More than want you, p.2
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       More Than Want You, p.2
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         Part #1 of More Than Words series by Shayla Black

  “Baby, if you want to end your drought”—he cups his junk—“I’ve got nine inches of what you need.”

  She raises an auburn brow at him. “First, no means no, and if you haven’t learned that, I don’t want anything to do with you. Second, it sounds like you’ve measured your penis. That kind of guy usually exaggerates, so reality is probably more like five inches. Maybe five and a quarter if I’m being generous. Either way—”

  “That’s not fucking true. My cock is massive.” He sidles closer. “Come with me and I’ll show you.”

  She brushes his hands away and grips the hell out of his balls. His eyes bug out, but she keeps talking with an almost pleasant smile. “I have no interest in seeing it when you’re too rude to know that you shouldn’t interrupt someone, much less how to bow out gracefully. Also, I’m a grown-ass woman. Don’t call me baby.”

  “Okay,” Hulk squeaks.

  I manage not to laugh aloud—barely. He’s a foot taller and outweighs her by a hundred pounds, but she’s got his full attention.

  “Now turn your ass around and find your seat.”

  She pries her fingers off his nuts but leaves them hovering right there in case he decides to get another case of the stalker-creepies. But Hulk Moron finally rubs two brain cells together and backs away, cupping his junk. He’s either too cautious or too sore to turn his back on her. When he reaches his table, his buddies are all ribbing him as they rise and laugh their way out the door.

  “I’m not sure whether I should be afraid or impressed,” I flirt her way. “If you treat all new guys to that patented ball-busting maneuver, your drought isn’t really the surprise I imagined when you first mentioned it.”

  Keeley shakes her head, grinning wide. “I know his type. I grew up in a rough neighborhood with macho guys like him. They only understand a few things. Potentially being a eunuch is one of them.” She thrusts out her hand. “Keeley.”

  “Maxon.” I shake her hand, more as an excuse to touch her again. There’s still an electric arc between us. A jolt. My blood turns hot. This girl has something. “Can I buy you a drink?”

  “Sure. Crown and Coke.” She rubs her hands together nervously.

  Nice that I get to her. I shouldn’t be the only one trying to keep my cool intact.

  As I watch her, I spot a tattoo of a musical note on the inside of her wrist. Small and pretty. Feminine but interesting. Does she have more ink? It’s not something I usually like on a woman—mostly because I’m not into anything permanent—but this seems to fit Keeley.

  “Is that okay?” she asks.

  Damn it, my thoughts have been drifting. “Absolutely. I was mentally exploring the ways I might suggest we end your ‘drought.’ Want to hear my ideas?”

  “Not before booze and my next set. After that, if you’re still here and interesting…then I just might.”

  I like the way she banters. And meets my gaze. So many women do that shy, coy thing. I’m not into feeling as if I intimidate lovers. Rivals? Oh, yeah. All day. That shit’s fantastic. Not so much with bedmates. But Keeley meets my stare head on—no flinching—still wearing that hint of a smile that’s getting to me.

  “I’ll be here. I’ll make sure you still think I’m interesting. And I won’t call you baby.” I turn and motion to the bartender, who starts pouring Keeley’s Crown and Coke, along with my dirty Grey Goose martini.

  “So you’re a smart man, then?”

  “I try to be.”

  “You dress well,” she observes as she rakes me up and down.

  “You dress like a woman who doesn’t mind attention.” My stare caresses every one of her curves.

  No discounting or discarding the truth. I want her.

  It’s pretty fucking inconvenient when I need her to distract my brother more…but I’m flexible. Maybe there’s a way for everyone in this picture to be happy—except Griff.

  “I figured if I was finally going to go on stage, I should wear something eye-catching. Good to know I succeeded.” The bartender sets our drinks in front of us, and she takes a swig.

  Damn, that mouth. Those plush, red lips.

  “What do you mean, finally? You’ve never performed in public?”

  “Not really.” She smiles and shrugs, her expression saying she may have jumped off the deep end for the hell of it. “I’ve done a lot of karaoke, which I love. People have said I have a good voice. So I thought…why not try it for real? If people boo me off the stage, then I’ll know all my friends are full of it. And then I’ll plot revenge, of course.”

  “Of course,” I rush to agree. “But there’s no way you would be booed. You’re pretty incredible.”

  “My one practice with the band a few hours ago paid off. Yeah!” She giggles.

  I can’t help but laugh in kind as I stare at her, cold drink in hand. I can usually figure out the perfect way to proposition a woman. I’m good with charm. But Keeley is different, I think. She’s not going to fall for the usual you’re-pretty/your-eyes-sparkle BS. But she’s easy to talk to, and if my goal was merely to pick her up, I’m sure I could think of something that would persuade her to get naked and horizontal.

  Instead, I’m wondering…would it be really awful if I slept with her before I introduced her to my brother? That sounds skeevy, I know. But I’m totally able to separate business from pleasure. Besides, if we have a one-night stand, we’ll inevitably part ways in the morning. What’s the harm in seeing if we can scratch each other’s backs in a different way after the sheets cool?

  Actually, the worry nagging at the back of my brain is that she seems so genuine, asking her to deceive and derail my brother will be counter to her nature and earn me one of those unpleasant ball strangulations that might alter my ability to father kids. Hopefully, once I spend some time with her and understand her a bit better, I’ll find the words to tell her what I want without totally pissing her off.

  “You’re really great,” I compliment her. “Seriously.”

  “Thanks. Can you sing?”

  “Not a note,” I assure her.

  “Wow, you didn’t hesitate an instant before you answered.”

  “I know my shortcomings. I mean, I don’t have many,” I assure with a wink. “But that one is too obvious to overlook.”

  “So you’re tone deaf but otherwise perfect. And obviously humble, too.” She raises an auburn brow at me.

  “No. In my business, being humble doesn’t pay.”

  The little furrow between her sparkly, purple-shadowed eyes snags my gaze. “You’re a doctor?”

  “Real estate agent. Number one on Maui.”

  “So if I scraped some money together and wanted to buy a condo, you’re the guy I should call?”

  “I could help you find the right agent. I deal exclusively in luxury properties. Normally, I don’t touch a place under four million. Time is money, and unless you treat the first as if it’s in short supply, the second will be, too.”

  She gives me an assessing gaze as she sips more of her drink. “Interesting philosophy. I never thought about it like that.”

  “So what do you do? If you’re not making a living from your voice—and I think you can—what’s your occupation?”

  “I don’t really have one, per se. I have a couple of odd jobs. I waitress a couple days a week at one of the swanky hotels in Wailea. I spend about ten hours a week doing admin work for a psychotherapist down the street. On weekends, I teach some group exercise classes to seniors and help a zip-line crew with big groups.” She shrugs. “Whatever helps me pay tuition and makes ends meet. Right now, I don’t take anything too seriously.”

  Not taking something seriously is foreign to me. I’ve always attacked life. Business, workouts, even trivia games. I’ve been programed to require winning and given the disposition to do whatever necessary to make it happen. Though I don’t understand Keeley’s attitude, I don’t think I’d change it. She’s made me smile a lot in the last five minutes, probably more than I have all week. That’s he
r laid-back charm.

  Griff will love it, too. I try not to think about that just now.

  “You’re still in college?”

  “Yep. At twenty-five, I sometimes feel like the grandma of the classroom, but I prefer doing school in the mornings after yoga, when I’m fresh. Night school is for bitter workaholics.”

  I smile. “You mean like me?”

  She cringes. “You went to night school? Sorry…”

  I shrug. “No offense taken.”

  “You’re driven, aren’t you? You probably finished your degree in four years.”

  “Actually, I finished a bachelor’s and a master’s in four years while growing a full-time real estate business.”

  She looks shocked. “Did you ever sleep?”

  “It’s overrated, and another one of those things I’m not very good at. That’s fine. I have more important things to do.”

  Her expression says she can’t imagine what but she politely doesn’t say so. “So, Maxon, the workaholic real estate agent who puts me to shame academically, what do you do for fun?”

  Interesting question. “Besides close big deals? Well…I like a good game of pool. I read a lot.”

  “Fiction? It’s a good escape. I read tons. And I love self-help. I’m reading this book called Riding the Wings of Joy about finding inner peace and—”

  “Not what I meant.” I laugh. “One of my favorite books is Master the Close about killer sales techniques. I also read a lot of trade mags about turning lookers into buyers, that kind of thing. I also need to keep up with the latest in landscaping, staging, marketing… I’m always reading. Any edge I can get over the competition is one I’ll take.”

  I plant that seed. I’ll give it time to germinate in her head. Tomorrow, I’ll see if I can harvest it.

  “So no meditation for you, I guess,” she teased.

  “How do you keep your mind still that long?” I really can’t imagine.

  “It’s an art. I learn every day new ways to exercise self-control.”

  It sounds like a crock of shit to me. My base instinct is to crush competitors and seduce beautiful women. I don’t see any reason to change that.

  “Fantastic,” I assure her.

  She laughs. “You’re a terrible liar.”

  The owner of the downscale bar trips over a couple of cords as he stumbles his way to the mic and grabs it. “Keeley Sunshine again, everyone.”

  While the audience applauds, the vivacious beauty beside me chugs down the last of her Crown and Coke. “Gotta go. If you’re still here when my last set ends…we’ll see.”

  “I’ll be here.”

  Once Keeley hits the stage, I return to the table to find Britta gathering her purse. “You’re leaving?”

  She nods. “I can’t sit here and watch you pick up yet another woman you’ll probably never be serious about. I know you believe in the work-hard-play-hard thing, but when are you going to truly give a relationship even half that much effort? You wasted years pretending with Tiffanii. Invest in your heart for once. Fall in love. Care about someone who can love you back. Worry less about closing the deal and open yourself to someone who can share your life. Or you’re going to wind up bitter.”

  Like my old man. And my brother. I’ve heard this speech. Britta brings this up more often these days, especially when we’re away from the office and she’s had a glass of wine or two. “I don’t see you till-death-do-us-parting.”

  “I tried. God knows I did. I couldn’t want forever more than Griff.”

  Instantly, I feel contrite. She’s right, and if my bastard of a brother hadn’t broken her heart so utterly, she would have loved him until she died. I volunteered to break every bone in his miserable body on her behalf. At the time, it would have made me feel good. She refused to let me. In her words, if he didn’t care enough about her to stay, then she didn’t want him feeling obligated to hang around.

  “You were right to let him go, Britta.”

  “Damn right I was. And I started dating again within a few months. I’m still open to something serious. I think this thing with Makaio is leading somewhere. He’s a good guy.” She shrugs. “If it doesn’t work out, at least I’ll know I’m not alone for lack of trying. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

  Then she’s gone, pushing her way out the door and into the night.

  Rob tosses down some bills to pay the check. “You owe me, buddy.”

  I nod absently. “What’s with her?”

  “You know Britta. She might be younger than us but she’s a mother hen. She thinks you’re wasting your life alone. If it makes you feel any better, she’d like to see me on the matrimony train, too. In her words, I either love Alania or I don’t. So I should move forward or move on. Maybe she’s right.” He pauses. “About both of us. G’night.”

  I frown, puzzled. “Night.”

  Calling for another martini, I toss their words around in my head and focus on Keeley. I’m a man of my word, waiting through two more sets of sensually dipped songs, everything from the Peggy Lee classic “I’m a Woman” to Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” to “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd. I love that she’s both musically eclectic and well-versed. Tunes are something we have in common. I’ll do my best to dazzle her later at my place with killer views and my deep playlist. Maybe that will impress her. I’m not sure my…ahem…sparkling personality did that earlier.

  Finally, she tucks her mic onto the stand for the final time and gives the enthusiastic crowd a playful little curtsy. The ovation becomes a standing exercise in adulation. She looks thrilled.

  “You killed it,” I assure her when she heads my way.

  “It’s really a rush. I wasn’t sure if I could do it without the vocal track in the background to keep me on key. But once I stopped worrying about it and just relaxed, everything came together.”

  “You’re a natural.”

  “I’d love to make a living at this, but who does? I’m hardly going to be the next Adele, so…I’ll focus on finishing school. But before the last set started, Gus, the guy who owns this place, asked me if I’d be interested in playing again, so I’ve got a gig on Saturday night.” She shrugs. “It will be fun if nothing else.”

  “That’s great. I’m sure you’ll do well. You’ve got something.”

  “You’re saying that to get in my panties,” she challenges with a grin.

  “Well…yeah. But I actually mean it.”

  Her smile becomes a laugh. “Fair enough. So what’s next?”

  “I thought I’d feed you, then take you back to my evil lair, ply you with good booze, then seduce you.”

  “It sounds like you really thought through that plan. I’ll be way more amenable to seduction after some protein, veggies, and sugar. If you want a sure thing, I’m partial to crème brûlée.”

  “Aren’t you helpful, aiding me in your own downfall?”

  “Right?” She nods. “I just need to grab my purse from the back.”

  “I’ll be waiting.”

  Minutes later, she appears with a slouchy hobo bag that I think is meant to be some shade of brown. The tab to the zipper is missing, so the purse hangs open, but she’s offset all that by tying a colorful scarf at the base of the handle and dangling some little charms off the loop of the shoulder strap. I’ve got to give her style points.

  “Japengo sound good? I hear the crème brûlée is killer.”

  “So this isn’t a run through the convenience store for Boone’s Farm, followed by the Taco Bell drive-thru? Impressive.”

  “You describing your last date?”

  “Basically. So you really are a gentleman. Or more determined to get laid.”

  “Probably both.” I smile. I’m not sure closing the deal with Keeley is going to be as easy as she makes it sound, but I can be persistent and persuasive.

  Tomorrow is soon enough to tell her I want her to distract my brother.

  CHAPTER TWO

 
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