“Ashgabat.” The sexy stranger’s breath blew warm over her neck as he whispered the word near her ear, and Darcy Vaughn chased a full-body shiver with a big gulp of martini.
“Ashgabat,” she repeated for the trivia host, since he hadn’t been wrong yet.
“That’s correct!” The other teams around the bar all groaned, and Darcy smiled sweetly at Kent and Vanessa, formerly the reigning know-it-alls of Tuesday night trivia.
She and her sexy fountain of random facts were kicking butt tonight.
Her regular partner hadn’t called to cancel until after Darcy had ordered her margarita and nachos, so she’d left it to the waitress serving as trivia host to pair her with another customer flying solo. She hadn’t expected the guy rocking the scruffy, blue-collar look to raise his hand and join the academic fun, but figured he’d contribute on the sports questions. Despite working at a sports bar, Darcy wasn’t much of a fan.
But now she knew a few things about her trivia partner. His name was Jake. He had brown eyes the same shade as his close-cut hair, smelled delicious and had a body made for selling charity calendars. He also knew a little something about which capital city sat between the Kara Kum Desert and the Kopet Dag Mountains. Being able to cough up Turkmenistan trivia was almost as sexy as the way he rested his arm across the back of her bar stool every time he leaned in to whisper an answer in her ear.
“Ten-minute break,” the host announced.
After hitting the restrooms, the teams eventually settled back on their bar stools to wait for the host, who’d disappeared into the kitchen. When the silence stretched toward awkward, Darcy turned to Jake. “So, let me guess. You’re taking a break from exploring the world after an expedition to Turkmenistan to find an ancient, possibly cursed relic went bad.”
His smile should’ve been illegal. “And that must make you the Russian spy sent to charm the relic’s location out of me with your knowledge of U.S. presidents and the Periodic Table of Elements.”
“I have ways of making you talk,” she joked, though it came out a little more suggestively than she’d intended.
“I bet you do.”
Darcy realized, with the way they were gradually leaning in closer to each other and the innuendo, they were in heavy flirting territory and she panicked a little. Guys didn’t usually come on to her in bars. At Jasper’s Bar & Grille, where she waited tables and occasionally worked the bar, most of the guys were looking at Paulie, who managed the place. She was tall, had a killer body—including great breasts—and knew everything and anything about sports.
Darcy was on the short side of average. Her breasts were on the small side of average. She pretty much ran just left of average overall. Her hair was nice, though. Dark and thick, with just enough wave to keep it cute in a ponytail.
“So, Darcy, what do you really do when you’re not answering trivia questions or charming Indiana Jones types out of their relics?”
“I wait tables.” She shrugged. “It’s a good cover. Lots of eavesdropping opportunities. What do you do when you’re not sifting through ancient ruins?”
“Some business consulting. Boring stuff.”
“Do you get to travel a lot?”
He shook his head. “Honestly, I don’t fly, so a few sledding trips to Canada and a really misguided summer in Florida during my youth are the extent of my travel. Not trusting airplanes to stay in the sky killed my dreams of being Indiana Jones when I grew up.”
“Yeah, well, my Russian accent sucks.” They were laughing as the trivia host stepped back into the horseshoe center of the bar and poured them all another round before continuing the game.
After Kent and Vanessa got an economics history question right and the next couple blew it on geography, the host turned to them. “What famous player, inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, was known for the phrase ‘It ain’t over till it’s over’?”
As Jake leaned in to whisper in her ear, Darcy blocked him with her hand. “Wait. I know this one, dammit. Finally a sports question I know the answer to.”
“We should talk about it.”
“Why? Don’t you think women can answer sports questions?”
His mouth brushed her ear as his arm pressed against her back. “I just like having an excuse to whisper in your ear.”
“Yogi Berra,” she told the trivia host in a surprisingly normal voice, considering how on the inside she was a shivery, breathless mess.
A couple of drinks and a few rounds later, Jake and Darcy were declared the winners. The grand prize was nothing more than bragging rights and the his-and-hers puckered looks Kent and Vanessa sported as they went out the door.
“How are you getting home?” Jake asked as he held Darcy’s sweater so she could slip her arms in. Such a gentleman.
It was an innocent enough question, but Darcy’s overheated, alcohol-fueled imagination added a pronounced ungentlemanly slant to his words. “I’m walking.”
“It’s not far.”
“You’ve had a bit to drink.” A bit more than she usually did, actually. “I’d feel a lot better if you let me walk you home.”
He didn’t know it yet but, unless she’d totally misread his signals, he’d feel a lot better because if he got as far as her front door, she was going to drag him inside and have her way with him. She wasn’t in the habit of bringing men home after the first date—and random trivia partnership was stretching the definition of date—but she was going to roll the dice on this sexy, smart guy with a sense of humor. They were rare. Plus, she just really, really wanted him.
“Three of romance’s hottest authors team up to delight readers with a trio of charming, sexy and witty encounters that will heat up Valentine’s Day in a big way. Take Crusie’s sassy dialogue, Dahl’s suspenseful storylines and Stacey’s deft touch with relationships and this collection offers readers a perfectly indulgent night, with nothing to add but a flickering fire and a steaming mug of chocolate.” — RT Book Reviews