Wednesday, May 23, 2012


He occupied the back corner of a French restaurant tucked into a Washington, DC suburb, watching the world go by one diner at a time.  Swirling the glass of Perrier in his long, tanned fingers, he allowed his interest to focus on one particular patron.  Incredibly, she’d wandered in about twenty minutes ago, accompanied by another woman. 

At first he’d done a double-take.  So many times over the last six years, he’d seen her – or at least imagined that he’d seen her.   In a dozen different cities at a dozen different times, he’d trailed after her only to find that –once again – it was his imagination.

He initially assumed this was yet another instance of overactive imagination, but the closer he looked, the more familiar the woman seemed.

She and her friend had been talking animatedly ever since they were seated, their lilting laughter drifting back into his secluded corner.  He leaned back into the leather booth, thanking the stroke of luck that seated her facing him.  Because, now convinced that it was really her, he couldn’t tear his eyes away.

A tiny sprite of a woman, she had a long coppery braid and pert, upturned nose.  Her full, bowed mouth was a dusky shade of pink and freckles dusted across her porcelain cheekbones.  He couldn’t see them from here, but he knew her eyes were the color of Irish whiskey.

And she was just as beautiful as he remembered.

That was a relief in and of itself.  One couldn’t always be trusted to remember things clearly after a night of indulgence.

But you didn’t indulge.

No.  He hadn’t indulged.  Not that way.  The only thing he’d taken advantage of was her sweet nature and a lot of alcohol. 

In retrospect, he was glad.  It would be haunting him, even now, if he had taken that kind of liberty with the sweet little leprechaun.  There was still a debt owed in her favor, but it wasn’t because of some sleazy hookup with a drunk.  

This girl – woman – didn’t deserve sleazy.  She had a good heart, and he was determined to repay his debt.

With interest. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Part Three

He considered her words – and her – for several long heartbeats.  Siobhan assumed he was trying to gauge her sincerity, and impassively allowed herself to be scrutinized until, casually, but without warning, his hand shot outward.  In a single motion he guided the glass from the table to his mouth, gulping its contents in one breath before returning it to its original position.

“I think you mean that,” he observed quietly, twisting the top from the next bottle.

“Good, because I do.  Wet panties are not a life threatening condition.  Walking away would be disappointing, but not devastating."

He froze, mid-twist, transferring his attention from the distilled alcohol to the ‘live’ Whiskey.  Dark pupils ate away at brown irises, making his eyes appear black. 

She pretended not to notice behind the fallen curtain of her hair, just absently tucking it behind one ear, waiting to see how he would respond.   The crass words were completely out of character for her, but the shock of her bold statement had obviously made him feel… something.

“Your panties are wet?”

If they weren’t already, the sexy rumble that his voice had adopted certainly did the trick.  “I’m alone with a gorgeous, half-naked man in his hotel room.  I’d be dead if they weren’t.  But,” she continued casually, “Feel free to see for yourself.”

The words were flippant, but even as they spilled from her mouth, they drove this little escapade home for Siobhan.  This no longer smacked of a goodwill ambassador mission to help the hurt and lonely – she had just invited Richie Sambora into her panties. 

For his own good of course.

It appeared to serve the same purpose for him, because he bypassed the distant place he’d been drifting toward, careening to a screeching halt right before her.  He was fully immersed in the here and now, interest piqued. 

The intensity in his eyes bridged their emotional connection more easily than he was able to overcome the physical one.  The long, beige sofa stretched between them like a desert, its two vacant cushions an obstacle in reaching their mutual oasis. 

“My arms are long, Whiskey, but they’re not that long.  Slide over here next to me.”

Only partially complying, she lithely slid her feet to the floor, and in the space of two small steps, had sandwiched herself between his splayed thighs.  Their knees had no more brushed than his hands were skimming beneath her top and up her ribcage, thumbs grazing the edges of her pert breasts.

“That’s not my panties,” she chided, nimble fingers finally indulging in the impulse to brush the errant hair from his forehead.  No receding hairline here, only soft dark waves to detract from the fine lines fanning outward at his eyes – lines that spoke a lifetime of laughter and smiles. 

You’ll get there again, handsome.  Just give it some time.

“It’s not?  You’re sure?”  His thumb rasped across the lace demi-cup, and she was treated to one of the crinkly smiles that had left its calling card on his face.  That brief glimpse was enough to make her breath catch and willingly enlist as one of his faithful followers.  The fluffy headed singer may be pretty, but this man exuded a pheromone laden charm that was irresistible –and right now he wasn’t even trying.  He would be lethal with any type of intent.

“Pretty sure,” she nodded as his hands slipped down to cover her backside.  “But you’re getting closer.”

“I bet you’ve got on one of those matching bra and panties sets that screams ‘do me’ all over it, so I don’t really see that there’s any major difference.”

Her eyes sparkled with mischief.  She knew what he was saying, but the literal translation was too funny to let pass.  “Are you a virgin?  Because if you’re not, and can’t tell the difference between bra and panties – AND the significance that entails – then this may take more than one night.”

Siobhan received a sharp pinch on her left buttock in retribution.  “Brat.  Just show them to me.”  And, to allow her the space necessary to do that, he reclined into the overstuffed couch, watching expectantly. 

Without hesitation, her arms crossed at the waist, efficiently pulling the hem of the top over her head and dropping it to the floor beside her. 

Hooded eyes roved across the newly revealed expanse of pale flesh, mottled only by a liberal dusting of freckles across her subtle cleavage.  The black lace bra cupped her breasts tightly, giving the illusion that they would spill over at any moment, revealing the tiny treasures they had to share.

“Bra definitely screams ‘do me’,” he observed.  “Let’s see what the panties have to say.”

A shiver of anticipation zinged through Siobhan as she reached for the button on her slacks.  Stepping out of her shoes, she nudged them aside before easing the zipper down and allowing the fabric to slide the short distance to the floor.  She watched him devour the black lace, hip hugger panties with appreciation.

“’Do me’, loud and clear,” he confirmed, levering forward in his seat.  A strong square thumb crept up to trace the delicate lace scallops that were nestled in the crease of her thigh.  “Red as a copper fuckin’ penny,” he marveled, stroking the downy fluff that peeped from behind the lace.

Goose bumps danced up her arms at the feathery touch.  It had been so long.

Callused fingers slid upward to curl over her hipbones, encouraging her to turn away from him.  Carefully navigating the discarded slacks, she obeyed, looking over her shoulder as the goose bumps started their conga line again.  His thumb was tracing the swell of bare bottom that protruded beneath her panty line.

“I never knew leprechauns had such nice asses.”  Richie engulfed a globe in each palm, deft fingers kneading, testing their weight in his grasp. 

Siobhan inhaled sharply as one of those deft fingers slipped forward to stroke the lace cradled between her thighs, causing her to involuntarily clench those muscles in an effort to pull him closer. Her response and the moisture saturating the delicate fabric earned a muffled groan of pleasure from him, dampening the lace even further.

“Goddammit, you weren’t lying.”

“Never made a woman’s panties wet before?”  She chuckled, trying to keep it light, but his touch was pulling her into a much more serious place – one where she could easily, and willingly, drown.

He growled low in his throat and spun her around, toppling her into his lap.  “It would serve you and your smartass mouth right if I bent you over that table and split you wide open right now.”

Gentle hands and a playful dimple took the harsh edge from his words, and she drew her feet up alongside her, curling them into the denim clad thigh opposite the one where her bottom rested.  Leaning into his hard body, she idly sought out his sparse smattering of chest hair, enjoying its coarseness against her fingertips.

Good.  She was keeping his mind engaged here instead of… there.

And, God help her, she was dying to more fully engage the rest of him as well.  Siobhan had known it would be no hardship having sex with him, but hadn’t realized that he would be able to so readily ignite her with a look and a touch.  Didn’t have any understanding of how badly she was going to end up wanting this.

“Is that supposed to be a threat?  Because it’s sounding pretty good to me about now.”

Muscled bands of steel had risen to encircle her slight form, and he furrowed his nose into the soft cloud of her hair with a soft ‘hmm’.  He was eerily still except for the warm breaths whispering against her scalp, and she could sense the change in him without having to see his face.

He’d slipped away again.

“You smell good,” he mumbled, flexing his arms to keep her firmly against his chest.  A slight shift of his hips rolled her more fully into his body and a deep sigh escaped, tugging at her emotions. 

She’d thought this was what he wanted – needed.  Was she wrong? 

Siobhan silently decided to give him one more push.  If he didn’t push back, she would reluctantly retreat, wet panties in hand.

“I taste even better.” 

The shock factor had worked in her favor the first time.  Would it be enough to draw him back out to play a second time?

Come on, Richie.  Let me help you escape.

His thumb stroked along the delicate skin blanketing her tricep, sending tingles all the way to her toes.

But he wasn’t biting.  “I don’t doubt it,” was all he uttered, without making an effort to sample her wares.

Now what to do? 

Really, what was there to do, other than sit and let him take what he needed?  As much as her libido may be protesting, she’d told him he could have anything he wanted.  If this was what he wanted, she would stay curled up against him, sharing body heat and nothing else – until it was enough.

“You don’t have to stay, Whiskey,” he spoke low in her ear, as though reading her thoughts.  “My mind is too fucked up to do this.”

Siobhan was sure he thought he was doing the right thing by granting her escape, but the strength of his grip wordlessly contradicted the offer.  He wanted somebody with him; he just wasn’t ready to move onto that next level.  It was too soon.  Despite what that bitch had done, he was still married in his head.

“It’s getting awfully late - early,” she hedged, tipping her face up to his.  “And I’m on opening shift tomorrow.  Think it would be okay if I crashed with you for a few hours?”

The dimple winked at her, and his thumb lightly traced the cleft in her chin, so much like his own. 

“Yeah, sure.  There’s only one bed though,” he warned, neither one of them acknowledging what she was really doing.  He didn’t want to be a charity case any more than she wanted to be a saint.

One small shoulder rose toward her ear, with feigned indifference.  “I can handle it if you can.”


Siobhan checked her opening inventory to make sure it matched the closing inventory from the night before.  Really, since she hadn’t checked it all that closely last night, she was catching up.   Rubbing a weary hand across her eyes, she willed them to focus on the paperwork in front of her.

After trailing Richie to the bedroom, they had each crawled in on opposite sides of the big king-size bed – she lying on her right side, placing him in her line of vision, and he on his back staring at the ceiling.  It was only a few short minutes later that he swiveled his head on the pillow, simultaneously reaching out to her across the wide expanse of bedding.

Stretching to meet him, she’d slithered across the sheets until their bodies almost touched, his heat reaching out to warm the bare midriff exposed by the lingerie she still wore.   Siobhan had just settled herself back into the mattress, her eyelids drifting shut, when she felt his fingers glide along the seam of her closed thighs, seeking entry to the intimate treasure that was cushioned between them.

“What are you doing?”

The exploring fingers didn’t pause in their journey.  “You wanted me.  Just because I’m fucked up doesn’t mean you should suffer.  I can at least give you something that won’t leave you frustrated.”

She clamped her hand around his wrist, meeting his eyes in the semi-darkness.  “No.” 

Did she want to have sex with him?  Yes.  WITH him.  The little bits and pieces he’d shown her through the evening were enough to let her know that he would be an amazing partner, but she didn’t want it this way.  Not with the words, ‘I give and give and give until there’s nothing left of me’ still rattling around in her brain. 

She brought his hand to her lips, kissing the tiny, fading star tattoo between his thumb and forefinger.  “Don’t give this time,” she ordered softly.  “Just take.  It’s okay.”

And, mercifully, he had.  His arms had once again locked her up like steel pythons and he murmured something she couldn’t understand – and probably didn’t want to.

They’d lain like that, without another word, until sometime just after sunup when his arms went lax and a gentle snoring filled her ear.  Grateful that he’d found some rest, but knowing that sleep wasn’t in the cards for her, Siobhan had slipped from under the covers and into the luxurious bathroom for a hot shower.

After winding her wet hair back into its braid and quietly dressing, she’d slipped out of the suite without bothering to wake him.  Sleep and its accompanying oblivion would be understandably more important to him than an awkward goodbye. 

However, she HAD paused on the threshold, indulging in a leisurely perusal of his sleeping form.    He wasn’t what she had expected.  Men in his position weren’t sweet, considerate or humble, yet he was.  It sparked within her a brief longing that things had gone a bit differently. 

Oh well. Maybe I just made a deposit into my karmic savings account.  Next time I get my heart stomped on, somebody will be there for me.

The reminder of ‘heart stomping’ had her glancing down the bar to the seat he’d held and the last bit of unfinished housekeeping from last night. 

Work shoes squeaking on the anti-fatigue flooring, she moved to deftly sweep away the remains of one diluted glass of Jameson’s adorned with a gold band.  At the little sink under the counter, she poured the melted ice down the drain through her parted fingers, catching the ring as it tumbled free.  Grabbing the nearest bar towel, she dried both it and her hand before experimentally slipping the ring over her thumb.  It wasn’t as big as she expected. 

“Hey lady, were you working last night at closing time?” 

The loud Northeastern accent blaring inches from her ear startled her, and she almost dropped the ring.  Using her other fingers to secure it tightly on her thumb, so as not to lose it, she snapped her head up to find a slight man standing before her.  Thick, dark hair was combed to the side, and round aviator glasses perched on his owlish face.


“Awesome.  My friend over there…“  He nodded toward the doorway, where she could see a crowd of people milling about.  Her attention was immediately drawn to the dark, shaggy head protruding slightly above those around him.  Sunglasses masked a good portion of his face, but they’d spent enough time together that it didn’t disguise his identity.   “Is an inconsiderate prick and forgot to leave you a tip last night, which we all know you deserve for dealing with his sorry ass.  Once he sobered up, he asked me to deliver this along with his apologies.”

 He unceremoniously shoved a hotel envelope across the rich wood bar at her.  The only thing making it distinctive from a thousand other envelopes was the word ‘Whiskey’ scrawled across the front in a heavy script.

Siobhan’s eyes darted back to the crowd outside the door.  He was still there, his face now turned toward the bar, and she was able to clearly discern the tired lines in his face, visible even beneath the sunglasses camouflaging his eyes.  He offered up a ghost of a smile, the dimple barely denting his cheek, and a single nod.  Then he was gone, the throng of people propelling him out the hotel entrance and into the street. 

“Thanks,” she said, slipping the ring from her finger and into her palm.  Offering it to the man across from her, she explained, “He left this on the bar.  Could you please see that he gets it?”

A dry cackle parted the man’s lips, and he pushed away from her, leaving the ring untouched.  “Sweetheart, he doesn’t want that.  He said to keep it, sell it, or give it to charity.”  Turning away, he threw over his shoulder a parting, “Gotta run, doll.  Thanks for watching out for him.”   Then he, too, was gone, trailing after the remaining stragglers in the lobby.

One corner of her mouth lifted in amusement at the man’s words, and she folded her fingers around the ring, shoving the ensuing fist into her pants pocket.  Its fate could be decided later.  Right now, she would just absorb the comfort of its presence, assuring her that last night had been more than a bizarre dream. 

As further evidence, the bright white envelope shone starkly against the dark wood, beckoning to her.   It represented the final stop of the crazy ride she’d embarked upon a mere twelve hours ago – the one she wasn’t quite ready to let go of yet.

So she swiped a damp towel all over the surrounding surface, avoiding direct contact with it. 

A tip. 

Somehow she knew it wasn’t a tip in the traditional sense of the word.  He’d been kicked in the teeth and feeling lower than low, yet still tried to make sure she’d been taken care of last night.  That wasn’t the kind of man who would follow up with a monetary slap in the face.

It did make her wonder though.

Siobhan carefully folded the towel over the tiny sink, wiping the residual moisture from her hands with the apron at her waist.  Hands dry, she tentatively reached for the taunting white rectangle and traced her finger over its face, smiling fondly at the nickname he’d bestowed upon her. 

He’s a good guy.  I hope it all works out for him.

Acknowledging that it was time, she allowed her curiosity to outweigh reluctance and, sliding her finger under the flap, saw that her instincts had correct – a sheet of hotel stationery represented the sole contents of the envelope.  The linen paper rasped audibly as she slipped it free from its confines.


I couldn’t leave without thanking you and apologizing for last night.  I don’t know that anyone else would’ve indulged a drunken old man the way you did.  You soothed my soul and made one of the hardest nights of my life bearable.  Gratitude seems so little to offer in comparison, but unfortunately, it’s the only thing I have to give at the moment.  I hope you understand.
Take care,

PS~ I almost forgot about your tip.  Never let a drunk guy pick you up in a bar.  They’re all assholes.

  The End  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Part Two

As soon as he’d gone, Siobhan hastily finished up her few lingering tasks and switched off the remainder of the lights. The only thing she’d left untouched was the highball glass with his wedding ring.  It didn’t feel right to dump it out, or to keep the ring.  If he didn’t come back for it, she’d leave it for him at the hotel desk when she returned to work in the morning.

In the employee locker room, she quickly surveyed her appearance, knowing that she didn’t have enough time to really do anything about it.  Her braid had begun to have that fly-away look, but her eyes were bright and the color in her cheeks was still high.  Smoothing her hands over her ‘uniform’, she decided that the black slacks and long-sleeved, scoop neck tee would suffice.  Spritzing some vanilla body spray on her throat and wrists, the only other concession she made in going from work to casual was to kick off the black sneakers that kept her feet comfortable all night, exchanging them for black ballerina flats.

A lot of petite women wore stiletto heels to compensate for their lack of stature, but Siobhan had given up being a slave to fashion years ago.  She didn’t need a five-inch pair of death spikes to level the playing field between her and anyone else.

Blowing out a breath, she gave herself a last once-over in the mirror before looking at her watch.  Eight minutes had passed.

She snatched up her purse and slid into the labyrinth of back hallways that, while intricate and convoluted, were as familiar as the back of her hand.  In no time, she was in the guest elevator, pressing the button for the thirty-second floor.

What am I doing?  He may be famous, but I know NOTHING about this man.  What kind of idiot goes to a strange man’s hotel room at three in the morning?

Without hesitation a second voice butted in on the conversation with herself. 

The kind who doesn’t want him suffering alone tonight.

And that was the truth.  This wasn’t some sex fantasy come to life.  If she got to his room and he was passed out cold, she wouldn’t have a moment’s remorse over the loss.  Her only – well, maybe PRIMARY was a better word– desire was to see the shadows chased from his eyes by whatever positive emotion had lived there before.  She assumed it was happiness, or at least contentment.  Either would be a perfectly acceptable substitute.   

The elevator slid open, putting an end to her attempted justification for being here.  In about thirty seconds she would knock on the door and know whether or not she was making a mistake.  Until then, she wasn’t second guessing herself any more.

A quiet knock heralded her arrival at the room number he’d provided, and the door swung inward almost instantly.  In those first seconds, before he could censor himself, the relief radiated from him like a beacon, erasing any lingering doubts she may have had.

Tonight was for him, and if she happened to make a beautiful memory in the process – so be it.

“Are you going to invite me in?” she asked with a smile.

His teeth flashed briefly as he stepped back to admit her into the dimly lit suite, shirt tails flapping in the breeze.  The few buttons that had been holding the black pinstriped dress shirt together had been freed, and Siobhan couldn’t help but admire the broad expanse of chest that was now more fully exposed.

“Forgive my manners.  I was stunned for a minute.”   He gently pushed the door, allowing it to fall closed with a muffled thump.

Hands on hips, she chastised him.  “You didn’t believe me.”

“It wasn’t that,” he denied, towering over her.  “I thought I dreamed you.  Kinda like a pink elephant?”

Her laughter tittered throughout the suite, sounding loud and raucous to her own ears.  “Sorry,” she murmured.  “I didn’t mean to be so loud, but you just called me an elephant – or a hallucination.”

“No, Whiskey, you’re definitely not an elephant.  More like a li’l pixie.”  His face split wide with a grin, and he tugged lightly on the braid that hung over her shoulder.  “I know… a leprechaun.”

She felt like a leprechaun standing next to him.  Even in his socked feet, he stood almost a good foot taller, placing her eyes directly even with the dark, flat nipples exposed by his open shirt.   

Discomfited, her eyes darted beyond him, further into the room, where an assortment of mini-bar bottles was scattered across the low sofa table.  None of them were what he’d been drinking downstairs, and only one was open, but he was evidently still seeking the promise of oblivion they offered.

A gentle finger tipped her chin upward toward his eyes, recapturing her attention.  “Will you share your pot of gold with me?”

The line was corny – borderline juvenile.  It was something that would be uttered with snickers among a group of boys in a high school locker room.  Any other time, any other place and Siobhan would firmly shut down the man who dared speak something so… ridiculous.

But not this man.  Not tonight.  The awkward little laugh that had followed it tugged at her, revealing that it had been a product of nerves, not school-boy seduction.

“You’re gonna have to work on your pick up lines when you start dating again.  That was bad,” she murmured kindly, placing her palm over the heavy metal cross lying against his sternum.

It was enough to convince that elusive dimple to make another appearance, and she knew that she’d do anything to make it stay right there for the rest of the night.  It lent him a sweet, boyish charm that shaved years from his age.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had to pick a woman up, Whiskey.  Hell, I don’t know if I ever have.  They’ve always sorta chased me.”

“Well, I’ve never let a man pick me up, so it’s a first for both of us.”

“Then I’m grateful.”  His eyes fell downward and his uncertainty was palpable, hanging thickly in the air around them.  Richie’s hand dwarfed hers when he stacked them together on his chest, and he engrossed himself with the contrast for a distraction.  “So tiny.”

Siobhan cocked her head, dipping it to intrude upon his line of vision.  “Are you sure this is what you want?  My feelings won’t be hurt if you’ve changed your mind.” 

Smoldering eyes locked with hers, rocking her to the core with their heat.  “I want this more than I want my next breath,” he admitted.  “I’m just trying not to scare you.”

How the hell could anyone let him go?

That was not the line of thinking she should be indulging.  This was a few hours of escapism.  Nothing more.

“I’m not afraid,” she assured him, slipping her hand from under his to glide it slowly downward, bringing it to rest upon the thatch of hair that surrounded his navel.  “Tonight, if it’s in my power to grant it, anything you want is yours.”

He didn’t ask, he took, tasting of grain alcohol and pure testosterone when their tongues clashed.  The flavors flooded her senses, making her as drunk as he.  She’d never taste whiskey again without remembering the accompanying taste of him.  Dark and sensual, his flavor was almost exotic, and a whimper escaped as she struggled to draw a breath.

“You’re the sweetest tasting whiskey I’ve ever had in my mouth,” he murmured, the light dancing off the sheen of moisture shining on his lips.  She felt a faint pulling at her scalp when he touched her braid.  “Can I undo it?”

Nodding, she waited for him to fumble with the black elastic that tethered the strands together, careful not to pull her hair when he tugged it free.  Nimble fingers immediately inserted themselves into the firmly woven locks, moving steadily toward the crown until it was all free.  The rasp of his nails sent shivers down her spine when he fluffed out the waves with a sigh of appreciation, admiring the way it spilled down her back in a glorious coppery waterfall.

She echoed his sigh with her own.  When was the last time she’d had appreciative fingers running through her hair?  And he applied just the right amount of pressure to relieve the ache wrought by long hours of braided confinement.

“Gorgeous,” he admired.  “It’s a shame to bundle it all up.”

She really didn’t have much choice when she was behind the bar, but hated to distract him with the mundane reality of her profession.  It was much more pleasurable to explore his abdomen with open palms that were itching in anticipation.

Her hands had no more glided upward to brush his ribs, when he stepped back, capturing them in his grasp.  “Would you like a drink?”  Richie gestured toward the table by the couch.

He’s having second thoughts.

“No,” she declined thoughtfully.  “But if you want one, I’ll be happy to sit with you.”

A slight incline of his head preceded their short, wordless journey to the sofa and its inebriating offerings. 

Perching herself on the end cushion, she watched him fumble with the ice from his seat next to her, dropping a few of the cubes to the floor in their transition from ice bucket to glass.

“Here,” Siobhan offered with a smile, relieving him of the small metal tongs.  “Why don’t you let a trained professional handle that?”  Half a dozen cubes efficiently clinked into the small glass before him, and her hand hovered over the assortment of small bottles.  “What’s your pleasure, sir?”


She didn’t take time to entertain herself with the notion that there may be dual meaning to his choice, merely cracking the seal on the bottle and efficiently transferring its contents to the glass. 

Richie accepted the drink from her with a nod of thanks, taking a short swallow before replacing it on the table.  “Why are you here?”

It was an odd question, only serving to highlight the befuddled state he must be stuck in.  Either that or he really was having second thoughts.

“Because you asked me.”

“You aren’t looking for some story to sell to the National Enquirer or Washington Post?”

Answering his question with a sincere, heartfelt response would only serve to more firmly entrench him in the reality he had been looking to escape.  A different tactic was in order.

“You think they’d pay for it?  ‘Drunk with Bad Lines Still Picks Up the Girl?’  Somehow I don’t think so,” she teased.  “Besides, it just makes me look like a slut, so your honor is safe with me.”

But he didn’t smile.  “I’m not drunk enough to believe you didn’t already know my name.”

“Maybe I did,” she confessed.  “But who you are has nothing to do with why I’m here.  Well, at least very little to do with it.  You didn’t want to be alone, and I understood that.  Period.  If that’s changed, then all you have to do is say the word and I’m on my way to a really comfortable bed in the suburbs.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Part One

February 2, 2006

The soft lighting was minimal, in deference to the late hour.  A subtle amber glow gently illuminated the deep mahogany wood of the hotel bar, but still left plenty of surrounding shadows to hide from the world.   That seemed to suit Siobhan’s last patron just fine.

Last call had come and gone, taking with it the few still lingering at that hour – except for one lone man.  She slid a look toward the end of the bar while appearing to inventory her remaining liquor.  He was still firmly ensconced there; head hung low, oblivious to anything around him.  He’d been there most of the evening, not really drinking a lot, but drinking steadily. 

She knew who he was, of course.  You didn’t turn sweet sixteen in the eighties and not recognize this man.  Oh sure… the dark hair was significantly shorter, the lines in his face more pronounced, but there was no mistaking his identity.  He may not have been quite the same icon as the fluffy headed lead singer, but their tandem travels had earned him his own dedicated following.  A following that was still very much alive from what she’d read online.

A pang of sympathy had her surreptitiously checking on him again.  She’d seen something else online today.  Something that probably explained his presence here, as well as being the reason she hadn’t kicked him out yet.   

His wife had filed for divorce yesterday, apparently without bothering to tell him.  He’d been doing a routine interview before tonight’s concert, when a reporter asked him to verify the news, saying the wife’s publicist had released it to the press an hour earlier.    

No amount of money could protect you from that kind of pain and humiliation.

“Another Jameson’s, barkeep.” 

Although she’d been keeping a close eye on him, the gruff request startled her.  She managed to keep it hidden, and flipped the long, coppery French braid over her shoulder with an apologetic smile.  “Last call was almost an hour ago.  Bar’s closed.”

Squinting one eye, he lifted his finger to point at a spot over her shoulder.  “But it’s right there next to ya.  All ya hafta do is jus’ hand it to me and I’ll pour it muhself.”

The slurring wasn’t overly pronounced, but it was enough to tell Siobhan that he’d found someplace to escape the pain.  She hoped he was staying in the hotel tonight.

Shaking her head regretfully, she had no choice but to refuse.  “They tend to frown upon customers pouring their own drinks.”

“Ah yes, but if the bahr’s closed, I’m not a cust’mer.”  A dimple materialized in his left cheek.  “Problem solved.”

“Ah yes,” she countered, eyes sparkling like a fine glass of cognac.  “Then you’re a thief.  Whole new problem.”

His face collapsed tragically, reminding her of a cartoon character who’d been blown up like a balloon and then popped with a stick pin.  “C’mon pretty lady,” he implored, eyes traveling the length of her petite frame.  “I had a really shitty day.  What’s one more drink gonna hurt?”

He was right.  He’d had a majorly shitty day.  So what that it was two o’clock in the morning and that she had to be back here in nine hours to re-open?  It wouldn’t kill her to bend a little.  If she lost her job, there were a hundred other bars just like this one in Washington, DC.

Sighing, she hooked her foot around the step stool, dragging it across the floor to stop in front of the Jameson’s.   Of course he had to drink the good stuff that was kept on the top shelf.  Her five-foot-two stature had climbed up and down from this stool a hundred times already today, and her back was feeling every last one of them at the moment.  Stepping down, bottle in tow, she knew there would be at least one more trip to restock the liquor.

“You’re just a li’l thing, aren’t ya?”

Siobhan smiled politely, trying to decide which response from her arsenal to use.  In her thirty-eight years, that question had been posed to her more times than she cared to think of, and given her plenty of opportunities to develop some creative responses.

“Good things come in small packages.”  Snagging a fresh glass, she scooped some ice in and splashed the Irish whiskey over it – a small amount of Irish whiskey.

Now why did I say that, of all things?  He probably thinks I’m flirting with him, and that’s the last thing he needs.

Shaking her head, she covered the distance to the end of the bar, placing the fresh drink on a napkin before him.  She redirected her hand to the empty glass, intending to remove it, when his fingers curled around her wrist.

Startled, she snapped her head up to find cocoa brown eyes focused on her intently.  “Thank you… What’s your name?”

“Siobhan,” she replied, carefully articulating ‘shuh-VAHN’.  A lot of people had difficulty with the pronunciation of her rather unusual moniker.

He was evidently no different.  Shaking his head with a rueful smile, he asked, “What the hell kind of name is that?”

“It’s Irish – courtesy of my grandmother.”

“Irish is good,” he approved, indicating the glass before him.  “They make a helluva whiskey – which jus’ happens to be the color of your eyes.  How ‘bout I call you Whiskey instead?  Less of a mouthful.”

“Call me whatever you like,” she invited amiably.  It wasn’t like he’d remember either one come morning.

Siobhan looked pointedly at his hand still encircling her wrist, and then back into his eyes.  The emptiness there distracted her from his touch.  He looked so sad and alone – like an abandoned puppy.

“Sit with me?”

She shouldn’t.  It went against her better judgment – or anyone’s better judgment.  You didn’t just sit down with a man, all alone in a deserted bar in the middle of the night.  Not without that protective barrier between the two of you.

Blushing, she realized the Freudian slip that had just taken place in her mind.  So maybe she more than recognized him.  Maybe she’d had a fantasy or two about him once upon a time.  That didn’t make it any more appropriate.

He must’ve guessed the direction her answer was leaning, because he stroked his thumb across the back of her hand and mumbled, “Please?  I jus’ don’t wanna be alone right now.”

Well, hell.  How can I refuse that, knowing what I know?

“Well…  I don’t sit with strangers.  My mother didn’t raise a silly girl.  BUT, if you tell me your name, I guess we won’t be strangers anymore.”

Sure, she already knew the answer, but he didn’t know that, and a sense of anonymity might make him feel better.  At the very least, he wouldn’t have to worry about whether she’d seen the interview.

“Exc’lent point,” he agreed with a lopsided smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.  “I’m Richie.”

“Nice to meet you, Richie.”

“You too, Whiskey.”

She gave a gentle tug on her hand, softly reminding him that he still held her captive.  “If you want me to sit with you, you’re gonna have to let go so I can come around.”

“So I am,” he agreed releasing his grasp, but not relinquishing his hold on her eyes.  “A damn shame, too.”

Choosing not to respond, Siobhan kept true to her word and made her way around to the paying side of the bar.  The seats were positioned closely together, and she created some space between them before climbing on the stool next to Richie’s.

“Damn.  You really are a li’l thing.”

Even seated on a high stool, the top of her head hit somewhere in the middle of his ear and her feet stretched to reach the rung so that they didn’t dangle.

“Did you ever consider that you’re just a big thing?” she countered with a quirk of her brow.

 “Darlin’, been told on more than one occasion that I AM a big thing.” 

Her pulse raced at the unexpected innuendo.  Of course, he WAS a musician.  Maybe this kind of thing was why his wife had filed in the first place.  Regardless, she thought it in her best interest to change the subject. 

“Are you a guest in the hotel?  I mean, you’re here from out of town?”

He nodded, lifting the Jameson’s to his lips and inhaling half the contents of the glass.  The ice settled back into the bottom and he rattled it around with a shake of his wrist, the sound echoing in the quiet.  It fascinated him for a moment, watching the liquor melt the ice and causing the configuration of cubes to shift again.

“Ya ev’r been married, Whiskey?”

In tidying up the area, she had left the small bowl of pretzels situated near his left elbow since he was still drinking.  She reached out, sliding it closer and feigning nonchalance.


He swiveled himself part-way round to assess her features.  She had looked in the mirror often enough to guess what he saw.  Mother Nature had yet to mar her porcelain skin with something as unsightly as a wrinkle.  The only detraction from its lucidity was the random dusting of freckles across her cheekbones.   Her lips formed a dusky pink bow just above the tiny cleft in her chin, and her neck was just as smooth as her face.

“’Course not.  You’re too young for that.” 

Siobhan didn’t bother correcting the misconception.  Her complexion and small stature always led people to believe she was much younger than she actually was.

“Well, lemme tell ya – don’t.  Love often ‘n well, but don’t give your heart to anybody.  They get tired of holdin’ it after a while, so they drop it on the ground ‘n stomp on it.  Makes a big ole fuckin’ mess.”

“I’ve heard that.”

Honestly, it was part of the reason she was still single.  Every time she’d gotten close enough with a man to consider that next step, he’d lost interest because of…   Well, she had no idea why.   The most common excuse had been the infamous ‘it’s not you, it’s me’,  followed up by ‘you’re too intense’, ‘you’re smothering me’. 

Funny that.  She’d always imagined that a love worth having WAS intense.  But after having – as Richie had said – her heart stomped on a few times, the scar tissue had become thick enough to form some heavy duty calluses.  Siobhan had lost confidence in that theory along with the inclination to develop a new one.  Alone was easier.  At the very least, it was less traumatic.

So, yeah, she had an inkling of how the man swallowing the last of his drink and leaning heavily on the bar was feeling.  It made that callused heart of hers ache with a sympathy that was likely unwanted. 

“Tell me ‘bout you, Whiskey.  Is there a boyfriend?"

“No, no boyfriend at the moment.”

“When’s the last time you had sex?”

His bluntness stunned her, and she cursed the fair complexion that, according to the heat filling her cheeks, was pinkening in embarrassment.  After the years she’d spent behind a bar, she should be used to the unpredictable things that would tumble out of a person’s mouth once a few drinks had tumbled in.  But they weren’t usually so personal, or pointed directly at her. 

The question must have been rhetorical, because he continued without waiting for an answer, making her embarrassment unnecessary.

“I’ve had sex with the SAME woman – faithf’ly – for more than eleven years.  Never ONCE did I indulge in the op’rtunities that paraded themselves in front of me.” 

Melted chocolate irises heated her insides like a marshmallow over an open campfire.

There went that damn burning in her cheeks again.

“I think th’ time has come to indulge,” he murmured, lifting a superbly masculine hand to brush his knuckles against the pink tinge.  “In a li’l Irish Whiskey.”

She couldn’t do this.  He was married.  He was drunk. 

“I think you’ve had enough Irish whiskey tonight.”

His fingers curled under her chin, thumb outlining the bottom of her lip.  “I beg to differ.  I haven’t had nearly enough.”  His decibel level had all but diminished, and rather than hearing them, she felt the words breathe across her lips before he touched them with his own.

She inhaled sharply through her nose and instantly brought startled hands to shoulders that felt every bit as broad and muscular as they professed to be under his dark shirt.  It had been her intention to push him away, but his kiss had been so soft and fleeting, she didn’t have the chance. 

His face hovered close enough for Siobhan to smell the alcohol and feel the warm rush of air when he exhaled.  She still felt the heat of his touch under her chin and saw his eyes roam over her face, studying each feature intently.  Waiting.

“You’re married,” she murmured, stating the obvious.

The hand fell away, but he didn’t retreat.  There was a rustling beneath her line of vision and then a ‘clink’ off to her left.  Sliding her eyes to the surface of the bar, she saw his wedding ring in his glass, nestled among the melting ice.

“Not anymore.”

Every fiber of her moral fabric stretched taut with the temptation.  She wasn’t one to indulge in casual sex.  It had been almost a year since her last relationship, and her hormones seemed to believe this was a much better idea than her conscience did.

No.  I’m not going to be that woman.

Her voice was barely audible, and she saw him look at her mouth to reinforce the faint sound when she said, “This isn’t a good idea.”

“Are you afraid of me?”

The weight of her braid bounced between her shoulder blades when she shook her head in denial.  There was nothing here to fear.  She wouldn’t have allowed him to remain here after closing if she’d felt the least bit of apprehension. “You’ve obviously got some stuff going on in your life.  Do you think it’s good to complicate that?”

He straightened, moving away from her touch and glancing at the band of gold sinking slowly into the dregs of melted ice and alcohol. 

Siobhan’s hands dropped to her lap and she watched him closely, hoping he didn’t morph into an angry drunk.

She needn’t have worried.  His eyes dulled, and his laugh lines became deep valleys as any pretense of happiness that may have existed, fell away.  There wasn’t even a trace of his previous slurring when he intoned, “Darlin’, you don’t know me, but I’m one of those people who gives and gives and gives until there’s nothing left of me, never asking for a thing in return.  I don’t ask for anything from anyone, even when I need it.” 

Beseeching eyes allowed Siobhan to view the depths of his soul with crystal clarity.  There was a sweetness there that lent truth to his words, but it was a sinking ship in a sea of fear, uncertainty, and rejection.  The sails of his pride were tattered and torn, and he was frantically rowing trying to keep himself afloat, desperately trying to preserve himself.

“But my ego has taken a hell of a beating, and tonight I’m breaking my own rule.  I’m gonna ask you to come to my room and help me feel like I deserve the attention of a sweet, beautiful woman.”

Her eyes welled with emotion at the heart breaking request.  How could this handsome, sincere man not think he was worthy of the attention he was asking?  He was a rock star for God’s sake.  Siobhan silently cursed the woman who’d pulled the rug out from under him, making him question his own merit and self-worth.

She’d never had a one-night stand in her life, but the words were out of her mouth before she could stop them.  “Give me your room number.  I’ll finish closing the bar and be up in a few minutes.”

A wave of dejection swept across the bow of the sinking ship.  “Don’t pump sunshine up my ass, Whiskey.  If you’re blowing me off, then just say so.  I already told you it’s been a shitty day; I don’t wanna end it as a sucker, waiting for a woman who’s not gonna show.”

She offered up a soft smile, his five o’clock shadow scraping the pads of her fingers when she touched them to his face.  With a twinkle in her eye, she mimicked his earlier words.  “Darlin’ you don’t know me, but I’m one of those people who always live up to their promises.   I’ll be ten minutes behind you.  I promise.”