Pretty Boy (Perfect Boys #1) by K.M. Neuhold

“Evenin’ Miss Maggie,” I reply with a brief smile, slipping behind the bar and grabbing the broom that’s propped against the wall so I can get a good sweep in before regulars start coming in.

“Oh, darlin’, your face is a bit swollen. Did something happen?” she asks, catching me under the chin and studying my cheek. I ease back and turn my face away.

“Just a little trouble, that’s all.”

“It wasn’t that damned Bryson again, was it?” she huffs indignantly, and a smile tugs on my lips. Her concern makes me feel nice, warm, but not at all hot and fluttery like Barrett’s concern did.

“It don’t matter,” I say softly. “I’ll be fine.”

She grumbles something about Bryson needing a swift kick in the rear, and I smile again, and then get to work with my sweeping. After a while, Miss Maggie leaves for the night, and the regulars start filling their stools.

I hoped work would distract me from thinking about Barrett, but every time the bell jangles, I look up, my heart tripping over itself with stupid hope that it’ll be him. Not sure why he’d show up here after I was a perfect ass to him even after he saved me from a good thrashing. Mind you, I still don’t appreciate that he took one look at my pea soup and thought I needed him to buy me dinner, but I coulda been more polite about the whole thing.

It’s a little after ten when he steps into the bar. I’m so surprised, I let out an embarrassing squeak and nearly drop the glass of beer I’m filling.

“Watch it,” Roy Jenkins scolds me as beer cascades over the rim of the glass and down my fingers.

“Sorry,” I mutter, setting it down and grabbing a rag to wipe the glass off, and then handing it to him. “Sorry,” I say again, and he nods in acknowledgment, not saying another word.

I use the same rag to wipe the sticky beer from my hand before tossing it aside and making my way to the end of the bar where Barrett’s claimed a seat.

“What can I get ya?” I ask, dragging my tongue over my dry lips and letting my eyes roam over the strong cut of his jaw for a few seconds. He looks so sturdy—big muscles, broad shoulders, thighs thick as tree trunks. I bet he could pick me up and throw me over his shoulder like nothing. I have no idea why that thought it so arousing, but damn if my dick doesn’t rise to the occasion.

“A beer is fine, pre-” He must see my glare because he stops himself, giving me a wry smile before finishing. “Sterling.”

I nod and pour him a beer.

“What are you doin’ in town anyway?” I ask when I set it in front of him, my curiosity getting the best of me. I can’t for the life of me imagine what Billow could possibly have to offer for him to be sticking around all week.

“I was just passing through,” he answers, giving me a meaningful look. My heartbeat kicks up, and those butterflies take up residence in my belly again.

“And now?” I try to keep my tone casual. There’s no way he means it how it sounded.

“Now, I’m…seeing what happens,” he responds vaguely. “Tell me, Sterling, do you have a boyfriend?” A startled laugh bursts from my lips, and I dart a glance over to Roy, the only other customer currently taking up space at the bar. He doesn’t seem to be payin’ us no mind, but the last thing I need is for new rumors to spread around town about me.

I put my elbows on the bar and lean in closer to Barrett. A woodsy, manly scent wafts off of him. Not like he’s actually been in the woods, but like he used deodorant or soap that’s meant to make him smell that way. It makes me want to bury my nose in his armpit or against his chest to get a better whiff.

“Why would you ask me a thing like that?” I worry my bottom lip between my teeth and meet his eyes. He opens his mouth, and I’m afraid he’s about to apologize for assuming I’m interested in men, which is the last thing I want. “What kinda man would want someone who looks like me?”

He studies my face for a few beats and then drops his eyes down to my body, his gaze feeling almost like a caress the way he stares with a look that I could swear is lustful. My body tingles, and my cock presses against my zipper, the air between us feeling charged like the way it feels right before a lightning storm.

“I would,” he says, and my heart about leaps out of my chest.

I push back off the bar, taking a step back and trying to calm myself before I do something stupid like fling myself across the bar at him. “You don’t mean that. You don’t even know me.”