Last Call, Book One
Copyright © 2018 by Aliyah Burke
Ellie sighed as she wiped down the bar in those final precious moments before they opened. Her peace and quiet about to be shattered by the men and women who would be showing up to Last Call for their Friday night drinking and hookups. She truly loved her job, but it took a bit for her to get into the persona she held while bartending to the military men and women that came here.
Tonight was going to be even louder than usual, as they were hosting a bachelor party for a lieutenant who was stationed there. A quick glance at her watch and another deep breath before she tossed the towel over her shoulder.
“You okay, Half Pint?”
Turning to look at her boss, Teach “Dogfish” Burton, she shook her head as a smile turned up her lips. “We are the same height, you know, right?”
He rolled the unlit cigar from one side of his mouth to the other then back again. Shoving a battle-scarred hand through his shorn hair, he shrugged. “You’re still a half pint to me.”
He was the only person on the face of this earth she would allow to call her such a name. After being in the man’s employ for over five years now, she’d come to figure him out. He called her that because he loved her but would never tell her.
“Are you hanging out tonight?”
“Of course I am. I’ll be here up until close.”
She walked toward him, holding his unwavering blue gaze. “Wasn’t the idea of having me as a manager so you didn’t have to be here every open moment?”
“What am I supposed to do on a Friday night in Hawaii?”
She battled the urge to roll her eyes and smack him with the towel. “Oh, I don’t know. Go out on a date.”
He crossed his massive arms over his barrel chest. “You first.”
“I would but I have a bar to open.” She kissed his cheek and moved on to the door, unlocking it and flipping the sign.
She ignored his muttered response, for there were already patrons coming in for the party. Most she knew as regulars but there were a few she’d not met yet.
“Thanks for allowing us to have this here, Dogfish,” Todd Smithson said as he smiled at her.
“You’re paying me, don’t think this is anything special.” Dogfish’s gruff reply had her turning away so no one saw her grin.
“Does he know you laugh at him?”
Whoa there. Stop everything. That voice right there belonged in a dimly lit bar where no one would notice if your nipples were hard with arousal. Only one man had that voice to her. She shifted her gaze up from the floor, along the long muscular legs that were encased in tight jeans, over the flat abdomen covered by the green shirt, and up to the tanned face. Dark brown eyes waited for her.
If there was one man who could make her lose her cool, this was him. Ex-Navy SEAL, quiet man who proudly sported his tribal tattoos on his arms. She’d seen him one time without his shirt on and knew he also had one on his shoulder.
“Depends,” she said, recovering and finding her voice.
“On?” He cocked an eyebrow.
“If you’re going to tell him or not?”
His smile damn near melted her panties and she took a deep breath, wishing for a moment they were somewhere alone, just the two of them.
“Secret’s safe with me, Smash. If he finds out it won’t be from me.”
“Smash?” She cocked her head to the side.
“Ellie,” Dogfish boomed. “Need you over here.”
He gave her a short nod. “Looks like that’s a story for another time.”
“That implies that this was a time.”
“Think on it, you’ll see it was.” He walked by her, leaving her to deal with Dogfish and what he needed.
As the night progressed, she didn’t have another opportunity to engage with Bennett further for the group at the bachelor party kept her hopping with fixing drinks. She didn’t mind, she had come to love her job. The people she got to meet and the stories she got to overhear. They weren’t interested in her life, her past, and that’s just what she wanted.
Even though they kept her busy, she still found time to cast a few stolen glances at Bennett. Each time she did, she swore he was watching her in return. No way to prove it, just her imagination playing with her and keeping her body in a state of ready alert.
Bennett remained the entire night. In his one spot, splitting his time between four beers total. Dogfish kept his drink for him, leaving her and the others to tend with the partiers.
“What’s the bell for, beautiful?” a man slurred as he gestured to the brass bell hanging behind her slightly to the left. “Does it work? Can I ring it?”
She mixed up a cosmopolitan for a woman during this conversation. “Looks, yes, and no.”
“But I should be able to ring it.”
“Your wants, unless it’s dealing with a drink, are inconsequential. You want a bell to ring, go buy one.” She slid the drink to the waiting woman. “Here you go, hon.”
“Thanks so much.” She put a twenty down. “Keep the change.” She toasted her and walked back off into the crowd.
“No need to be a bitch,” he snapped. “Give me another.”
Ellie slid her gaze to the man and sized him up. In an instant, her decision had been made. “Sorry, sir. I’m cutting you off. I’ll let you drink anything nonalcoholic.”
He sent her a scowl that would have worried the devil and she held his gaze, unfazed by the posturing. There was no way she would back down in the bar. At one time in her life she would have cowed, but not now.
Ellie couldn’t say why he backed, if it was her expression of don’t try me, buddy, or the glare from Dogfish she knew was coming. Either way, the customer settled down and asked for a tonic water.
The music changed and she looked up to see three women standing in the middle of the group, beginning to gyrate and strip. Rolling her eyes, she focused back on the bar. Not her scene. She lost herself in work and before too long it was time to head home.
As she drew the door closed behind her—the last one out, Dogfish had already taken the day’s take with him—she inhaled sharply. Bennett leaned against the streetlight post. A mist had rolled in and he took her breath away. Always had.
“Shouldn’t you be out galivanting with the guys? Or does that lamppost need you?”
He flashed a slow grin that had her weak in the knees. “I haven’t galivanted in years.” Bennett pushed away with a lithe ripple of movement and moved smoothly in her direction.
She gulped. Members of the military moved a certain way, but this man, this ex-SEAL had something extra to his swagger.
“I’m surprised Dogfish lets you walk alone after work. I saw him leave earlier.”
The concern in his tone made her smile. “Guess what?”
She watched him approach even more. He filled her senses. Body responding, she fought the urge to pull her shirt away from hypersensitive breasts. Her pussy grew slick as he halted before her, hotness personified.
She blinked at him, loving how the mist dangled on the strands of his black hair, making it shine with diamond dust.
Shit, she’d missed his question. Why? Because she was thinking how nice it would be to touch him. How perfect her night would end if she were given the go-ahead to explore those hard, defined muscles, lick his golden tan skin.
“You asked first.” His dark eyes twinkled. “What were you telling me?”
“That I am a grown woman, one who doesn’t need permission to walk home after work. Or to work.”
He towered over her, yet fear wasn’t a blip on her radar. Not for physical harm from him to her. However, what she may do to him, a definite concern.
“Believe me, Ellie, I’ve noticed you’re all grown up.”
Hawaii was warm but had nothing on the heat his words created within her.
His gaze ran over her. She flicked her tongue over her lips. Bennett clenched his jaw.
“Am I to assume you are escorting me home?”
One word with absolute confidence lining it. She hid her smile. This was like a dream fantasy come true, having him in her place.
“You do know I live like two streets from the bar, right?”
“So, it’s not a long walk.”
More’s the pity.
They walked side by side into the mist.
“Do you live around here, Bennett?”
He shoved his hand in those jeans that took her breath away with how they fit those strong legs and firm ass of his.
“Cryptic.” She fell silent for a few more steps. “Okay, how about why you didn’t go out with the rest of the bachelor party. Didn’t appear they were ending the festivities. Although after the strippers, where do you go from there?”
He glanced at her then looked around them. “Someone waiting for you?”
She shrugged. “Only Roscoe.”
Bennett angled his head toward her. “Who’s that?”
Grateful for the darker lighting so he couldn’t see her flush, she pursed her lips. “My plant.”
His laugh rolled from him, deep and sexy, covering her in a comforting blanket. “Let me get this straight, you named a plant?”
Ellie punched him in the shoulder. There wasn’t any give, only solid muscle.
“Hey now. I’ll have you know Roscoe is very loyal. He listens without judgement and is always happy to see me.”
They rounded the corner and headed up the next street.
“Is that so?” He sounded more than a little skeptical.
Another poke to his shoulder. Okay, so she couldn’t resist another touch. “Don’t mock,” she admonished.
“Oh no,” he drawled. “Wouldn’t think of it.”
She smiled at his teasing tone. For the longest time she’d wondered if this man ever smiled. But over the years, they’d become friends and she didn’t get to see smiles from him often, but she relished them when they came. For this to happen, here and now, was more than she’d ever hoped.
After her last relationship, she was enjoying this one with Bennett. They flirted yet it was almost innocent. Then she would go home and use her vibrator thinking of him and what it would be like to share his bed.
They walked up her street and she slowed as they neared her building. “Thank you for the escort home, I appreciate it but as you see it’s fine out here.”
“This is not walking you home, this would be walking you part of the way home.”
She watched him in her periphery. If only she could stare at him for hours. Those handsome Hawaiian features just drove her insane.
“Right. I just don’t want you to feel obligated and continue more out of your way.”
“Ellie,” he rumbled, voice low and electrical.
It sparked right on her clit, making her bite her lower lip to keep the moan inside.
He sent her a look that had her wondering if he would fuck her if she offered. Pushing those thoughts away, she stopped at the door and reached for the handle. He was there, moving in front of her. Then he stepped back and allowed her to enter before him.
“It’s not a dangerous place, Bennett.”
“Any place can be dangerous,” he said behind her, his breath on her ear.
Her knees were weak once more. Navigating the four flights of stairs to her place, she again paused at the door.
“Would you like the key?” She offered it to him.
“I would love a key to your place,” he said, plucking it from her fingers.
He opened the door and encouraged her forward with a touch on the small of her back.
God, what she wouldn’t give to have that touch on her bare skin. Preferably between my legs.
Okay, it was a fact, she truly had to go out and get laid.
The click of the door reminded her she was alone with him now in her small one-bedroom apartment.
Fuck, he seemed even bigger in here. His dark eyes took in her place. Knowing him, he was checking security and would be giving her a lecture on not leaving a window unlocked or something so entirely unsexy.
She noticed he continued looking to her left and she followed his gaze. Roscoe sat there on a small wooden table.
“You have an ‘lwa ‘iwa.”
“Hi, Roscoe,” she cooed. “I suppose so. I’m sorry, I don’t speak Hawaiian. All I know is it’s a Maidenhair fern.”
“Same thing,” he said with a smile.
She shoved her hand through her hair and tried to control the beating of her heart. All that man, here in her place looking as good as he did. It wasn’t fair.
Ellie looked around and shrugged. “It’s a one bedroom, what more could you possibly want to see?”
He held her gaze. “Your bedroom.”
Holy shit, she nearly came from the heat infused in his words. Needing a moment, she pointed down the hall. “Right at the end.”
He strolled away and she took the time to enjoy watching. Everything on him was hot. From the fit of his attire to the tribal tattoos on his arms. Bennett leaned in her bedroom and when he didn’t immediately come back up, she gazed after him. He rested against the doorjamb but was looking in her direction.
She ran her hands down her pants. “Something wrong?”
“Not at all. In fact, call me even more intrigued.”
“By what?” She moved to his side.
Bennett turned so she would have to press against him to see inside. Taking the presented opportunity before her, she placed one hand on his muscled back and leaned in. Her bedroom was clean as was her wont.
“I’m not getting it.”
“You will be,” he muttered. But he gripped her chin and angled her to see the bed.
Fuck. Lying there on her gunmetal gray and daffodil yellow bedspread was her large turquoise vibrator with all its many nubs.