Home > Fetching (Unleashed Romance #1)

Fetching (Unleashed Romance #1)
Author: Kylie Gilmore

 

1

 

 

Sydney

Satan walks into my bar and crooks his finger at me.

I pretend not to see. Wyatt Winters can flag down someone else to serve him. I don’t care if tonight is make-or-break time for the historic restaurant and bar I own, and this New Year’s Eve fundraiser party is my last hope. I will not consort with the devil.

He’s handsome, all right, with his thick wavy dark brown hair, sensual lips, trimmed beard, and a body that looks like he spends too much time at the gym. But that is all cancelled out by his smug attitude. Wyatt moved to town a month ago, buying the abandoned house on the top of the hill with a landlocked lighthouse. It was originally owned by an eccentric recluse, who died before I was born. People say it’s haunted. I hope the ghosts keep him up at night.

Seriously, why does Wyatt keep showing up at my beloved Horseman Inn? Over the last month, he’s ordered every beer I have on tap and criticized the quality at length, as well as complained about the chill in the room and, of all things, the name of the place. It’s historic! The inn dates back to 1788 when it used to be a stagecoach stop.

I slip behind the bar and fill another round of drink orders for the table of middle-aged women excitedly anticipating our guest of honor, my famous actress friend, Harper Ellis. She’s the only reason we have a crowd tonight. My younger brother provides chill background music on his acoustic guitar. The bar is packed, the back room is half full, and people are helping themselves to appetizers in the front dining room and bidding on the silent auction items. It’s early yet, so I’m thrilled with the crowd. Thank you, Harper.

Harper and I grew up together here in Summerdale, New York, a lakeside community about an hour and a half outside New York City. It’s a unique place, originally founded by hippies as a kind of utopia. Crime is low and quality of life is high—our unofficial motto. Actual motto: Peace for all sheltered within. Anyway, it’s an awesome community for those of us not about to go bankrupt. Harper offered to help me out, but I’m not going there for several reasons. Most importantly, I don’t want money to come between us.

I hope she gets here soon. I scan the back room quickly and catch the eye of the one man who sets me on edge like no other. No beer for you. I take the tray of wine and two dirty martinis to the women sitting at a long rectangular table across from the man I refuse to acknowledge. I serve the women their drinks, keeping my back to Satan.

“When does Harper get here?” Tammy, a brunette in her fifties, asks.

Her four friends look to me eagerly.

“Any minute, I’m sure. She’s probably caught in city traffic.”

“I’m the current high bid on the lunch with her,” Tammy says. “Fingers crossed!”

I smile. It was nice of Harper to throw that lunch in there, considering she’s such a private, shy person in real life.

Tammy’s friends chime in with their hopes for winning an autographed picture of Harper or some of the other items she donated from her old TV show. She was so generous with her contributions, but I need her here in person.

“I’ll let you know as soon as she arrives,” I say.

I wave to my two best friends, Jenna and Audrey, mingling in the front room. They’re opposites physically—Jenna is tall and lean with blond hair that barely touches her shoulders; Audrey is short and curvy with long black hair. The four of us—me, Harper, Jenna, and Audrey—used to spend all our time together as kids. Then Harper left for Hollywood, and life happened for the rest of us. Jenna and I recently moved back to town. Audrey never left.

I send them a questioning look. They’re looking out for Harper.

Jenna shakes her head. I suppress a sigh and turn to head back to the bar.

“Cindy, over here,” a deep baritone voice calls out.

I stiffen and slowly turn to Wyatt. “It’s Sydney,” I say through my teeth.

He cups a hand by his ear. “What?”

I exhale sharply and cross to his corner table tucked in the back. He’s around my age (I’m twenty-eight), wearing a black and white checked button-down shirt with a tan sport coat and jeans. His long legs are stretched out under the table, crossed at the ankles. Dark brown leather shoes instead of sneakers. It occurs to me he dressed nice for the party, only to sit alone on New Year’s Eve. I summon patience and all the goodwill I can muster. He’s new in town, and I should try to make him feel welcome.

“Hi, Wyatt.” I flash a quick smile. “It’s Sydney, not Cindy.” As I’ve told you before. “I know you’re new in town. I could introduce you to my brothers. That’s Eli on guitar. He’s a cop.” I point him out, and Eli jerks his chin at us. “Over at the bar, the guy in the white T-shirt with the scowl is my oldest brother, Drew. There’s also Adam and Caleb, but they’re not here yet.”

Wyatt cocks his head. “No sisters?”

“No, why?”

“Only girl, huh? Interesting.”

I hear an insult lurking in his tone. “Why is that interesting?” I’m not a girly girl, but that doesn’t mean I’m not feminine. I’m wearing lipstick, and I even put on a skirt tonight. It’s black leather to match my knee-high black leather boots. My black T-shirt says The Horseman Inn, our staff uniform.

“Just interesting,” he says blithely. “I’ve met Adam. He’s going to do some work at my place.”

“Oh.” Adam is a master carpenter. I didn’t know he took a job for Satan.

He taps the dark wood table. “What I really want to know is what a guy has to do to get a decent beer around here.”

Patience. Goodwill. I can’t be alienating customers in my line of work. I paste on a smile and rattle off every beer we offer, both on tap and in bottles.

He rubs his dark beard. “Do you have one that doesn’t taste like it’s been watered down to disguise the fact it’s gone skunk?”

“All of our beers are fresh, I assure you. Now what can I get you?” I am Miss Hospitality.

He leans forward, resting his chin on his hand, and smiles wolfishly. My pulse shoots up. “Surprise me.”

Cheap lite beer with a shot of spit in it, coming right up! Ooh, I am so tempted. No, I can be professional. Why is my pulse still racing? “You got it. Our best IPA coming up.” I turn to go.

“I’ve had your best IPA,” he says. “An ale would be an improvement. I hope.”

I turn back. “No problem.”

“Also, my table is wobbly.” He gives it a shake.

I let out a breath. “Then don’t shake it.”

He peers under the table. “Actually, I’m not sure if it’s the table or the wavy hardwood floor.”

“Part of our charm, original eighteenth-century flooring.”

He arches a brow.

“One ale coming up.” I make a beeline to the bar, my patience running out. No one could keep up pleasant conversation with a man like that for long. Always looking for flaws. This place has all the historic charm with all the modern headaches—sloping floors, low ceilings, draftiness. I’m proud to say we still have the original post and beam ceilings and large stone hearth in the front dining room. If he doesn’t like it, he can go someplace else. Although we are the only bar around for miles. He’d have to cross the state line into Clover Park, Connecticut, about a half-hour drive from here, to find another bar. Maybe I’ll suggest it. No, I can’t do that. He’s a newcomer. Must be welcoming.

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