By: Megan Hart


Chapter 01

I was looking for a stranger.

The Fishtank wasn’t my usual hangout, though I’d been inside it once or twice. Recently redecorated, it sought to compete with a bunch of brand-new bars and restaurants that had opened in downtown Harrisburg, but though the tropical theme and aquariums were pretty and the drinks cheap enough, the Fishtank was too far away from restaurant row to really compete. What it did have that the other, newer bars didn’t, was the attached hotel. The Fishtank, “where you hook ’em,” was sort of a joke with the young and single crowd of central Pennsylvania. Or at least with me, and I was young. And blessedly, purposefully, single.

Scanning the crowd, I wove my way through the closely set tables toward the bar. The Fishtank was filled, literally, with people I didn’t know. One would be the perfect stranger, emphasis on perfect.

So far, I hadn’t seen him, but there was still time. I took a seat at the bar. My black skirt rode up a little and my stockings, held up by a garter belt of wispy lace, slipped on the leather stool. The sensation whispered up my thighs, bare above the tops of my stockings. My panties, of even wispier lace, rubbed me as I shifted.

“Tröegs Pale Ale,” I told the bartender, who passed me a bottle with a nod.

Compared to many of the women in the Fishtank, I was dressed conservatively. My black skirt was cut fashionably just above the knee, my blouse silky and formfitting, but in the sea of low-riding jeans and navel-baring T-shirts, spaghetti straps and hooker heels, I stood out. Just the way I wanted.

I sipped my beer and looked around. Who would it be? Who would take me upstairs tonight? How long would I have to wait?

Apparently, not long. The seat next to mine had been empty when I sat, but now a man took it. Unfortunately, it was the wrong man. A stranger, yes, but not the one I was waiting for. The guy had blond hair and a gap between his two front teeth. Cute, but definitely not what I wanted. Also unfortunately, he didn’t seem to take a hint.

“No, thanks,” I said when he offered to buy me a drink. “I’m waiting for my boyfriend.”

“You’re not waiting for your boyfriend.” He said this with unshakable confidence. “You’re just saying that. Let me buy you a drink.”

“I have one already.” I gave him points for persistence, but I wasn’t here to go home with a frat boy who thought “not” jokes were the height of humor.

“Okay, I’ll leave you alone.” Pause. “NOT!”

He laughed, slapping a thigh. “C’mon. Let me buy you a drink.”


“Are you hitting on my date?”

Frat Boy and I turned, and both our jaws dropped. I’m pretty sure we each had different reasons. His was probably surprise at being wrong. Mine was in delight.

The man standing next to me had the dark hair and blue eyes I’d been looking for. The earring. The jeans, deliciously worn in all the right places and the white T-shirt with a leather jacket over it. I was seated on a high bar stool and he still towered over me. I guessed him to be at least four inches over six feet, if not more.

Very, very nice.

My stranger flicked his hand like he was brushing away Frat Boy. “G’wan, now. Go.”

Frat Boy, to give him credit, didn’t try to make excuses. He just grinned and got off the stool. “Sorry, man. You can’t blame me for trying, can you?”

My stranger turned to look at me, and his blue-eyed gaze roamed over my every inch before he answered. “No.” He sounded considering. “I don’t guess I can.”

My stranger took the vacated seat. He held out the hand not gripping the glass of dark beer. “Hi. I’m Sam. Don’t say Sam I am, or I’ll toss you back to that doofus.”

Sam. The name suited him. Before he gave it I might’ve imagined him as anyone, but once he did I could think of him as nobody else.

“Grace.” I shook his proffered hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“What are you drinking, Grace?”

I lifted my bottle. “Tröegs Pale Ale.”

“How is that?”

I sipped. “Pale.”

Sam held up his glass. “I’ve got Guinness. It’s not pale. Let me buy you one.”

“I haven’t finished the one I have,” I said, but with the smile I hadn’t given Frat Boy.

Sam leaned in. “C’mon, Grace. It’ll put hair on your chest.”

“Uh-huh. Do I look like I want hair on my chest?”

Sam blatantly eyed the front of my blouse. “Without seeing the chest in question, I’m afraid I can’t say.”

I laughed. “Riiiight. Try again.”

Sam gestured to the bartender and asked for two more bottles of the pale ale. “For when you’re done with that one.”

I didn’t take the second bottle. “I can’t, really. I’m on call.”

“Are you a doctor?” Sam tipped back the last of his beer from his glass and pulled a bottle toward him. “No.”

He paused, waiting for me to say more, but I didn’t. He drank, swallowed. He gave the sort of manly grunt and lip-smack guys make when they drink beer from bottles and are trying to impress women. I watched him without speaking and sipped from my own bottle, wondering how he meant to do this. I really hoped he’d make it convincing enough for me to go upstairs with him.

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