Hiring my brother’s best friend was not on my to-do list. Neither was he. Expanding my dirty cocktail bar into food was supposed to be easy, except finding a chef in my little town of Whiskey Key is anything but. Until Parker Hamilton comes home—bringing his Michelin starred chef’s hat with him. He has no work. I need someone like him in my new kitchen. There’s just one problem: I hate his cocky, filthy-mouthed, sexy-as-hell guts. Even if I might want him. Just a little… Working for my best friend’s sister? Not on my to-do list. She’s another story. Whiskey Key was supposed to be a relaxing vacation, except I haven’t reached the heights I have by lying in a hammock drinking cocktails. So when Raven Archer is desperate for a chef, I offer up my skills. I’m bored. She needs what I can give her. Except there’s a problem: I’ve always hated her. Her and her big, blue eyes, sassy mouth, and killer curves. If only I didn’t want her.
I knew I was making a mistake. After what Raven said last night at dinner, I had the strongest urge to find out what her cocktail menu was. With names like Dirty Screw and The Slutwhisperer, what other gems did she have hidden on there? Shit, what gems were hidden inside her apparently filthy mind? I had no place to be thinking that. She was Ryan’s sister and the bane of my goddamn existence. I didn’t give a shit what was inside her head or how she came up with a filthy cocktail menu. I was going to believe that she’d spent stupid amounts of time on the Internet coming up with those kinds of names. Seeing her in that damn short dress yesterday had already affected me enough—not to mention the fact that she’d changed since I last saw her. I didn’t know people could change so much in only three years, but Raven Archer had. She was no longer post-grad, trying to seriously figure out what she wanted to do with her life, uncertain and serving burgers to people to make money. She was grown-up, in more ways than just her age. She was even hotter-headed that she was back then. She seemed stronger and more stubborn, and her tongue was so sharp I probably have scars from how quickly she cut me with her words. She was taller and fucking curvier, too. Her lips were fuller. Her eyes were brighter. And the general air that hung about her, that hint of sass and sexiness, the very same thing that made me insult her whenever I opened my mouth almost made me want her, too. And that was exactly why I couldn’t sit and think about what went on in her mind—filthy or otherwise. No matter what she looked like or how fucking hot she was, she was my best friend’s sister. Nobody was more off-limits than she was. That wasn’t a new development. It had always been that way. Thank fucking god I was only here for the summer, and only because my mother had guilted me into it. As soon as the summer was over, I’d go for my next challenge. I could get through a few weeks of being in the same town or two as Raven—because after today, avoidance was at the top of my life. Otherwise, I’d go fucking insane. Dirty was right on the seafront, only meters away from a small, sandy bay. It’d only taken me a few minutes to walk here from where I’d parked downtown, and despite the music coming from inside the bar, I could still hear the gentle crashing of the waves as they crawled up the sand. The water was right out, and I stared out at the water as I headed up the hill to the bar. Fairy lights twinkled along the underside of the roof that jutted out over the sidewalk. It was like a goddamn princess castle from the outside, but the beachy vibe was evident. Different sized and colored shells covered the pillars that held up the balcony that jutted out over the front doors. I pushed open the door. Cold air blasted into me, and so did the heavy bass beat of the music that blared out from the speakers just above my head. There were more fairy lights inside, but they were strung all beneath the bar, across the beams on the ceiling, and over the back wall where the spirits were on the wall. There wasn’t much else in the way of lighting, but what there was was effective enough in holding the entire space into a balance between bright and dusky. The inside of Raven’s bar was like being outside at the moment the sun set. I cast my gaze over the rest of the bar. The solid, wood tables and stools that lines the walls and filled the space to my left all had tiny vases of fresh flowers in. Even those were surrounded by fairy lights. Fucking hell, did she let a class of little girls in here to decorate? No matter what I felt about the fairy lights, it looked good. Damn good. I stepped up to the bar and leaned forward on it. Raven was at the other end of the bar, wearing jeans and a tight tank top that tucked beneath the waistband. Strappy, silver heels on her feet glinted off the under-bar lighting, and it was all too easy for me to drop my eyes there then slowly drag my gaze up the length of her entire body. Light bounced off the chrome cocktail shaker in her hand as she shook it. She popped off the top with one slick of her thumb, and without spilling a drop, poured the pink-red liquid into two martini-style glasses. With her other hand, she reached back to the register and jabbed at it. Seconds later, she was handing them back their change. It all happened in a flash. How did such she go from lost to…this…so quick? “Raven!” A dark-haired woman sitting a few stools away from me with her friend yelled. “There’s a hot guy staring at you!” I laughed loudly as Raven jerked around. Her gaze landed on me with what felt like a snap, and I swore she mouthed, “Motherfucker,” before she stalked to this end of the bar. Her hands slapped on the bar in front of me. “What are you doing here?” “I told you I was coming to check out your menu.” “He was checking out more than the menu,” the woman’s friend giggled. Raven held her finger up to them, and with her other hand, slapped a smooth, laminated menu in front of me. “Did you drive?” “No, I walked all the way from Key West.” I picked up the menu. “Of course I drove.” “Pick one,” she said, moving away. “I’m not serving you anymore than that. Make it a good choice. What can I get for you?” she asked someone else, cutting me off before I could say a word. I raised my eyebrows. “She runs a tight ship,” the first woman said. “Three days ago, there was a guy in here spiking drinks. She caught him and bashed him in the balls with her cocktail shaker so he couldn’t run from the security guard.” Could my eyebrows go up any higher? “That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. I’ve seen her do worse.” The second woman’s eyes narrowed. “You have? You know her?” The first woman rolled her eyes. “Of course he does, Cam. When have you seen her react to a customer like that? He obviously pissed her off in a past life or something.” “I should be so lucky.” I smirked. “More like all in this life.” “Her brother’s friend, right?” She tilted her head to the side. “Yeah, she mentioned she hated you.” She’d talked about me? “She didn’t say you were hot, though,” the second woman said. “Camille!” Ahhh. The best friends. “What?” Camille said. “I’m just saying.” “No more Slutwhisperers for you,” the other woman—the one I presumed to be Lani—said, reaching for her glass. Camille leaned over and slurped the last of the drink through the straw. That explained the name of the cocktail. “What are you doing?” Raven asked, stopping in front of them. “Cam? Your glass is empty. Let me refill that for you.” She winked to the other girl as she turned around. What was she doing? She put her back to her friends and grabbed the tequila bottle. She tipped it over a cocktail shaker without actually pouring anything into it. My lips quirked up as she put together what was some pink juice or something and blended it with raspberries. She poured the mixture into a glass with some vigor in front of Camille. She’d made her a placebo. “Made your choice?” Raven turned to me, holding onto the shaker. “No.” I spun the menu to face her. “What do you think I should have?” Completely straight-faced, she said, “The Blue Balls.”