First Comes Love(11)By: Emily Goodwin
THE BAR IS busy, packed like usual on a Friday night. The crowd is rough and loud, the music even louder, the smell of cigarettes, booze, and leather filling the air. I bartended here for years, and paid my way through college on tips. It holds a special place in my heart. I used my first fake ID to get in here. I got in my first bar fight at this place. And it was my first place of legit employment.
Joey, the owner, isn’t getting younger, and he’s filling in for a call-off tonight and playing second bartender. I came here with the intention to bring someone home with me, but when I see the old man struggle, I hop behind the bar and take a few orders. I was one hell of a bartender back in the day. You don’t lose those skills.
I’m taking in orders, grabbing my tips, and serving drinks at record speed all while talking to the regulars and hitting on women. Time flies by and a weird sense of nostalgia takes over, like I’m back in college and working my ass off to get an art degree. No one but Joey knew how much it meant to me to actually graduate. I wanted to come home with that fucking degree if it was the last thing I did.
The mad rush slows down, and I’m about to hit the floor again. I’ve already set my eye on who I’m going to take home with me tonight. I have it all planned out, and am ready to cut through the crowd to get to the chick in the tight leather pants. Yet I just happen to look up the door opens.
And she walks in.
My heart does a weird skip-a-beat thing. Just like it did the first time I saw her. I freeze, and run my eyes over Lauren Winters. She’s wearing a low-cut pink dress that showcases her tits and hugs all her curves. Her dark hair is swept up and away from her face, and her makeup is done, simple yet elegant.
Just like the first time I saw her all those years ago when we were just teens. I wanted her then, back in high school, before I found out she was my best friend’s sister. Being off-limits only made me want her more, and I’ve never been able to fully get her out of my head.
Over the years I got to know her. She’s a little neurotic, which is adorable in a weird way, and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, one of those people who’d do anything for anyone. She poured her heart and soul into helping animals, and is quiet, kind of a book nerd, keeps to herself, and stays out of trouble.
She’s my exact opposite.
And right now, she’s looking upset. I go around the bar to get to her. When I look for Lauren again, she’s gone, hidden behind the many bodies that crowd the bar.
I go from curious to concerned. This isn’t the type of bar someone like Lauren Winters should be at alone, or, really, at all. The crowd here is rough, and no one comes in wearing a classy dress, expensive heels, and gets out with no trouble.
Why the fuck is she here?
I wipe my hands on my pants and hurry through the crowd, pushing past dancers. I need to find Lauren.
Finally, I spot her in the back, leaning against the wall. She looks frightened and keeps her head down, quickly typing on her phone. Right before I get to her, Neil, one of the regulars, blocks my path. Oh fuck no. I know Neil, and know he’s a pushy asshole when it comes to women. I might not have room to talk, but I’m never pushy. I never have to force myself on a woman to get her to sleep with me. Not like Neil does. I’ve had to escort him out more than once for getting too up close and personal with the ladies.
“Lauren,” I call in a loud, deep voice.
Her head snaps up and she has to look around Neil’s large frame to find me. She smiles and relief brightens her face. I don’t think she’s ever looked relieved to see me.
“Noah,” she says and Neil turns. He doesn’t particularly like me. I have thrown a few punches to put him in his place. He huffs and leaves, acting like he was walking somewhere else anyway.
“What are you doing here?” I ask when I get closer. I notice her hair is damp. So is her jacket. It’s been raining on and off all evening.
She lets out a breath and shakes her head. “Long story.”
I raise an eyebrow and cross my arms. She’s a several inches shorter than me, even in heels. It takes everything I have not to stare down her dress. She has a rocking body, one I’d love to touch and have on me, under me, pressed against me in any way, but she never shows it off.
Conservative, that’s how she’s always been.
“You’re at a biker bar dressed like you just left the fucking opera. I need to hear this story.”
“Jenny set me up with someone for a date and it did not go well.”
“That’s not a long story.”
“That’s a summary.”