she almost made it three steps before he stopped her. And this time he didn’t do it with words, but by rounding the counter, then leaving it entirely to come to her side.
Her mouth partially opened as she tilted her head to gaze up at him. “What are you doing?”
Rather than answer, he gave a quick shout in the direction of the counter. “Yo! Henry, I’m taking a break.” He picked up the two glasses that remained on the counter.
“Seriously, what are you doing?” she demanded.
“Carrying these drinks back to your table. And…”
The swell of music must have drowned out his words, because she leaned in closer. “What?” she yelled.
A rush of dizziness hit him as her intoxicating scent filled his nostrils. Lord, she smelled good. Like roses in full bloom, with a trace of lavender and a hint of something entirely feminine.
He repeated himself, his tone loud and firm. “And then I plan on figuring out what I did to piss you off.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake. This isn’t Cheers—I’m not going to have a heart-to-heart with a bartender, okay? Go back to work. I can carry my own drinks.”
He ignored her aggravated response. “Where are you sitting?”
She sighed with visible unhappiness, but he wasn’t about to back down. His original intentions of flirting with her had temporarily been sidelined. Right now he was more interested in finding out what he’d done to put that frown on her sexy mouth. He had no doubt that this was wholly personal—the way she was scowling at him made it clear she was pissed off at him.
Without a word, she set off in the other direction, threading through the crowd that packed the club like sardines. AJ stayed hot on her heels, inhaling her delicious fragrance with each breath. How was it that in a room permeated with perfume, cologne, and sweat, he only seemed to be breathing in her?
They reached one of the tall tables spanning the back wall, and once they’d set the drinks down, his frowning pixie quickly raised the Coke to her lips, sucking hard on the straw while avoiding his eyes.
AJ watched her drink the soda, thoughtful. “So you’re the Coke of the bunch. Wasn’t expecting that.”
She drained half the glass before answering in a terse voice. “I’m the DD.” Then, ignoring him completely, she turned to the dance floor and waved at someone he couldn’t see. She gestured to the margaritas, then made a cigarette- smoking motion with her hand and pointed to the side exit.
AJ glimpsed a slender blonde emerging from the dance floor to tend to the drinks, but the second he’d turned his head, the woman at his side tried to make her escape.
“Thanks for bringing the drinks. Have a good night.” Her words came out in a rush.
She darted away, but AJ was equally fast, trailing after her with ease. “Where are you running off to?”
“I need some fresh air. It’s hot in here.”
Okay, he was totally treading into stalker territory, yet he couldn’t stop himself from following her toward the exit and right out the door.
Silence greeted them in the alley between Sin and the adjacent building, broken by the occasional car honk or tire squeal from the main road beyond them. The cool spring breeze brushed over his bare arms, but he didn’t mind the chill. He was too focused on his pixie’s irritated face, which shone beneath the light fixture over the door.
“You’re still here,” she said flatly.
“Yup.” He cocked his head. “And you’re just telling lies all over the place, huh?”
Those mesmerizing dark eyes narrowed. “What the hell does that mean?”
“You just mimed to your friend that you’re coming out for a smoke.” He shrugged. “But you’re not lighting up. And you told me I didn’t do anything to piss you off, but obviously I did. So…” Another shrug. “Lies.”
There was a pause.
And then she exploded.
“I pretended I was going for a cigarette so I wouldn’t have to explain to my friend that I was actually trying to get away from this nosy bartender who won’t leave me alone! Dude, why are you even out here? Do you harass every chick who orders a drink from you? Maybe I should be siccing one of your bouncers on you.”
He sighed. “Tell me what I did to upset you, angel, and then I’ll go.”
“Would you stop calling me that?” she grumbled.
“What—angel? Why would I do that when it suits you oh so well?”
He brought his hand close to the tattoo on her forearm, his fingers lingering in the air. He hadn’t planned on touching her, but those dark eyes that fascinated him so damn much went heavy-lidded, and then she tentatively leaned into his outstretched fingertips.
As he gently skimmed the tattoo, she let out a shaky exhale, and AJ’s groin promptly stirred again. He traced the outstretched wings of the ethereal figure inked on her skin, then followed the angel’s wispy dress to the tangle of vines at her feet.
Lord, her skin was hot to the touch. Silky smooth. And he didn’t miss the throbbing of her pulse at the base of her slender throat, or the way her small breasts rose as she drew a deep breath.
Oh yeah. She liked having his hand on her skin. Just as much as he liked putting it there.
AJ shifted his feet again, praying her gaze wouldn’t drop south. The bulge straining against his zipper was impossible to hide. His pants suddenly felt too frickin’ tight, and his primal reaction to this woman made his head spin. He was usually more controlled than this, but damn it, there was no controlling the erection trying to poke right through his pants.
Or the relentless need to kiss the living daylights out of her.
“Do you really not remember me?” she blurted out. He froze. “Do we know each other?”