Filthy English (English #2)(2)


by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Then promptly looked away.

Dammit. I had about a one in a gazillion chance of catching his eye.

He shifted on the stool, leaning closer to me. His cologne swirled in the air, the smell of expensive Scotch and musk mingling together to create a heady, slightly dangerous scent. I paused, goosebumps rising when the spicy whiff triggered a distant memory.

I knew that smell . . .

But whatever my nose recognized, it didn’t connect with my brain.

As slyly as I could, I studied his profile from top to bottom. Like me, he wore a black mask, although his was more masculine, not hiding his chiseled, movie star jawline. His lips were carnal and luscious, the bottom more plump than the top with a slight indentation in the middle. As I watched, his tongue swept out and caressed it, his top teeth biting it as if he were deep in thought. He raked a hand through his dark, longish, messy hair, held it suspended above his head for a few seconds, and then released it, letting it swish back into its tousled yet perfect place.

Choreographed male perfection.

I tore my eyes away.

Something about him sent loud warning bells ringing in every atom in my body.

Danger, danger. Don’t touch that.

You will be annihilated with an M16 rifle straight to your heart.

But my gaze would not be denied as I took in the tight black shirt and sculpted chest that was obviously used to the inside of a gym, right down to an arm that looked like it could snap a board in half—or me.

Nice biceps, Mr. Beautiful.

The pièce de résistance was the dragonfly tattoo he sported on his left arm—it was bigger than my hand and in vivid blues and oranges. My gaze traced the contours of the design from the papery wings to the multi-faceted eyes. A bold black color outlined the insect, giving it a masculine feel.

Gorgeous.

Of course, I didn’t have any tattoos—my mom would flip her lid—but secretly I’d always wanted one. The artistic side of me admired them on people, especially when they featured anything with wings. Probably because I’m a bird girl, as in someday I’ll have a doctorate in ornithology.

Him tonight?

Yes, my body said, go for Mr. Beautiful! Make him yours!

He was the polar opposite of Hartford, who was blond, lean, and tattoo-free.

I nibbled on my fingernail. How do I get him to notice little ole me?

Just then a redhead with fluffy Farrah Fawcett hair strode up to his stool, bold as brass, wearing a tight, white mini-skirt that barely covered her booty.

She flicked her hair over her shoulder, casually stroked her finger down his arm, and struck up a conversation. Her fake, black lashes—which she’d somehow managed to get outside the eyeholes of her mask—batted. She puffed out her well-developed chest.

I saw it for what it was. Classic mating ritual.

Even flamingos toss their heads around and take little mincing steps toward their desired mate. A red-capped manakin bird courts by moonwalking on a nearby branch. It’s pretty much the coolest thing ever.

So why couldn’t I do that?

He leaned into her and grinned wickedly, his body language telling me he was confident he was the hottest thing in the room. She whispered in his ear, boobs right in his face, but whatever he said back wasn’t what she wanted to hear because a few ticks later she crossed her arms, gave me a nasty glare, and stalked away.

I blinked. What had I done?

Then he turned and pointed his devastating smile at ME.

My heart flip-flopped inside my chest.

Shit, he’d made eye contact—as much as you could with a claustrophobic mask on.

But wait . . .

Was he crazy?

Because if he’d turned down her flirtation, I didn’t have a shot.

I didn’t know how to do the fingers-tiptoeing-up-his-arm thing and sexy hair flicking. I didn’t know how to make my boobs sit up that high.

Everyone knew I wasn’t a flirt. Not in a million years. Heck, Hartford had only asked me out because I’d tripped over his legs as they stuck out from a study carrel at the library.

And that memory pricked at my heart.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. This entire night and all men.

Forget Mr. Beautiful. Forget Hartford. Forget everything.

I rapped on the bar and tried to get someone to bring me more limes.

Mike with the beard and tats finally noticed me waving. I held my ravaged lime up for him to see. He smiled, gave me a thumbs-up signal, and as soon as he’d finished his current drink order, he brought several over to me in a nice bowl.

“So . . . American?” he asked as he leaned over the counter.

“Kinda obvious.” I nodded my chin at him. “You British?”

“Kinda obvious.” His lips twitched.

He poured my next shot and I tossed it back, sucked the lime, and slammed the glass back down on the bar. A drink later, I was swaying to the crazy techno music, which I didn’t even like.

“Perhaps you should sip it,” Mike murmured, still hanging around.

“If you’d had the past few weeks I’d had, you’d chug it too.”

He let that go, running a hand across his beard, his eyes skating across the V-neck of my dress. Lingering. He met my eyes. “What’s your name, sweets?”

I squinted. “Are you flirting with me? It’s okay if you are. Just sayin’.”

“Absolutely. You’re bloody gorgeous.” Hooded eyes raked over my chest. Again.

I laughed. Feeling loose.

Maybe my rebound guy was right here in front of me.

“When you’re done hitting on the clientele, barman, we’d like a drink,” Mr. Beautiful snapped out in an authoritative British accent that demanded to be heard, causing Mike to flip away from me and focus on him. He scurried over and took his order.

I scowled. Wait a dang minute . . .

I almost knew that accent—deep with soft, rounded vowels, the kind of voice that made you want to hop into his bed and ride him like a cowgirl.

At the sound of it, chills had gone up my spine, and part of me wanted to jump off my stool and run away screaming, but the other side wanted to trace my fingers over Mr. Beautiful’s lips and ask him to say something else.

My name.

My phone number.

Romeo’s monologue outside Juliet’s window.

I pivoted on my barstool and found that Mr. Beautiful’s eyes had zeroed in on me once more, as if he too recognized the strange pull between us. Weird.

What was going on? Why was he staring at me?