Copyright © 2012 Myla Jackson
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Jackson Gray Wolf had just about had enough of the loud music, shouts from drunken cowboys and the smell of alcohol that permeated the air at the Ugly Stick Saloon. If not for the company of the owner-bartender, Audrey Anderson, he’d have left hours ago and returned to collect his twin brothers, Mark and Luke, at last call.
Mark whirled by on the dance floor to a lively two-step, a red-haired cowgirl tucked tightly against his body.
“About ready to head home?” Jackson called out as his brother turned and guided his partner toward the other end of the floor.
“Nope.” Mark twirled the girl and hollered, “Hell yeah!” to the song the band was playing.
Luke swung by with a pretty brunette. “Maybe an hour?” He grinned broadly. “Why aren’t you dancin’?”
Jackson shrugged. “Not in the mood.” Truth was, he hadn’t been in the mood for the past six months. With his thirtieth birthday fast approaching, he’d fallen into a funk the size of Texas and couldn’t figure out why. The girls there tonight were just that…girls. Young girls, silly girls, girls who giggled at nearly every word he said. Where were the more mature women?
“What’s got you down, Jackson?” Audrey plunked a cup of coffee in front of him and leaned over the counter, her brow wrinkled into a frown. “You haven’t been yourself lately.”
“Who said there’s somethin’ wrong?” He curled his fingers around the mug, letting the heat warm him.
“You used to be out there dancing with the twins like it was some kind of race.”
“I’m gettin’ too old for that nonsense.”
She straightened, her brows rising into the fringe of strawberry-blonde hair hanging down over her forehead. “Hey, if you’re gettin’ too old, what does that make me? A hag?”
Jackson’s gaze went to the V of Audrey’s blouse where the rounded curves of her breasts pushed up. “Far from it, baby.”
She tapped his hand. “Hey, the eyes are up here.”
A grin stretched Jackson’s lips wide, and he glanced up into Audrey’s baby-blue eyes. “I know that, but the view was better where I was at.”
“Jerk.” Despite her word, her eyes danced.
A customer leaned against the bar and ordered two whisky shooters. Audrey turned to the array of bottles lining the wall behind the bar and reached for the brand of whisky the man had asked for. No skinny minny, Audrey had a curvy ass encased in skin-hugging, washed-out jeans. An ass a man could get his hands on.
Jackson’s groin tightened. Now here was a real woman, the kind he could sink his…er…teeth into.
Audrey’s snug jeans molded to the curve of her butt and thighs, narrowing down the length of her long, beautiful legs to tuck neatly into go-to-hell, bright red cowboy boots, which sported diamond-shaped metal studs. She wore those boots just about everywhere.
Born and raised in the Texas panhandle, Audrey knew what Jackson knew—the only way to get what you wanted was to work hard and maybe break a few well-chosen rules along the way. And she’d done just that to get this bar started. Modeled after the Coyote Ugly bar in New York City, Audrey had hired only the pretty waitresses who could dance, some who could sing and all of which could sling drinks like a pro. As a side, she provided strippers, both male and female, for private parties, bachelorette parties and special occasions.
Tough but fair is what each of her girls would say about her. And the tips were good, so none of them complained about Audrey’s hard-line approach. And to think, Audrey had accomplished all that in her twenties. She’d beat Jackson to thirty last year, celebrating her birthday with the two-year anniversary of the Ugly Stick Saloon. It had been a big blowout party with a live band, cheap beer and free rides home to those who couldn’t drive themselves.
She had this bar-owner thing down like it was second nature. Some men found it intimidating. Jackson thought Audrey was sexy as hell. He’d toyed with the idea of asking her out, only to talk himself out of it too many times to count, always waiting for the right moment, the right situation. That right moment had never happened. Now, it felt like he’d missed his chance.
With a sigh, he turned to stare at his younger brothers. Maybe after they settled down, Jackson could get a life of his own. He’d been responsible for them ever since their parents died in an auto accident back when he’d been a senior in college. Mark and Luke had been fifteen years old at the time. Jackson had barely turned twenty-one when he’d stepped into his father’s shoes to run the ranch and finish raising the twins.
At twenty-four, Mark and Luke showed no signs of slowing down. If anything, they were speeding up. He couldn’t blame them for wanting to have fun. Hell, had he been this carefree at their age, he’d have been dancing with every young thing in the bar. Probably taking one home for a little…
A long, curvy drink of water slipped in front of him, her red boots tapping to the beat of the music. “Hey, cowboy, you gonna ask me to dance, or do I have to ask you?” Audrey grabbed his hand and tugged him toward the dance floor.
Jackson slipped from the barstool and allowed her to drag him along, even though he wasn’t so sure he wanted to have fun. Where could it lead? “I haven’t had enough to drink.”
Audrey tossed her hair and shot a saucy grin his way. “Good, I didn’t want you walkin’ all over my good boots.”
He swung her into his arms and eased them into the crowd moving in a wide circle around the dance floor. The music transitioned to a slow country waltz, and half of the couples used it as an opportunity to rest and get another drink.
Audrey closed her eyes, letting her body feel the music. She melted against Jackson, her body pressing into his. What would it take to get the man to notice her as someone other than the owner of this bar? She’d flashed her boobs, given him a face-full of ass and now she rubbed her body against his from knee to shoulder. The man had to be dead or gay not to get the hint.
Did she have to throw herself at him and ask him to take her to bed? Damn it, she hadn’t gotten laid in over a year, and the battery on her vibrator had died the night before. What else was a girl to do? All she wanted was a little relief here. Hello.
Her hands slipped around his waist and down into the back pockets of his jeans. She’d much rather be touching skin, but dancing was the closest she’d come to having sex in a long time. She’d been eyeing Jackson Gray Wolf for months, wondering what it would take to get him into her bed.
Both of them had been too busy with their own businesses to take the time out to relax and engage in a little nooky. Her thirtieth birthday had come and gone, and the death of her fourth set of vibrator batteries had her practically frothing at the mouth and other places farther south.
About the time Audrey began to think the man just wasn’t into her, Jackson’s fingers moved along her spine, spanning her waist, sliding down over her bottom to cup her ass. He pulled her up against the thick ridge of his c**k, which pressed against the metal rivets of his jeans.
“Ummm. That’s more like it.” She laid her head on his chest, the steady beat of his heart thump-thumping in her ear. Or was that the bass drum, tapping in time to the music? Whatever, it felt good.
He slipped a hand up her side, his thumb brushing beneath her breast. “Is it hot in here, or is it me?”
“Baby, it’s definitely you,” Audrey said. “Want to get some air? I could use a break.”
As Jackson pulled away from Audrey, she wondered if she’d made the right decision. Outside, there wouldn’t be enough noise and confusion to mask her blatant attempt to flirt with the man. Good Lord, why did she care? Every man and woman old enough to hold a liquor bottle in this county knew Audrey Anderson could hold her own in a bar and in a fight. Most would say she had the confidence of a prizefighter.
And when it came to the Ugly Stick Saloon, her confidence was hard-earned and recognized by even the worst of the roughest rednecks.
When it came to relationships, she sucked. Most men were intimidated by her forthrightness and straight talk. Some were turned off by it. Part of that was the act she put on. Part of it was her own hesitation. The last long-term relationship she’d been in had turned into a mess. He’d wanted to dominate her to the point of beating her.
Audrey wasn’t putting up with that ever again. Still, part of her liked a man with a firm hand. Just not a heavy hand. Thus the long dry spell. She’d toyed with the idea of going lesbian until Jackson Gray Wolf caught her eye. But the only man who had interested her in the least hadn’t shown any indication of wanting to have sex with her. Well, now was her chance to see if he’d consider it, or if he truly was immune to her.
She led the way toward the exit when Charli, her assistant manager and lead bartender, snagged her arm. “Audrey, we’re out of Johnnie Walker Whisky up front, and I can’t find that case we’d ordered in the storeroom.”
Audrey swallowed her frustration and spoke calmly. “Get Libby to find it.”
“She’s filling in for a waitress on break, and there are ten people at the bar hollerin’ for drinks. I could use a little help here.”
Audrey sighed, casting an apologetic smile at Jackson. “Stay, follow or just forget it, I have to get this.” She veered off toward the storeroom, her steps eating the distance. If Jackson stayed put, would he be there when she got back? Or would he leave, bored with the whole idea of stepping outside with her?
Pulling a ring of keys from her jeans pocket, she opened the storeroom and switched on the light. The whisky Charli needed was perched on the top shelf. Audrey hooked the step stool with her foot, dragged it toward the shelf and climbed up, sliding the heavy box of whisky toward her. She teetered, the weight causing her to lean backward more than she’d expected.
A large, solid palm attached itself to her butt, bracing her from falling.
“Let me get that.” Jackson’s hand moved from her ass to the box over her head, lifting it from her fingers.
Greta Sue, one of Audrey’s best bouncers, stepped into the doorway, her linebacker body filling the entrance. “Charli said you’d have some whisky for her.”
“Right here.” Audrey ducked beneath Jackson’s arm, grabbed the heavy box from him and handed it to the bouncer. “Take this to Charli. I’ll be out there to help in a minute.”
“Yes, ma’am.” After Greta Sue left, Audrey stood with her back to Jackson, her pulse slowly returning to normal. “I guess I’d better get back to work.”
She only took one step before Jackson hooked her arm and pulled her back into the storeroom. He kicked shut the door, spun her to face him and then backed her against the wood panel.
Her heart pounding, her vocal cords locking in her throat, Audrey stared up into the midnight-black, smoldering eyes of the Kiowa Indian. Every one of the Gray Wolf brothers had the signature hair and eyes, blacker than the night, and broad shoulders that filled any room they entered. But only Jackson captured her attention and held it so tightly she could barely breathe. He was strong, powerful and reeking of male testosterone. She wanted him to command her, to force her to submit to his every desire.
Audrey fought to regain her breath, bad memories rising to the surface. Suddenly she felt the need to run before she did something she might regret, like fall for the guy. “I really should be getting back to work.”
He planted a hand against the door, effectively blocking any attempt on her part to escape. His brawny arm stretched beside her, the sun-kissed skin smelling of the outdoors and leather. “Do you work all the time?”
Audrey’s inner panic dissolved as her panties dampened, the stirrings of lust gripping her so strongly she couldn’t shake it. “I could ask you the same thing.” Was that really her voice, usually so strong and clear, now breathy and husky?
“I’m here, aren’t I?” He brushed a strand of her hair away from her face and tucked it behind her ear.
“Only as designated driver to your brothers.” She leaned her face into his hand. “They’re adults now. You didn’t have to come.”
“And miss the opportunity to see you?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Since when did you care if you saw me?”
He inched closer, his lips hovering over hers, his knee pressing between her thighs. “Since forever.”
“Liar.” Audrey flattened her hands against his chest with the intent to push him away. Instead, her fingers curled, dragging him nearer by the fabric of his chambray shirt.
With his lips so near, Audrey couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. When he didn’t seal the kiss, she glanced up, her gaze meeting his.
“Has anyone ever told you that your eyes are as blue as a rain-washed summer sky?” His deep tone resonated against the cardboard boxes of liquor lining the storeroom walls.
Audrey laughed, her stomach fluttering, her knees turning to liquid. “No.”
“Well, someone should. Because they are very beautiful.” His mouth descended, crushing hers with the force of his kiss.
She gasped, her lips parting to allow him inside.
He swept past her teeth, delving deep to tangle and twist, thrusting in and out to the rhythm of lust. His fingers laced in her hair, tugging hard enough to make her scalp sting. The blasts of pain only made Audrey hotter.
Her thighs clenched around Jackson’s knee, her c**t rubbing along the rough denim of his jeans. She ached with the need to be naked, to feel his skin against hers.
Jackson’s lips left hers, burning a trail across her chin and along the convulsing column of her throat. With his free hand, he flipped the buttons loose from her blouse, shoving the edges over her shoulders and down her arms, exposing her favorite demi-bra, the thin black lace barely hiding her nipples. She whispered a silent prayer to the laundry gods for the piles of clothing she needed to wash, forcing her to wear her best bra and panties tonight.