Released May 1, 2014
One night can change everything…
The crew at Boston’s Brazen Head Pub hasn’t been very lucky in love. Can a mysterious visitor inspire them to look past old hurts and misconceptions and give romance a chance?
One Lucky Night is a collection of five sexy interwoven novelettes by Aria Kane, Grace Teague, Ana Blaze, Constance Phillips, and Melinda Dozier.
"It's like watching a pub from five different camera angles...they are all HEA, no cliffhangers, with some sexy scenes." - The Snarky Mom Reads
"It truly is a sweet story about moving on and learning to live each day to the fullest." -- Charity Foster
"I felt the authors did a great job of telling their own stories, but making them all relate to the bar." -- Short and Sexy Book Blurbs
Lucky Break by Aria Kane
Four years ago, chef Derek Chase walked out of Andrea Rivera’s life after a tragedy neither of them were prepared to deal with. When she’s called to the Brazen Head to repair a dishwasher, old sparks ignite buried feelings.
Lucky Star by Grace Teague
When her life is threatened by a mugger, Charlotte Price realizes she’s in love with her best friend, Tommy Leung. The Brazen Head seems like the perfect neutral place to confess her feelings, but nothing goes according to plan.
A New Tune by Ana Blaze
When it comes to dating, Holly Hall has one unbreakable rule: no musicians. Not even gorgeous ones. Especially not gorgeous ones. Dating them only leads to heartbreak. So why did she let singer-songwriter Cian O’Neill kiss her? And why is she thinking about doing it again?
Lexi’s Chance by Constance Phillips
As a bartender, Sean Whalen meets all kinds of women every night, but none turn his head the way that Lexi has. She’s been playing cat and mouse with him for weeks. Tonight, Sean’s determined to get Lexi to quit teasing and take a real chance on him.
Drink or Dare by Melinda Dozier
A bachelorette party Drink or Dare game pairs paramedic students, Rachel Robertson and Killian Whelan, in a flirting match. Soon, the dares threaten to turn their academic rivalry into something much more.
Even though Sean could fill this drink order in his sleep – three Jameson, three Guinness – there wasn’t any place he’d rather be. Yes, he owned The Brazen Head with his brothers, but that didn’t influence his opinion. He loved his job and the pub.
Most came in to cut loose and have a good time, but tonight was different. The energy thrumming through the pub felt almost magical, like anything could happen.
Despite the snow, it was shaping up to be a busy night. Many familiar faces lined the bar, but not the one he most wanted to see. Lexi Mattson, his favorite regular and the star of recent reoccurring fantasies, like the one that saw her splayed out on his bed. The image of her long brown curls spread out over his pillow case rolled through his mind every time he thought of her. Like now.
The administrative director of the homeless shelter six blocks over had spent every Friday for the last four months perched on one of his bar stools with her friend and associate, Julie. They normally arrived between six and six-thirty.
The clock just ticked past eight.
Part of him hoped she’d gone straight home after work. He’d miss seeing her, but thinking about her stuck in the bad weather or spending the evening with another guy upset him.
Not that his jealousy made sense. She didn’t belong to him.
As a regular customer she was on the “do not touch” list. He’d worked hard to separate work from his dating life, and shouldn’t want to break that rule now, even for someone who’d worked her way under his skin with a simple smile.
The bitter wind whisked through the door when it opened. Sean looked up, but disappointment settled again as he handed off the tray of drinks to Holly.
“Expecting someone?” She teased.
“Yeah, your boyfriend.” He raised his eyebrows and then gave her a wink.
Recently, Holly had landed at her sister’s house to regroup from some personal turmoil.
Holly’s sister was married to Sean’s brother Jamie and they had given her the waitressing job.
The evening entertainment – who happened to be running late – had been pursuing Holly for weeks. The more Cian chased, the faster she ran in the other direction. Sean sensed Holly’s waning will to flee and guessed she’d succumb to Cian’s advances soon, even if she hadn’t realized it yet.
Starting at one end of the bar, Sean moved from guest to guest, refilling drinks and flirting with the ladies, even though his heart – just like his mind – remained focused on Lexi.
He’d been tending bar long enough to know a direct correlation existed between how much charm he laid out and how fast the tip jar filled up. His bank account could always use the extra money, and flirting had been a God given talent. The smiles, the winks, and the laughs were all in fun, a diversion from the fact that getting serious about a regular customer had once shredded his heart.
He’d written the rule himself. The Brazen Head was a playground – just for thrills – which made the new feelings for his missing patron even more maddening.
The cool breeze reappeared with the opening door.
When he saw her, he pressed his lips tighter suppressing the urge to greet her.
It just wasn’t cool to wear his heart on his sleeve. Was it?
Normally, Lexi’s natural waves flowed over her shoulders, but the added humidity – and he guessed a stressful day – had taken a toll. She’d tried to tame the unruly tresses with a barrette. He’d never seen her fuss with her hair and makeup, but still imagined she preferred the normal, tamer look.
Because it was a crack in the armor she held so close, her natural beauty appealed to Sean.
She slid her coat off her shoulders, and let it rest over her arm. A long sleeve, black t-shirt and a pair of worn jeans might not be the usual attire for an administrator, but Julie had told him that Lexi didn’t run the shelter from on high. She helped prepare meals in the kitchen, assisted the cleaning staff when necessary, and worked directly with their clientele to get them off the streets.
As usual, Julie flanked Lexi’s side. Some might call the friends and coworkers polar opposites. Julie didn’t dress like someone who spent the day on her feet. High heel shoes accented her long legs and her jeans were distressed as a matter of fashion, not from wear. She topped it off
with a red, low-cut sweater that played up her assets, looking like she’d went home and changed for a night out instead of coming straight there after work.
The two maneuvered their way through the crowd to their usual bar stools. Not once in the last four months had they ever grabbed a table. Sean figure that counted as a point in his favor; Lexi wouldn’t sit at the bar if she didn’t enjoy his company. Right?
So, why did she make it so hard on him?
Sean picked two wine glasses from the rack above the bar, and filled Julie’s with her usual zinfandel. For Lexi, he poured her favorite white wine sangria. Just thinking about how she’d savored the soaked fruit the week before had his mouth watering. That look of rapture had added a nice touch to his fantasies of her over the past week.
Holding the glass up to the light, he made sure she had plenty of strawberries. He’d give about anything to watch her suckle the fruit, even if the odds favored him dealing with the heightened state of arousal on his own after his shift instead of bringing one of those daydreams of his to life.
When he set the drinks down in front of the ladies, Lexi greeted him with one of her heart-melting shy smiles. “Thanks, Sean.”
“Something tells me we’re becoming barflies,” Julie said.
“We don’t be callin’ two as beautiful as the likes of you any ol’ annoyin’ insect.” Automatically, he turned on the fake brogue, but when Lexi’s smile widened, he remembered how she’d told him she liked his real voice better.
The same week he’d learned her parents had named her Alexandra and she preferred Lexi mostly for the way it irritated them.
“Then what would you be callin’ us?” Lexi tried to imitate the manner in which he spoke.
Not a bad attempt for a newbie.
“Regulars.” He held her gaze, kept her locked in his sights, questioning whether he should say what he wanted to. In the end, his heart won, but he thought it better to play down his concern and tried to act casual. “I was beginning to wonder if you were buried in a snow drift or maybe cuddled up by the fire with someone else.”
She waved her hand in his direction. “The way this place is hopping. I doubt you had time to think about anything but the drinks you’re slinging.”
“It’s just not the same without your smile.”
“He said to every woman in the bar, hoping one would go home with him.” Lexi provided her bit of narration without missing a beat.
The biting remark shouldn’t have struck a nerve.
After all, he’d carefully constructed the personality she now panned.
Shouldn’t have didn’t keep the annoyance at bay, though. Why couldn’t she see his sincere moments as real? “I’m serious. I was worried about you.”
She dropped her gaze to the bar and picked at the napkin under her glass, a tell-tale sign of her nervousness. When she looked back up, she got her first glimpse of Killian and laughed. “Why is your brother wearing a kilt?”
He twisted so that he could lean his elbow on the bar and follow Lexi’s stare. “Isn’t it great?”
“You had something to do with this.” The light in her eyes told him she was amused.
“Me?” He gave her his full attention again and shook his head but said, “Yes.”
“Of course, you did.”
“It’s his own fault. He should know that if he bets against me, he’s going to lose.”
Lexi’s smile dissipated and she dropped her chin.
What had he said to make her go from jovial to turning inward? In the past, giving her a little space and letting the moment pass typically brought her cheery attitude back. Sean turned his attention to Julie. “So, this boss of yours. She kept you working late?”
Before answering, Julie looked to Lexi as if she thought it best to defer the question. She responded with an untypical hard stare. Julie twisted her hands, then answered. “The shelter filled up early tonight because of the storm. We put up beds for twenty more people in the community room. It took us a while to get the needed blankets, food, and amenities.”
“Still, people are sleeping on the street tonight.” Lexi spoke so softly that Sean probably wouldn’t have heard her if he didn’t make a habit of hanging on every word she said.
Julie pointed a finger in Lexi’s direction. “Stop it! What else could we do?”
The explanation – though plausible – didn’t ring true. Odd didn’t begin to explain the way Julie looked to her boss for approval before talking, and the reaction to Lexi’s comment felt blown out of proportion. There was more to the story than they were willing to tell him, and being on the outside of whatever was going on annoyed him.
A negative side effect of happy-go-lucky Sean, no one trusted that he could help with the big problems. Okay, sometimes that was a blessing around the Pub. He could share his input and let others make the final decision. At moments like this, it hurt that Lexi wouldn’t confide in him.
Sean avoided inserting himself in other’s conversations whenever possible.
At least one person would get angry, putting a quick end to a party, but when it came to Lexi, the last thing on his mind was business as usual.
Getting her to allow him in to her world took top priority. “Julie’s right, you know. Don’t discount your work just because the need is greater than what you can handle.”
Lexi lifted her glass, taking a long sip. “It’s never enough. No matter what we do, we never have a bed for everyone who needs one. Just once – in a crisis situation – I’d like to not have to squeeze my budget to be able to afford enough blankets for those who are cold.”
Sean made a mental note to stop at the big-box store on his way to the shelter and add some blankets to his weekly donation.
Several weeks earlier Lexi had mentioned a shortage on canned vegetables and he’d taken it upon himself to fill the need. He went on a Saturday afternoon – when he knew she wouldn’t be working – because he didn’t want the donation to be misconstrued or cheapened by Lexi thinking he contributed only to win her affections.
The satisfaction he got from helping those who really needed it had been contagious and he’d taken donations over every Saturday since.
He ducked his head to the side, forcing eye-to-eye contact with her.
Tonight, something churned behind those dark brown pools. Fear, worry, uncertainty? He couldn’t put his finger on it, nor could he figure out why she was so intent on beating herself up over something out of her control.
“Because of you, twenty more people are in a warm bed tonight instead of sleeping in the snow. Don’t downplay that. It’s huge.”
“Thanks for saying that.” The smile he adored slowly turned her lips. Good to know that he could occasionally get a message through her walls. “Do you want me to get a couple of menus or do you lovelies know what you want?”
Julie ordered her usual, a burger and fries. He expected Lexi to do the same, but she surprised him. “How about the Shepherd’s Pie? And can you bring me an Irish coffee with my meal? I’m in the mood for something warm and comforting.”
“Well, now, if it’s comfort ye be wanting—”
“I’ll have the Shepherd’s Pie and the Irish Coffee.”
He opened his arms to her, “Are you sure? I’ve been told I make a pretty good port in the storm.”
She laughed. At least she was having fun with him, even if she was blowing off his suggestion. “I think I’ll take my chances with the storm.”
After putting the slip with the ladies’ order in the window, he couldn’t stop himself from checking out Lexi again. She’d turned her stool so she faced her friend and the two continued their conversation. A stubborn determination resided on her face, and Julie looked exasperated, further proof they shared an important secret.
He only looked back when the cook called out his name. “Serve this up to my friend there, would you?” Derek said.
“Sure thing.” Sean followed his point before taking a closer look at the plate. Again, he evaluated the dishwasher repair lady. She must be special for Derek to prepare an off-menu meal for her, especially given the large crowd and the fact he worked alone tonight. He wondered if lady-love had taken up residence inside the pub.