Getting His Hopes Up
part of the Melanie Shawn Hope Falls Kindle World
copyright 2016 Erin Nicholas
“I love you so much!”
Jason Gilmore wasn’t expecting the gorgeous girl who had been sitting at the end of the bar for the better part of the last hour to declare her love for him so early in their relationship. He also hadn’t been expecting her to actually throw herself at him. But he was a very intelligent guy, and when he found his arms suddenly full of soft, sweet-smelling woman—whether he knew her name or not— he thought fast.
And kissed her.
Which she seemed totally fine with, if the way she kissed him back was anything to go by.
She might have intended it to be only a hug, but amazing opportunities were meant to be grabbed. Not that he was grabbing her. Exactly. But his hands did fit very nicely over the curve of her ass.
And she definitely wasn’t protesting. He felt her little sigh, he felt her run her hands into his hair, and he definitely felt her open her mouth under his and meet the stroke of his tongue with hers.
She smelled like buttercream frosting. He’d swear it. And he wanted to lick her from head to toe. And those two things were, actually, not related. He would have wanted to lick her from head to toe no matter what she smelled like. The kiss was that good.
Damn, he loved this town.
Nothing bad had ever happened to him in Hope Falls, California. Not one thing. Because of that, and because he’d found his passion for his life’s work here, Hope Falls held a special place in his heart.
Gorgeous women who smelled good and felt even better? Now Hope Falls was for sure his favorite place in the world.
Jason was still sitting on his barstool, but she’d stepped between his knees as if she’d been there before. She’d wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her body to his as if she really was madly in love with him. And she was now kissing him as if maybe she’d forgotten she had never done more than smile at him across a bar.
She seemed to remember a moment later.
She pulled back abruptly and stared up at him. “Holy crap,” she breathed.
Jason grinned. A reaction like that could fuel a guy’s ego for a while for sure.
“Tara?” A big guy with more tattoos than hair moved in behind her, a scowl on his face.
She looked into Jason’s eyes, licked her lips and whispered, “I’ll owe you.”
Soft brown hair to her shoulder blades.
Denim-covered ass that fit perfectly in his hands.
Yeah, he could handle her owing him.
He gave her a wink.
With a little inhale and a smile, she turned. “Oh, hey Curt.”
She was still standing between Jason’s knees and he decided that whatever he was playing along with required his hands to stay on her hips.
She seemed to agree. She leaned back slightly, settling that sweet ass against his groin.
He coughed and shifted slightly. Damn. She was cute and kissed like a wet dream and he was two beers in and in a great mood, but he was still surprised by how quickly all the blood in his body rerouted to the area behind his zipper.
“Hey.” Curt’s eyes went to Jason.
Tara pressed back more firmly and Jason’s body answered with a counter pressure that was less intentional.
He shifted again on the bar stool while also moving her slightly to the right. She put her hand on his thigh, resisting moving even an inch and making their pose look even more intimate.
“I didn’t know you were back in town,” she said to the other guy.
Jason didn’t even know her and he could hear the tension in her voice.
“Just rolled in,” Curt replied. “I came looking for you first thing.”
Now Jason felt the tension in her body.
“Why is that?”
She flipped her hair back, no doubt in an attempt to look casual, and the air around Jason stirred with the scent of sugary frosting.
Curt’s eyes narrowed. “Because I’d hoped you’d be waiting for me.”
Tara’s fingers tightened on Jason’s thigh. “I don’t know why you’d think that. We went on one date and it was a year ago.”
Ah, an ex. Kind of. A spurned lover. Or a spurned lover-wannabe. Jason got it now.
“The only reason we didn’t have a second was because I got arrested.”
A spurned-lover-wannabe felon. Great. What had he gotten into here?
“That wasn’t the only reason,” Tara told him coolly. “But yeah, that didn’t help.”
“It was just a misunderstanding. You know that.”
“You stole my car, Curt.”
Jason felt his eyes widen. Okay this was…interesting. It wasn’t assault or arson or a bank robbery. Could be worse. Still, he was a little less pleased now about her choosing him as her pretend-whatever to avoid Curt the Con.
Curt shook his head. “I borrowed your car. Without asking first. That’s why it was only a misdemeanor and why I’m out already.”
Tara took a deep breath. “Are you seriously trying to tell me—”
Jason pinched her hip. No reason to piss off the guy off. Who knew what he’d learned in prison?
“Cupcake,” he said calmly. “How about I buy Curt a drink and we all forgive and forget? He’s out and starting a new life and you have me.”
Tara stiffened, no doubt in surprise—though whether it was over the pinch, his term of endearment, or the suggestion in general, he wasn’t sure.
But she turned and smiled up at him. “That’s a great idea. I’m going to go to the bathroom. Be right back.”
And she slipped out of his arms.
Oh, no. She wasn’t leaving him here with her ex, the criminal. Who was clearly not happy that Jason was with Tara. Hell, for all Jason knew, she was a criminal too and this was a set-up to get something out of him.
He snagged her wrist, hoping like hell she wasn’t a criminal. “Maybe I’ll buy Curt a drink and then meet you back there.”
He said it suggestively. Very suggestively. So suggestively that everyone who heard it knew exactly what he meant. He might as well have said, “How about a quickie in the ladies’ room while Curt nurses his free beer and contemplates his poor life choices?”
“You two are together?” Curt asked, before Tara could say anything.
“We are,” Jason said, not taking his eyes off of her face. “Seems like since I first set eyes on her, she’s all I can think about, and from the moment I first kissed her, I can’t keep my hands to myself.”
Her eyes widened slightly and he saw the hint of a smile curl one corner of her mouth.
Well, it was all true.
He’d noticed her right away. He’d already eaten his burger and was making his way through a half pint of his favorite beer—one that he couldn’t find back home and only one of the things he’d missed like crazy since he’d last been in Hope Falls—when she’d taken the seat at the other end of the bar.
She was beautiful and had a sweet smile and, well, that ass in those jeans, so he’d made note of her immediately. But then she’d ordered the same beer, and over the course of the next hour had put Thomas Rhett on the jukebox—four times—and had laughed at the same jokes from the bartender that Jason had. All of that combined for Jason into “a little smitten”.
The bartender, Levi Dorsey, who owned the bar with his wife Shelby, had been chatting with them both over the course of the hour in between serving others who came up to the bar. It was a weeknight, but JT’s Roadhouse was the only bar in Hope Falls, so it was still busy enough that Levi was jumping from one order to another. But he’d get a few minutes breather every so often and he would chat with Jason or Tara, the only two permanently seated at the bar rather than the wooden four-top tables throughout the room.
Jason remembered the Roadhouse fondly from his previous time in Hope Falls. The burgers were great, the beer always cold and the company was comfortable.
Tonight, more than ever, he appreciated the way everyone seemed like old friends even if they’d just met. Over the past hour, listening in on Levi’s conversation with Tara, Jason had learned she was an elementary teacher, liked fried pickles, loved chili cheese fries, had lost money on her fantasy football team and had hated the recent Ben Affleck movie.
Jason assumed she was from here. She and Levi knew a lot of people in common, anyway. He supposed she could have moved to town in the year since he’d been here. Or possibly before that. He’d only moonlighted in the Hope Falls clinic. He had officially been in the family practice residency that required he share his time between the hospital in Sacramento as well as an outpatient clinic, a nursing home and two free clinics. But it was hard to imagine he wouldn’t have run into her. It wasn’t a huge town. He could have crossed paths with her at Sue Ann’s Café or Two Scoops, the old fashioned ice cream shop. He could have seen her at the post office. Or here at the Roadhouse. And if he had, he would have noticed her. Definitely.
It made more sense, somehow, that she was relatively new to town. She could have gotten to know Levi and Shelby and met most of the town by now. It was possible. A lot had happened in the past several months in Hope Falls.
For just a moment, Jason’s heart squeezed as he recalled why he was here. He’d never been to a reading of a will before.
“I’ll take a Sam Adams,” Curt said, climbing onto the barstool next to Jason and jerking his attention back to the current situation.
Curt was going to take Jason up on the offer of a beer. Okay. But they weren’t going to bond over that beer—or over their shared infatuation with Tara.
Jason lifted a hand to Levi. “Sam Adams,” he said, pointing to Curt. “On my tab.” Then he swiveled his stool toward Tara, who he still held by the wrist. “Let’s go.”
He wasn’t really going to accompany her to the bathroom. But he was going to use her as an excuse to escape Curt’s company. He wasn’t one to judge. He saw all kinds of people in all kinds of situations as a doctor. Many of those situations were unflattering and people were not at their best. But he knew he and Curt had exactly two things in common—they each had a Y chromosome and they both had a thing for Tara.
No need for them to further their association beyond those things.
Heading to the restrooms might have been Tara’s idea, but Jason took charge as he stretched to his feet and started toward the back of the bar. He kept his hand on her until they were safely around the corner from where Curt was sitting and tucked into an alcove where they could be as alone as possible inside the bar.
But as he swung around to face her, he was hit by those big blue eyes and those soft lips and, dammit, that sugary-sweet smell that made him want to eat her up.
“Thanks,” she said before he could speak.
His first instinct was to say my pleasure and it wasn’t out of simple politeness. He certainly hadn’t minded being the one she’d chosen to lock lips with.
“You tried to ditch me back there with him,” Jason said. “Not cool. After everything I’ve done for you.”
That hint of a smile teased her lips again. “Everything you’ve done? You mean not outing me to Curt as a girl you just met?”
“That,” he said with a nod. “And the kiss.”
“You did that for me?” she asked.
He shrugged. “I’m assuming you’re a lonely spinster. Maybe even a virgin. Who hasn’t been kissed in a long time.”
Her eyebrows shot up, but he could tell she was still fighting a smile. “Quite an assumption.”
“Do tell…what makes you so sure I’m one, lonely, two, a spinster—and do you even know what a spinster really is?—three, a virgin, and four, not up on my current kissing?”
He liked her.
It hit him suddenly. He was attracted to her, loved kissing her, loved smelling her, and now he liked her too.
Even if she did date criminals.
He gave her a slow grin. “Well, you don’t have a boyfriend, or he’d be in here with you and you wouldn’t be kissing strangers to avoid exes, and that kiss…well, that was the kiss of someone starving for it.”
He was teasing her. He didn’t even know her. How did he feel comfortable teasing her?
Her eyebrows rose even higher on her forehead. “Starving for it? I wasn’t the only one in that kiss, buddy. That kiss was very two-sided. And, if you hadn’t glued your hands to my ass, I might not have…” She trailed off and her cheeks got pink.
He chuckled. “Might not have what?”
She seemed to be considering her words for a moment. Then she said, “Kissed you like I was starving for it.”
He laughed louder that time and drew the attention of the few people standing closest. He took her by the shoulders and turned her so her back was against the door marked “storage” and he could cage her in. And block out the rest of the room. He suddenly wanted a few private minutes.
“Sorry about my hands on your ass.” He wasn’t. At all.
He could tell she knew that.
She smiled; a full smile this time. “I forgive you. Completely.”
“So…no boyfriend? I was right about that part?”
“You were,” she conceded with a single nod.
He was very happy to hear that. He loved being right.
“How about the spinster part?”
“You think I’m past the age where I should be married?”
“Is that what a spinster is?”
She pursed her lips, wrinkled her nose and nodded in the cutest expression he’d ever seen. And cute was not a word Jason Gilmore used on a regular basis outside of puppies and penguins. Even newborn babies, contrary to popular opinion, were not cute. But he really liked penguins.
“So that’s a no then,” he said. “That leaves only one assumption not cleared up.”
“Ah yes, what was that again?” she asked.
God please don’t let her be a virgin. Because suddenly he wanted to see what else she was starving for. And he didn’t really want to be the first.
“The virgin thing,” he said.
“Right. The virgin thing,” she repeated. Her eyes were twinkling.
Had he ever actually seen twinkling eyes before?
He let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.
He froze. The L word. And not the four-letter L word, but the seven-letter one that was almost as bad when it came to wanting a hot fling with a girl.
“Dammit,” he breathed out, taking in everything from the silky look of her hair to the length of her lashes to the way her top lip dipped in slightly in the middle. “Recent discovery, I assume? And you’re totally sure?”
There was a heartbeat of hesitation and then she laughed.
And he knew instantly that she’d been messing with him.
“If I wasn’t totally sure, you’d be willing to help me try the cock option one more time?”
The cock option. Jesus. Even hearing her say the word cock had his pressing insistently against the back of his zipper.
He growled and crowded close. “If you don’t want me to kiss you again, all you have to do is say so,” he told her. “No need for horrible lies.”
Instead of pushing him back, she ran her palm over his left pec, her attention focused on her hand. There was a layer of cotton between her skin and his but he felt the heat and friction all the way to the soles of his feet.
“Being a lesbian is horrible?” she asked.
“I’m sure for the lesbians it’s awesome. For me, not so much.”
She looked up at him and Jason wanted to run the pad of his finger over the tips of her lashes. That was a hell of a thing to want.
“Well, I hate lying. Horrible, white and everything in between. So you can trust that I mean it when I say I would really like you to kiss me again.”
Heat and want grabbed him down low. “You have a thing for bad boys though. And I’m a really good guy.”
He was. It wasn’t just that he’d been told that over and over…and over. And over. All his life he’d been a good guy. But he liked it. He liked being the nice guy, the trustworthy guy, the heroic guy.
“Bad boys?” She frowned. Then her forehead smoothed and she gave a light laugh. “You mean Curt?”
“Your ex-con ex,” Jason said with a nod.
“One date,” she said firmly. “It was a dating-site thing. It was awful even before he stole my car.”
For some really stupid reason, Jason hated the idea that she was on a dating site. Not that he had anything against dating sites. But because he hated the idea that there were a bunch of guys out there looking at her photo, learning things about her, asking her out.
He didn’t want anyone taking her out.
And what the fuck was that?
“So you just attract creeps,” he said lightly.
She laughed softly. “As a matter of fact…”
“But you don’t seem creepy,” she said.
“And I’m definitely attracted.”
“It was the Thomas Rhett, wasn’t it?”
He chuckled. “Yes. But the fact that you laughed at a joke that started out ‘a nun, a rabbi and the Pope walked into a bar’ sealed the deal.”
They stood grinning stupidly at each other.
Finally Jason said, “But this still might not be a great idea.” It really probably wasn’t. He was in town only until Sunday. He was here for the reading of a will for God’s sake. A one-night stand hadn’t been part of the plan. “I mean, you could be the creepy one,” he said lightly. “I don’t know that I won’t end up tied up in your trunk or something.”
Though putting this woman and rope together in the same thought didn’t go down the ransom-note pathway but veered immediately toward the satin-sheet-and-slow-jazz pathway.
She seemed to be pondering his comment. She gave a serious nod and said, “Then I guess we’re just going to have to stay here so you feel safe.”
Before he could figure out what she meant exactly, she reached behind her, turned the knob on the door she was leaning against, and pulled him into the storage closet.
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