If We Dare - J.H. Croix

Chapter One


“Hey!” I called, my eyes trained on the jerk who was getting a little too handsy with a woman at the bar. I’d served her and her friends a few minutes ago, and tonight was her twenty-first birthday.

The woman in question, Megan something or other, tried to laugh it off, politely taking a few steps away. It was crowded in the bar tonight, though, so there wasn’t far for her to go. The man immediately closed the space between them.

“Hey!” I called, quickly lifting a section of the counter at the back of the bar, slipping out, and aiming right for the group where they were standing.

Megan wasn’t alone, but her friends were tied up flirting. Striding up to the man, I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned back, a leer affixed to his face. “Oh, hey, hot bartender, what can I do for you?” he slurred.

I silently cursed the other bartender on duty tonight, Joe, who tended not to pay too much attention to just how drunk people were getting and continued to serve them anyway. That was a problem for another evening, though. Narrowing my eyes as I looked up at the lumbering jerk standing before me, I rested a hand on my hip. “Back the fuck off. It doesn’t look like she appreciates your attention.”

Megan’s eyes met mine—I only knew her name because I’d carded her—relief passing across her face. “Thank you,” she mouthed.

“Since when do you speak for all women?” The man punctuated this sentence with a long burp, which got a few guffaws from his friends surrounding him.

I cast a sharp gaze amongst the group. I had no problem throwing every single one of these guys out. “Like I said, back off. Consider this my last warning.”

The asshole still didn’t get it. He leaned down, getting a little too close to my face, and slurred. “Fuck off. Get back behind the bar and serve my friends some drinks.”

Perhaps I should’ve been afraid, but I wasn’t. For starters, the bar-back and Joe were around and nearby. I also had friends here tonight, even if they didn’t happen to be in this precise corner of the sprawling Lost Deer Bar where I was only covering a shift as a favor tonight.

“That does it. You’re out of here,” I said, gesturing over my shoulder toward the door as I reached for the guy’s arm.

“Hell no! I’m not fucking leaving,” he grumbled, reaching for poor Megan, who was pinned against the wall at this point, doing her best to look invisible. He snatched her hand. Well, fuck it.

Ignoring the rumble of voices around me, I lifted my boot and kicked him right in the knee. I decided to go for that instead of his balls as a starting point. In the back of my mind, I was legitimately wondering where the hell my help was.

The guy cried out in pain. His broad face turned a mottled red as he dropped Megan’s hand—that was my goal, so I took that as a win—and stepped toward me. Next thing I knew, he’d grabbed me by the waist with both hands and heaved me in the air.

I didn’t scare easy, but now a little bit of fear bolted through me. I was known for getting myself in a pickle here and there, and I just might’ve gone and done that now.

Before I could make a peep, a voice came over my shoulder. “Put her down. Now.”

Whoever spoke wasn’t waiting. Next thing I knew, a hand shot out, slamming into the guy’s elbow. Something happened to the guy’s knees too. He stumbled and cried out sharply. Just as I began to tumble loose from his hold, my savior caught me with one arm and pulled me against his side.

I glanced up into the face of Walker Hudson. My body felt as if a live wire had grazed me and left me humming with electricity. With Walker holding me fast to his side with one arm, I wasn’t going anywhere. I might not’ve liked it in my mind, but my body thought it was freaking awesome. Walker was nothing but pure muscle and lean power as he held me close.

The jerk who’d grabbed me was still groaning about his knee, but gathered himself together enough to glare at Walker. “You fucking dick.”

He made a move toward Walker, who simply lifted one arm and grabbed him by the wrist. Whatever he did brought the man to his knees with a yelp.

“Now, you’re gonna fucking