Final Book of the Near and Far Magazine Series
It was no real hardship leaving the creek behind to follow after the woman. She was, without a doubt, breathtaking. So, really, Josh could understand her former lover’s dilemma. Auggie rather blinded the room.
The redhead at the ex’s side had absolutely nothing on Auggie. The man with the crew cut was a right eejit. He was also staring over the ginger’s head at Augusta yet again.
“Right. Dance with me, fine thing,” Josh said, and held out his hand.
Auggie looked up at him and one of her eyebrows arched, but she accepted the hand he offered after only the tiniest hesitation.
“You don’t have to do this, you know,” she said.
“There’s no ‘have to’ when it comes to dancing with a gorgeous woman,” Josh said, slipping his arm around her and snugging her into his body as the tempo of the music conveniently slowed. The silk was cool to the touch, but the heat her body was throwing off under it spread like the burn of good whiskey into his veins. “Besides, I find I rather like the idea of tormenting the eejit who broke yer heart.”
Auggie threw back her head and laughed loud enough that couples dancing near them turned to look.
“Breaking my heart might be overstating,” she said. In fact, the way Josh McLaughlin looked in a suit, it was hard to think about any other man in the room, hard to remember what she’d ever even seen in Nick Shaw. Not that she’d ever say as much to Josh. “You’re a fair dancer, aren’t you McLaughlin?”
“I’m Irish, lass. We’ve got the moves.”
Auggie let out a snort at that.
“That’s what they all say,” she informed him, then squeaked, when he responded to her challenge by dipping her backwards over his arm. When he pulled her back up, her chest collided with his, and his arm tightened, keeping her there. There was a challenge of his own in his eyes, and looking at him, Auggie realized, took the breath from her lungs. She looped her arms around his neck, let him lead her around the dance floor in a slow, swaying unit, and decided to simply enjoy the ride.
He felt it the moment she relaxed into him. Her arms were linked loosely around him, her body moved with supple grace in time to his own. Her eyes were luminous -- bewitching -- in the shadows of the dance floor. She smiled at him, those lovely pink lips of hers quirking up with complete ease.
And all along, he grew increasingly tense as the spell of her wove itself around him, made him wonder what that complete calm she now projected -- so languid and opposed to the hurricane of energy she generally spouted -- would taste like on his lips should he sample them right here and now.
“You’ve got some moves of your own, Miss Chamberlain,” he murmured. She seemed to like his comment, and when he twirled her out, pulled her back, the smile of pleasure on her face positively glowed. A man would do a hell of a lot to put that look onto his woman’s face.
“You’re killing me here, fine thing.”
She lost the tempo a moment as uncertainty swamped her at his words. Tripping up against his foot, she stumbled. Although he simply tightened his grip on her, righting her as if nothing had occurred, Auggie immediately coiled back into knots under her skin.
“Sorry,” she said, unsure, exactly, what she was apologizing for, but either way, she’d amused him, that much was clear from his grin.
“So, Canadian,” he said, his smile only widening when she stiffened. “Well, Auggie, I’m Irish. I could use a few scoops.”
“A scoop. A drink, you know?” He smiled at her confusion and placed his hand at the small of her back as he led her off the dance floor and aimed for the bar in the corner of the room.
Auggie let him lead her to the bar, then lifted the glass he handed her and clinked it with his.
“Cheers, then, fine thing.”
She watched in amusement as he saluted her with his beer glass, then lifted it to his lips and let it slide down his throat in one long continuous swallow until the glass was empty.
“You’re not truly going to let a man drink alone, are you, lass?” Eyes lofty, Auggie lifted her glass to her own lips. As if she’d back down from a challenge like that. Holding his gaze, she followed his lead, and downed her drink, swallowing sip after sip until her eyes watered and her glass drained. When she slapped her empty glass on the counter beside his, Josh grabbed his heart and staggered sideways theatrically.
It made Auggie toss her head back and laugh out loud for a second time that evening.
“I can match you drink for drink, Irish.”
“Oh, I very much doubt that,” Josh said, his eyes dancing, “But you’re more than welcome to give it a try, luv. I promise to get you home and tuck you in safe and sound.”
She snorted, then smacked at his arm lightly. For that moment, she decided to forget that he was a potential client -- one the magazine very much needed -- and not a real date. Mellie had gotten her into this situation, after all, and since she was here, she would enjoy.
Turning back to the bartender, she raised two fingers, then nudged one of the newly poured beers in Josh’s direction. She waited until he lifted his glass, then raised hers to her lips. With her eyes locked on his, she downed the second glass gulp by gulp, felt the heat as it burned the path down to her belly, felt the tiniest fuzz begin behind her eyes. She was gasping for breath by the time she’d swallowed the last drop, and when Josh reached over and dabbed a drop of beer from the side of her mouth with his thumb, she was trembling.
She nodded mutely and reached for his hand. “I need to dance it off.”
Josh inclined his head slightly. “After you.”
In response, she smiled, and her fingers curled around his. This time, with the music thumping, and Auggie’s head swirling every so slightly, the vibe between them was different. She felt playful and light. This night – which she’d been dreading – had become a party.