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Darren's eyes lock onto the gorgeous stranger the second she walks into his favorite dive bar. In this small town, he knows everyone, but he's sure he would remember a beauty like her. Popular and charming, Darren is used to women falling easily into his arms. But this mystery woman shoots icy glares designed to keep wanderers at bay. Her aloofness only makes him more determined to melt her icy exterior. Sparks fly as their undeniable chemistry leads to a passionate one-night stand. But come morning, his mystery siren slips away, reluctant to let her walls down permanently. Darren won't let her cool his fire that easily. Accustomed to getting any woman he wants, he pursues this wary beauty with fresh fervor. Can he convince her to stop being so guarded and give them a real chance? When the heat between them reaches a boiling point, will this ice queen allow herself to be consumed by the flames of Darren's wildfire passion? Find out in this steamy, sizzling contemporary romance guaranteed to have you fanning yourself!
She was trouble. He'd noticed that the moment she walked into the bar. Smoking hot but emanating an aura of sweet chaos.
She didn't pay him any mind. Her eyes were busy scanning the pool players, frat boys, and security.
Only after she had surveyed the entire establishment, studying the exits, marking the locations of the bathrooms and the clusters of people glued to their wall-mounted phones, did her gaze finally settle on him.
"Shit," DJ thought. This lady wasn't just trouble; she was drowning in it.
He recognized that look on her face. She needed an escape from her routine, but her instincts were blaring louder than the crappy jukebox in the corner.
When their eyes locked, he didn't flinch or react. He allowed her to assess him while he returned the favor.
She was tall, especially with those heels. Easily pushing six feet, her body was well-toned, like someone who put in the work but had curves in all the right places. She looked like she ate healthy and didn't indulge in much drinking – tonight was an exception.
Just as he thought, she was here to break the monotony.
She briefly glanced at the bar, moving towards it with measured steps, careful not to brush against anyone. She didn't make eye contact with anyone else, only settling onto a barstool. She wore tight jeans, spiked-heel boots, and an oversized T-shirt that slipped off one of her curvy shoulders. Her healthy tan suggested she enjoyed the outdoors, perhaps jogging or practicing yoga in the park.
Her hand ran down the bottle she ordered, wiping off the condensation. She used a napkin to dry it before taking a sip, all the while discreetly surveying the bar.
She was trying to relax, but those instincts of hers were still screaming. DJ grabbed his beer, took a swig, grabbed his leather jacket, and made his way over.
He had a soft spot for damsels in distress, especially when they were putting up a brave front. By doing that, she'd piqued his curiosity, and damn if he wasn't going to figure out what was bothering her.
He slid onto the stool next to her, and she stiffened. He knew that she was giving him a sidelong glance, sizing him up. Although not in the way he'd prefer.
Her body slowly relaxed. She figured he wasn't a threat, but she didn't hold her bottle like she was going to drink it. It was more like she was preparing to smash it in his face.
"If you're going to hit me, aim for the nose," he quipped.
Her head turned, her long hair sweeping over her far shoulder, her eyes scrutinizing him, trying to unravel the mystery.
He slid his glass to the bartender, pointing at the beer on tap. "Go for the nose; you might not break it, but my eyes will water, and I won't be able to see too well."
She cocked her head and asked, "Are you serious?"
He flashed that sly, Texan grin of his, letting her know he wasn't all serious.
She let go of the bottle's death grip, and he successfully erased the frown from her face.
"What do you do?" she inquired.
He smirked. "Funny you should ask."
She had a cute smile, the kind with the creases around her lips and the crinkles around her eyes that suggested she laughed a lot.
Her name was Winter, but her tone hinted at a touch of sarcasm. Oh, she enjoyed dropping that name on people, but it had become a sort of mantra for her.
"Winter," he grinned, raising his glass, "There ain't nothing cold about you."
She rewarded him with her first genuine smile as they clinked their respective bottle and glasses together and downed the last of their drinks.
He wanted to dig deeper and hear her life story because the more he looked, the more he liked what he saw.
They shifted closer together so they could converse over the thumping music.
She seemed genuinely interested in learning about his line of work. He could admit that he enjoyed telling women he was a bounty hunter.
She eyed his brown-grey hair, pulled back in a leather thong, the slight receding hairline, and the goatee surrounding his lips.
"I suppose you have a 'Dog' thing about you," she commented.
He'd be a rich man if he had a dollar for every time someone mentioned that famous bounty hunter.
"The Rolling Stones tee and battered jeans suit you better," she added, her eyes not hiding their interest as they roved over him.
He wasn't winning any fashion awards; he wore what was comfortable. Running around in leather wasn't fun, and it definitely caused some friction below. Those weren't exactly his fondest memories – applying ice packs to sore areas.
* * *
The music faded, and the familiar buzz of the packed bar enveloped them. The bartender scooped some coins from the tip jar and sauntered over to the jukebox, smoothly sliding the coins in and pushing buttons. It seemed he knew every song in there. He made his choice, returned, and gestured at their empty glasses.
"One for me," DJ said, nodding at Winter. "And whatever the lady wants."
"Your weakest beer, please," Winter replied.
She was clearly out of her element here, and DJ was itching to find out what had brought her out tonight.
The bartender acknowledged their order and went to fetch their drinks. A soft riff started playing. DJ loved this song and couldn't help but sing along.
"Yeah, something you should know, babe," he crooned. Winter's smile brightened, her eyes crinkling, her cheeks plumping. She was stunning.
He seized her hand, pulling her up from the stools, wrapping his arms around her as they danced and sang together.
Running his fingers through a lock of her hair, he caught a whiff of sunshine, apples, and her unique scent.
Stepping back, he twirled her around, her hair spinning around like a whirlwind, before drawing her back into his embrace. Her back nestled against his chest as they swayed together.
He dipped his head, his nose tracing her ear, whispering the lyrics, his breath setting her skin on fire. Unable to resist, he planted a kiss on her exposed shoulder, savoring the clean skin and a hint of citrus from her moisturizer.
His lips trailed up, meeting her cheek as she nestled into him, letting go of the fear that had weighed her down.
His hand rested on her stomach, fingers spreading out, his thumb sliding beneath her breast, following the contours of her curvaceous form—no straight lines or angles on this hot lady.
Finding her ear, he sucked on the lobe and traced his tongue over the delicate shell. "What do you say, darling? How likely are you to join me tonight?"
She shook her head slightly. "I... I can't."
"You can," he murmured, kissing her temple and using his nose to brush her hair back, inhaling her clean scent with a hint of fresh sweat as he gradually stoked the fire between them.
"I'm not... I'm not like that."
"Oh, Winter, you are," he insisted.
Her back stiffened, and she edged away from him, her attempt at distancing herself futile against his towering six-foot-six frame.
"I'm not a—“
"No, you're not," he interjected, his voice a gentle caress. His other hand slid down her body, tracing the gentle curves of her hip, across her lower belly, and down her opposite thigh. He went as far as he could reach, back up to the button of her jeans, slipping a finger between denim and warm skin.
"This is you using me, darling," he murmured, his voice low and seductive. "And I want you to use me so badly."
He could feel her inner struggle. "Come on, darling."
A firm shake of her head. "I can't risk it; I’m sorry."
His hands held her gently but firmly, pulling her back toward him. He wanted her to know that she could break free if she wished.
"This isn't a risk, darling," he assured her. "It's the surest bet you'll ever make."
She released herself from his grasp, and with a swift move, he spun her around, her mouth a mixture of surprise and admiration for his graceful moves.
DJ advanced, keeping her walking backward. His imposing height and muscular build could be intimidating, especially up close.
"How about this?" he proposed, making sure she focused on him as he lowered his arms. "I'll take you to my five-star hotel. We'll make love," she frowned at that, "and tomorrow, after I bring you breakfast, you can tell me what's going on."
Her face hardened, lips thinning, her hazel eyes flecked with amber ice. He gently placed a finger on her lower lip.
"And when you tell me, I'll help you sort it out. After that, you can decide what this," he gestured between them, "means."
She looked down at his boots, pondering her response to his offer. The guy was tough, no doubt. His snug Rolling Stones tee accentuated his bulging pecs, muscular arms, and flat abdomen.
Winter closed her eyes for a moment, trying to steady her thoughts. What would he think if she dumped her troubles on him? The offer was tempting, for sure, especially from a guy with a body fat percentage in the single digits.
She shook her head, listening to his sigh of disappointment. Inside her was a good woman who dreaded what he might think of her if he learned the truth.
"I'm sorry," she said, opening her eyes to look at him. Sky-blue met hazel, and she felt an undeniable attraction building. She couldn't help her tongue slipping out to moisten her lips.
His pupils narrowed like a hawk spotting its prey. His lips puckered, his tongue teasingly wetting them, a sight that sent shivers down her spine.
She had to distance herself; this attraction was probably just ho
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