Dirty Rowdy Thing (Wild Seasons #2)(5) by Christina Lauren

“Well, I can tell Not-Joe is doing a great job undistracting you,” I tell her, “but you might want to slow down on shots with the guy who pierced his own penis.” Honestly, when Oliver told me that story, I nearly choked on my sandwich.

Harlow was beginning to hand me a shot, but her hand pauses, midair. “He . . . what now?”

“Twice. One in the tip, one in the shaft.”

She blinks.

I lean in a little and the way she’s staring at my mouth is making my skin hum. “According to Oliver, ‘things happen’ when Not-Joe gets drunk.”

She tears her eyes from my mouth and looks up at me, lifting her chin to indicate the table of people still playing cards across the room. “You’re suggesting instead I go play cards with the people who’re giving out shots of Clamato as penalty?”

“It’s even better than that,” I say with a shudder. “It’s Budweiser with Clamato. It’s called chelada, and it’s pretty warm now.”

She makes the exact same face she made when the barista offered her a pumpkin spice mocha this morning—complete and total horror—and that drink she ordered. “Someone actually made that into a thing? There are people who drink and enjoy that?”

Laughing, I tell her, “You know, despite my better judgment I find it really funny when you act like a diva.”

With her head tilted to the side, eyes incredulous, she asks, “Being turned off by Budweiser mixed with tomato and clam juice makes me a diva?”

Apparently I’m buzzed enough to belt out a few lines of the only diva song I can think of at the moment: “I Will Always Love You.” And then I lift my shot and down it.

Harlow looks at me like I’ve lost my mind, but I can tell she’s amused. A smile lingers in her eyes, even if her brows are pulled together disapprovingly. “You can’t sing to save your life.”

Wiping a hand across my mouth, I say, “That’s nothing. You should hear me play the piano.”

She narrows her eyes further. “Did you just quote the Smiths?”

“I’m surprised you got that. It wasn’t from a song eventually sampled by P. Diddy.”

Laughing, she says, “You have a pretty fantastic impression of me.”

“I really do.” The tequila slips into my bloodstream, warming me from my chest outward. I lean closer so I can get a good whiff of her. She always smells warm, somehow, and a little earthy and sweet. Like the beach, and sunscreen and honeysuckle. I’ve said more nonsex words to Harlow in the past five minutes than I did the entire time she was in Canada, but I’m surprised to find that not only is she easy to talk to, she’s fun. “And, my impression of you is ever evolving, now that you aren’t just a pretty face in my lap.”

“You’re one classy motherfucker, Finn.”

“This speaking thing does wonders for expanding our horizons.”

She takes her shot, swallows, and winces before saying, “Don’t get ahead of yourself, Sunshine. I like our arrangement.”

“We have an arrangement?”

Nodding, she turns to pour us each another shot. “We fight, or we bang. I think I prefer the banging part.”

“Well, then I would have to agree.”

When she hands me the second shot—on top of the three beers I’ve already had with Ansel—I ask, “Why did you come up my way anyway? I never got around to asking you that because you were sitting on my face most of the time. The visit was . . . unexpected.”

“But awesome?” she asks, brows raised as if she knows I’d never deny it.

“Sure.”

She licks the side of her hand, shakes some salt on it this time, and studies it, thinking. “Honestly? I guess I wasn’t sure I could trust my memory from Vegas.”

“You mean your memory that the sex was so good?”

“Yeah.”

“It was,” I assure her.

“I know that now.” She licks the salt, takes the shot, and grabs a slice of lime from the counter, sucking it briefly before murmuring through wet, puckered lips, “Too bad the man attached to the penis is such an epic loser.”

I nod sympathetically. “True.”

“You’re fun,” she tells me, pulling back a little as if she’s only really looking at me now. “You’re fun in this sort of easy, unexpected way.”

“You’re drunk.”

She snaps her fingers in front of my face. “That must be it. The tequila I’ve had is making you fun.”

I laugh, wiping a hand over my mouth. “You seem to be in a better mood tonight,” I say.

“Just have some stuff going on and trying not to think about it. And besides,” she says, raising her empty shot glass, “this helps immensely.”

“How many have you had?”

“Enough that I don’t care much, not so many that I don’t care at all.”

This seems like a pretty bleak response for someone I’ve assumed all along was chirpy and sexy and carefree. Really, though, I don’t actually know much about Harlow’s life. I know she’s a pretty little rich girl, and probably has a line of pretty little rich boys lined up at her door. I know she’s a loyal friend to Lola and Mia, and because she’s apparently one of those people that need to help every human alive, she was a driving force in getting Ansel and Mia back together again. But outside of that, there’s not much. I don’t even know what she does for work . . . or whether she works at all.

“Anything you want to talk about?” I offer halfheartedly.

“Nope,” she says, and tosses back another shot.

My phone vibrates in my pocket and my warm, drunken comfort is quickly replaced by a sense of dread. Without having to look, I know this is the message I’ve been waiting for. Back home my youngest brother, Levi, is running a safety check on the largest boat in our fleet, the Linda, named after our mother, and with the way things have been going, I’m willing to bet the news isn’t going to be good.

Short in the wheelhouse, none of the controls are working.

Fuck.

Although there are about a hundred curse words I want to type right now, I don’t answer right away. Instead, I slip my phone back into my pocket, pour myself a shot, and throw it back. It helps.

“You okay there?” Harlow asks, watching me.

I clench my jaw against the burn, feeling it warm my body as it settles in my stomach. “Just a little distracted myself.”

“Well then—let’s have another!” She pours two more shots and hands me one. I know this isn’t really going to help. I’m going to sober up in the morning—or maybe a bit later in the day than that—and the controls in the boat will still be down, and our whole fucking livelihood will still be just as in jeopardy as it is now. But, damn, I’d really like to forget all that for a while.

I pick it up, look at the clear liquid before I lean into her, my lips almost brushing the shell of her ear. “I think you and I both know the last time we drank tequila together it didn’t end so well.”

“True,” she says, pulling back just far enough to meet my eyes. “But there’s no twenty-four-hour chapel nearby manned by some reckless idiot willing to marry us, so I think we’re safe.”

Point made.

Harlow knocks back her shot and winces. “Ooooh . . . I don’t think I can do any more.” She holds up her hands, pretends to count out about thirty shots, and then smiles up at me. “One more and I’d face-plant into the bowl of these Fritos London is so excited about.”

She may have lost count, but I haven’t. Four shots into my time in the kitchen with Harlow and—besides Vegas—I’m drunk for the first time in years.

It feels like he’s been gone for an hour, but Not-Joe finally returns in a cloud of weed-smell. As he approaches, he extends his hand to me, saying very slowly, “I’m Not-Joe . . . it’s nice to meet you.”

Laughing, I remind him, “We met earlier at the store, when Oliver was doing the final walk-through?”

Not-Joe makes a little clucking sound, saying, “That’s why you looked familiar.”

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