A stranger caught Cassie’s arm as she moved past him toward the bar.
“Hey, beautiful, lemme buy you a drink.” The guy’s grin was cocksure, like he knew he was going to get what he wanted.
Cassie flipped her long blond ponytail over her shoulder and gave the man a syrup-sweet smile, blinking at him through her lashes. “Let me go before I break your arm.”
“Jesus,” the guy said, but he let go.
He muttered something about her being a bitch as she walked away, but Cassie didn’t care. She wasn’t there to make friends. In fact, she’d picked this bar specifically so she wouldn’t see anyone she’d have to talk to. It was across town from campus, which meant the Lyft ride cost more than she’d have liked, but it was worth it to get as far away as possible from her college’s Family Weekend. Cassie didn’t even understand why Keckley held Family Weekend in early October. They’d barely been at school a month. Did people really need to see their families that often? She hadn’t seen her mom since Christmas last year, and she was doing just fine.
Cassie made it to the bar without any more strangers putting their hands on her. There were three open stools, and she pushed herself up onto the middle one. The bartender didn’t ask for ID, just made her a dark and stormy then left her alone. Cassie was perfectly happy getting slowly drunk by herself in a bar where she knew no one.
That was, until she spotted this woman.
Definitely woman, not girl or chick. She was probably twice Cassie’s age, and honestly, Cassie wasn’t typically a cougar hunter—she could appreciate an older woman, sure, she just usually wasn’t the type to pursue one—but this woman was way too hot to worry about any age difference. Plus, she was alone, and Cassie swore she looked lonely.
Cassie’s eyes raked the woman’s body: sensible peep-toe heels, strong calves, a dress that fell a bit lower on her thighs than Cassie was hoping. It hugged the woman’s curves just right, though—hips Cassie wanted to hold on to and tits she wouldn’t mind getting her hands on either. Then there was shoulder-length brown hair with a hint of blond highlights, like it was summer at the beach and not autumn in the New River Valley, a strong jawline, and bright eyes—staring right at Cassie. The older woman leaned against a wall, a barely there smirk on her face.
Cassie blushed but didn’t look away. The woman quirked an eyebrow and honest to God, it sent a shiver down Cassie’s spine. She quirked an eyebrow right back, letting a slow grin work its way across her face. It was the other woman who broke eye contact as she ran a hand through her hair with a chuckle. She glanced over again, raising her drink. They toasted each other from across the bar, then the woman looked away, like there was anything more interesting in this place than Cassie Klein.
It wasn’t a rejection; it just felt like maybe the woman thought all Cassie wanted to do was check her out. That was not all Cassie wanted to do.
She flagged down the bartender.
“The woman over there?” She gestured subtly, and the bartender nodded. “Whatever she’s drinking, send her another from me.”
She watched him make it and was thrilled to see it was whiskey, neat. A no-nonsense kind of drink.
The woman’s eyebrows popped up when the bartender placed the drink in front of her. She bit her bottom lip as she smiled, looking over at Cassie, who tipped her glass and let her eyes wander to the open stool beside her. The woman chuckled. But she gathered her purse and started heading over.
“Thanks,” she said, sliding onto the stool next to Cassie and sipping her drink.
Cassie grinned. “My pleasure.”
She didn’t say more, too busy ogling the woman. She hadn’t gotten her fill from across the bar, apparently. It was even better up close, the woman’s pale skin somehow glowing even in the low light. Her eyes were strikingly blue—thin eyeliner making them stand out even more.
Cassie licked her lips. “I’m Cassie.”
“Erin,” the woman said. She offered her hand and Cassie shook it. She didn’t bother trying to make the handshake a seduction, but Erin’s hands were soft and she liked it.
“Nice choice of drink,” Cassie said.
Erin smirked. “What’s yours?”
“Dark and stormy right now,” Cassie said, “but I’m easy.”
Erin ducked her head as the apples of her cheeks went rosy. Cassie liked the juxtaposition of Erin’s smirk and her blush, like the woman was confident but not used to being hit on.
Cassie hadn’t planned on hooking up with anyone tonight, but plans could change, and Erin was hot, and it was sure to make her less annoyed about Family Weekend.
“I like your dress,” she said.
Erin looked down like she needed to remind herself what she had on. She said thanks without looking back up.
“You’re fucking amazing in it,” Cassie said.
That got Erin’s attention, her eyes snapping to Cassie’s.
“Are you always this bold?”
Cassie shrugged. Why play games? There were no stakes here. Erin was a hot stranger; she didn’t have the power to hurt Cassie. There was no reason to pretend she wanted to go slow. Plus: “It’s working, isn’t it?”
Erin’s cheeks were still flushed, but she grinned and returned the compliment. “You don’t look half bad either.”
Cassie was only in jeans and a racer-back black tank, her bomber jacket on her stool beneath her, but still, “I know.”
Copyright © 2022 by Meryl Wilsner