Home > Crave (The Gibson Boys #3)

Crave (The Gibson Boys #3)
Author: Adriana Locke

One

Hadley

“This is the best idea I’ve ever had,” I say to myself. “Or it might be the worst.”

I park my car along the curb a few spaces down from Crave. The bar sits in front of me with its crooked ‘a’ hanging sideways on the sign. Some of the red tube lights used to form the letters are bright, while others are dim, and I wonder if I should just re-start my car and go back home.

“No,” I say aloud. “You have to do this.”

The sun hovers over the horizon. The sky is spectacular with bright oranges and deep purples. Sunsets are one of my favorite things in the world, but I can’t enjoy this one. There are too many distractions.

Like how I didn’t tell my brother, Cross, I was coming to visit a night early.

And how I forgot my toothbrush and cell phone charger back at my apartment.

And how the underwire in the push-up bra that’s supposed to make me confident is actually poking a hole in the side of my boob.

Distractions abound, and I haven’t even made it to the biggest distraction of all—the one with deep chocolate brown eyes and a smirk I usually want to punch off his handsome face.

Machlan Gibson. The man I’m here to convince myself I can live without.

He might tie up my insides without trying. He might’ve been my first kiss and my first unofficial date—the first boy I snuck out of the house to meet in the middle of the night. He might know more about me than anyone in the world and be the one person with whom I hold the most secrets.

But it doesn’t matter. Not to him. And it can’t to me anymore.

Every time I come back to Linton, Illinois, I hope it’s the visit I stay for good. That Machlan will see what we can be, wrap me up in his arms, and ask me to work things out.

I’ve had that hope for years. That ends now.

This time, I’m over him. Or I will be before I leave. Somehow.

Taking a deep breath, I look back at the sign hanging askew. “You can do this,” I prep myself. “Just go in, lay some groundwork, and get out before you get in over your head.”

My sneakers hit the asphalt before I can rethink this entire thing. My stomach squeezes so hard I think I might have to sit back down.

Straightening my shirt, I pull a deep, steadying breath. The only indication of how wobbly I am on the inside is the way the little four-leaf clover necklace vibrates on my chest. “I’ve got this.”

“You got what?”

I spin around, hand covering my heart, and find Peck leaning on the hood of my car. My friend since the day I met him, he’s also Machlan’s cousin. Ridiculously charming with his blond hair poking out the sides of his baseball cap, he has a smile that could end a world war.

“I got your number, that’s what I got,” I say with a laugh. “What are you doing, troublemaker?”

“Oh, just seeing what this cute little redhead was doing talking to herself. Then I realized it was you and I was like, ‘Eh, I don’t really need a trip to the ER tonight.’”

I know what he’s getting at. Machlan is at Crave.

I pop him in the shoulder. He winces, humoring me, before shoving off the car and following me as I head down the sidewalk.

“What brought you back to town?” Peck asks. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”

I gaze at the horizon and the way the sun is barely visible over the tree line. I wish I were on Bluebird Hill watching it go down.

“Do you remember that tire swing we put up on Bluebird Hill?” I ignore his question and ask one of my own. “Is it still there?”

“I think so.” He takes off his hat emblazoned with a machinery company’s logo and runs a hand over his head. “I haven’t been up there in a while. The last time ended up with my truck being buried up to the axle in mud and me having to call Machlan to come get it out at two in the morning.” He grins sheepishly. “I’ll let you guess how that call went.”

My feet stop moving, so Peck halts too. We stand a few feet from the doors to Crave. His eyes search mine in a way only capable someone you’ve known for a long time can.

“He’s in there,” he says, motioning toward the door with his head.

“I hope so.”

Peck’s brow furrows. “Not the answer I was expecting.”

“Why else would I show up here?”

“Don’t you guys usually try to do this behind closed doors?” Peck asks.

“Do what?”

He runs his tongue along his bottom lip before biting down to withhold a grin. It doesn’t work. I roll my eyes at both his question and reaction and head toward the door.

Whatever happens once I’m inside Crave will be fine. Either he’ll serve me a drink or he’ll be a major ass—either option I can work with in my plan to get over Machlan Gibson.

“Are you ignoring me?” Peck asks.

“I just want a drink,” I lie.

“And what do you drink these days?” he prods, seeing through my lie. I’ve never been much of a drinker, and I’m definitely not the kind of girl to just stop by a bar for a drink—this bar, no less.

My mind races to come up with a drink I’ve heard my friends order, all the while trying not to let Peck see how hard my heart is racing and the sweat glistening on my palms. “I’m drinking a tequila and Coke.”

Peck chuckles behind me. “Can I give you one quick tip?”

“No.”

With a deep breath, I step into the building. Antique lanterns on the ceilings and various Christmas lights strung around the building illuminate the bar. I hold my breath before allowing the scent to hit me. It’s the smell of desperation and sweat, of a thousand spilled beers and even more bad decisions. It’s like perfume on your man that isn’t yours: repulsive.

“Fine then,” Peck says. “But when Machlan laughs his ass off because no one has ever, in the history of the universe, ordered a tequila and Coke, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

My cheeks burn. “Oh.”

“Rum and Coke or tequila shots. Not tequila and Coke, Had.” He shoves his hands in the pockets of his worn jeans as he eyes me with amusement. “But do the rum and Coke. You’d be a mess on tequila, and while I’d pay a lot of money to watch Machlan lose his shit over that, I’m not sure he’ll even serve it to you.”

“He has to if I order it,” I say.

Peck leans back and releases a full-belly laugh. “You tell him that.”

“I will.” Looking him in his bright, blue eyes, I almost lose my courage and tell him to get me the hell out of here. He would. He’d take me to Goodman’s, buy me a sweet tea, and drive me around as I spilled my guts. But I can’t do that to him. Or me.

This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. It’s been a long time coming, and I finally broke down last week and realized it had to be done. I have to figure out how to move on with my life. I can’t put roots down somewhere else and allow myself to fall in love or really start a life when my heart is still here. With Machlan.

Peck’s face breaks into a sympathetic smile. “Take my advice and order the rum and Coke. You have a shot at getting that. Though it’s a small one, it’s better than your tequila chances, which are negative sixteen hundred.”

“I don’t understand why you don’t think he’ll serve me.”

“Rhubarb moonshine mean anything to you?” He makes a face reminiscent of someone dying before heading toward the bar.

I stand next to the bulletin boards lining the front wall, thinking about the night with the moonshine. How Mach and I got into a huge fight and I didn’t realize what moonshine was. And how he picked me up and took me home and stayed with me all night to make sure I didn’t pass out in my own vomit.

Besides the people playing pool in the back, the only other patrons drinking are seated near the old jukebox. As my gaze runs across a pair of pink panties pinned to the top of one of the bulletin boards, it settles on Peck. He waves at me to join him.

His merriment at my situation is written all over his face. I hope confidence masks the fear on mine. No matter how I get to the end result, this is going to hurt.

No, this is going to be hell.

I make my way over the cement floors. A man wearing a sleeve of tattoos and an undeniable invitation tickling his lips passes me. He turns around and whistles as he walks backward to the door.

This helps.

My confidence slightly bolstered, I look back at the bar.

This doesn’t help.

My feet shuffle, nearly tripping over an invisible boulder in my way as Machlan’s lips form a thin, hard line. His arms cross his thick chest.

Even with the cool reception, my cheeks still heat.

Machlan sure knows how to make hell feel like home.

Two

Machlan

“I was wrong.”

Nora slides the cash register drawer closed. “What about?”

My teeth grind together, flexing my jaw all the way to my ear. “About what I said earlier about the day not able to get worse. It could.”

“What’s happening—oh …” Her voice trails off as she steps next to me. Her hand clamps on my shoulder and gives it a gentle squeeze. “I’ll be in the back if you need me.”

“Chicken,” Peck calls after her.

Nora’s retort and Peck’s heckles fall to the wayside as Hadley gets closer.

Freckles splash across her face like they always do at the end of summer. Pieces of her hair are bleached by the sun, and her body is curvier than I remember and hot. As. Hell.

The day may look worse, but she’s never looked better.

My fingers dig into the wooden bar as her muscled, tanned legs carry her my way. The white blouse almost hides the tops of her breasts, and it takes every fucking bit of self-restraint I have not to hop over the bar, pick her up, and carry her right out of here. When her brows raise in a “Got a problem?” kind of way, I hear Peck cackle. And as my hand falls to the crotch of my pants to adjust myself, I realize I don’t have one problem. I most definitely have two.

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