Rules of Protection (Tangled in Texas)(2)

By: Alison Bliss



“Whatcha drinking tonight?” he asked, still not giving up.

I sighed, rolling my eyes. “Pepto Bismol.”

A woman stepped out of the bathroom, and I ran in before the door could shut. I didn’t know what was worse—me pretending to have diarrhea or Sergio not caring that I did. Gross.

Momentarily cornered, I tousled my hair, washed my hands twice while singing “Happy Birthday” to myself, and then reapplied my makeup. Hard to believe it was my birthday, and I was spending it hiding in a public bathroom eating a Tootsie Roll I found in the bottom of my purse.

I even realized something while in there. There isn’t much to do in a bathroom to occupy your time—unless, of course, you actually have the shits.

I’d just finished chewing the chocolate candy when I poked my head out the door. Yes! He was gone. I hurried down the hall and rounded the corner, but Sergio stood at the nearby bar. I ducked back into the corridor, hoping he hadn’t seen me.

I rubbed my hand over my eyes and breathed out. “Christ.”

Then a smooth, deep voice asked, “You okay?”

It startled me at first, thinking Sergio had found me. I pulled my hand away from my face reluctantly and gazed up at a man with wavy dark brown hair. He was tall—probably a few inches over six feet—and wore black slacks and a white dress shirt. His steel gray eyes pierced mine, making it hard to form a coherent thought, much less breathe.

When I didn’t answer, he asked again. “Are you okay, ma’am?”

“Um, I… I’m fine.”

“Let me guess, avoiding someone?”

My sluggish brain finally caught up, and I recalled hiding from Sergio. “You could say that.”

“I just did,” he responded, a hint of southern twang fortifying his voice. “Pull the boyfriend card. It usually works on us clowns.”

“I tried, but this guy is more persistent than most. My friends are somewhere on the other side of the bar, and I’m tired of hiding in the bathroom.”

The man glanced at his watch. “Tell you what, if you’re still here when I come out, I’ll escort you across the room.”

“Best offer I’ve had all night.”

His eyes scanned my black miniskirt, stopping on my bare legs. “Somehow I doubt that.” He turned and walked toward the men’s bathroom.

I blew out the large breath I’d been holding and resisted the urge to loosen a button on my blouse. Sergio or no Sergio, I planned to stay put until he came back.

Okay, so I’m a hypocrite.

Sergio’s remarks and lingering looks came off way more threatening than the new guy’s did. Tall, Dark, and Delicious was virtually harmless and particularly flattering. It helped that he hadn’t approached me with a line; he was more interested in helping… Ah, damn. Men are such weasels.

The guy played me. Of course.

He knew if he showed concern for my well-being, I’d drop my guard. That’s why he did it. Sadly enough, it almost worked. After all, he was no threat; just a gentleman trying to help out a lady. Well, screw him! He could pull the hero crap on some other unsuspecting girl. I waited for him to come out to tell him to his face. But Sergio rounded the corner first.

“There you are, sugar. I wondered if you’d fallen in.” Sergio handed me a shot glass filled with a pink liquid. “I got your Pepto, but I had to talk to three bartenders before I could get your order filled.”

Seriously? Bartenders make a shot called Pepto Bismol?

I hadn’t known it at the time, but what a lucky stroke of genius that was. Sergio must’ve thought it was a drink all along and hadn’t realized I was a smartass.

The men’s bathroom door opened behind me, and heavy footsteps approached. I was still irritated the douchebag had used a diversion tactic to hit on me, but the last thing I wanted was him to stroll up and ask me what I was drinking. It was one thing to let Sergio think I had an upset stomach, but it was a whole other thing to share that false information with the hunky weasel.

I threw my head back, downed the shot in one large gulp, and handed the empty glass back to Sergio. “Wait a minute,” I said. “That wasn’t—”

Two large hands captured my waist, spinning me sideways with dizzying speed, and a sharp, assertive mouth sheared the rest of the words from my lips. The stupid weasel was kissing me. I hadn’t expected it, and it only furthered my irritation. I’d have to play along to make it look good. Either that or I’d be stuck with Sergio the rest of the night.

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