Authors: Natalie Anderson
And Savannah hadn’t pushed the issue. She prided herself on not losing it, ever. Flirty or jerky customers came with the territory. And generally there were way more awesome customers than the few losers like these.
She’d held it together until it had culminated in the cigarette incident—a blatant challenge to her authority—and she’d publicly humiliated him. Since then, Ultimate Jerk-off’s attitude had been septic.
Now she punched the code to close the cash register and switched off the music. The silence was sudden and deadening.
“Nothing more, gentlemen.” She turned, her feet planted wide. “Your night is over. It’s time to leave.”
“But not for you.” Ultimate answered with a superior smile. As he turned, he swept his arm out, knocking their three empty glasses from the bar to the floor. They shattered with a loud crash. The jerk looked oh so slowly, oh so deliberately, from the floor, to her face. “Oops.”
The most insincere non-apology ever.
“Don’t worry.” She shoved her hands in the pockets of her long black bar apron and smiled through gritted teeth. “I’ll fix that when you’re gone.”
Never was she showing them how pissed she was.
“Thanks darling, I know you’ll always swallow whatever I spill.” Ultimate Jerk-off leered.
Savannah took a deep breath and relaxed her hold on the small can of pepper spray in her pocket. Her meagre savings had been nuked less than two months ago, so she couldn’t afford to lose this job, no matter the provocation. And in serving ultra-wealthy types she scored good tips–though never from these three. She wouldn’t take any from them anyway.
She had her standards.
“Luca,” she called as she strode into the kitchen. “I’m just—”
She stopped and rolled her eyes.
Luca—current manager—and Krista—one of the waitresses—were like one weird creature, wound so tightly together not even Thor with his mighty hammer could smash them apart. Hadn’t they heard those glasses crashing? Hadn’t they stopped to check the security screen?
Nope. ‘Cos only now did they guiltily break apart. Jeez, if they didn’t leave now they’d be naked in the kitchen in a second. Near the deep fryer? Even if it was switched off and cooling down, it was so not a good idea.
“You guys head home,” Savannah said tightly. “I’ve got it from here.”
“You okay to stay and close up alone? Is the bar empty?” Luca still didn’t look at the security screen. He didn’t look away from Krista.
“Almost. Nothing I can’t handle.” She picked up the brush and pan.
They didn’t argue, clearly desperate to get away and into each other. Savannah watched them go out the back, taking a moment to stand in the open doorway and breathe in the ice-edged air. She needed the frigid shot to center herself. She glanced up at the pale mountain rising above her. The snow gleamed in the starlight. The purpose built picturesque resort town of Summerhill was spectacular and if she were here for any other reason, she’d love the place. But she wasn’t here for fun.
She was here for payback.
Summerhill was owned by Rex Hughes—the quintessential billionaire businessman-turned-advisor. And it was operated by his son Connor Hughes—the typical spoilt ski-boy with slightly long sun-streaked hair, tanned skin and blue eyes. In the one picture she’d seen of him on the web, he’d looked like the ultimate poster-boy for the snow-bunny-loving party scene. No doubt he’d inherited the dodgy business ethos of his father along with the billions.
But it was Rex she really wanted a word with. Rex who’d fed her father a fairytale of you-can’t-lose share schemes.
But you could lose.
Given they owned this town, both should have been easy to find. But she’d been in Summerhill almost a month already and hadn’t gotten anywhere with her mission. Rex was away—probably on some pay-millions-for-no-value-speaker circuit.
Getting an appointment with Connor was apparently impossible. She hadn’t made it past the reception at the eye-wateringly mammoth ‘Lodge’ and Hughes HQ. And she’d had to work double shifts daily here at St Clair’s, throwing flashy cocktails to earn the tips she needed to pay for the essentials. Like food and a temporary roof over her head.
Day by day, hand to mouth.
She’d bet none of the Hughes clan had ever had to work as long or as hard.
She breathed in another hit of cold air then closed the door. She wasn’t feeling any kind of dull ache in her heart at the sight of Krista and Luca cuddling into each other as they ran out to his car. Nope. She was steeled for tossing the asswipes out. She was going to enjoy it. She wasn’t afraid of being alone with them. They didn’t know Luca had left already. And they wouldn’t.
But when she walked back into the bar carrying a small brush and dustpan, it was empty. Yet not silent.
Heavy feet stomped, voices out in the entrance corridor carried.
“Who does he think he is, telling us to fuck off?”
That was Ultimate talking.
“He’s the king of the mountain, you dick. You don’t mess with him. Come on, we’ll go up the road and find some party girls.”
“He’s an asshat.” Ultimate blustered. “I’m not afraid of him.”
The front door slammed.
King of the Mountain? Savannah paused behind the bar. Had her loner customer had left as well? Oh. She
in any way disappointed about that.
But then she realized there wasn’t
silence in the room. A rhythmic chinking sounded close.
Her heart quickened as she looked around the corner of the wooden bar. Then she sighed.
The ‘King of the Mountain’ was hunched down by the mess of shattered glass on the floor, one hand cupped and full of glass fragments.
“Don’t worry about that,” she said, swiftly going over to him. “I’ll do it.”
He glanced up and shot her another lethal look, but still said nothing.
Savannah bent opposite him and put the dustpan on the floor. “You tell them to leave?” she asked.
He slowly gathered more shards of glass and lifted spiky lashes. “What if I did?” One corner of his mouth lifted. “You worried you lost out on a tip?”
Yeah, like they ever left a tip. “It wasn’t your place to say anything.”
His shoulders lifted and dropped and he kept stacking glass into his hand. “I didn’t like the way they talked.”
“Did you threaten them?”
“I didn’t need to.”
“Three on one?” She lifted her eyebrows. What, he burned them with his laser vision or something?
“You’re not afraid to get rid of them on your own.” His mouth curved into a wry smile. “I saw you take him down the other night when he tried to light up. You didn’t want any help then, and you still don’t want any help now.”
been here that night?
Savannah thought back. She’d been so amped with adrenalin, so sick of that guy’s leering and obnoxious behavior, she’d barely noticed anyone else when she’d fought fire with fire.
But now she remembered. This guy had stood just to the side, staring until the other man had left the premises. He’d offered, but she’d told him she didn’t need his help.
She hadn’t. She’d played it close to the wire though. Putting her hand on Ultimate’s pants and telling him he ought to be worried that smoking was going to stunt his growth?
Somehow, stupidly, she felt awkward that he’d seen her at her most vicious. “So you know the names for me then.”
He lifted his eyebrows.
“Bitch, ball breaker, man eater. Black widow...” She started, the list went on.
She might’ve only been working at St Clair’s a couple weeks but she had the usual rep already: awesome mixing skills–and awful attitude. Which wasn’t strictly accurate. She actually loved putting on a show and she was almost always polite... but she had to be frosty with it. It was the best way to keep people at a distance.
“I wouldn’t call you any of those things,” blue-eyes answered softly.
“I’d call you magnificent.” He reached across and picked up another fragment of glass.
“Please don’t do that,” she said, rattled.
“Call you magnificent or help with the mess?”
“I can manage.”
“I wasn’t implying that you couldn’t.” He dropped the shard into his hand. “I’m just helping.”
“I don’t need you to.”
“Or want me to.”
She bit the inside of her lip, hating that he made her feel rude.
“But I want to,” he said.
“You always do whatever you want?”
“You always take the offensive?” He looked at her.
Yep, just like that, her defenses rose.
It was an appallingly seductive sound. Only suddenly it ended with a pained hiss.
She glanced down and saw the thin line of red appearing down the length of his finger.
you to leave it, now you’ve hurt yourself,” she scolded. She slid the dustpan towards him and he tipped the pile of glass into it.
“It’s just a scratch,” he said.
“You’re bleeding.” She stood and hurried behind the bar.
“Relax, I’m not gonna sue.”
“I’ll get a Band-aid.” She growled and grabbed one together with some cotton wool and a tube of antiseptic from the small First Aid kit under the bar. But when she glanced over, she saw he was still hunched low, single-handedly putting the pieces of glass in the pan, his cut hand curled and held to his chest.
“Will you stop that?” She sighed as he kept putting the shards into the pan. “
He paused, looking up at her, an imp of amusement in his eyes. “Ask me like that and I’ll do anything.”
It should have been sleazy—the kind of line Ultimate would deliver. Except it wasn’t. He’d meant it as a joke. To make her smile.
And amazingly, she did. “Then please come and let me fix up your finger.”
He took the bar stool he’d had earlier and hooked his feet on the rungs. Even sitting, the guy was tall. And now was
the time to get all self-conscious and super-aware and start thinking about how long it was since she’d been this close to a man.
She sat on the stool beside his and tried not to notice how long his legs were, how near they were to hers.
“Hold still while I look for glass,” she muttered apologetically. “It might hurt.”
“I don’t mind.”
Do not respond to the sensual undercurrent in his low murmur
She took his hand in hers and took her time to sponge it with a small wad of cotton wool and carefully check there was no glass left in the cut.
Do not speculate on the size of his hand... the potential strength.
Cursing under her breath at her descent into brainlessness, she glanced up. His face was so near she could feel the warmth of his breath and this close his eyes were spellbinding.
“You’re lucky, it looks clear,” she said briskly, trying to pull her head together.
“Thanks.” He looked boyishly contrite, like he’d been told off by his favorite teacher and was trying to suppress his smile.
Savannah looked back down to the cut, blood welled in it again. “I’ll put a Band-aid on it.”
Focus. Be professional. Keep your distance.
“Not too tight?” She checked as she wound the plaster round his finger.
“No, it feels good.”
Kiss it better.
Where the hell had that idea come from?
She looked up, her gaze instantly locked with his.
He didn’t say it. Didn’t say anything. Nor did she. But breathing seemed to be hard, like the air was suddenly heavy with humidity.
Kiss it better.
Savannah never kissed customers. Never kissed anyone. But the urge now?
“You should get it checked by a professional,” she muttered, then coughed to clear the frog from her throat.
“Don’t dramatize. It’s not that deep.” He laughed.
At that sound, the tightness in her chest loosened. She couldn’t help smiling as she hopped off the stool to pack away the First Aid gear and wash her hands.
“You mind if I stay a little?” he asked. “I’m feeling dizzy. Must be the loss of blood.”
He so wasn’t, but this playful tease was such a contrast to the moody man who’d first ordered that icy beer and she couldn’t resist her curiosity. She hesitated, then reluctantly smiled again. “You’d like another beer?”
He held her gaze. “Isn’t it past closing?”