Foreplay (The Ivy Chronicles #1) by Sophie Jordan
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Pepper has been hopelessly in love with her best friend’s brother, Hunter, for like ever. He’s the key to everything she’s always craved: security, stability, family. But she needs Hunter to notice her as more than just a friend. Even though she’s kissed exactly one guy, she has just the plan to go from novice to rock star in the bedroom—take a few pointers from someone who knows what he’s doing.
Her college roommates have the perfect teacher in mind. But bartender Reece is nothing like the player Pepper expects. Yes, he’s beyond gorgeous, but he’s also dangerous, deep—with a troubled past. Soon what started as lessons in attraction are turning both their worlds around, and showing just what can happen when you go past foreplay and get to what’s real…
“There he is.” Emerson shook her head. “I can’t believe I gave him to you. He’s so damn hot.” She nudged me encouragingly and waggled one of her finely arched eyebrows. “You better climb all over that or I’m going to punch you. No backing down.”
I stood several yards back from the bar, tucked half behind Emerson as I scoped out the bartender undetected. Her words didn’t faze me. “You know the small matter of his interest in me, or lack of interest, might come into play.”
She looked back at me. “You’re kidding, right? You look good tonight. Better than most of these overdone peahens prancing around in here shaking their tail feathers his way. You’ve got something they don’t.”
She nodded. “Yes. You’ve got …” She paused, searching for the word. “… a freshness to you.”
I winced, feeling rather as if she'd just called me a "nice girl." I couldn’t seem to escape that moniker.
The bartender (I really needed to learn his name) wore another Mulvaney’s T-shirt. This one a soft-looking gray cotton with blue script across the chest. I had a flash of myself wearing that shirt and nothing else, wrapped up in his scent. Wrapped up in him. Sucking in a breath, I shook off the wicked image. Probably every girl who walked up to him entertained that fantasy—along with a few choice others that I probably didn’t need to visualize. That thought made me feel decidedly un-special. I had to somehow stand out from the rest of them, and I wasn’t convinced my freshness would do the trick.
He looked as good as ever if my memory served. Better. A body made for sin and a face that was too masculine to be beautiful, but the sight of it did something to me. Made me feel boneless and trembly all over.
“No backing down,” I echoed, my resolve still there, burning hot inside me, keeping me from turning and running out of the building.
It was just the two of us tonight. Georgia was off with Harris.
“Okay,” Em announced. “I think we’ve reconned long enough. Let’s move in.”
Her words sent a wave of panic washing through me. “It’s crowded …”
“It’s crowded every night. Unless you want to come stalk him on a Monday. Assuming he’s even working then.”
I shook my head. No. No more delays.
“Let’s go then. You should feel good. You look great.”
I glanced down. The jeans I wore belonged to Georgia. They were too tight, but Emerson said that was the whole point. You’ve got the perfect curves. Show them off. The blouse was Georgia’s, too. Various shades of orange and yellow. Very bohemian in style and flouncy. Emerson vowed that it went great with my hair. It was wide-necked, and every time I pulled it up over one shoulder, it slipped down the other one. Again, the whole point, according to Emerson.
As we inched toward the bar, Emerson shoved me in front of her. There were only three people working the counter, and we made certain to approach the side he was working.
I watched as he poured beer into a pitcher, admiring the flex of his bicep. His gaze lifted and scanned the bar, the way I’d noticed him do last night. Surveying, assessing the crowd. Maybe for trouble? Those pale blue eyes passed over me for a split second before jerking back.
He smiled crookedly. “Hey, it’s Nice Girl. How’s it going?”
“Nice girl?” Emerson hissed in my ear. “Okay, clearly you did not tell me everything about last night if he’s already given you a nickname!”
I elbowed her, unsure how to respond to his greeting. I smiled. “Hi.”
He handed off the pitcher, collected the money, and turned to me. “What can I get you?”
I ordered two longnecks. He glanced at Emerson. “ID?”
I watched her as she dug in her purse and pulled out her fake ID. When I looked back up it was to catch him looking at me. He looked away, giving her ID a cursory scan before moving to fetch our drinks.
“So hot,” Emerson muttered near my ear as he bent to grab them from the back chest. “And he was eyeing you. Did you see that?”
I shook my head, unconvinced, but my heart beat a hard rhythm in my chest.
“Slip him your number.”
My gaze swung to her. “What? Just like that?”
“Well, you’ll know if he’s interested by his reaction. Maybe he’ll call. Or he won’t. Either way, you can get this thing off the ground or move on to someone more receptive.”
I bit my lip, contemplating. The only problem was that I had decided it would be him. He would be my test subject. If he wasn’t receptive I didn’t feel like moving on—I didn’t want to. And where did that leave me?
Sighing, Emerson dug around in her purse.
“What are you doing?” I demanded, looking in his direction and confirming he was heading back our way.
Shaking her head, she pulled out an eyeliner pencil and snatched a thin square napkin off the stack sitting on the bar. Lightening fast, she scrawled my name and number.
I felt my eyes bulge. “Stop! No!” My hand dove for her arm, but she angled herself away from me, standing on her tiptoes and stretching out her arm.
“Here you go,” she called just as my fingers clamped down on her wrist.
Too late. I watched as long, masculine fingers took the napkin from her. My gaze followed that hand up to the bartender as he set our drinks down single-handedly. Bile rose up my throat.
I heard Emerson’s voice beside me as though from far away. “This is her number.”
Her. Me. The girl with the face as red as a tomato.
His gaze moved from the napkin to me. Those silvery blue eyes fixed on me. He flicked the napkin in my direction. “You want me to have this?”
He waited, his expression blank. The ball was in my court. Without giving me the slightest indication of whether he even wanted my number, he was asking me what I wanted.
I stammered out the words. "Uh, n-yes. Well, sure. Whatever.”
Lame. I felt like a thirteen-year-old girl. My face burned.
“She wants you to have it,” Emerson insisted from beside me.
If possible my face grew hotter. He leaned forward, setting his elbows on the bar, his gaze fastened on me with searing intensity. “Are you giving me this?”
Apparently whatever wasn’t going to work for him.
The air ceased to flow in and out of my lungs. I felt myself nod dumbly. Emerson elbowed me discreetly. “Yes,” finally spilled from my lips.
He straightened. Without another word, he slipped the napkin into his pocket, took the money that Emerson handed him for our drinks, and turned away to another customer.
With one hand on my arm, Emerson dragged me away. I risked another look back at the bar, searching for him among the multitude of heads bobbing up to the front of the counter for their drink order. I spotted him. He was pouring more beer, holding the lever down. But he wasn’t looking at what he was doing. He was looking at me.
Sophie Jordan grew up in the Texas hill country where she wove fantasies of dragons, warriors, and princesses. A former high school English teacher, she's also the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Avon historical romances. She now lives in Houston with her family. When she's not writing, she spends her time overloading on caffeine (lattes and Diet cherry Coke preferred), talking plotlines with anyone who will listen (including her kids), and cramming her DVR with true-crime and reality-TV shows. Sophie also writes paranormal romances under the name Sharie Kohler.