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Hammered (Happy Cat #2)
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I didn’t mean to kidnap the groom.
It was an accident.
At least I didn’t take much time to plan it. It was more of a spur of the moment kidnapping. Does that count?
One minute, the town’s bad boy is standing at the altar about to marry the world’s most evil kindergarten teacher. The next, he’s passed out in my Vespa sidecar with his bride hot on our tail.
But I didn’t have a choice! I couldn’t stand by and watch Jace O’Dell be blackmailed into a loveless marriage. And besides, what’s a little kidnapping between friends?
Okay, so maybe we’re not just friends…
And maybe I can’t quit thinking about that night at his bar when he closed up early and had me on the rocks.
And maybe this crazy stunt is going to blow up in both of our faces.
If it does, I’m blaming the moonshine.
Even though the only thing I’m hammered on when it comes to Jace is love—straight up, no chaser.
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(aka a man who only thinks he’s on the verge of leaving his past behind)
* * *
Nothing goes better with tequila than a moonbeam. An Olivia Moonbeam, to be specific.
Or so I assume.
I’ve never actually had Olivia, though I’ve dreamed about it for what feels like forever.
And I’ll go right on dreaming, because moonbeams and rough-around-the-edges bartenders go together like champagne and a crap sandwich. Olivia is so high above me, we’re barely the same species, but even if we were, tonight’s not the night to make a play for a girl who’s out of my league.
Not with everything Olivia’s been through in the past twenty-four hours.
So I’m standing here, wiping the same burn mark on the bar that I know will never come clean, ignoring a half-empty tequila bottle that promises to make me forget why I don’t deserve moonbeams if I’ll only give in and have another shot.
But I won’t.
Because I want to remember every minute with her, and one more shot of tequila will take me past pleasantly buzzed and all the way to hammered.
“One more, please. Something stronger this time,” Olivia says, pushing her glass back across the bar. “My sorrows don’t feel drowned yet. Shouldn’t they be drowned by now, Jace?”
God, just hearing my name on her lips makes my blood pump faster. I’ve been one degree of hung up on her or another since she landed here in Happy Cat exactly six break-ups ago.
Not her break-ups.
My break-ups. With the same woman. Because Ginger and I are stuck on an on-again-off-again merry-go-round-from-hell relationship that’s driving me out of my damned mind.
Hence, the tequila, even though Ginger and I are off right now and I rarely drink while I’m behind the bar.
I’m a professional, dammit, and I take my job seriously.
Which is why this usually happy little lightweight across from me is getting the weakest Smoky-Pepper in history.
I top off Olivia’s ice and fill in the cracks with Dr Pepper and the tiniest drop of whiskey. But she doesn’t notice I’ve skimped on the good stuff. Poor thing’s a wreck. She’s unraveled the braids she was wearing when she got here, and now her blond hair’s a hot, crinkled mess.
A fucking adorable mess.
“Wasn’t your fault, Liv,” I say, passing the glass back to her.
“But I almost committed murder.”
I shrug. “I almost committed murder once.”
Her eyes go even wider. “No.”
Grinning’s not my thing, but hell, what do I have to lose by flirting with her? And there’s no one else around this late to tell her that it wasn’t her fault a woman had an allergic reaction to the sno-cones she was serving at the farmer’s market tonight. And somebody definitely needs to comfort her.
It should be someone better than me. But she’s here. And I’m here.
So I lean onto the bar at her level and I grin. “You know that giant bunny they put out in Sunshine Square for Easter every year?”
“I love that bunny!” She claps her hands and bounces, which makes everything bounce, but I’m not ogling, I swear. If this is ogling, I also ogle her personality and her shoes, because she has the weirdest shoes. But I like them. All of them.
“I almost murdered it,” I whisper conspiratorially.
She snort-laughs into her glass like she’s drunk on Dr Pepper, which is also adorable. Who gets drunk on Dr Pepper?
Olivia Moonbeam, that’s who.
“Gluing the pink fur on it was my punishment for welding the principal’s car doors shut,” I explain. “Got so much of it stuck to myself, I was pink up to my elbows for a week.”
She snort-laughs into her glass again, a sound like a baby pig squeaking in joy.
I think. I don’t know any baby pigs, personally, but they’re cute. And she’s cute, so cute I can’t look away from her blue eyes as she whispers, “I switched the liquid foundation in my mom’s makeup case for green paint, and she did an entire zombie movie before she realized it. But the paint started flaking off in the middle of filming and a guy broke out in a rash that made the boom operator think we had a for real zombie outbreak on our hands, so he quit.” Her eyes scrunch up and her chin wobbles, and shit, I think she’s going to cry. “But I was just trying to help. Mom was afraid there wouldn’t be enough foundation, but I knew there’d be enough paint.”
“You helped,” I assure her. “You helped that boom guy realize he had a seriously overactive imagination. I’ll bet he went out and got a normal job, with no zombies in it, and lived happily ever after.”
Her lips part, and she lifts those Blue Lace Agate-colored eyes to mine like I’m some kind of hero. I know they’re Blue Lace Agate blue, because it’s the first thing she said to me all those break-ups ago. Hi, I’m Olivia Moonbeam, and I have Blue Lace Agate-colored eyes. It’s the best gemstone for chasing away fear. So if you’re ever afraid, you can just look in my eyes. I sense you’re afraid right now, and that’s okay. Losing someone we love is one of the scariest things there is.