“You know you work for me, right?”
“Listen, lady”—red spiraled across his high cheekbones—“you hired me to bounce problems, which I can’t do if your sweet ass is in the way.”
than kicking him in the shin. “You’re fired.”
Both of his eyebrows shot up. “Excuse me?”
Satisfaction tilted her chin. Not much probably surprised Matt Dean. “You’re fired.” As an exit line, it nailed the situation. Unfortunately, the toned soldier stood between her and the door. Just who the hell did he think he was? “Now move your sweet ass.”
He slipped his hands into his pockets and leaned back against the door. As a move, it was intimidating. “Why am I fired?”
“You leave much to be desired as an employee.” She eyed him, assessing the situation. Nope. The guy might be commanding, but she wasn’t scared. He wouldn’t hurt her. “All you’ve done since being hired is flirt with customers, order me around, and kiss me.”
His chin lowered. “Which of those items is pissing you off the most?”
She narrowed her eyes as heat spiraled through her abdomen. “You can flirt with any dumb bimbo you want, and frankly, the kisses were all right. But ordering me around? Not a chance.”
“All right? The kisses were all right?”
Figured the man would focus on that. She forced herself to lift a shoulder. “Eh.”
His cheek creased, and his eyes warmed. “Maybe we should try again, then. See if I can do better.”
“No.” The spit in her mouth dried up. She hadn’t meant to challenge him… had she? “I don’t, ah, kiss fired employees.”
“So that leaves Smitty.” Matt grinned.
“Very funny.” The tension slowly drained from her muscles in response to his instant humor.
He exhaled slowly. “Listen, I’m sorry if I scared you.”
“I’m also sorry if I was too bossy.” He rubbed a hand through his hair. “It’s just, after being in combat, orders come naturally. Seeing you, somebody so small near danger… well, it hits triggers. All sorts of triggers.”
She could handle him bossy or charming. But sweet and honest? She shook her head and gestured toward his hard body. “You’re just… too much.”
He chuckled. “If you give me another chance, I promise I’ll tone it down. All of it.”
She’d be a fool to let this guy get close, but she knew better than to make a snap decision based on one moment or one emotion.
She studied him. Earnest eyes, relaxed shoulders, apologetic half smile. If he was working her, he was damn good at it.
Yeah, she liked him. Not only the look of him, but the self-effacing humor and ease of saying he was wrong. Most Alpha guys like him never admitted to being wrong. He’d had no problem with it.
Plus, she needed a bouncer, and he could certainly bounce. The tickle at the nape of her neck promised something bad was coming, and facing it with a guy who wanted to protect her? Probably not a bad idea, so long as he understood the rules. While she wanted to convince herself she was making a business decision, there was no doubt her feelings for him went beyond personal. But she could handle her own emotions. “Fine. One more chance, but if you order me around again, you’re out of here.”
“Fair enough.” He opened the door.
Heat brushed her as she moved past him. “If I ever get lost in a snowstorm, I hope you’re there,” she muttered under her breath. The guy cascaded warmth.
“Huh?” Matt asked as he shut the door.
“Nothing.” She shook her head and headed back to the bar to get to work. What would life be like if she could flirt a little and even hope for a future? One with a husband and even kids? But there were no kids in her future.
She plastered on a smile and began helping Smitty with drinks. The weekend chef manned the kitchen to prepare bar food, so she didn’t need to cook that night.
The evening slid into closing time, and she shut the outside door with a sigh of relief. As usual, she double-checked the door locks and extra stoppers placed into the floor. The bikers had filled her till as well as the tip jars. “It was a good night.” She smiled as she tossed a bar rag toward Smitty.
He caught it and grinned, lines fanning out from his bloodshot eyes. “Cleanup was quick. Ready for inventory?”
“No.” She jerked her head toward the kitchen. “We’re done for the night and will do inventory another time. Go home and get some rest since tomorrow night will be busier than tonight, probably.”
He finished wiping down the bar. “You do look tired, boss. Feeling all right?”
“I’m fine.” The flush filling her face resulted from Matt’s loping in from the kitchen and not from any illness. “I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon.”
“Good enough.” Smitty nodded to Matt on his way out. “Night, all.”
“Night.” Matt crossed broad arms. “Did I hear something about inventory?”
“Yes. I’ve got it.” She reached under the bar for a notebook. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
His smile was slow and way too sexy. “We could get it done in half the time if we worked together.”
Well, at least he’d stopped issuing orders. She studied him for a moment. While she felt like she could sleep for a week, he looked up for running a few miles. Her eyes were gritty and her neck already ached, promising a headache would soon arrive. With her efforts in becoming part of the town and trying to learn how to make friends, she’d been working on accepting assistance and not being so alone. She really could use the help tonight, stubbornness aside. “Okay. Follow me to the storeroom.”
A small room with a sexy ex-marine after midnight? What could possibly go wrong?