Top Shelf

By: Kelly Jamieson

Chapter 1

Jared had been watching her since she’d walked into the bar. Alone.

Pale blond hair swung across her face and curved into her neck, brushing her shoulders. She pushed her hair aside with fingertips to reveal killer cheekbones, perfect ivory skin, full lips painted red, and big eyes emphasized with a lot of dark shadow. She wore all black—skinny black jeans, black motorcycle boots, and a loose black sweater that didn’t hide a slender body. The overall appearance said tough, but her bone structure was delicate and her face decidedly feminine. She intrigued him.

So he hadn’t waited to see if someone was joining her before crossing the bar to take the stool next to her. A quick glance revealed no ring on her third left finger, just slender fingers with short unpainted nails; and now that he was closer, he saw a tiny diamond stud glinting in her right nostril.

“The cocktail menu here sucks.” She shook her head as she looked at the small menu.

What? Jared blinked and paused as he sat on the stool.

She’d spoken aloud, although not directly to him.

“Really?” he said. “Why do you say that?”

She turned to him. Her eyes widened briefly, then swept over him in a quick appraisal. Judging from her blink and parted lips, she liked what she saw.

“Er. It’s basic. Unimaginative. I mean, having some basics is good, but these days you need to be creative.” She frowned. “There seems to be a big focus on beer here.”



“Yeah.” True that. “What’s wrong with beer?”

“You don’t look like a beer drinker,” she said slowly. “More like a guy who’d drink Laphroaig. Or Absolut.”

Again, what? La froig? That sounded like something his teammate Marc Dupuis, who was French-Canadian, would say. He stared back at her, keeping his expression neutral. “Uh. Okay. Why do you say that?”

“Look at you. Mr. Perfect.” She waved a hand.

He grinned. Her eyes widened briefly in response to his smile. “I’m not perfect.” He grimaced. “Far from it.” Then he gave her the same kind of look she’d given him. “But you are.”

“Riiiight.” She lifted her dainty chin dismissively. “I’ll bet you say that to all the girls.”

Well, truthfully, he probably had said that to a lot of girls. He liked women a lot and he liked a lot of women. So sue him. “I never give a woman a compliment if I don’t mean it.”

She gave him a look laced with skepticism and amusement. “Uh-huh.” Then she turned away from him.

He resisted the urge to frown. Not that he had a big ego or anything, but usually this went a lot better for him.

Jack, the bartender, slid a glass of Jared’s favorite ale across the polished surface of the bar to him with a smile, then turned his attention to the woman. “What can I get you?”

She sighed, then surprised Jared by saying, “I’ll have what he’s having.”

“Sure.” Jack moved away.



“You’re drinking beer because the cocktail menu sucks so bad?” Jared said. “Is there something you want that’s not on the menu? I’m sure the bartender could make it for you.”

“Actually, I like beer. I didn’t necessarily want to order a cocktail. I was just commenting on the menu.”

“Oh.” He paused. “What’s wrong with it? Besides being basic and unimaginative.”

“That’s about it.” She shrugged. “There’s nothing unique or inspiring. Maybe if there had been, I would’ve ordered a drink other than beer.” Jack served her the beer and she picked it up and sipped it. “What is this?”

“Moens India Pale Ale.”

“Huh. It’s not bad. Dry body, fruit hoppy aroma.”

Who the hell was she? A beer aficionado? Yet criticizing his drinks menu? “Uh-huh,” he said with his own dose of skepticism. “You sound like you know what you’re talking about.”

“What? A woman can’t know anything about beer?”

This time she turned and met his eyes and he leaned in a little closer, maintaining eye contact. “No.” He kept a straight face. “Beer is a man’s drink.”

Her lips twitched as if she knew he was bullshitting. “Do I look like a man?”

“No.” He lowered his voice. His gaze moved over her deliberately, then returned to meet hers. “You definitely do not.”

A little heat built as they looked at each other. Yeah, that was good.

“You can tell a lot about a man by what he drinks.” She lifted her glass and took another sip. “But I have to say, your choice in beer doesn’t fit with the rest of you.”



“Yeah?” He too drank, keeping his attention on her face. “Why not?”

“You seem to be a guy who likes designer clothes, fast cars, and fine dining.”

He blinked.

“I bet you have all the latest technology.” She lifted her chin. “Show me your phone.”

“What?”

A smile played on those sexy red lips. “Show me your phone.”

He lifted one eyebrow. “That’s not usually what women ask me to show them.”