The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Wait for You and Be with Me returns with a daring tale that pushes boundaries . . . in which a young woman learns that you can't run from your past—no matter how far you go At twenty-one, Calla hasn't done a lot of things.
She's never been kissed, never seen the ocean, never gone to an amusement park. But growing up, she witnessed some things no child ever should. She still carries the physical and emotional scars of living with a strung-out mother, Mona—secrets she keeps from everyone, including her close circle of college friends. But the safe cocoon Calla has carefully built is shattered when she discovers her mom has stolen her college money and run up a huge credit card debt in her name. Now Calla has to go back to the small town she thought she'd left behind and clean up her mom's mess again. Of course, when she arrives at her mother's bar, Mona is nowhere to be found. Instead, six feet of hotness named Jackson James is pouring drinks and keeping the place humming.
Sexy and intense, Jax is in Calla's business from the moment they meet, giving her a job and helping her search for Mona. And the way he looks at her makes it clear he wants to get horizontal . . . and maybe something more. Before Calla can let him get close, though, she's got to deal with the pain of the past—and some very bad guys out to mess her up if she doesn't give them her mom.
As Calla would say, holy crap on a cracker! Yesterday, we got our very first taste of STAY WITH ME, the upcoming novel from #1 New York Times bestseller and all around awesome gal Jennifer Armentrout. USA Today's Happy Every After exclusively revealed the scene when Calla and mega-hottie Jax meet, and now we can give you a peek here! Check it out below, and don't forget that BE WITH ME, the second book in the series, is on sale in e-book for only 99 cents!
"You look like you could use a drink."
I twisted toward the sound of a surprisingly deep male voice, a voice so deep and smooth, it rolled over my skin like I'd been draped in satin. I started to point out that, duh, since I was standing in a bar, I probably did look like I needed a drink, but the snappy words died on my tongue as I faced the horseshoe-shaped bar.
At first, the guy behind the bar seemed to have straightened, as if he was drawing back. It was a strange reaction. In this low lighting and the way I was standing, there was no way he saw the scar, but then I got a real good look at him, and I wasn't paying attention to that anymore.
Oh my, my, my ...
There was a man behind the bar, the kind of guy I would not ever in the history of ever expect to see behind Mona's bar.
Whoa, hot-bartender alert to the max.
Goodness, he was gorgeous, stunning in the way Jase Winstead was, maybe even more so, because I couldn't quite remember seeing someone who looked as good as he did in real life, and I was only seeing Hot Bartender Dude from the waist up.
He had brown hair that looked like a rich, warm color under the brighter lights of the bar area. It was cut close to the skull on the sides and a little longer on the top. Wavy, it was styled back off his forehead in an artfully messy look, showing off his broad and high cheekbones. His skin was tan, hinting at some kind of foreign and exotic ancestry. With a strong and sculpted jaw that could cut rock, he could be the poster boy for shaving ads. Under a straight nose that had a slight hook in it were the fullest, most downright sinful, pair of lips I'd ever seen on a guy.
Good lawd, I could stare at those lips for hours, like way beyond the acceptable time limit and right into creeperville, population Calla. I forced my gaze back up.
His brows appeared to be naturally arched over the corners of his eyes, which drew the attention right to his eyes.
Brown eyes that were currently slowly and casually drifting over me in a way that felt like a warm caress. My lips parted on an inhale.
He was wearing a worn gray shirt that clung to broad shoulders and an unbelievably defined chest. I mean, I could actually see the cut of his chest through the shirt. Holy crap, who knew that was even possible? From what I could see down to where the bar top cut him off was an equally hard, and probably equally dazzling, stomach.
If this dude went to Shepherd, he would've dethroned Jase for lieutenant of the Hot Guy Brigade. And the sigh associated with Hot Bartender Dude would most definitely be felt around the world and in the lady parts.
Probably in some boy parts, too.
Those delicious lips curved up on one side. Yep, he even had a panty-dropping hot smile. "You okay, honey?"
He used the term honey like it was natural to him. Not cheesy or slimy, but a sexy endearment that had my belly warming.
And I was staring at him like an idiot.
"Yeah." I found my voice to say one word, and it had croaked out of me. God, I wanted to body-slam myself through the floor as heat zinged across my cheeks.
That sexy half grin tipped up a notch as he extended an arm, curling his fingers back toward him. "Why don't you come over here and have a seat?"
My feet moved forward without any brain involvement because, seriously, who didn't respond when Hot Bartender Dude wiggled long fingers at you like that? I found my butt planted in a bar stool with a ripped and slightly uncomfortable cushion.
Dear God in Heaven, up close like this, he was truly a masculine masterpiece of mouthwatering hotness.
That half grin didn't fade as he placed his palms on the edge of the bar top. "What's your poison?"
I blinked at him, real slow like, and all I could think about was why in the hell was he working in this dump? He could be in magazines, or on the TV, or at least working at the steak house down the street.
Hot Bartender Dude tilted his head to the side as his grin spread to the other corner of that freaking mouth. "Honey ...?"
I resisted the urge to plop my elbows on the bar top and stare up at him, even though I was already halfway to doing that. "Yes?" He chuckled softly as he leaned in, and I mean, waaay in. Within a second, he was all up in my personal space, his mouth mere inches from mine, and his biceps flexed, stretching the worn material of his shirt.
Oh my golly gee, I hoped his shirt just ripped up the sides and fell right off.
"What would you like to drink?" he asked.
What I would like was to watch his mouth move some more. "Um ..." My brain emptied.
He arched a brow as his gaze tracked from my mouth to my eyes. "Do I need to card you?"
That snapped me out of my hot-inducing stupor. "No. Not at all. I'm twenty-one."
Heat infused my face again. "I swear." "Pinky swear?"
My gaze dipped to his now-extended hand and to his pinky. "Seriously?"
A dimple started to form in his right cheek as his grin turned into a smile. Holy crapola, if he had a set of dimples, I was so in trouble. "Do I look like I'm not serious?"
He looked like he was up to absolutely no good as I stared at him. There was a downright mischievous glimmer to his warm, cocoa eyes. My lips started to twitch, and then I reached up and wrapped my pinky around his much larger one.
"Pinky swear," I said, thinking that was one hell of a way to verify age.
That grin of his was downright delicious. "Ah, a girl who'll pinky swear is after my own heart."
Yeah, I had no clue how to respond to that.
Instead of letting go as I pulled my hand away, he slipped his fingers around my wrist in a gentle, but firm, hold. As my eyes started to pop out of my head, he somehow got closer, and he smelled ... good. A mixture of spice and soap that went straight to my before-mentioned lady parts.
My phone went off in my purse, blaring "Brown Eyed Girl." As
I dug around for it, Hot Bartender Dude laughed. "Van Morrison?" he asked.
I nodded absently as my fingers wrapped around the slim phone. The call was from Teresa. I hit silent.
"Nice music taste."
My lashes lifted as I dropped the phone back in my purse. "I ... um, I like the old-school stuff better than what's big today. I mean, they actually sang and played music then. Now they just prance around half naked, scream, or talk through songs. It isn't even about the music anymore."
Appreciation lit up his eyes. "You pinky swear and listen to old- school music? I like you."
"You aren't very hard to impress then."
He tipped his head back, exposing his neck as he laughed, and good golly Miss Molly, it was a damn nice laugh. Deep. Rich. Playful. The sound turned my tummy to mush. "Pinky swearing and music are very important," he said.
"Is that so?"
"Yep." Amusement danced over his face. "So is swearing on Boy
The twitch at the corners of my lips spread into a grin. "Well, I
was never a Boy Scout, so ..."
"Want to know a secret?" "Sure," I breathed.
He tipped his chin down. "I wasn't a Boy Scout, either."
For some reason, I wasn't very surprised by that. Especially when he was still holding on to my wrist.
"You're not from around here," he announced. Not anymore. "What makes you think that?"
"Well, this is a small town, and Mona's usually sees regulars, and not hot little pieces of distraction like you, so I'm pretty sure you're not from around here."
"I used ..." Wait. What? Hot little pieces of distraction like you?
My train of thought was totally derailed.
He let go of my wrist, and not all at once, and he didn't break eye contact, either. Oh no, it was a slow slide of his fingers along the inside of my wrist and then across my palm to the tips of my fingers, sending a wave of shivers dancing up my arm and then doing a jazz routine down my back.
God, it made me feel crazy, but it felt like there was a spark there. Something tangible that snapped between him and me. Totally insane, but I was finding it hard to breathe and to make sense of my thoughts.
Without taking his eyes off me, he reached down into the ice cooler and pulled out a bottle of beer, twisted off the lid, and sat it on the counter. A second later, I realized there was someone standing next to us.
I glanced to my side, spying a young and good-looking guy with something close to a buzz cut. He nodded at Hot Bartender Dude as he grasped the neck of the bottle. "Thanks, bud."
And then he was off and we were alone again.
"Anyway," Hot Bartender Dude said. "How about I make you my special drink?"
I have a feeling that Jax will be giving Cam and Jase a run for their money...