The Girl Most Likely To...
by Dorien Kelly
"Checking out the big city?"
At the unexpected male voice, Dana--who'd been about to take another sip of the best apple martini in Chicago--slopped the chilly green liquid onto the tablecloth.
Her hand shaking, she set down the glass and glossed over her surprise with a composed facade. She scooted around in the leather club chair. Not that she had to turn to know who stood just over her left shoulder. Dana had known this man most of her life, fantasized about him naked for half of it, but had only managed to get along with him on the odd day or two.
The shock of seeing him was enough to make her heart pound a wild beat. "Hello, Cal. You're looking--"
Downright edible, as always?
"--well," she finished aloud. "What are you doing here?"
"Dance with me and we'll talk about it." He used the tone of voice she imagined he trotted out when he said, "Get in the back of the squad car."
Annoyed, she curved her lips into a sweet smile. "You make it sound so tempting."
"Dance with me...please." His facial expression was closer to a baring of the teeth than anything cordial. This,
unfortunately, was the way most of their conversations went.
"Well, since you asked so nicely. . ." Gaze locked with his, Dana raised her fingertips to her mouth. Finger by finger, she flicked her tongue against the last sticky drops of apple martini. Cal's ice blue eyes darkened. Not with desire, Dana was sure, but with plain, old-fashioned anger. She grinned.
Inclining her head to her new friends around the table, who were grinning themselves, she said, "Gentlemen, if you don't mind?"
They assured her they didn't, and she stood. She was no shrimp at five foot eight--plus a few inches of heels. Still, Cal seemed to loom over her. Dana edged past him and bought herself some breathing space.
"Ready?" he asked.
She nodded. Why did Cal Brewer always seem to sound annoyed when he spoke to her? She couldn't recall doing anything especially rotten to him, except mock him when he'd been a rookie cop and she'd been walking adolescent attitude and Goth make-up. Maybe that was it, those months when she'd trailed after him in white face, midnight-purple hair and black lipstick, his own little shadow of doom. But that was years ago, and really, had been nothing more than a way to pass a boring Sandy Bend summer. He must be over it by now. She glanced up at his set jaw and impassive expression.
And they said women could hold a grudge.
When they reached the dance floor, Cal drew her easily into his grasp. For some reason, Dana's feet weren't working quite the way she intended them to. She stepped on his foot once, gave a hasty "sorry," and tried to pay better attention to the music. Instead, her mind wandered to this t-shirt she'd seen in a gift shop back in Sandy Bend.
The shirt in question had read, One Martini, Two Martini, Three Martini...Floor.
At the time, she'd thought it was cute, but since she'd never tasted the drink, she hadn't fully appreciated the humor. Suffice it to say, with two-and-a-half of the green apple variety warming her blood, the shirt's warning had taken on true depth of meaning. She felt loose-jointed and just the smallest bit reckless.
She'd never been this close to Cal. Even at Hallie and Steve's wedding, when Cal had been best man and she'd been maid of honor, she'd managed to escape to the bathroom immediately before they'd been called to dance together. Later, Hallie had accused her of being a chicken. Dana preferred to think of it as skilled in self-preservation.
She'd been right to flee then and if she had any sense at all, she'd be running now. Cal made her too aware of the emptiness howling inside her. An emptiness that she suspected even five martinis couldn't numb. Cal's navy blue blazer felt smooth under her palm. Good quality wool, even if its conservative cut smacked a bit too much of Sandy Bend's Westshore Country Club for her taste.
She thought she caught the faint scent of cigar clinging to him. Like father, like son, she supposed. The closest Bud Brewer had come to running a non-smoking police station was sticking his lit cigars into an ashtray in the bottom drawer of his desk. During her reckless days, she'd spent plenty of time on the opposite side of that desk receiving a lecture while watching grayish curls of smoke drift upward from the semi-closed drawer.
Like father, like son. That was another reason Cal rattled her. She wasn't the same girl who'd gotten into her share and someone else's of trouble, but she was still allergic to authority figures. Even those who were tall and muscled and could slow-dance their way into most women's hearts. Perhaps even hers.
Trying to distract herself, Dana hummed along to the pianist's ballad about lost opportunities and empty nights. Funny how the guy could make it sound so appealing, when the reality stank.
Cal cleared his throat, then spoke. "You've got an incredible voice."
She smiled. "So I've been told."
After a moment, he added, "So, do you, ah, know those men you're sitting with?"
She shrugged. The motion was just enough to make her brush briefly against the hard wall of his chest. She pulled in a sharp breath and eased back a fraction. How could someone so emotionally distant create such a jolt?
"I know them now," she said. "They went to pharmacy school together in the early sixties, and have a reunion in Chicago each year."
He drew her closer. Dana knew she could wriggle away until there was once again a safe distance between them. She also knew she lacked the willpower to do it. The heat this man threw off was better than that fantasy of a shower in her hotel room. Her eyes slipped closed as she allowed herself to think about Cal, herself and nothing but steamy mist between them. Her hunger grew as she imagined the feel of his broad hands sliding across her slick, wet skin to grip her bottom as he lifted her, and--
"Pharmacists?" he asked.
She blinked, trying to recall what they'd been talking about, then picked up the conversation just in time to avoid looking like a total idiot. "Yeah, they're pharmacists. Is that a problem? Do you think they're going to slip something in my martini and kidnap me into a life of bondage?"
"Doubt it." It sounded to Dana as though he half wished they would. She was half-wishing herself away from here, too. The images playing in her mind were the sort that could get her in major hot water. Or a shower for two, if she was very, very lucky.
Dana shook off the thought. She began a mental litany of the reasons Cal Brewer was not a candidate for casual sex:
He was a cop, and on sheer principle, she was opposed to having sex with a cop.
He was her best friend's brother.
He was. . .
He was. . .
. . . sliding his hand down until it rested at the small of her back. Actually, just the tiniest bit lower.
The pressure from his fingertips increased infinitesimally. Her gaze shot to his. His expression was relaxed, almost bland. She frowned. Maybe she'd just wished that whisper of a caress into being, but she didn't think so.
They danced in silence. Dana had never been more conscious of every inch of her skin--the way the satin of her dress rubbed against it, the heat of his body against hers and the answering fire burning where there'd been nothing but emptiness a few minutes earlier. She worked hard not to blurt an offer she knew she'd eventually regret.
Oh, the way this man could move, though.
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