I nodded because she still looked perfect, and fuck me if it was the drunk goggles talking. If it was, I had a better imagination than I realized.
“Dance with me,” I said standing up, thankful I didn’t fall over. I could still balance. That was good.
“Drink this water first, Romeo,” Larissa interrupted me. Her serious expression told me maybe I wasn’t hiding my drunk that well. So, I took the glass and downed it.
She cut her eyes to Lila. “I’m trusting you,” were her final words to me before she walked back to help other customers. It sucked when your aunt was the bartender at the only place in town that was worth going to. Well, it didn’t always suck, but tonight it was getting in my way.
I smirked and blew it off. “Larissa is my aunt. You’ll have to ignore her.”
Lila’s stunning eyes widened in surprise. “Oh. She looks so young.”
“She is. Only a few years older than me. The story is long, full of intrigue and lies. Very daytime soap opera. I’ll tell you all about it if you dance with me. I swear it’s better than a romance novel.” That much was true. Larissa’s story was intense.
Lila looked down at her uneaten food. “I can’t eat any more anyway. You were right they are delicious but heavy. I’m full.” She stood up and gave me that smile that I hoped I remembered tomorrow.
I placed a hand on her lower back and led her out to the dance floor. Glancing at the table I had been at when she walked in, I saw Micah Falco and Jimmy Taylor give me the nod. They were both smiling. Either they were smiling because she was as smoking hot as I thought she was, or because they were going to harass me about this for years to come. I just didn’t care anymore. And I was fucking thrilled Saffron’s crazy ass wasn’t here tonight to cause trouble. She’d ruin this just for the hell of it.
Even if I did forget fragments of tonight, Micah and Jimmy would surely give me a complete recap. Once we were on the packed dance floor, I pulled her to me and inhaled. Jesus, she smelled like heaven. She wasn’t wearing some heavy perfume or body lotion. It was light and smelled like almonds or cinnamon. Fuck if I knew. It was just intoxicating. I pulled her closer and took a deep breath.
“I’m sure you hear this a lot, but you smell amazing.”
She tilted her head back just enough to look up at me. “Thanks. And no, I don’t actually.”
That caused me to pause. Did she live in a convent? “How is that possible?”
She gave me a small shrug. “I don’t get close to guys often.” She hesitated, then she looked serious like she was unsure she should have said that. “I mean I didn’t for a long time, but I do now. I’m different. It’s time for a change.”
A change? What was she a lesbian trying out the other side? I decided against asking that figuring if it was the case she might be offended. Didn’t matter to me either way.
“What all does this change of yours consist of?” I asked her.
Just that one word. Interesting. She had eaten her bar food with a knife and fork with her paper napkin in her lap and she wanted an adventure. I wasn’t sure that was safe. She seemed too innocent for an adventure. Or maybe I was reading her completely wrong?
“I’m not sure yet. But I am on it now. Bars, random guys, bar food—that’s all part of it.”
“Am I the beginning of your adventure?”
She smiled and then nodded. “Yes, Eli, you are.”
DANCING WITH ELI at this bar wasn’t my first time to dance at a bar. I had once before while in college. A friend on the dance team had her twenty-first birthday party at the local haunt. I went. I danced. I left early and arrived home before midnight sober. But that was the old me.
“I think I’d like another drink,” I told Eli after our dance.
He smiled as if I was amusing. “Anything in particular?”
I almost said a martini and stopped myself. “Whatever.”
He chuckled and I watched as he held his hand up signaling a waitress who was carrying a tray of little shot glasses filled with Jell-O. She came over and he took two glasses off her tray. “Thanks.”
Then he handed one to me.
“What’s this?” I asked holding the cup of Jell-O in front of me.
“A Jell-O shot. It’s even better than a bar drink. It’s a club drink.”
The club he was referring to was different than the club I had grown up in and I knew that. I figured why not. I tasted it slowly.
“It’s a shot, Lila. Don’t savor it. Just down it.”
Not wanting to disappoint him or me, so I did as Eli said.
When I was done, I thought it tasted yummy like strawberry Jell-O.
He handed me the shot glass he was holding. “I never was one to think a guy looked right doing a Jell-O shot. Take this one.”
I wasn’t sure what liquor was in them, but my head felt lighter, and I felt happy. Eli took both cups, held his hand up again and placed them on the tray the waitress was carried over to us.
“Ready for another dance?” he asked.
I stepped back into his arms and we danced. This time I wasn’t aware of anyone around us, and I wasn’t concerned. I enjoyed myself. Moved by the music, I let go of my inhibitions. I laughed. I heard my own laughter and it felt right.
It wasn’t until three dances later when Eli took a drink off a tray and drank it that I wondered what time it was. I should call my mom. I should call Nate.
Then I realized that was the old Lila Kate. This was the new one.
Our dancing continued. Our movements got sexier. The touching became more intense and my heart rate sped up a bit. I enjoyed being near Eli. I liked the way his hands slid over my hips and cupped my bottom. When my breasts brushed against his chest, the contact felt like electricity had pulsed through me. These feelings were all new things for me. I’d tried to feel this before. It had never happened. I was always so tense and unsure. But Eli was easy to trust, and the way he smiled could attract a nun.
His head lowered, and his breath was hot on my neck. I shivered as it tickled my ear. “Go somewhere with me.”
I slowed our dance to a halt. This was it. My chance to do something truly wild. To break free of the old me. To become someone else. I needed this. I wanted this. I wanted Eli, and it had been awhile since there was a guy that attracted me. It wasn’t just the shots either. I’d liked him before I started drinking.
“Okay,” I answered loud enough that he could hear.
He bit softly on my earlobe. “I’ll get your purse from Larissa.”
I nodded and walked off the dance floor with him.
He got my purse from his aunt who he’d handed it to when we left the bar for the dance floor. Then he came straight to me. “Your car here?” he asked.
“I’m not sure either of us should drive just yet. Walk with me down the beach.”
I had to agree. I wasn’t sure I should get behind the wheel, and he had drunk more than I had. His hand slipped over mine then our fingers threaded. We walked in the moonlight across the road and down to the beach in silence. The music from Live Bay faded in the distance.
It was secluded and peaceful on the shore. I’d been on our beach many times at night. But never with a guy. Not like this. It was almost magical.