ASSESSING THE SITUATION
It wasn’t my fault—at least, not entirely. Henry Logan, my roommate and Captain in the Air Force, was technically to blame. The guy had been acting so unusually moody for the past five weeks that I was getting desperate to see a smile on his face; so, that Saturday night, I suggested we head to our favorite bar at Bricktown and just drink the night away, confident that Henry, even in his grumpy-bear state, could never turn down beer.
After parking his convertible Mustang, we walked down the street to Tapwerks in silence. I waited for him to open up, to tell me what had been bothering him, but no dice.
“What is with you lately?” I asked.
Henry stuck his hands in his jacket pocket and shrugged. “Nothing, why?”
I raised my eyebrow at him. He could successfully pull off the nonchalant attitude on anyone but me. I’d known him for thirteen years and had lived with him for two. I could decipher his every expression, sometimes to the point of reading his mind. “Come on. Are you on your period or something?” I asked with a teasing jab of the elbow. “Do you need to borrow a tampon?”
That finally got a small laugh out of him. “Elsie, you are such a brat,” he said. He reached over to ruffle my curly brown hair, but I anticipated that move and did a little ninja-ballerina maneuver to avoid him.
“Hey,” I said, “leave the hair alone.” I slipped my arm through his as we stood in line for the bar—Tapwerks was the place to be on weekends—trying to pilfer some of his warmth. He was 6’2” and built like a brick wall; he had plenty of everything to spare.
As I craned my head to look at the people in line, dressed up in their casual best, I suddenly caught a glimpse of Henry, his face partially lit by the soft glow from the bar’s windows. It struck me then that he was really no longer that awkward kid I grew up with but a man, and a gorgeous one at that. I’d always known he was good-looking—hell I’d had a crush on him since my brother started hanging out with him in their sophomore year of high school—but the way the shadows played on his face rendered planes I never knew existed. His short dark hair and the scruff on his strong jaw lent a nice contrast to his olive skin, and he had a proud nose with a little cleft at the end that matched the cleft on his chin. But it was his eyes that drew my gaze, those icy blues that seemed as if they could see into my every thought.
I stared at him for a long moment, feeling a strange tickle in my chest, when I came to the realization that he was staring back.
“You okay, Elsie?” he asked in that husky, gravelly voice of his. Had he always sounded so sexy?
I gave him my best sunny smile, shaking off the confusing feelings that had snuck up on me. “Just wondering why you don’t have a girlfriend.”
His lips quirked up a little and I felt a finger tickle me on the side, but he didn’t bother answering the question.
Inside, the two floors were at full capacity and there were no available tables or chairs, so we stood at the bar, trying our hardest to get the bartender’s attention. I was only 5’6”, so Henry theoretically had a better chance at visibility, but somehow, the male bartender’s eyes just kept flitting right over him as if he was invisible.
“Let me try.” I stepped up on the brass rail that ran along the bottom of the bar and squeezed my arms together, causing instant cleavage over the low neck of my loose top.
The bartender noticed. He finished up his orders and came right to me with an appreciative smile. “What’ll it be?”
“Woodchuck Cider, Sam Adams, and two tequila shots,” I said, and straightened up.
Henry was doing the big brother scowl when I joined him back down on the floor.
“What?” I asked, preparing for the lecture. “When you’ve got ‘em, use ‘em.”
He glowered down at me with a disapproving purse to his lips but said nothing. God, was nothing going to get him to talk?
After downing our shots, Henry and I stood around with cold bottles in our hands. Henry continued to scowl at me and I pretended not to notice by looking elsewhere. Thankfully, I saw a few of his Air Force buddies across the room and they waved us over to their table. Henry grabbed a hold of my hand as he led the way through the sea of bodies, his large frame parting the crowds so that I wouldn’t get swallowed up.
“Hey!” Sam, another captain, raised his beer bottle in greeting.
I clinked his bottle with my cider. Henry gave a cool little jerk of the head and said, “Hey, man.” The two men exchanged a silent look before Henry gave the slightest shake of the head.
Sam’s girlfriend, Beth, gave me a hug before I could figure out what the guys were communicating. “How are you?” she asked. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”
“I’ve been good. Busy,” I said, keeping an eye on Henry. “You?”
Beth started to say something, but the band began to play and cut her off. For a while, we all stood there and bobbed our heads to the rhythm of the rock group, all except for the stiff corpse beside me. Sometimes Henry knew how to really kill a good time. But as his friend, it was my duty to pull him out of this funk he was in.
I stood on my tiptoe and pulled him down so I could yell in his ear. “You wanna dance?”
He looked at me then at the near-empty dance floor, then back at me again. “Hell no.”
I pretended not to hear. I grasped his hand with a cheeky smile and pulled him through the crowd and onto the dance floor.
“I said no,” he said and turned to leave.
But I still had a hold of his hand, so I jumped in front of him and danced to block his way. I pulled his arm around my waist and gave him my most seductive smile as I began to sway my hips to the music.
He rolled his eyes but I kept on dancing, sure that sooner or later he would relent. He knew how to have a good time; he just had to be pulled out of that scowly shell of his.
The crowd on the dance floor swelled and I was unexpectedly pinned to Henry, my hips grinding in to his before my brain could tell it to stop.
The effect was instantaneous and twofold. Henry’s expression changed at the same moment I felt something stir in his jeans. My face went up in flames, but when I tried to pull away, Henry’s arm tightened around me and pulled me closer.
“Where are you going?” he asked in my ear, his warm breath tickling my neck. “I thought you wanted to dance?”
My heart was pounding a million miles a minute through my chest, but I had teased the beast out of hiding and now I had to face him, come what may. I looked up at him, acting as if having an erection against my stomach was not a big deal, and tried to take advantage of our close proximity. “Why won’t you talk to me?”
“I don’t want to talk tonight,” he replied, his eyes focused solely on my mouth. The breath hitched in my throat when he ran his tongue along his lower lip. “I’d rather do other things.”
That was about the time I lost my cool. This was Henry, my closest friend, my roommate, my surrogate big brother. He was a great many things to me, but he was definitely not someone I made out with. I’d stopped hoping for that a long time ago, when he’d made it clear that he saw me as nothing more than a little sister.
And now here he was, bowing his head with a dark look on face, his arm tight around my back. The fifteen-year-old me was squealing with glee, but the twenty-six-year-old was, admittedly, a little flustered.
I twisted out of his embrace and took a step back. My face was overheating, my heart was trying its hardest to hammer its way through my chest, and my body was tingling with that special kind of sexual exhilaration.
Henry’s face broke out into an impudent smile. “Are we done playing this game?” he called out to me over the music.
I nodded. Yes, we were definitely done. For now.
DISARM is now available for your Kindle here.