Any Time, Any Place

By: Jennifer Probst

So far, no good.

Normally, if a woman wasn’t interested, Dalton bided his time. He liked the chase and the lure of a good seduction, but he’d never waited this long, or dealt with so many stinging rejections. He didn’t like the phrase man whore, either. His brothers drove him crazy with that term. Like calling a woman a slut, it had no purpose other than to accuse, hurt, or judge another person’s choices. He had his own code of ethics, and it was his own business.

Bottom line: He loved women. Their scent, their voice, the smooth touch of their skin. Their humor and passion and deep emotion that they had no problem connecting with. Sex was one of the gifts in life, and he took full advantage, yet his pleasure was always wrapped up in his partner’s. He loved the sound of a woman groaning in passion or screaming his name. He relished the bite of their nails and the curl of their toes and the way they got all soft and helpless after a few orgasms. He wasn’t a chauvinist or an egotist, but he was consistently fascinated with the female sex and didn’t see a problem with indulging his cravings. He was always honest and didn’t really see himself as ever wanting to settle down. Dalton believed in steeping himself in the experience of a woman’s company for however long it felt good, then moving on. Not to hurt them, but just the opposite. He knew he wasn’t the marrying type, and he had no desire to offer them false expectations of what he was able to provide. Mostly it worked. Sometimes it didn’t.

Dalton walked toward the bar and took a seat. His blood pumped with the sweet lure of the challenge. He’d never run from a fair battle with a woman he wanted. Eventually he’d have her.

And the bar.

He just needed a bit of patience.

“I got a proposition for you, baby. Me. You. And a night you’ll never forget. Whatcha say?”

Raven leaned over the bar and pushed out her bottom lip in a sexy pout. Her gaze swept over his figure. Then she smiled real slow. “I got a better proposition. How about you, your hand, and a bottle of lube instead? Baby.”

A hoot of male laughter rose to her ears. One of her regular patrons, Dave, reached over to clap his friend on the back, shaking his head. “Dude, I told you, she doesn’t play.”

The guy who’d taken the hit gave her a grin. “Ruthless, too. Remind me why we came here again?”

Raven winked and pulled back from the bar. With a deft spin on her heel, she grabbed a shot glass and poured two fingers neat of whiskey. “’Cause I serve the best liquor and food in town. Here, try this. It’ll take away the sting.” She slid the glass down the bar until it rested in front of him.

Dave threw up his hands. “Hey, what about me?”

“You know the rules. One pickup line. One rejection. One shot. Then you pay.”

Dave’s friend—was it Mark?—snapped the shot back and gave an appreciative nod. “You’re right. That was worth bombing out.”

She tossed him a smile and moved down the bar. They were good guys. A little rowdy and immature, but their bar bill was always high, and they were harmless. Each weekend the group recruited another male to pick her up, and failed. The good news was each of them came back the next weekend because My Place was the best damn bar in Harrington.

Sweeping a glance over the crowded pub, she headed back to the kitchen, clicking down her mental list of to-do items. She really needed a full-time assistant, but Raven liked to work alone, and she’d always been known for her temper. No need to start yelling at strangers when she could be happily neurotic all by her lonesome. She dealt well with employees but not partners. Still, she’d managed to grow her profits in the past year and had actual money in the bank. The lesson was simple and proved correct every single time.

Don’t count on anyone but yourself.

Leaning on other people was not only dangerous. It was also stupid.

She quickly made her rounds to check on her chef, Al, who was one of the nicest guys she knew. He’d graduated from the Culinary Institute of America near Poughkeepsie, snagged a fancy chef job, and moved in with his girlfriend.

Unfortunately, soon after, his girlfriend left him and hooked up with a guy who liked to slap her around. When she called Al in a panic, he made it his job to show the guy what it felt like to be beaten up.

His second unfortunate circumstance was discovering the asshole was the son of a top prosecutor, and Al soon found himself plea-bargaining and serving three years in prison for assault and battery. His girlfriend lied and swore Al had stalked her in a jealous rage.

When Al turned up on Raven’s doorstep asking for a job, sharing his past in clear, emotionless detail, she immediately knew he was a gift. A real CIA chef, and one who wanted to protect the woman he loved. It was a win-win, and she hired him on the spot.

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