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“What’d he end up making you?”
The question comes from the guy sitting to my right. I turn, and my eyebrows shoot up. This isn’t just a guy. This is a blond hunk with dimples and a winning smile. This is a guy worth a double take—a third take, even.
I smile and tilt my glass toward him. “Oh, uh…actually, I’m not sure.”
I look up to ask Tony, but he’s already moved on to another customer down at the other end of the bar.
The hunk laughs. “Looks like an Old Fashioned. Does it taste like it’s got bourbon in it?”
“Maybe.” I narrow my eyes. “But just for clarification, what does bourbon taste like?”
He laughs and shakes his head. “First time at a bar?”
“No.” My cheeks redden. “It’s my third time.”
He unleashes a heart-stopping grin and reaches his hand out toward me. “I’m Cooper.”
I’m pleased to find he has one of those manly, strong handshakes, one that would impress any discerning judge. “Bailey.”
“Bailey,” he repeats, testing it out before he nods as if coming to a conclusion. “You look like a Bailey.”
My brows rise curiously. “Oh yeah? Why’s that?”
“It’s a sweet name.” He shrugs. “Cute. Cheerful.”
His eyes scan down me quickly, and I think I spot a hint of interest in his light blue eyes, which seem oddly familiar.
“Well thanks, Cooper. You have a good name too. I think my best friend growing up had a dog named Cooper.”
He laughs and turns back to the bar. “Was it a cute dog at least?”
He’s fishing and I can practically hear Josie screaming at me to flirt with him, to not let this moment slip through my fingers.
“Very cute. A little French bulldog,” I reveal with a big cheesy smile.
He groans playfully. “Oh, c’mon—couldn’t you have told me it was a massive Rottweiler? Maybe a German shepherd?”
I laugh. “Nope. He was a tiny thing.” I hold my hands up about half a foot apart, winking one eye closed like I’m trying to get the measurement just right. “About this big.”
“Ha ha.” He tips the neck of his beer toward me. “You know what? Maybe I got it wrong. Maybe you don’t fit your name after all.”
I can’t believe how quickly we hit it off. He’s funny and nice. I’m supposed to join my group over in the corner, but when I glance over my shoulder, Erika claps like she’s proud of me and Megan shouts, “Yes girl!”
Thankfully I don’t think Cooper hears her over the music. He does follow my gaze, though, and Erika and Megan make quick work of trying and failing to appear normal. Erika takes a big swig of her drink and then chokes. Megan has to clap her on the back.
“Do you need to go join your friends?”
I frown. What am I supposed to say? No, I’d rather talk to you? What kind of person ditches their friends for a cute guy? SOMEONE WHO HASN’T BEEN ON A DATE IN A MILLENIA.
I frown. “I don’t know. Probably. I don’t want to be a bad friend.”
He smiles and nods. “I get it. It’s cool. I’m actually waiting for someone myself.”
My heart shatters. “Oh, yeah? A girl?”
Wow. So subtle. So cool.
“No.” He looks down at his watch and shakes his head. “Just some prick with no regard for people’s time.”
“Oh.” I slide off my stool. “Well…if you’re left hanging, you’re welcome to join me and my friends.”
He smiles. “Thanks, but I’ll probably call it soon. I have an early flight tomorrow.”
NO. That means he’s leaving the city. My chances of ever seeing him again are decreasing by the second.
“But if you give me your number, maybe I could call you sometime?”
MAYBE HE COULD CALL ME SOMETIME?
I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so wide. My cheeks are liable to split right down the middle. My face betrays every ounce of my excitement, which means Cooper sees it too. Maybe my excitement is infectious because soon enough, we’re two smiling fiends.
He tugs out his cell phone, I type in my number, and just like that, I have the possibility of love on the horizon.
Josie is going to pee her pants.
“Ah, there he is, the man of the hour.”
My pen stills and I pinch my eyes closed.
Shit. I completely forgot I was supposed to have drinks with him tonight.
I look up and my little brother is standing at the doorway of my office with his arms crossed. He looks pissed, which is a rare expression for him. His factory setting is easygoing nice guy. His feathers don’t get ruffled very often, but then, if I’d been stood up by my asshole brother, I’d be pissed too.
I glance at the clock and cringe. An hour. I made him sit there for an hour. I push away from my desk and stand.
“There’s no excuse. I’m sorry. C’mon, we can still go. I’ll finish this later.”
He shakes his head and cuts me off before I can reach for my coat. “Don’t bother. I already had two beers while I was waiting. If I have another, I’ll feel like shit in the morning.”
He walks to my leather couch and pushes a mess of hardware out of the way, clearing a spot so he can sit down. I would snap at anyone else for moving my shit, but not Cooper.
“Paperwork keep you?” he asks.
I roll my desk chair over toward him, take a seat, and lean back. “Always.”
“Must have been a busy day if you’re still in your scrubs.”
He’s right. Usually, I change after surgery.
I rub the nape of my neck, massaging the tired muscles. “The day got away from me. It was hectic to say the least.”
He holds up his hand. “Spare me the details.”
I get it. Cooper’s in this world too, just in a different realm. He works in sales for Hasting Biosciences, the largest medical devices company in the country. We were both jocks in high school, stars on the baseball team, but he amplified his popularity and I ran from mine, more comfortable concentrating on my grades while he ruled the lunchroom. That outgoing personality has paid off for him; he’s the leading salesman in the northeast region.
“You missed a good opportunity to hang out and bond with your dear brother,” he says, pushing to stand and passing me by to head to my desk. “I leave tomorrow for Cincinnati. I’ll be gone for a while.”
He opens my topmost desk drawer and roots around until he finds what he’s looking for: a small toy basketball.
“What’s in Cincinnati?”
“A prospective doctor.”
He walks back around the desk and inspects the floor until he finds the small X made out of duct tape. I’ve had to redo it a few times, but it’s more or less in the same spot it was when we placed it there a few years back.
“Biggest fish I’ve ever seen.”
He lines up his shot, aims the ball at the hoop hanging on the back of my door, shoots, and misses by a hair.
I hiss and stand to retrieve the ball. “Will you be back in time for Molly’s wedding?”
“When is that again?”
“Mid-November, I think.”
It’s my turn now, so I head back to the X, aim, and sink the ball into the net.
“Pfft.” He shakes his head. “Luck, nothing else.”
I smirk and hold the ball out to him. It’s the least I can do after standing him up for a drink. “You better fly back for it. Aunts, uncles, cousins—everyone’ll be there. I won’t last without you. Besides, they like you better anyway. They only ever tolerate me.”
“Aw c’mon, you’re going to make me blush.” He swats the ball out of my hand, shoots, and scores. “Oh hey, I forgot to ask—did you submit that grant proposal you’ve been working on?”
I laugh. “Yeah, like six months ago.”
“When do you hear back?”