The One Real Thing Page 17

The woman now stood with her back to him, staring out at the rain. Her shoulders were hunched a little as if trying to protect herself from the dampness of her wet clothes. Cooper’s eyes dragged down her body. She had a tiny back, narrow shoulders, and a narrow waist, but that waist swept out into a curvy ass Cooper appreciated greatly. Especially since that ass was attached to long, slim legs. She wore skinny jeans that showed off those fantastic legs of hers. The jeans were tucked into high-heeled boots.

Casual but sexy, he thought. It worked. At least it did for him.

He suddenly wasn’t so cold.

And he was going to listen to that tingle. “You can wait out there if you want. Or not.”

She swung around, staring at him with those big eyes. With her wet hair slicked back he got to see all of her.

All of it was good.

She wasn’t a striking beauty like his ex, but there was coldness to Dana’s beauty. There always had been. It used to intrigue him. Now he knew better.

Other than the wet clothes on her body, there wasn’t a hint of coldness in this stranger.

She did, however, look uncertain. She peered past him at the empty bar. “Are you sure it’s alright?”

He nodded.

The woman hesitated, obviously unsure about entering an empty bar with a strange man. She was definitely a tourist. And right now she looked like a teenager deciding whether or not to do the smart thing while oh so tempted by the stupid thing.

Amusement filled him.

As she nodded and strode past him, her perfume wafted over him. It was light, kind of flowery, nothing musky about it. She turned around, gazing at his bar in curiosity, and he took in the rest of her. Her black shirt clung to her, straining over full breasts. More than a handful. Fuck, but she had a body on her.

Then Cooper noticed that body was shivering.

Asshole. He needed to stop checking her out and get her warm.

“Tea? Coffee? Hot cocoa?” he called out, heading toward the kitchen.

“Hot cocoa,” she called back.

He went to the linen closet in the hall first, where he kept dish towels and towels for the staff bathroom. He grabbed one and took it out to her.

“Thanks,” she said, staring up at him, looking almost confused for some reason.

He nodded and got back into the kitchen to make them a warm drink as fast as possible.

When he returned to her with her mug of cocoa he noticed her hair was a little drier. There was a lot of it.

The mascara smears around her eyes were gone, too.

He glanced at the white towel he’d given her and grinned when he saw the black on it.

“Thank you,” she said, taking the mug of hot cocoa and whipped cream from him.

She was soft-spoken and, for whatever reason, his lower belly reacted with a tugging sensation to the sound of her voice.

Cooper took the seat across from her and sipped at his coffee, enjoying the chance to study her as she studied him. There was an air of easy confidence around her that he appreciated. That kind of confidence usually belonged to women who knew and liked themselves.

“Do you work here?” she said after a few minutes of comfortable silence had passed between them.

Cooper nodded.

“You’re a bartender here?”

“I own the place.”

He watched her study his bar, and he had to wonder what she thought of it. She had little diamonds in her ears and was wearing a nice watch, plus those sexy boots weren’t cheap, as far as he could tell, and he’d lived with Dana long enough to know a designer purse when he saw it. If he’d had to guess, he would have thought the tourist a cocktails-at-a-trendy-bar kind of woman. But just as he’d caught her appreciation of his body earlier, he saw a different kind in her eyes as she looked around at his place.

He felt a spike of pride. It used to be a dowdy little pub. Now it was a successful one. It was all him in that bar and it was nice that she liked what she saw.

“Nice place,” she said, confirming her appreciation. “What’s the bar called?”

“Cooper’s.”

She narrowed her big eyes on him. “Are you Cooper?”

“Are you a detective?” he teased.

“A doctor, actually.”

Well, he hadn’t been expecting that. “Smart lady.”

“I’d hope so.” She grinned at him.

Silence fell between them again and Cooper found that he liked that she could sit quietly with him without growing uncomfortable. He liked the quiet. He liked that she wasn’t rushing to fill it with meaningless chitchat like most people did.

In the little time he’d spent with her he knew she was sexy, cute, smart, and nice to spend time with. All that meant Cooper wanted to know more. “You’re not from Hartwell.”

“No, I’m not.” She sidestepped his unspoken question.

Cooper almost laughed at her taciturnity. “What brings you to Hart’s Boardwalk, Doc?”

“At the moment the rain brought me here,” she said. “I’m kind of glad it did.”

Yeah, he was glad, too. He reached across the table, offering her his hand. “Cooper Lawson.”

She smiled at him and took his hand, hers small and soft in his. “Jessica Huntington.”

That tingle sprang to life down his neck again.

He tensed, his eyes sharp on Jessica Huntington. “Nice to meet you, Doc.”

“You, too. Thanks again for the cocoa.”

“You’re welcome.” He sat back, watching her sip the drink he’d made for her. A bit of cream stuck to the top lip of her pretty mouth. He eyed it, trying not to think about how much he wanted to lick the cream off her. Forcing his eyes from her mouth to her eyes, he said, “What brings you to Hartwell?”

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