Devil's Rock at Whiskey River
HIS BEST FRIEND'S SISTER
Whiskey River businessman Zack Banister has had his eye on Laurel Lewis for years, even though she's always been off-limits. The timing has never been right between them, but now that they’re both free, Zack is determined to convince Laurel that he's the perfect man for her.
The last thing Laurel needs is a white knight. She's a single mom and knows she can only rely on herself. But the thought of a fling with Zack is a different matter—and far too tempting to resist.
Then reality crashes in and Laurel faces hard decisions. And Zack will do anything to convince her to take a risk on him for their happy ever after.
I’m not a stalker but I sure as hell feel like one.
Zack Bannister sat in Laurel Lewis’s section of Jalisco’s Mexican restaurant in Whiskey River. He’d come in every Saturday night for the last six weeks and still hadn’t managed to make any headway with Laurel. Since Zack was one of Laurel’s brother’s best friends, he and Laurel had known each other since they were kids.
What Laurel didn’t know was that Zack had been in love with her for years. And she wouldn’t believe it if he told her. To her, he was simply Travis’s friend. She didn’t mind flirting with him but it never occurred to her that Zack wanted more.
And whose fault is that?
Damn it, he was trying. Which was why he’d been in Jalisco’s every Saturday for the past few weeks, feeling like a stalker. But he still hadn’t managed to ask Laurel out. He knew why. He was afraid she’d reject him and then where would he be? At least now he could fantasize about her. Which he did. Regularly. And then he was back to feeling like a stalker.
Zack didn’t have trouble with women. They liked him and he liked them back. He never had trouble asking a woman out, never had trouble falling in—and out of—relationships. The women were nice, they were smart, they were attractive, some were even beautiful. He’d come close to marrying his last girlfriend, Sabrina York, but when push came to shove, he couldn’t go through with it. He liked her. Enjoyed her. But he couldn’t imagine spending the rest of his life with her.
That had been over for months and he’d barely dated since, much less gotten serious about anyone. He’d finally accepted that he was never going to get over Laurel Sullivan Lewis. And that’s why he’d been haunting Jalisco’s on the night she worked.
The object of his fantasies walked by his table and stopped. She held a tray full of drinks, which he assumed were for the large table in her section of very wasted men.
“How were the enchiladas, Zack?”
“Good, as always.”
“You need some more chips and salsa?”
“Yes, that would be great.” He didn’t want them but he wasn’t ready to leave yet and he’d mostly finished his dinner. He’d never been the type to get nervous about asking a woman out. So why was he this time? But the why didn’t matter. This time, by God, he was just going to do it.
“How about another beer?”
“No, I’m good on that. I’ll tell you what I do want, though.”
“No, not dessert.” He opened his mouth to ask her for a date but before he could get the words out he was interrupted by an asshole at the large table.
“Waitress! Hey, waitress!” the man called out impatiently, snapping his fingers. “How about a little service?”
Laurel rolled her eyes and smiled at Zack. “Let me take care of these guys and I’ll be back with your chips. Then you can ask me for whatever it was you wanted.”
You, he thought, watching her go to the big table. His lips twitched as he realized she was going to serve Mr. Impatient last. His amusement didn’t last long. Just long enough to see the jerk reach out and grab her ass with a large, beefy hand. Zack was halfway out of his chair when Laurel turned around and said something. Probably, “keep your hands off my ass.” The guy answered her back, saying something with a smug smile and Laurel dumped an entire pitcher of water over his head.
The man jumped up and began yelling at her. Laurel stood her ground not looking a bit sorry and Zack made it over there in time to grab the man’s arm before he slugged her.
“I wouldn’t,” Zack said.
“That bitch poured a pitcher of water on me. On purpose!”
“You grabbed her ass. On purpose. Seems like you got what was coming to you.”
“I can handle this, Zack,” Laurel said.
“I’m sure you can. But you shouldn’t have to.”
The restaurant had gone quiet once the guy started yelling. His buddies were all looking a little shame-faced. One of them said, “Come on, Dean. Just let it go.”
“The hell I will. I want to see the manager.”
“I’ll go get him,” Laurel said and left.
“You realize she could charge you with assault, don’t you?” Zack asked.
“Let her try. I didn’t touch her. Did I?” he asked his friends.
None of them wanted to answer him, every one of them looking anywhere but at the man. So Zack repeated, “You grabbed her ass. I saw the whole thing.”
“Your word against mine. Where’s the damn manager? And who the hell are you? This isn’t your business.”
Zack wished he still carried his card with him, but since inheriting Devil’s Rock airport, he had cut his practice way back, so he no longer bothered. “I’m her lawyer.” He wasn’t, but this jerk didn’t know that.
The guy looked a little disconcerted but not for long. The manager, Todd Flemming, showed up with Laurel behind him with a stony expression on her face. Zack saw why when the man fell all over himself trying to placate the customer. Jalisco’s had been sold not too long ago, and now they were under new and unimproved management.
“Of course we’ll take care of your bill, Mr. Oliver,” Flemming said.
“You’d better. What about her?” He gestured to Laurel.
“She will apologize and appropriate steps will be taken.” The manager looked at Laurel who hadn’t said a word and still looked grim. “Laurel, don’t you have something to say?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact.” She turned to face the groper. “I hope the next woman whose butt you grab does worse than dump a pitcher of water on you.”
Zack burst out laughing. The guy turned red and began cursing. The manager yelled at Laurel and tried to calm down the jerk. By this time the entire restaurant was staring and a few people shouted encouragement. To Laurel, Zack noticed. Which didn’t surprise him since she’d lived in Whiskey River almost her entire life and probably knew at least three-fourths of the customers. Not to mention, he probably wasn’t the only one who’d seen what went down.
“Go wait in my office,” the manager snapped at Laurel.
She turned on her heel and left. Zack tried to talk to the manager, but it was hopeless. He decided he’d do well to leave it alone for now.
Besides, it wouldn’t be a good idea for Laurel’s supposed legal counsel to punch her harasser in the face.