119,061
07.03.2019

But, unfortunately, it also means the hog is staying home tonight. I’m a little sad about that.

“Meeting up sounds good.”

Before I can suggest a place, Dee takes charge. “You know Stitch’s, on West Thirty-seventh?”

I do know it. It’s low-key with good drinks, live music, and a comfortable lounge. Because it’s a Wednesday night, it won’t be packed, but no bar in New York is ever empty.

“Yeah, I’m familiar with it.”

“Great. I’ll see you in an hour or so.”

“Awesome.”

After we hang up, I don’t get dressed right away. I’m not picky about my clothes, like some young semi-asexual professionals, but I’m not a slob either. I can be ready to walk out the door in seven minutes flat. So I grab the folder from my briefcase and use the extra time to finish the work reading I planned to do before bed. Because it looks like I won’t be hitting the sheets any time soon—and when I do, I’m definitely not going to be alone.

Chapter 3

I get to Stitch’s early. I drink a beer at the bar, then step outside for a cigarette. Yes—I’m a smoker. Break out the hammer and nails and commence with the crucifixion.

I’m aware it’s unhealthy. I don’t need to see the internal organs of deceased cancer patients on those creepy-ass commercials to understand it’s a bad habit—thank you, Mayor Bloomberg. Making me go outside doesn’t stop me from lighting up—it just pisses me off. It’s an inconvenience, not a deterrent.

But I’m considerate about it. I don’t toss my butts on the street, I don’t blow smoke in the faces of the elderly or children. Alexandra would literally slit my throat if I ever lit up anywhere near Mackenzie. Literally.

I do plan on quitting . . . eventually.

But for now, the long-term damage I might be doing to my lungs falls second to the fact that I like to smoke. It feels good. It’s really just that simple. And you can keep your bar pretzels to yourself, because nothing goes better with a cold beer than a cigarette. It’s as good as a mom’s old-fashioned PB&J.

I snuff out my cigarette on the wall of the building and throw it into the trash can on the street. Then I pop an Altoids in my mouth. Because—like I said—I’m considerate. I don’t know if Dee is a fellow smoker or not, but nobody wants to slide their tongue into another person’s mouth and taste ashtray. And getting Dee’s tongue in my mouth . . . among other places . . . is definitely on the schedule for tonight’s festivities.

I head back in the bar and order a second beer. I take a swig and notice the front door opening. I watch as she walks in.

Did I think Delores was a hottie when I met her this afternoon? I need to get my vision checked. Because she’s so much more.

Her strawberry blond hair is down, curled under at the ends, pulled back from her face with a thick black hair band. A black, tuxedo-like jacket covers her torso, with a low-cut white tube top underneath. Short, white shorts barely peek out from the bottom of the jacket, revealing long, creamy, toned legs. She finishes the look with white sky-high heels. Red lipstick accentuates her mouth.

She’s gorgeous—shockingly stunning. Put her in a black-and-white photo and she could easily be in a Calvin Klein campaign. Her business card isn’t Charlie’s Golden Ticket—it’s the lottery kind—and I just hit the jackpot.

She scans the room and spots me from the doorway. I wave, coolly. She smiles back, revealing straight, shiny teeth.

“Hi,” she says as she approaches.

“Hello—that jacket looks great on you.” You can’t go wrong by starting off with a compliment. Girls love them.

Her smile turns into a smirk as she teases, “Let me guess—‘But I’d look better out of it’?”

I chuckle. “I wasn’t going to say that. I would never give a line that cheesy.” Then I shrug. “I was going to say, ‘It’d look even better on my bedroom floor.’ ”

A rich, deep laugh escapes her throat. “Yeah—’cause there’s nothing cheesy about that.”

I pull out a bar stool and she sits.

“What’s your poison?” I ask.

Without a pause she answers, “Martini.”

“Dirty?”

“I like my martinis just like my sex.” She winks flirtatiously. “Dirty is always better.”

Yes—I’m definitely in love.

The bartender comes to us, but before I can order for her, Dee starts giving specific instructions on how she wants her drink made.

“Two ounces of gin, heavy on the vermouth, just a dash of olive juice . . .”

The babyfaced, plaid-shirted bartender, who barely looks twenty-one, seems lost. Dee notices and stands up. “You know, I’ll just demonstrate—it’ll be easier.” She turns, hops backwards onto the bar, and swings her legs over the top—while I discreetly try to get a peek up her shorts. If she’s wearing underwear, it’s gotta be a thong.

My c**k processes this information by straining against my jeans, hoping for a peek of his own.

Dee stands up on the business side of the bar and quickly mixes her drink, explaining every move to the unperturbed bartender. She tosses an olive into the air and catches it expertly with her mouth, before sinking the two-olived toothpick into the clear-liquid-filled glass.

She places it on the bar and motions to it with an open palm. “And there you have it—the perfect Dirty Martini.”

I’ve always believed you can tell a lot about a person by what they drink. Beer is laid back, easy-going, or cheap, depending on the brand. Wine coolers tend to be immature or nostalgic. Cristal and Dom Pérignon imbibers are flashy and try too hard to impress—there are many champagnes that are just as expensive and exquisite, but lesser known.

What does Dee’s choice of beverage tell me about her? She’s complicated, with very specific, but refined, tastes. And she’s outspoken, bold without being bitchy. The kind of girl who can send back her steak to the kitchen if it’s cooked wrong, in a way that doesn’t make the waiter want to spit in her food.

The bartender raises his brows and gives me a friendly look. “You got a live one here, buddy.”

Dee swings back over the bar as I say, “So it seems.”

Once Delores is seated back on the stool, I comment, “That was impressive. So, I guess you’re big on the micromanaging, huh?”

She sips her drink. “I bartended through college—it made me very particular about my poison.”

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