The Rebel - Raleigh Ruebins Page 0,1

head to one side. “Really?”


I was tense just thinking about it. Of course, Sam didn’t know why I had sworn off watching porn ten years ago, but I wasn’t about to get into that conversation now.

I bent down to make sure no more pieces of glass were on the floor. There were cracks in the grout between the tiles, and I couldn’t help but notice a jagged line in one of the lower wooden cabinets where it had been hit with a sharp piece of glass.

I let out a quiet sigh. The tavern needed so many damn renovations. Nobody else noticed these things but me, but Red’s Tavern was my world. I scrutinized everything inside these four walls like a jeweler would inspect a diamond for flaws.

The bar was all I had, other than my dogs. I didn’t have a husband. I didn’t have kids. Lately I’d even given up on hookups altogether. And that meant that I kept my two Great Danes and this big slab of oak as happy and perfect as I possibly could.

“There isn’t a gay man on planet Earth who wouldn’t be into this porn star,” Sam said as I stood back up. “Even you, boss. He’s won NaughtyBoyz Sexiest Gay Porn Star of the Year for the last three years. God, he is so fucking hot.”

I rolled my eyes. “I get it, I get it.”

“I can’t imagine why the hell he’s here, though. What kind of gay porn stars visit Amberfield? I mean, Kansas is fine, but this is the middle of nowhere. Oh my God, do you think he’s shooting a film here? Or doing a signing—”

“Enough,” I said.

“There he is,” Sam whispered. He nodded toward the bathroom, where a man in a fitted leather jacket walked out and started toward the other end of the bar. I noticed his body first, and I had to admit that Sam was right about one thing, at least—the guy wore his clothes well, and his dark denim hugged his ass like a glove.

The guy raked a hand through his damp hair and I glanced up at his face.

Suddenly adrenaline shot through my body like I’d just missed a step on a staircase. I tensed up like I was about to fight, all of my senses suddenly on high alert.

It couldn’t be.

I knew that face. His jet-black hair, still a little damp from the rain outside, was clinging to his temples and framing his intense grey eyes.

He had always moved through the world like a shadow, but once you looked at him, you couldn’t look away.

And he wouldn’t look away, either.

Liam Hardy was staring right at me, those stormy eyes fixed on mine. He watched me, seemingly unafraid, like he was daring me to react. Like the past ten years had meant absolutely nothing to him.

What the ever-loving fuck?

As soon as Liam sat down, Sam immediately forgot about his cleaning duty, leaving the broom to lean on the shelves behind us. He hopped over toward the end of the bar, beaming.

“What can I get for you, Mr. Hardy? On the house, of course. I’m a huge fan. I mean—hah—I’m not as huge as you, of course—”

Liam just nodded toward me, never breaking eye contact. “I want to talk to him.”

Sam looked back at me, furrowing his brow. Sam wasn’t used to anyone else getting the attention behind the bar. He wore all his tight tank tops for a reason—he was young, jacked, and loved having all eyes on him.

But Liam was here for me. I hadn’t seen him in years, but it was like all of the same thoughts came racing back to my mind the moment I saw him.

He needs you.

He’s clearly broken. Scared. Vulnerable.

You’ve still never loved anyone like you loved him.

Stupid, fucked up, infuriating thoughts, of course. Thoughts I was going to ignore.

“I’ve got a lot of inventory work to do,” I told Sam as I held Liam’s gaze. He’d walked into my bar like he was challenging me to some unspoken duel, and I wasn’t going to indulge him. I’d indulged Liam plenty enough in the past.

“Red—” Liam protested as I started to head down the dim hallway toward the back office of the bar.

My heart was slamming in my chest so hard I could almost hear my pulse inside my ears. I had to get away.

“Sam is a great bartender,” I said from over my shoulder. “He’ll help you out.”

“I don’t drink anymore, Red,” I heard Liam protest, but I was