Jo&Isalovebooks Promotions is proud to present:
by Author Misha Elliott
Richard Sisk has never been much of a risk taker. At eighteen, he gave up his dreams for the future—to do the right thing—and marry his pregnant, high school love. Over the years things changed, and now he finds himself divorced. Jill Caldwell has spent the last eight years caring for her younger brother, Evan, being both sister and parent. Now that he is settled into college, she finally has the gift of freedom.
Years ago, their lives crossed paths and now, eight years later, will Richard be able to take a risk for a new love.
Jill knows that together she and Richard can build a life of everything they ever wanted; that is if he can get over being her silver fox.
AND NOW THE MOMENT YOU HAVE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR
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The minute I walk into the bar, I realize I am probably the oldest guy here. Friday nights were always peak times for going out, if my memory serves me correctly. As I look around the packed space, I realize how much I did not miss being single. If this is all the world offers single people, they can keep it. There is an open table off to side of the bar, close enough to have an unobstructed view of the stage, so I decide to take it.
Reality slaps me hard in the face, erasing any delusions I had about coming here. I feel out of place, like a teenager huddled awkwardly in the corner at a dance. Couples dance toward the edges of the dance floor together as music plays from a jukebox.
This is the first step on my new path. I am not here looking to fall in love again; I do plan to get my dick wet on a regular basis though.
I am about to lose my mind, need some goddamned space to clear my head. But tonight I would settle for a distraction. A trio of giggling, youthful girls walk inside with matching short dresses resembling something my daughter used to dress her dolls in. It seems clear to me they came in with fake IDs, trying to act older than they are. No doubt planning to trap some unsuspecting fool in their snare. It’s fucked up.
I got snared into being a sucker for far too long.
I spent the best years of my youth wanting to please someone, trying to be the best husband, provider, and father. Doing everything she ever asked—it still was not enough for her. By the time I realized she mistook my kindness for weakness, it no longer mattered. It was all a fucking waste of time.
I glance at the clock on the wall; the time reads 8:23 p.m. It has been so long since I have gone out like this. Even if the band is not any good, since most cover bands aren’t great, as nothing can compare to the real thing. This night symbolizes my newfound freedom. I finally got my balls back.
This is my gift to myself. One night of doing whatever I want, with whomever I choose, damn the consequences, but now it is time for my sex life to no longer be nonexistent. I want to feel something again. Even if it is meaningless, then this will not be so foreign. My cock is ready to make up for lost time, so it appears I am here for the duration.
Knowing I need to coat my stomach with food since I haven’t eaten much today, I study the white placard. The picture of sliders immediately appeals to my eyes and causes my stomach to rumble.
My eyes veer from the photos, and I watch through the doors as an older woman makes her way through the crowd. As she walks past the bar, she runs her palm lightly across the back of one of the college guys, giving him a come-hither stare.
Something tells me to put my head down and get back to the task at hand, which is food. I do the opposite. Instead, I keep watching as she tries to joke and fit in with the younger men around the bar, none of them offering to buy her a drink. Hell their focus doesn’t move from the big screens on the wall.
That’s when it happens. She catches my eye. “Shit,” I mutter under my breath and offer up a silent prayer she is not heading this way. She winds her way around to the side of the bar to my table, her very expensive, heavy perfume wafting through the air. The familiar scent of this perfume irritates me. I hate it. Now a stranger wears it, but my body reacts the same way. Repulsed.
A young woman with blue hair and a nose ring comes over to ask if I want any food, and I place my order for sliders and fries, hoping the woman will take the hint and be on her way. She doesn’t. I notice when she adjusts her boobs, giving them a boost and licks her lips. I have no interest in her, but when a man sees a pair of tits he looks. She continues to stand there at the table, staring at me as if we are on the African plains and she is on the hunt.
Here we go.
With her short, curled hair, blonde with hints of silver, she has privilege written all over her. Diamonds flash from her ears, to the pendant on her neck, then down to her wrists and fingers.
She presses two manicured palms flatly on the table and leans down, well aware the shirt she wears is showing off quite a bit of flesh. “God, you look good enough to eat,” she murmurs, not bothering to keep her voice low. “You make all my womanly parts tingle.” When she smiles, some of the red gloss from her lips has stained her front teeth.
“The name’s Veronica, but you can call me V. So, tell me handsome, do you like older women?” I am taken aback by her bold statement.
The years have not been especially kind to her. I see the orange, leathered look of her skin, and the fact she’s trying to act several decades younger than her age, I conclude she was rode hard and put away wet.
Even though I haven’t touched a woman, let alone had sex, for longer than I want to admit, I am not desperate enough to be with her.
There is only one thing a person in my situation can do. I need to lie through my teeth and politely tell her I am meeting someone. Before I can open my mouth to speak, the door opens. A faint blue light from the neon sign spills inside.
Right away I can tell the woman who walks through it is different.
Something about her draws my eyes to her, I am pulled back from my current situation and the rewind review of my life. A warm, sweet charm about her pulls me in.
I cock my head slightly to the side, giving me a perfect view of this woman. She carries herself with poise, she has clearly invested time in putting herself together, but it is not too much. I can see she has beautiful, long brown hair currently held hostage in a ponytail.
The big sixty-two-inch screen above the bar shows a football game. I watch as almost all the eyes on the bar are no longer focused on the screen. Heads turn to stare at the new sexy addition to their midst. She takes it all in stride, raising up a hand, and catching the attention of the bartender. They begin a reciprocal exchange of jovial smiles as she places an order.
A moment later, a perfectly tapped mug of beer is placed in front of her. She smiles her gratitude back. Just as she lifts her beer to take a drink, she turns her head to scan the room. I know I should avert my eyes and not keep staring, but I am unable to help it. When her eyes meet mine, she smiles.
To my surprise, she heads in my direction. A sweet smile lingers on her lips, lips glossed in a pale shade of pink. Her gaze stays fixed on me, like she is a woman on a mission. She gets close enough for me to tell the color of her eyes: honey-brown. What I see in them is enough to knock me off my seat and onto the floor. It is desire. It has been too long since someone has looked at me with a hint of promise, rather than the usual disapproving glare. Not knowing her story, or why she is here, or if she is even available, I decide to enjoy this moment.
It can't recall the last time an attractive woman, not counting Veronica, tried to pick me up in a bar, so when this young woman comes and stands beside me, giving me a come-hither stare. She continues to watch me with her soft eyes. “Hi,” she says. “Have you been waiting very long?” Then she sets her beer down on the table.
My first instinct is to tell her she has me confused with someone else or she is at the wrong table.
She leans over to give me half a hug, “Just go with it,” she whispers into my ear, sending chills throughout my entire body.
“Not too long, baby, I just ordered food.” Those words feeling foreign as they leave my lips, and all I can do is think about kissing hers.
I am taken away by the simplicity of her beauty. Even though most women prefer heavy makeup, she is perfect with just a natural look. It is obvious this woman is pretty in a real way and doesn’t need a stitch of makeup. On top of all that, she has voluptuous curves wrapped in the perfect shade of blue. The dress accentuates the swell of her breasts and hips.
“Excuse me, ma’am, but I think this is my seat.” As she turns to face Veronica, I wonder what will happen, but being the older lady, Veronica doesn’t flinch. She merely smiles, eyeing me up one more time.
“Too bad,” she lays a hand on my shoulder, flipping her hair as she as she turns her attention back to the sea of potential options. “The night is young, after all. You could’ve been husband number five.”
“Thanks for the assist, just now, I did not know how I would have gotten Veronica to leave.”
I have no idea who my savior is, but I am willing to buy her a beer, or anything else she wants, for getting me out of an uncomfortable situation.
“Wow. If she’s already been married four times, she told each of those men she loved them and committed to them. Veronica must not understand what real commitment and loyalty means,” declares this beautiful stranger.
The impact of her words hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I did not want that to be me. Promising love and commitment without follow through.
After my failed marriage, I am determined not to settle for anything less than true love. If that made me sound cheesy, so be it.
I don’t know how, but I am sure I’ll know it when I find it. This time, it will mean something. Over the years, I tried to camouflage the fact there was no longer the deep connection Sheila and I once shared as teenagers. Made concessions for her easily annoyed, impatient tone with me because she suffered from sleep deprivation. Brushed off her disinterest in sex as par for the course after motherhood. There was no longer any chemistry or those little things we held in common. I still tried to ask about her day, and she stopped pretending to care about mine.
I close my eyes and pray for the band to start soon. I need something to stop my mind from replaying bad reruns from my past so I can put my full focus on her.
Her hand slides the chair around to sit next to me. Now we are both able to have a clear view of the stage. She takes another sip of beer, relaxes against the back of the chair, and leisurely looks around at the crowd.
“I guess it is a good sign, if this many people are out, the band must be pretty good.” For a moment I don’t respond to her, my mind obviously still in shock that she is here with me.
I promised myself I was going out to have many well-deserved drinks and flirt with anyone and everyone who interested me. Perhaps I wouldn’t be alone tonight. A one-night stand may not be the new start I am looking for, but it would be the perfect ending to this day. A chance to let loose of all the built-up tension, and feel something without the emotional baggage and stress.
“I hope you’re right.” I take a sip of my beer and let it run down throat. What is happening to me? It is like I turned back the clock to high school.
I speak without looking at her and turn with my drink in hand to catch her eye. That is my first mistake. Even in this dimly lit bar, being in this close proximity to this woman is enough to give me a jolt. It shocks my system, unfortunately causing my bottle to slip from my hand, and the golden liquid to pour from the table, all over the front of her dress. In a flash, I pick up napkins to clean the mess up around the bottle, while I turn it upright with my other hand.
When I am finished, I use the napkin to dab at some wet spots on the top of her dress.
It takes a few moments before we both realize I am gently dabbing at the spot above her cleavage. My hand reacts as if it has touched fire.
“One beer and I’m already clumsy. Maybe I should switch to water instead.” I have never been so embarrassed in all my life. If it was not before, it should be obvious to her now I am a little rusty at this. I used to excel at talking to girls in my youth.
“No need to worry about it, actually it’s par for the course with how my day has been going.” When she looks at me, it is still with the same gleam in her eyes I saw earlier, which helps me relax.
“I feel so bad, I have ruined your dress. Let me pay for it,”
“Don’t give it a thought, besides I may not be staying long anyway.”
Her statement disappoints me; my body desperately wants her to stay. To reach out and see if those brown waves of hair are as soft as they look. I need physical contact with her supple lips, to see how swollen they get after being properly kissed.
“You may not remember me.” She stretches her hand out to shake mine. “I’m Jillian Caldwell, most people call me Jill.”
“We’ve met?” I nearly choke on my drink. How could I have forgotten someone like her?
“Yes, Mr. Sisk, we have.” She sounds cocky and confident.
I haven’t the slightest clue where we could’ve met.
“It is nice to meet you again, Jillian, and you can call me Richard.”
Bottle in hand, I bring it up to my now dry mouth for one final pull. I scramble trying to figure out where we could have met, hoping she will let something slip and give me some clue.
“Well, Richard, are you cruising the bars for pickups on Friday night?”
I almost spit out the last swallow of beer. Jillian sits leaned back in the seat, taking a slow sip as her eyes boldly admire me.
I signal to the bartender in need of a replacement drink.
“No, I was actually planning to come here to drink away my sorrows, alone in the corner,” I say with a self-deprecating shrug. “Then you came in and sat next to me. Now it seems my mind is making other plans.” The words slip out of my mouth before I have the chance to think.
This is not information I want to share. Maybe if I tell her she’ll want to console me. A pity fuck wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. No. Tonight there would be no talk about divorce, ex-wives, custody. I am merely a single man hanging out at a bar.
The bartender comes around and Jillian orders another beer also.
“You look like a very smart man. Richard,”
I shrug. “Won’t argue with you there,” I say. “My eyes have been staring at you since you came in, and my brain is in agreement; you are beautiful.”
“Are your eyes the only thing that’s taking notice of me, right now?” She leans in closer, our arms and legs brush, her tone saying all the things missing from her words.
My gaze drops back to her cleavage, and then I look up into those copper pools and know I am drowning. “I don’t think there is a part of me doing anything but taking notice of you, right now.” My frank tone is filled with raw sexuality, and I hope my words do not throw things off track.
By the time our drinks come, I have regained my composure. I don’t remember flirting being so easy. Or maybe Jillian just brings it out in me. “So, Jillian, you said we’ve met before. Would you like to fill me in?”
“No.” She lifts her glass and levels the drink to half its content, a mischievous glint in her eyes.
“Why don’t you tell me about why you were going to throw a pity party for one tonight?”
This is territory I don’t want to enter. If I overshare, the next thing I know I’ll be giving too much information and making this more personal than I want it to be. I need to deflect.
“Museum or movie?” I take another pull and wait for her response.
“That’s a tough one. I would have to say museum only if I have time to spend the day. Movies, unless they are too long. Sitting for a movie longer than two hours feels like I’m being held prisoner."
“Rock or country?” she shoots back.
“Both. All kinds of popular music, actually.” I take another sip of my beer, relaxing into the conversation. “I’m not especially picky. But for favorites, I would say rock.”
Jillian nods with a smile on her face. “Cat or dog?”
“Dog, of course?” I balk at the question, as the answer should be obvious. “I don't think guys can be cat people.”
“Of course they can be.”
Just then, the opening lines to “Let’s Go Crazy” blare out through the speakers and Jillian lifts her mug to her lips and finishes her beer. “This is my favorite song.”
In a flash, she jumps on her feet and is slowly shaking to the music. She reaches out a hand and invites me to come along. For a moment she stands inches away with her hands stretched out toward me. I am not the type of person who dances in public, not for years anyway. I do not want to disappoint her and turn her down. So I lift up my hand and take hers and I get up from my seat. My legs feel uneasy as I stand.
I haven’t danced in over a decade. But something about Jillian makes me want to give it a try. This is the beginning of a different life, after all.
“Come on.” She giggles as she drags us both right to the middle of the floor and we start to dance. Dancing in public is not as bad as I thought, at least, not when I dance with her.
My hand goes around her hips and her back plasters to my front as we shimmy to the beat of the music. Then I have her spinning around and she curls her hand in my shirt as her hips sway to the rhythm. I am taller than Jillian, so tall she has to tilt her head to look at me.
We continue to dance as the band covers all the popular hits.
Something about her expression tells me her mind is somewhere else. The band is singing as the bar patrons start to move with synchronized hand movements to the words, die for you.
“This is a good song,” I offer.
“It is not one of my favorites. Can we go back to the table?” She seems dismissive, quiet, completely unlike the confident young woman from before. There is a story in her eyes, one she is not ready to tell.
I follow her back and as we settle into our seats, I duck my head down to so she can hear me over the band. I want to keep talking to her. I find myself drawn to her, wanting to know more about her.
“You never told me,” I say, waving my hand to catch the bartender’s eye. “What brings you out tonight, Jillian?”
“Well, I was supposed to be meeting my best friend tonight, but something came up so she’s a no-show,” she says in a nonchalant manner.
I hear a buzzing and realize it is coming from her bag.
She leans down to fumble for something, and with her cell retrieved; she pauses for a moment to consider if she should answer it. When she looks at the display, her expression turns to slight irritation when she sees who the call is from.
She holds up a finger. “Please excuse me, I need to take this, it’s Evan.” She answers the call and holds the phone up to her ear.
“Yes, I’m okay,” she shouts over the music. “Just text me.”
She hangs up and stares at the screen for a moment. Then her fingers glide across the glass, tapping out a message. Her brows are furrowed and suddenly I feel jealous, wondering who Evan is and why he’s ruining my moment.
“Is everything all right?” I ask her in concern.
“Yes, I am fine. My brother is on his way to pick me back up at midnight.” Already? How can she leave, she just got here?
“He says, he’ll text when he’s outside.” As she speaks she lets out a deep sigh; her eyes still fixed on the screen. She seems disappointed, and in fact, I am as well, our time together is being cut short.
I am surprised by my reaction. My eyes look up to the clock, the digital numbers mocking me. Less than an hour is what we have left, so I opt to make the most of it.
“Do you want me to get you something to eat?” Trying to think of anything I can to buy more time with her.
“No, I’m good.” She lifts my half empty bottle of beer up to her lips and takes a long pull. “Aah, this is good stuff.” She is on her way into the drunk stage now. Her eyes glass over and in them I see a hint of mischief.
“I just feel bad you aren’t eating anything.”
“Don’t. I’m a meal skipper. This was perfect actually. Today I came to grips with the fact I deserve a much-needed break from my life. You know that feeling you get when you’ve given everything to someone else and realize there’s nothing left for you?”
The honesty in her words strikes a chord deep within me. They sting. Something tells me both of us have been molded by something hard in our lives, and we are on a journey to find solace.
At a perfect moment, a familiar set of bars of music tickle my ears. It seems appropriate. Yes, I am on a journey to be a better man. There’s an earnestness and sincerity in the lyrics.
Without a word, the two of us smile at each other and hold hands. Making our way back to the dance floor, I want the pleasure of holding this beautiful woman in my arms as long as possible.
When she wraps her bare arms around my shoulders, something stirs in me like we have a deep connection. One song leads to several more. It is peculiar the way certain songs can remind me of moments in the past. Moments like this will always stay with me. From now on, when I hear this music, it will remind me of Jillian.
Her head rests perfectly on my chest and I breathe in deeply, taking in the apricot scent of her hair and skin. We move in perfect harmony to the song, letting the music guide our steps effortlessly. She feels so good and light in my arms, I easily let my mind spin a fantasy of where this night could lead.
My plans are interrupted as her wrist buzzes again. “Evan’s here, I can dance one more song then I have to go.”
As if on cue, the band plays their final song and I thank her for the dance. Jillian leans in, squeezing my middle, and we share a hug goodbye.
“I’ll see you around, Richard.” As I watch her walk out of my life from the same door she entered, I rack my brain for any sign of her before now. It baffles me I come up empty.
I hope she is correct and we cross paths again. I would need to up my game though, and work through my issues so another opportunity wouldn’t pass me by.
There is something about being in Jillian’s presence that seizes every ounce of oxygen from my lungs, and my heart slides up in my throat. Tonight, all answers evade me as to why, but know I have to see her again.
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