Author: Stacy Kestwick
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Water's Edge (Book 1)
Doughnuts were her weakness.
If Sadie Mullins hadn’t been running on the beach to burn off the calories from her doughnut addiction, she wouldn’t have noticed the man not moving out in the water.
Wouldn’t have dived in after him.
Wouldn’t have met West Montgomery.
The cocky bastard should have been thankful, grateful even.
Of course, he wasn’t.
That should have been the end of it.
Of course, it wasn’t.
West sent me a pained look and rolled his eyes. The girl looked barely legal as it was. It was like a guppy taunting a shark.
Sharks like to chase their prey.
Needing a break from all the calculated desperation clogging the bar area, I escaped to the bathroom. The stall I picked had a working lock — thank God for small favors — and I forced myself to take a deep cleansing breath as I sat there. Okay, yeah, that was poor planning on my part, since the bathroom reeked of covert cigarettes, drugstore perfume, and stale urine, but it was the thought that counted.
Like the rest of the bar, the bathroom was covered in graffiti. I never understood how people always just seemed to have Sharpies handy when they felt like marking their territory. I looked over the scribbled messages that peppered the wall.
Ohmygod — West lives up to the hype, every inch of it! <3 Jaymie
Wyatt is mine 4ever. The mine had been crossed out and Kim’s was written above it.
Right below that it said, Kim’s a slut-faced hoebag. Huh, eloquent.
Several seemed to echo the popular sentiment, West is so hot.
I spotted a bubble-lettered, Theo is a sweetheart, which probably wasn’t what he was hoping the girls bathroom said about him, considering the other notes about male anatomy it was tucked between.
But what started to piss me off was the drawing of an erect cock with the words, West and life-sized scrawled next to it. Other inscriptions saying, agreed! and totally! and yum! had arrows pointing to the image.
The artist was accurate too. Whoever the slut-faced hoebag was.
I did a quick survey of the other wall of the cramped stall and saw my date for the evening was the star attraction and, boy, did he shine.
Just as I started to flush and rearrange my bikini bottoms under my dress, I heard two sets of footsteps echo off the stained concrete floor.
“Amber, did you see that hopeless blonde that’s been hovering at the bar all night? I think West feels bad for her or something, he keeps going to check on her.”
“Yeah, but I asked him about it. He said she was his date!” Her sarcastic tone conveyed how ridiculous she considered that. They snickered and the sound of running water gurgling in the sink did little to muffle their words.
I stilled, shamelessly eavesdropping.
“She doesn’t even look like she’s taken a shower today.”
“I know! And her skin looks creepy under the lights! Maybe West had too many shots or something tonight. He has better standards than that. It’s an insult to all of us who’ve come before her.”
They dissolved into laughter, and the water turned off.
“Let’s try offering him a combo. He’s gone for it before.”
“Mmm, you know I love a good BOGO deal, Tipper. It’s worth a try. I think his date’s disappeared anyway. She must have gotten the hint.”
Their laughter faded and a hollow thunk of the door closing signaled their exit.
Just — wow.
My mind whirled, and I was annoyed I hadn’t been able to see them through the crack between the stall door and the wall. How many other girls out there had already screwed my West? I made a face as I flushed the toilet, berating myself for letting things with him go past a quick fuck-and-duck.
I finished adjusting my admittedly wrinkled dress, opened the stall door with more force than necessary, and peered at myself in the crappy mirror. What the hell had that slut said about my skin?
I looked down at my arm, pressed the fingers of my other hand onto my skin, and let go. Five fingerprints glowed white before returning to an angry, lobster-red hue. The skin around my eyes seemed okay, thanks to the protection my gold-rimmed aviators had provided, but the rest of me looked almost fluorescent, like a raccoon in reverse. My hair was crinkled like old straw, frizzed and barely contained by my sad excuse for a braid.
I might have been so caught up in West earlier that I had forgotten sunscreen. And to look in a mirror once we got off the boat.
No wonder those girls had been mocking me. I looked like a hot mess. Like, roasted.
Running a cautious fingertip over my shoulder, the tenderness of my skin confirmed the extent of my sunburn. I needed to roll like a pig in a puddle of aloe, stat.
The time had come to call this date a failure and make a quick exit, only I didn’t have my Wrangler. We’d dropped off the dog and picnic supplies at West’s place and come straight here in his oversized truck.
Twisting to see the back of my head, I finger combed my hair as best I could, letting it fall around my face to try to hide my Ray-Ban tan lines. Then I took the coward’s way out and sent West a text that I wasn’t feeling well and was taking a cab back home.
Slipping my tote bag over my shoulder, I skirted the perimeter of the bar, escaping out the front doors without looking back. I was standing on the front sidewalk and searching for the number of the cab company on my phone when it was suddenly snatched right out of my hands.
I gasped, taking a step back, and tucked my bag to my side.
How the fuck had West gotten out of there so fast?
I dropped my gaze and let my hair hide my eyes, trying to disguise the worst of the damage.
“Yeah, I think I got a little too much sun,” I mumbled, not wanting to meet his eyes. Even though it was after eight, the sun was just beginning its descent, and there was still plenty of daylight.
He hooked my hip with his hand and tugged me closer. Using his free hand, he tipped my chin up, exposing my face. Eyes widening, he touched my cheek with the tip of his finger, wincing as he removed it. “Shit, Sadie, you’ve got to be in pain. Hold on, let me tell Wyatt I’ve got to get you home.”
I snorted. “Wouldn’t you rather stay here? I’m sure there are other toys you can play with instead.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Amber and Tipper would be more than willing to entertain you tonight. Together.”
West glanced toward the bar then back at me, annoyance splashed across his face. He moved closer, invading my personal space, and loomed over me, his eyes flashing gray storm clouds, but I stood my ground, refusing to step back. “I’m two inches from the person I want to be with tonight. Two inches. And I’d be happy to erase those two inches if you’re still not clear on that.”
I’m a Southern girl who firmly believes mornings should be outlawed. My perfect day would include lounging on a hammock with a good book, carbohydrates, and the people around me randomly breaking into choreographed song and dance routines. It would not include bacon, cleaning, or anything requiring patience.
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