Treat me, p.5
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       Treat Me, p.5

         Part #8 of One Night with Sole Regret series by Olivia Cunning
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  “My three o’clock or your three o’clock?” Amanda asked, turning her head slowly to try to locate the man in question.

  “My three o’clock. White Stetson. Blue shirt. Great ass.”

  There were several white Stetsons in the general area Leah had indicated, but Amanda knew the woman’s tastes, so she didn’t have to ask which cowboy had caught her eye. “I’m on it,” Amanda said, and she hopped off her stool.

  She grabbed her empty glass and headed toward the bar. Tomás would have refilled it for her, but she needed a reason to bump into Leah’s dreamboat. And the whole “going to the bathroom to powder her nose” thing felt trite.

  When she reached the back of the guy Leah was interested in, she paused and turned to glance at her friend, lifting her eyebrows to seek her approval. Leah grinned and nodded. Yep, predictable. Leah liked her cowboys tall, blond, and with a little meat on their bones—pretty much the woman’s physical opposite. If the man had blue eyes and a bit of beard scruff on a strong jaw, Leah would be in insta-lust.

  Amanda took a step back so she could gain momentum and then rushed forward and bumped into the cowboy’s broad back. “Oh, excuse me,” she said, rubbing the guy’s shoulder to undo any damage. “I was in such a hurry to refill my drink, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going.”

  The guy turned, and Amanda immediately began her Leah-checklist as she assessed whether to introduce him to her friend or not. Leah was painfully shy, so approaching men was difficult for her. Amanda held no such reservations.

  The man’s eyes were shadowed by the brim of his hat, but were light in color—either gray or blue—so were sure to melt Leah into a puddle. Check. He had a friendly face, a bit too round to be handsome, but he was definitely cute. Hesitant check. His smile was pleasant and he didn’t leer at her or stare down her shirt. Enthusiastic check. So far, he was getting good marks. He wasn’t completely approved yet as he hadn’t spoken, but she had a good feeling about this one.

  “Did you hurt yourself?” he asked.

  Showing concern for her well-being but not using it as an excuse to paw her. Check.

  “Oh, I’m fine. I was more worried about you. I just plowed right into you like an idiot.”

  “A pretty little thing like you is going to have to hit me a lot harder than that to do any damage.”

  His come-on was a bit oafish, but not the worst introductory flirting she’d encountered. Not by a long shot.

  “Can I refill that for you?” he asked, nodding toward her glass. “What are you having?”

  A little fast, but he probably thought she was hinting for him to buy her a drink.

  “No thanks. I don’t think my boyfriend would appreciate me accepting a drink from a gorgeous stranger.” She waited for his response, hoping he didn’t disappoint her by suggesting she ditch her boyfriend and go back to his place. No way would she introduce a jerk like that to Leah. And more than one guy had said exactly that in this same situation.

  He frowned slightly, but tipped his hat at her. “Lucky guy,” he said. “You take care now, darlin’.” He turned back toward the bar, cradling his drink between both hands and yep, looking a little lonely.

  Amanda set her empty glass on the bar and caught the bartender’s eye for a refill.

  “Are you here alone?” Amanda asked the cowboy as she waited.

  “I thought you had a boyfriend,” he said, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye and blushing slightly.

  “I do. I’m going to level with you. What’s your name?”

  “Colton and yes, I’m flying solo tonight.”

  “Nice to meet you, Colton. I’m Amanda. I’m not trying to pick you up. My friend thinks you’re cute, but she’s too shy to come hit on you herself.”

  The guy chuckled and turned in his stool, glancing around, presumably for the smitten friend she’d mentioned.

  “Don’t be obvious,” Amanda said, clutching his arm. “She’d kill me if she knew I was doing this.” Not really. Leah expected Amanda to do this. “She’s over there in the corner. Black hair. Pink sweater.” Amanda tilted her head in Leah’s direction and then noticed she was cornered by two guys who were obviously drunk and checking none of her boxes. Cringing away from the one trying to wrap his arm around her, Leah looked ready to bolt. Crap.

  “Just a minute,” Amanda said to Colton. “I’ll be back.”

  Amanda rushed to the table. “Is there a problem here, gentlemen?” she said loudly.

  “Yeah, there’s a problem,” said a guy who looked barely old enough to shave. “She won’t dance with me.” His words were slurred, his eyes unfocused.

  “Maybe she doesn’t want to dance with you,” Amanda said, checking with Leah for validation. Staring at the hands she held twisted in her lap, Leah shook her head vigorously. “She’s probably afraid that you’re so drunk you’ll fall on top of her and crush her.”

  “You look a lot sturdier than she does,” the guy said, leaning heavily into his silent friend looking ready to fall flat on his face. “You dance with me.”

  Sturdier? Oh yes, Casanova, how could I resist that wonderful compliment?

  “Get lost,” a deep voice said from behind Amanda. “You’re bothering the ladies.”

  The drunk whirled to confront the intruder, but seemed to recognize that Colton was much sturdier than himself—and Amanda—and he was also steady on his feet.

  Leah’s harasser stumbled away with his friend’s assistance. “Whatever,” he grumbled. “She was ugly anyway.”

  Amanda’s foot automatically shot out in front of him, and he had to grab some random dude in the crowd to keep from face-planting on the dusty wooden floor. “Asshole,” Amanda muttered under her breath.

  “Are you okay?” Colton asked Leah.

  She flushed prettily and nodded. “Thanks for chasing them away,” she said.

  “My pleasure, miss.” He lifted his hat, momentarily exposing hat-flattened blond hair, and Amanda smiled at the flush that rose up Leah’s face.

  Yep, Leah was definitely interested.

  “Would you mind sitting with us for a while?” Amanda asked. “Just to keep drunk jerks from hitting on us.”

  “I reckon so,” Colton said, smiling at Leah, who was currently stealing glances at him but who had yet to make steady eye contact.

  It must suck to be shy, Amanda thought.

  As the trio munched on nachos and nursed their drinks, Amanda ushered her tight-lipped companions through small talk. She had no problem getting both of them to talk to her, even if they weren’t talking to each other. Or even meeting each other’s eyes. Perhaps Leah would be better off if she didn’t have Amanda there as a crutch.

  Amanda allowed the conversation to lapse, watching her friend for cues. Maybe Leah didn’t like this guy after all. Did they need to have a BFF conference in the ladies room? Amanda opened her mouth to announce her need to use the restroom, but Colton turned to Leah and said, “Say, Leah?”

  Leah glanced up into his eyes and flushed before focusing on the second button of his Western-cut blue shirt. “Yes?”

  “I’m not much of a dancer,” he said.

  “Oh,” Leah said before lifting her gaze and offering him a sweet smile. “That’s okay.”

  She was totally into him, and apparently Colton had been too polite to tell Amanda to shut the fuck up and get lost so he could make his move.

  “If you’re not against a few crushed toes . . .”

  “I’m not,” Leah said a bit too eagerly.

  “Would you care to dance? Or rather, endure my clumsy attempts at dancing?”

  “I’d love to.”

  Amanda smiled to herself as Colton stood, offered Leah his hand to help her from her barstool, and put a protective arm at her back as he led her off to the dance floor. Ah, nice guys with manners. Perhaps a perfect match for Leah, but Amanda’s tastes ran a bit on the darker side.

  Finding herself alone, Amanda fiddled with her phone, wishing Jacob was offstag
e so they could text each other while she waited to see him again. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so giddy over a guy. Her last couple of boyfriends had been more like Colton—settled, considerate, not forbidden—and those men sure hadn’t made her heart thud, belly quiver, or her pussy ache the way it did for Jacob. She wasn’t sure if those feelings would last, but holy hell, she was definitely enjoying the ride. Even if it was making her a little crazy.

  Amanda kept half of her attention on Leah in case Colton turned out to be one to bolt on and she needed to intervene. But heck, the guy hadn’t even pulled Leah up against him yet. Yawn. The other half of her attention was fixed on her cellphone as she waited for Jacob to get in touch with her again. He would be offstage soon. Would he call her? Should she call him? Should she chill the fuck out and try to have a good time tonight? Yeah, she should definitely do that.

  She lowered her head to the table and took several deep breaths as her brain tried straightening out her heart.

  This is just a fling. He’s really not that into you. Get off your bar stool and go flirt with someone. Anyone. Maybe Mr. Right was at this very bar at this very moment.

  But even if he was, it didn’t matter. Mr. Wrong—aka Jacob “Shade” Silverton—had her complete devotion. Might as well not fight what she was feeling—it was no use anyway. She had more than the hots for her former brother-in-law—she liked him. Liked him in the way that an addict liked methamphetamine.

  Someone took the seat across from her and she could tell by the very large set of feet attached to the person that it wasn’t her petite friend returning from the dance floor. “Hey, beautiful, why are you sitting here all alone?”

  “How do you know I’m beautiful?” she asked, her forehead still pressed to the table. “Maybe I’m sitting alone because I’m ugly enough to melt the paint off a furnace.”

  “With legs like those?”

  Amanda rolled her eyes and lifted her head. “You’re wasting your time,” she told the handsome young man, who she normally would have found attractive. He had dark hair and startling green eyes and was filing out his plain white T-shirt in exactly the right way. If he’d hit on her just a week ago, she would have probably already given him her phone number. “I’m completely infatuated with Mr. Wrong at the moment.”

  “Maybe I can help you get over your infatuation.”

  She snorted and shook her head. “I’m not looking to get over him just yet,” she said. “But maybe after he breaks my heart, you could try again.”

  “Do you come here often?” Green-eyes asked.

  He lost points for unoriginal pick-up lines, but the green eyes made up for his lack of creativity. “Every Friday night.”

  “Maybe I’ll see you again then.”

  She shrugged. “Maybe.”

  Still not rising from his seat, he traced the bottom of Leah’s margarita glass with one finger. “How will I know when you’re ready to move on?” He blinked, and when his eyes reopened, his gaze had shifted from staring at his finger to boring into hers.

  Jeez. Why did guys like this only hit on her when she was happily taken?

  And she was happily taken. So she figured she’d best scare the guy away since he seemed the type to like a challenge.

  “Depends.” She shrugged. “If you’re interested in a broken shell of a desperate woman—that will be obvious by the endless sobbing—I’ll be super easy to seduce, if that’s all you’re after.”

  “It’s not,” he said evenly, never breaking eye contact.

  Yeah, right, she thought. What a little player.

  “Good, because in that state I’ll be absolutely no fun and the sex will be awkward and icky.”

  “Not the way I do it.”

  She snorted. “If you wait until just after I stop breaking into spontaneous bouts of tears, you’ll get my man-hating angry-bitch phase. Unless you like to be treated like shit—and some guys do—you’ll want to avoid me entirely during that stage. Very scary.”

  “That has possibilities.” She noticed his hand was starting to move across the table toward hers. She lifted her eyebrows and it returned to tracing the bottom of Leah’s glass.

  “If you’re interested in normal Amanda, you’ll have a long wait. This guy is likely to do a number on me and it’ll take me a while to recover my normal personality.”

  “If you’re expecting it to end badly, why bother dating the guy in the first place?”

  “Never in all the history of Mr. Wrongs has there ever been one more perfectly right.” And secretly she was hoping things would work out between them, even though she knew there was no way they could. Tina would find out about their relationship eventually, and nothing good would come of that. “So you’re probably best off hitting on someone else.”

  “I can take a hint,” the guy said. That made one of them. “I’m Anthony.”

  “You should probably take your hint elsewhere, Anthony,” she said.

  “Am I really that offensive?” he asked.

  Amanda shook her head. “No, but there is zero chance of you taking me home tonight.” She made a goose egg shape with her thumb and forefinger.

  “Why don’t you relax and tell me about yourself?” he asked.

  She tilted her head, wishing she had someone to exchange incredulous looks with. She didn’t mind Anthony’s company since she’d been left sitting by herself by Leah, who was now several inches closer to Colton as they continued to sway on the dance floor. But she wasn’t the kind of woman who led men on for sport, and Anthony just wasn’t getting it. Leah’s eyes met hers, and she apparently took Amanda’s stare as a plea for help. Leah said something to Colton before surging through the crowd to their table.

  “I thought you were going to save my seat,” Leah said.

  Anthony stood. “Sorry, I didn’t realize I was intruding. It was nice to meet you, Amanda.” He slipped into the crowd before Amanda could say likewise.

  “You did want me to chase him off, didn’t you?” Leah asked.

  Amanda shrugged. “I’d already told him I wasn’t interested. I’m not sure he believed me.” Amanda glanced around to make sure Colton was out of hearing range. He was at the bar trying to catch the bartender’s attention. “So what do you think of Colton?”

  Leah flushed. “He’s very . . .” She bit her lip. “. . . polite.”

  “Too polite?”

  Leah shrugged. “I’m not sure. He doesn’t act like he wants to touch me.”

  There could be a lot of reasons why he didn’t want to touch her. It might be good manners, or it might be something deeper. He had looked a bit lonely and lost at the bar when he’d first caught Leah’s eye.

  The man in question set three drinks on the table. Leah might be too timid to pump the guy for information, but Amanda held no such qualms.

  “So, Colton, why haven’t we seen you around here before?” Amanda asked, reaching for her margarita and thinking this had to be her last one or she wouldn’t be able to drive.

  “It’s my first time in this bar,” he said. “I haven’t been in Austin long.”

  “Where are you from?” Leah asked.

  He smiled at her. “Miami.”

  Leah’s eyebrows shot up. “Florida?”

  He didn’t sound like he was from Florida. He had a hint of Texas twang.

  “Naw. Up in the Texas panhandle. Not far from Amarillo.”

  “Oh,” Leah leaned in closer to him. “So what brings you to Austin?”

  “There’s not much of a music scene in Miami, Texas. Though I wasn’t expecting Austin to be so focused on rock. Maybe I should have tried Nashville.”

  “So you’re into country, I take it?” Amanda asked.

  He nodded.

  “There are plenty of country musicians in Austin, Colton,” Leah said. “It just takes a while to find the right crowd.”

  “Are you two in with the right crowd?” He looked so hopeful that Amanda almost didn’t have the heart to tell him he singing to the w
rong choir.

  “Well, Amanda’s dating a rock star,” Leah said. “Maybe Shade can help.”

  “He sings in a metal band,” Amanda reminded her.

  “But he probably knows someone who knows someone. Or something.”

  Amanda shrugged. She wasn’t going to volunteer Jacob to get this guy noticed. She didn’t even know if Colton was any good. Heck, she didn’t even know if he sang or played an instrument. He
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