Today's Reading

Avery does a terrible job of being sneaky while taking a peek at the guy, who happens to be looking our way when she passes his table.

"He's doing it again. I bet you a million dollars he's working up the nerve to come talk to you," Harley murmurs. "And he's kinda hot."

I snort indelicately. "I sincerely doubt that. No one actually comes up to someone in bars anymore. Besides, I'm with my girl gang, which is doubly off-putting. Also, if you had a million dollars to throw around on bets, I guarantee you would not be running social media for Spark House."

She shrugs. "It's not a bad gig."

"It would be great if Avery would let us hire someone to help out this year." I swipe at the rim of my drink and suck the salt off my finger.

"You know how she feels about hiring nonfamily members." She swirls her straw in her glass.

"Maybe we can adopt an extra sister," I suggest, and Harley giggles.

I glance over at the guy, unable to stop myself from looking, and meet his gaze. He lifts his beer and his eyes crinkle with his smile. I give him a quick smile back, which I'm sure looks more like a constipated grimace, and pick up my own drink, trying to hide behind it.

He's not just kinda hot, he's Bunsen-burner-blue-flame hot. He has a beard, which usually I'm not a huge fan of. But it's not one of those "alpha male, I'm using facial hair as a reason not to engage in personal grooming" beards. Even with the facial hair, I can tell that he has high cheekbones and a square jaw. His hair is chestnut brown and a little unruly at the sides, as though he's overdue for a haircut.

He's dressed in jeans and a T-shirt with the word RECYCLE on the front in faded capital letters. Despite his casual attire, there's something about the way he carries himself. When he raises his hand to stop the server passing by, she grows visibly flustered. As though having his attention on her is too much for her to handle.

The watch is another thing that piques my curiosity especially since it seems a bit of a contradiction to his jeans and T-shirt ensemble. It's not a sports watch, but an older one, maybe an antique. He looks to be in his thirties, and not many people in this generation choose to wear anything but a Smartwatch, favoring the ease of a cell phone when they need to know what time it is.

Avery returns, and we finish our drinks, flagging down the server for the bill, to which she gives us an awkward smile.

"So, um, your bill has already been paid." She inclines her head marginally in the direction of the table with the hot guy. "He picked up the tab."

"Oh wow. Okay. Well, that was nice." Especially since we racked up quite the bill with our drinks.

"What about the tip?" Harley asks, digging into her purse.

Our server holds up her hand. "Oh no, he was more than generous."

"You're sure?"

"Absolutely." She nods.

Avery and Harley exchange another one of those knowing looks. My stomach does a flip-flop as our server moves on to another table and the hot guy slides across the bench seat and rises. He's tall, must be over six feet, and lean. Broad shoulders that taper down to a narrow waist. I glance at his feet and notice his scuffed running shoes.

He rolls his shoulders back and crosses over to our table. He nods to my sisters but doesn't really look at them, his eyes on me. Now that he's right in front of me, I notice they're a deep mossy-green color, reminding me of a Colorado forest. "Hi." A slow smile forms as his gaze moves over my face.

I feel it like a gentle caress and heat travels through my veins. It's an unexpected reaction, so my own "hi" comes out rather breathily. "Thank you for the drinks and the food. You really didn't need to do that."

His grin widens, showing off perfectly straight, white teeth. "Well, I wanted to make a good impression, and have an excuse to come over and talk to you."

Harley squeezes my leg under the table. I don't risk looking at her because I'm sure she's smiling like a loon.

"You certainly did that. Make a good impression, I mean." Why am I so awkward right now? And why does it feel like this man is sucking all the oxygen out of the room and turning my brain cells into mush?
...

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