Maya Forbes has never had a one-night-stand. With her irresponsible but brilliant sister filling the role of flighty one, Maya must live sensibly and dutifully. But when she meets a gorgeous redneck from Panama City Beach who makes her head whirl, she must quit thinking idiotic thoughts about upending her life after one week of mind-altering sex, especially with her dream promotion waiting for her back home.
Bo Harrison has lived his entire life in a tourist town where the women he meets are typically gone in a week. After a long-term relationship that left him mentally drained, he didn’t mind the easy, week-long romances for a while. But watching his best friend fall in love has him thinking along those lines, especially when he meets a woman unlike any he’s ever dated—smart, sexy, independent. The catch? She leaves in one week, of course.
Three presidents had been elected since the last time Maya enjoyed the bar scene, yet here she sat with the same well-meaning friend who’d dragged her to these sorts of places since they were too young to flash their real IDs. These days, her idea of excitement was a second glass of wine and anything on the Home and Garden Network. But her best friend from high school had other ideas.
Felicity set her wine glass down on the bar. “Relax. It’s not like we’re at Studio 54.”
Maya glanced around the seedy little bar. “I still don’t understand why we couldn’t have had a drink by the pool back at the house.”
“Because we’re single, and there are no men back at the house.”
“I’m not here for a man. I’m here for you and Sebastian. I rarely see either of you. This is our week to catch up and reminisce about our idiotic high school days, not to go to bars.”
Felicity trained her gaze on Maya’s heel which Maya didn’t realize she had been bouncing uncontrollably. “You’re wound up tighter than a spool of thread,” Felicity said. “You need to loosen up. That’s what vacations are for.”
Maya let out an irritated sigh. “It’s just hard to relax. I’m getting ready to start this new position at work. This vacation was probably a bad idea.”
“You said this vacation was mandated by your boss,” Felicity said.
Maya rolled her eyes, unable to argue.
“When’s the last time you had sex?” Felicity asked, and Maya busied her mouth with the wine glass. “That’s what I thought. You’re pent-up. You need release, and not from a vibrator. From a man.”
Maya considered her surroundings—a floor with so much muck caked layer upon layer that she’d had to peel the bottom of her sandals off of it as she walked, Christmas lights strung across the ceiling in late May, the walls covered in magic marker and pen with phrases like Tommy loves Crystal and Drink more, wurk less. “And you think a dive bar in Panama City Beach is the place to find me one?” Maya asked. “There were some perfectly nice restaurants near Sebastian’s house in Seacrest, you know?”
Felicity cut her eyes at Maya. “The sort of guys you’d meet at one of those places would prepare your taxes or give you advice on your 401(k) plan. This is the kind of place where you can find a good, old-fashioned, blue-collar man who knows what to do with his hands.” She tipped her wine glass toward the door. “Like one of these guys. Hel-lo.”
Two men took a seat opposite them across the bar. The first one had to be six and a half feet tall, towering over every guy in the bar, with black, wavy hair complimented by a dark complexion. In his own right, his looks trumped any she’d seen in months…except for the guy he was with. Holy mother of God.
He stood about six feet tall with dark hair shaved close to his scalp and muscles on his arms that made Maya think he could bench press her without breaking a sweat. It wasn’t that he was the best looking guy she’d ever seen, but he was by far the sexiest. He had a Mark Wahlberg quality about him, a sexual oozing of epic proportions. He scanned the room with a comfort level that said he was familiar with the place, his dark eyes commanding attention, and he certainly got it from her. Felicity rolled multiple R’s over her tongue. Maya shrugged. “Pretty cute.”
“Sweetie, there’s cute then there’s these two. Take another look.”
Maya did. “Okay, so they’re hot. Big deal.”
Felicity relaxed her shoulders, her eyelids drooping. “I know these two don’t fit your typical pocket protector, taped glasses, high-water wearing dates. But it’s okay. You don’t have to only date nerds. You are allowed to date guys who can lift more than a laptop.”
“These guys aren’t potential dates for me. They are gods.” She pointed to the big one. “That one’s the god of making women drool, and that one’s the god of making them fall directly to their knees.” The god of making women fall to their knees locked gazes with Maya. She glanced away, heat flushing into her cheeks.
“Ooh, would you look at that?” Felicity brought her drink to her lips to cover her mouth. “The sexiest man in Panama City Beach is staring at you.”
Maya tucked a lock of her thin hair behind her ear, a dreadful habit she could not break. She did it constantly when she got nervous, which was pretty much all the time. She was high strung, and the action was an attempt at self-soothing, though it never worked. “He’s not looking at me.”
Maya shifted her gaze to him, and her stomach floundered as he looked back. He gave an almost imperceptible upturn of his full lips that was so sexy she thought she might remove her underwear and toss it at him on autopilot.
She looked away, tucking her hair again. “He’s not looking at me. He’s looking at you.”
Felicity laughed. “Please. I know when a man’s interested in me. That one is not. His friend might be though.” She lowered her chin and gave the taller one a smile that demanded his consideration.
“Guys like this don’t ask me out,” Maya said. “Trust me. I run into guys like this at the gym every day. They have zero interest.”
“It’s because you hide your figure in baggy gym clothes. Who does that when they have a body like yours?”
“I’m a conservative dresser. I’m not comfortable in a sports bra and shorts up my butt.”
“Look, you work your ass off on your body. I’m just saying it wouldn’t kill you to show it off here and there.”
“I thought I was doing okay tonight?”
Felicity considered her. “You only look decent because I made you leave the cardigan in the car. We’re in Panama City, not Amish country.”
Maya frowned at her friend.
“You should let that guy take you home.” Felicity said.
“You’re high. That guy does not want to go to bed with me.”
“Why wouldn’t he? You’re hot, Maya.”
“A guy like that wouldn’t go for someone my age, anyway.”
Felicity pointed with her wine glass. “That guy isn’t young. He’s our age. Can’t you see the lines around his eyes?”
“I know he’s around our age. But mid-thirties guys who look like that date twenty-year-old girls, not thirty-five-year-old women with presumably ticking biological clocks.”
Felicity eyed her. “I don’t know a twenty-year-old who has a better body than yours.”
“This is not me being self-deprecating. I’m just being realistic. And honestly, even if God himself were to shine a light down from heaven and will a guy like that to have interest in me, I’m not so sure I’d reciprocate.”
“Why the hell not?”
Maya let out an exhausted breath and turned to her friend. “I date Leonard from Big Band Theory, not Ryan Gosling from Crazy, Stupid, Love. I date Clark Kent, not Superman. I date moderately attractive, endearingly quirky IT guys who work weekends for fun.” She offered her palm toward the guy across the bar who made her knees buckle, and she wasn’t even standing. “I don’t date that.”
“I don’t want thrilling. I want comfortable and reliable. I don’t want to send my husband on a guy’s night out and be checking my phone every ten minutes to make sure he’s not falling for some seriously gorgeous girl he met when he was away from me.” She motioned toward the guy who was interested in a game on a television screen above the bar. “Look at him. Can you imagine how often a guy like that gets hit on when he leaves the house? If I was with someone like that I’d be a nervous wreck all day long.”
“You’re already a nervous wreck all the time.”
“See, there you go. I don’t need that kind of added stress.”
Felicity peered at her. “This is about your sister, isn’t it?”
“No,” Maya said quickly. At least that was always what she told herself. But of course it was about her sister. Being two years older than Maya, Meade had served as her role model since they were kids. The most intelligent person Maya had ever known still to this day, Meade was an absolute idiot when it came to picking a man who would not move her away from everyone and everything she loved, rob her blind, and then shatter her heart like a bomb hitting a glass wall.
“Only you, my friend, would use the word stress in talking about that guy across the bar from us,” Felicity said.
On cue, he looked over at them and quirked a smile that ensured Maya’s worst fear—he heard them talking about him.
She lifted her wine glass to cover her mouth. “I think he can hear us.”
“He cannot. It’s loud in here.” Felicity fluffed her auburn curls. “Okay, you want the shorter one, right?”
Maya turned to her friend. “Have you heard a single word out of my mouth?”
“The tall one is cuter, but the shorter guy is sexier. You’re taking him.”
“Oh, great, thanks.” Maya rolled her eyes and took a sip of her wine.
“Excuse me, sir,” Felicity said to the bartender. “Can I have a quick word?”
Maya got the uneasy feeling that always came around when Felicity took an interest in her love life. “What are you doing?”
The bartender narrowed his eyes at Felicity then walked toward her.
“The guy over there with the blue shirt and short hair,” Felicity said. The bartender started to turn around. “Don’t look.”
He stopped mid-turn and looked back at her cautiously. “I don’t know which one you’re talking about. I can’t remember what colors they have on.”
“Okay, he’s got brown hair shaved close to his head, a great suntan, and he’s got a really nice, broad physique.”
“Bo?” he asked.
Felicity grinned. “So you do know him. What can you tell us about him?”
“What do you want to know?”
“Like, is he a rapist or anything like that?”
“Felicity,” Maya whispered.
“Bo? He wouldn’t hurt a fly. Well, at least not a girl. He’d kick a dude’s ass if he was asking for it.”
Felicity grinned again. “Perfect. Is he married or dating any kind of psycho girl who’d be willing to chase another girl off with a gun, say?”
“Bo’s not married. I don’t think he’s dating anyone. Hadn’t really dated anybody seriously since Angela, and that ended a few years back.”
“Excellent. You’re sure he’s straight?” Felicity asked.
“Bo?” The guy chuckled. “Yeah, he’s straight.” A customer called for him. He held up a finger, and then left them.
Maya pressed her knuckle against Felicity’s leg. “I’m going to hurt you.”
“You’re going to thank me. Look how much information we’ve already gleaned from this one little conversation.”
“I’m not going to have sex with that guy. What if he has an STD?”
Felicity looked him up and down. “I’m not sure it wouldn’t be worth it.”
“AIDS. You would like me to have AIDS,” Maya said. Felicity lifted her eyebrows in consideration. Maya held up both hands. “Enough. You’re insane. Whatever you’re doing, just stop right now. Can we leave?”
The bartender handed the customer a beer and then made his way back to Felicity. She pulled a bill out of her wallet and set it down on the bar in front of him. “I’ve got a twenty-dollar bill here for you if you can find out, discreetly, when the last time he had an AIDS test was.”
Maya hid her face with her hand.
“You serious?” the bartender asked.
“As a 1969 Corvette Stingray.” The guy looked impressed. “But you can’t tell him we’re asking. You’ve got to be creative.”
“You’re nuts.” He started walking away.
“You want to make it fifty?” she asked. Maya jerked her head around toward her friend.
The bartender leaned in. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” Felicity lifted her eyebrows in response. He stared her down. “All right, I’ll find out for you.”
“Remember…discreetly,” she said then gave him a nudge in their direction.
Maya leaned in. “Felicity, you can’t give this guy fifty dollars, are you crazy?”
“It’s the winnings from that lottery ticket I bought earlier. Found money.” Of course Felicity won fifty dollars on a lottery ticket. That was her luck.
“Yeah, but think of what you could buy with that.”
“I can’t think of a better way to spend fifty bucks than to get you a worry-free, proper lay, and that guy looks like he could do the trick.”
“What did I tell you?” Chase sang into his bottle.
“That you were gonna buy me a beer,” Bo said.
“I am, birthday boy. I’m talking about these two across the bar. You see them?”
Bo stared at the basketball game on the television above the bar. “I see them.” It was hard to miss them. The girls that usually came in his favorite bar wore bikini tops with cut-off shorts. These two looked like they’d walked off the pages of The Wall Street Journal. At least the one with the blond hair did…the one with the body that made him breathe hard.
Chase nudged him. “Now I think I deserve a few props for conjuring up these two.”
“How’d you do that? They were sitting in here before you did your little voodoo dance outside.”
“I asked the universe to send my good buddy a beautiful woman for his birthday, and we walk in here and sit across from these two. I’d call that fate.”
“Or Saturday night at Alligator Alley. Take your pick,” Bo said.
They drank their beers, watching the game. “You want to throw darts?” Chase asked.
“Nah. You go on though.”
“Mmm hmm. You’re about to bust a move, aren’t you?”
“Not before I bust your lip. Will you shut up?”
Chase could only sit quiet for five…four…three…two… “That one with the blond hair’s got a rock hard body somewhere behind that dress. Look at the definition in her arms.”
Bo drew his beer to his mouth. “I hadn’t noticed.” Like hell he hadn’t.
“What’s wrong with you? Not fifteen minutes ago you were out in the car talking about how you wished you could find the one and have eighteen kids and all that.”
Chase motioned to the two women across from them. “What’s wrong with these two? That one with the grin looks like a lot a fun.”
“Will you quit motioning at them? I know who you’re talking about.”
“Well, what’s your hesitation?” Chase asked.
“How do you know?”
Bo gave Chase a look. “You think those two are local PCB girls?”
“Well, no, but maybe they live off 30A somewhere.”
“If they did, they’d be over at Bud and Alley’s in Seaside or George’s in Alys Beach. These two got lost is how they’re here. I can promise you that.”
Chase considered them. “They are a little classy for this place. Maybe they’re high-powered real estate agents from the 30A area.”
“If they were, you’d know them.”
Chase owned the biggest property management company in South Walton. If you were in real estate in the Florida panhandle and you didn’t know Chase, you probably hadn’t made it yet.
“Maybe they’re new in town,” Chase said.
“They’re tourists you optimistic son of a bitch.”
Chase sat up on his stool. “And you’re done with tourists.”
“I told you I was. I’ve done enough of that over the years. I’m not falling for another week-long fantasy romance where the girl goes home, and you talk a handful of times over text until the whole thing fizzles because reality sets back in for her. No thanks. I turned thirty-five today. How many more years am I going to date like a twenty-year-old, knowing there’s no future? The next girl I take on a date’s gonna live somewhere in the Panama City Beach or South Walton area…Destin if I get desperate.”
“What about Fort Walton?”
Bo glared at him.
They sat quiet for a minute till Chase said, “They’ve got Bobby all huddled up there. What do you think they’re wanting from him?”
“Drinks most likely.”
Bobby came their way. “You ready for another one yet?” he asked Bo.
Chase leaned in. “So what were those girls all huddled up with you about over there?”
“Nothing. Just hitting me up for a free drink.” Bobby leaned on the bar. “Hey, so Bo, you get a physical every year, don’t you?”
Bo frowned at his bartender buddy. “Why the hell would you ask me that?”
“I was just wondering if you could recommend a doctor to me.”
“When I’m sick I go to the clinic down the street.”
“You been lately?” Bobby asked.
“Yeah, I went three weeks ago as a matter of fact for my insurance policy on my business. You want me to have them fax you the results?”
Bobby leaned in. “They give you an AIDS test when you went?”
Bo stared at him hard, and then made sense of the nonsense. He smiled. “Sure did.”
Bo lifted an eyebrow. “You want to sleep with me or something?”
“Fuck you,” Bobby said then turned around and started wiping down the counter.
“Bobby,” Bo said. Bobby walked over and placed himself back in front of Bo, tuning in. “You can tell them I got a clean bill of health.”
Bobby pursed his lips and walked away.
“You son of a bitch,” Chase said.
“What’d I do?” Bo wasn’t able to suppress his grin.
“They didn’t want to know shit about me,” Chase said.
“You’re the one conjuring up women so I can find the love of my life tonight.”
“Yeah, but it’d be nice to be asked about my AIDS,” Chase said.
“You got AIDS?”
“Fuck no, I don’t have AIDS.”
“Well, there you go. I asked. You’re welcome.”
Maya and Felicity sipped their drinks, waiting for the bartender to come back and report. After a few minutes, he eased toward them with a couple of fresh drinks.
“He got one three weeks ago through a physical he did for insurance. Clean bill of health.”
Felicity clapped her hands together. “Hot damn. We have a winner.”
The bartender shook his head, collected his tip, and put it in his pocket instead of the jar.
“What now?” Maya asked.
“Now, we get their attention and get them over here. Yoo-hoo!” Felicity waved at the boys across the bar.
“Felicity,” Maya said in her loudest whisper. The two men played it cool when they caught sight of Felicity. They appeared to consult on the matter, then stood and walked around the bar.
Maya gripped her knees hard to keep from murdering Felicity. “I’m going to kill you.”
“Don’t speak so fast.” She opened her face up in a smile. “Hello, guys. We just saw you two sitting over there all by yourselves and thought we’d see if you wanted to join us. I’m Felicity and this is—”
“Marlene,” Maya said.
“Marlene,” Felicity said slowly.
“I’m Chase and this is Bo,” the taller guy of the two said.
Felicity patted the seat beside her. “Would you like to sit over here next to me, Chase?”
Maya looked down at her drink as the god of bringing women to their knees straddled the seat next to her. “So, Marlene, why’d you need to know if I’d had an AIDS test?””