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Porter, Page 2

Georgia Cates

“No worries. Both of us were late so we haven’t been waiting long.” I wasn’t worried. And I’m also not surprised. Ava and Dillyn are habitually tardy.

  “Order drinks yet?”

  “Yeah. White wine for me. Red for her,” Ava says.

  Wine is their typical drink choice but I’ve never been a fan. Too pungent for my taste. The one and only time I found a vino I enjoyed, my head pounded for two days after drinking it. The pain was different than a hangover, which makes me wonder if I have a wine allergy. I’ve heard that’s a real thing. “You know wine hates me.”

  “We know.” Dillyn pushes the drink menu across the table toward me. “Here are the specials if you want to take a look.”

  I’m thumbing through my choices when our server returns with their wine. “White for you annnd… red for you. Do you need another minute to look over the menu or are you ready to order?”

  At twenty-one, I’m not a seasoned drinker. I usually go for something sweet and fruity but I feel like trying my new employer’s product. My sort-of employer. “I think I’ll have the Lovibond seasonal apricot ale.” Fruity. Seems like a good place to start.

  “Nice choice.”

  Dillyn takes a drink of her wine. “Well, I can’t imagine you ordering a Lovibond beer if things didn’t go well at your interview with them today.”

  “Couldn’t have gone better. I got the internship.” I may be kidding myself but I don’t think my dad’s employment at Lovibond has anything to do with Porter giving me the position. I think he really likes my designs.

  Ava holds up her palm for a high five. “That’s great, Frankee. Congratulations.”

  Dillyn lifts her glass. “We have to make a toast.”

  I point to the empty space on the table. “No drink yet.”

  “We’ll toast to you making the big bucks after your drink arrives.” I think Ava is confusing job and internship.

  “I’ll be earning a dollar above minimum wage. I’m afraid that doesn’t equate to big bucks.” I’m the summer intern. I’m lucky to be getting paid at all. Minimum wage plus an extra buck an hour… I suspect that part is Porter being generous because I’m his warehouse manager’s daughter.

  “How many hours do you think you’ll work every week?” Dillyn asks.

  “Porter said to expect forty.”

  She nods. “Nice. Forty hours over a twelve-week period will add up. You should have a nice chunk of change by the end of the summer.”

  “God knows I’ll need it.” This move to Austin isn’t going to be cheap.

  “We’ve already told you to stop worrying about money. Dillyn and I have things covered until you find a job and get on your feet.”

  Ava and Dillyn come from wealthy families. They had college funds. Luxury cars. Monthly allowances—big ones. I went to Alabama on a scholarship and worked as a waitress to make up for what my parents couldn’t afford.

  I couldn’t be more different than Ava and Dillyn.

  I was never that kid who made friends easily. I didn’t click with the girls I went to high school with but all of that changed when I met Ava and Dillyn. They were a year ahead—and I’m still not sure what made them take an interest in me—but the three of us became fast friends my freshman year at Alabama.

  I love them like sisters. More than sisters. I’d do anything for those two. That includes moving to Austin, Texas.

  We’re from three different states. That would make it nearly impossible to get together more than two or three times a year if we moved back to our hometowns after graduation. That isn’t going to work for us. And that’s why we’ve settled on one place where all three of us could relocate.

  We made that decision six months ago. The only thing holding us back are the final classes Ava and Dillyn require for graduation. So close.

  “Oh my God,” Ava squeals.

  “What?” I twist in my seat to see what has caught her attention at the bar. Chad Morris. Oh man.

  “I haven’t seen him in weeks. And now he’s here.” Ava’s hand goes to her chest. “I’m freaking the hell out, y’all.”

  Chad is her brother’s teammate on the football team—starting quarterback for Alabama. Fifth-year senior. Her super crush for the last two years.

  I think he’s into her too, but the timing has always been off. When she’d be single, he’d be dating someone. And vice versa. But now they’re both single.

  Dillyn pats Ava’s hand. “It’s okay, honey. Calm down.”

  “What do I do?”

  I’m no dating expert, but even I know what needs to happen here. “You’re going to slow your breathing, catch your breath, and then get up and go to the bathroom… to accidentally run into Chad at the bar.”

  “Okay. Good plan. I can do that.” Ava stands and smooths her clothing. “Shit, this isn’t what I would have chosen to wear if I’d known I was going to run into him tonight. And I would have put on more makeup. And curled my hair. Do I look good enough to go over there, or should I just forget it?”

  Ava has never looked less than perfect a day in her life. “You look fantastic. Don’t doubt that for a second.”

  “I’m only here a few more months. I don’t know when, or if, I’ll get the opportunity to run into him again. I have to go over there and see what happens. Right?”

  It’s a no-brainer. “Of course you do.”

  Ava looks back at us halfway to the bar and we both give her smiles and thumbs up. All of my fears for Ava are pushed aside when Chad reaches out for her arm as she passes by him at the bar. “He looks happy to see her.”

  “I think so too.” Dillyn watches as Chad pulls out the stool next to him. “You know this means we’ve lost her.”

  “I hope so.” At least one of us will be getting lucky tonight.

  “We may be minus Ava but tonight is still about celebrating your job at Lovibond. I want to hear more about it.” That’s Dillyn. Always eager to hear about everything happening in my life.

  “Like what?”

  “Which one of the Lovibond owners interviewed you?”

  I grin. “The hottest one. Porter.”

  Dillyn laughs. “I know you didn’t hate that.”

  “I sure didn’t.”

  “He’s not married?”

  “Not according to my dad or the empty ring finger on his left hand. I checked it out when he was looking at my designs.”

  “Still as good-looking as you remember?”

  “I didn’t think it was possible but I’m pretty sure he’s even hotter than he was three years ago.”

  His brown hair is shorter and a little spiky on top, sort of like he has a small faux-hawk. And his eyes… gosh… those eyes. The most unusual shade of light brown I’ve ever seen—like warm caramel instead of chocolate—with tons of golden flecks around the center. I’ve never seen eyes that color on anyone but him.

  He towers over me, probably close to a foot. And I believe he’s even more muscular today than he was three years ago. His arms are huge and covered in black tribal tattoos that peek out below the stretched sleeves of his Lovibond T-shirt. I could only see the lower half, but I couldn’t resist studying them, memorizing their intricate designs.

  I was trying to be professional while I presented my artwork. That means I wasn’t able to get a good look, but I think I saw the edge of some ink at the neck of his shirt. Guys with arm tats like those don’t typically stop there. I bet he has all kinds of ink on his chest. God, I love that so much. Hot, hot hot.

  Time has been kind to Porter. He looks even better now than before.

  “Porter’s the one you’ll be working with, right?”


  “Your old crush is now your boss. You’ll be working side by side with him every weekday for the entire summer. This could be your big chance to make something happen.”

  I love Dillyn’s romantic tendencies but she’s wrong about Porter and me. “He must be close to ten years older than me. Maybe more. Probably not at all interested in someone my
age. Plus, he was just a silly crush I had when I was a kid.”

  “Bullshit. You had real feelings for this guy. You missed him like crazy when you left for college.”

  She isn’t wrong. I did miss Porter like crazy, but I got over it; that’s what kids do as they mature into adults.

  I was sixteen when Porter Beckman became my father’s new employer. I thought he was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. And after being around him, I found out he was also one of the kindest.

  Our lives profoundly changed after Daddy came to work at Lovibond. We had medical and dental insurance for the first time. A real house. A decent car that didn’t stay stranded on the side of the road most of the time. We finally had all the things most people consider necessities and we were even able to afford some luxuries we’d always gone without.

  Lovibond Brewery changed my life. And I think that’s one of the reasons I fancied myself in love with Porter at such a young age. I confused gratitude for affection.

  “Is he dating anyone?”

  It was a job interview. Not a speed date. “I have no idea.”

  “But you’re wondering.”

  I shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know… maybe.”

  Dillyn grins. “What did you wear to the interview?”

  “Black skirt. Black and white blouse.”

  Dillyn lifts a brow and her grin widens. “The short black skirt?”

  I hate admitting that. “Yes.”

  “The deep cut black and white blouse? The one that shows off your cleavage?”

  I hesitate before answering. Even considering lying. “Yes.”

  “What kind of bra?” The corners of her mouth turn up.

  The bra is going to make this look bad. “Black lace.”

  She cackles. “You. Slut.”

  “Excuse me?”

  She holds up one finger. “Short skirt.” A second finger goes up, forming a V. “Deep cut top.” A third finger rises, making a W. “Black lace bra you knew he’d see when you bent forward.”

  “Means nothing.”

  “I might believe that if you’d at least pretended to think about the bra but you rattled that off without any thought at all. You wore that short, sexy outfit to entice him.”

  She’s sort of got me there. I could have worn any number of bras but I chose the sexiest one I had. That wasn’t by accident.

  “I was dressed like a professional.”

  “Like a professional what? Admit it. You dressed sexy so your boss would look at your tits and ass.”

  Dillyn doesn’t beat around the bush. She plows straight through it.

  I wasn’t exactly a beauty the last time Porter saw me. I wanted him to see me differently from that awkward teen girl he knew years ago.

  And I think he did.

  “I wanted to look good when I saw Porter again. What’s wrong with that?”

  “No one said there was anything wrong with looking good for your interview. Did he notice? Act interested?”

  “He was definitely looking.” I could feel his eyes all over me while I was setting up my presentation. And then I turned around and caught him looking at my butt.

  And I liked it.

  “Interested or not, it doesn’t matter. I’m only in Birmingham for the summer.”

  “Which is the perfect recipe for a hot… summer… fling.”

  A hot summer fling with my boss… my dad’s boss? “More like a recipe for disaster.”

  “You’re twenty-one years old, Frankee. An adult. It’s perfectly fine for you to have some no-strings-attached fun with a man.”

  “It’s pointless to start a romantic relationship that has an expiration date.”

  “That’s why it’s called a fling. It’s not intended to last.”

  “That’s not why I applied for the internship at Lovibond.”

  “Then call it a job perk.”

  The server brings my drink, interrupting our debate regarding a fling with Porter, and Dillyn lifts her glass of wine. “Here’s to landing an awesome internship at Lovibond. And to the potential job perks that may go along with it.”

  Hot summer fling? No-strings-attached fun? Sex without commitment?

  Am I cut out for such things? I don’t know.

  Do I want to find out? Absolutely.

  “Someone’s mighty early this morning.”

  Molly isn’t wrong. I’m arriving earlier than usual; it’s my intern’s first day on the job. It would be shitty of me to not be here to greet her.

  “I’m early and I have Starbucks.” I stop at Molly’s desk and remove her coffee from the cardboard carrier. “Grande Pike Place. Splash of coconut milk. One sugar in the raw.”

  “Best boss ever.”

  “Damn right.”

  “Don’t tell Lucas and Oliver I said that.”

  I give her a wink and lopsided grin. “No worries. It’ll be our little secret.”

  Molly removes the green stick from the drink hole of her coffee and sips. “Man, this is just what I needed this morning. ‘Preciate it.”

  “You’re welcome. Enjoy.”

  “I know you came in early because you wanted to beat Frankee in, but you’re too late. She’s already here.”

  Early again. “How long has she been here?”

  “About fifteen minutes.”

  She’s an intern who wants to make a good impression. Her desire to impress me will wear off soon enough. “Where is she?”

  “Art department.”

  Art department is almost a comical label for the room where two desks with computers are surrounded by industrial metal walls. Not a very inspiring work space for a designer.

  In my defense, the area isn’t complete. It’s the space where I plan on putting the full-time employee I’ll hire later.

  “I knew you’d give Frankee the position.”

  How did she know? Because I let the girl do odd jobs around the brewery when she was a child? Because her father is a loyal, dependable employee? Because she’s already Lovibond family?

  Or because she’s grown into one hell of a gorgeous woman?

  I need Molly to understand that my decision was a professional one. There’s no room for confusion. “The choice was obvious when I saw her designs. She was clearly the best candidate for the internship.”

  I don’t fail to see the grin behind Molly’s cup of coffee. “I’m sure she is a wonderful designer.”

  I think I could stand here and plead my case all day with Molly about why I chose Frankee but I’m positive she has already drawn her own conclusion. I know that woman well and nothing I say is going to change her mind.

  I lift the drink carrier. “Coffee’s getting cold.”

  “I notice you have an extra.”

  “Thought Frankee might want one.”

  “That’s a very nice thing to do for a pretty girl on her first day of work.”

  “It’s not your first day, Molly.”

  She grins and flings her hand in my direction. “Go on, smartass. Go see to your pretty intern.”

  I find Frankee waiting for me in the art department. “Good morning.”

  She lifts her face and a broad smile spreads. Fuck, she’s gorgeous. I won’t mind looking at her for the next three months. “Good morning.”

  “You’re here bright and early. You must be excited to get started.”

  “I am.”

  “I’d start the first day with a tour of the brewery if you were any other intern but I suppose you already know your way around this place.”

  “Yup. Been knowing my way around here for a long time.”

  “Well, since we get to skip the tour, let’s sit for a moment and enjoy our coffee.” I take her cup from the carrier and push it across the desk toward her. “What do you order when you go to Starbuck’s?”

  “White chocolate mocha.”

  Dammit. “I was so close to getting that. Went with caramel macchiato instead.” Note to self: her favorite is white chocolate mocha.

�I like caramel macchiato too. It’s a close second.” She takes a sip and then sucks her bottom lip into her mouth before running her fingers over it. Fuck. “How’d you know I’d want an espresso drink over black coffee?”

  When I was sitting in the drive-thru looking at the menu, I couldn’t imagine anything but sweetness—and maybe my hard cock—touching that lovely mouth of hers. “Just a lucky guess.”

  Thinking about my dick in her mouth is the wrong way to begin this working relationship. I can’t have thoughts like that about her.

  “Well, thank you. It’s a very nice start for my first day.”

  I grab the back of the empty chair and roll it around so I can face her when I sit. “Did you have a good weekend?”

  “Yeah. I went to Tuscaloosa Friday night to hang with my two best friends.”

  “They’re still in school?”

  “They are. Both of them were short a few classes to graduate… a little too much partying. They’re knocking them out over the summer and then the three of us are moving to Austin together.”

  I had thought it was odd that a woman so young would up and move away from her friends and family. I see now that Frankee at this stage of her life isn’t all that different from the way I was at her age. I did the same thing when Stout and I moved to Birmingham to chase our dreams of starting Lovibond brewery. “It’s good that you won’t be on your own.”

  “Have you ever been to Austin?”

  “No, but I’m going to a graphic-design expo there in about six weeks.”

  “Austin Graphic Expo?”


  “Ah, man. I wish I could go to that.”

  “Why don’t you?”

  “Can’t afford the registration fee or the airline ticket to get there or the hotel room.”

  That sucks. “If it makes you feel better, the convention is sold out. You couldn’t get in even if you had the money.”

  “Well, it doesn’t make me feel better; I still want to go. But I hope you have a great time. Austin is a fun town.”

  “I’ve heard.”

  “How long will you be there?”

  “Four days.”

  “If you want, I can make you a list of must-dos.”

  “That would be great. Thanks.”

  “How did your weekend go?”