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Nicholas Robin stood by the bar in the crowded restaurant of the hotel, waiting for his brother, Noah, to arrive when a flash of color caught his attention. He glanced in that direction and saw long auburn tresses that cascaded just past a woman's slim shoulders. Her back was to him, and she was seated at the other end of the bar, talking to the bartender and another woman.
He loved red hair, and hers was one of the most beautiful shades he'd ever seen. Nick continued to watch her, hoping she would turn around. When she finally did and he saw the face that went with that hair, his jaw dropped. Her gaze suddenly met and held his for several long heartbeats before she finally looked away.
Nick couldn't take his eyes off her. She looked so damn amazing sitting there on the barstool, her slender but shapely body making his mouth water; the simple business clothes she wore were sexier than any of the barely-there outfits adorning the other women in the room. Her mane of hair softly framed her face; the rich red color accentuated her honey-colored skin and gorgeous eyes.
Oh, man, a woman like her was so out of his league. Even from where he stood, Nick could tell that she was a lot classier than the women he was used to dating. But that didn't stop him from wanting her.
Nick didn't know how long he'd been standing there staring, so wrapped up in his thoughts about her that he never saw her get up, never saw her move through the crowd, never saw her head in his direction until she was standing in front of him.
"Hasn't anyone ever told you it's not polite to stare?" God, she was even more beautiful than he thought. Not to mention older.
"Once or twice," headmitted with a smile. "But there are just some things that can't be helped, and staring at you is one of them." His voice sounded raspy, and he couldn't tear his eyes away from her face. It was obvious from her coloring, features, and hair texture that she was of mixed race, but Nick couldn't determine her exact nationality. Not that it mattered. She was still the most incredible sight he'd ever seen.
She laughed, and the sound was soft and feminine and sexy. Just hearing it made his cock jerk in his pants.
"Good answer." She smiled at him and held out her hand. "I'm Rylee."
Nick reached for her hand. "It's nice to meet you, Rylee. I'm Nick." His fingers held and caressed hers for a moment before he released them completely. Her skin was as soft as he'd imagined. And she smelled good, too, a sexy combination of floral and sweet that made his head spin and his cock rock hard in his jeans.
"So, Nick, other than staring at me, what are you doing standing here at the bar all alone?" The smile on her face told him she wasn't bothered by his inability to keep his eyes to himself.
"I'm supposed to be meeting my brother, but he hasn't gotten into town yet. I decided to come down to the bar and have a drink while I wait for him."
"Where does he live?" Rylee asked.
"Wisconsin," he said. "We both do. We're going to be in town for the next couple of days."
"Well, you picked a nice city and an even nicer hotel to spend your weekend."
Nick chuckled. "This place should hire you. You'd make a great spokesperson."
A small smile graced her lips. "I couldn't agree more," she murmured.
Nick still couldn't believe he was standing there having a conversation with this incredible woman. He could see her bartender friend keeping one eye on them the entire time he moved around the bar serving drinks. And her other friend kept shooting glances in their direction as she talked on her cell phone. Nick was sure they were both trying to figure out why she was wasting her time with him.
"Have a drink with me," he said suddenly. When she seemed to hesitate, he said, "Come on, it's my birthday."
She raised an eyebrow. "Now, how do I know that you're not just saying that to get me to have a drink with you?"
"I'll prove it." Nick grinned and reached into his pocket for his wallet. He pulled out his license and handed it to her. She studied it for a moment before she handed it back to him.
"So, Nicholas Robin of Wisconsin, since it truly is your birthday, the drinks are on me." She turned and looked down the bar. "Hey, Drew"--she motioned for the bartender--"we have a birthday boy here who needs a drink."
Drew looked up and headed back in their direction. "What would you like?" he asked when he reached Nick.
Rylee with whipped cream and a cherry on top. "Another beer," he said instead, and held up his empty bottle. Drew looked at Rylee. "Merlot?" At her nod, Drew moved down the bar and returned a few minutes later with their drinks.
Rylee reached for her glass and raised it in the air. She waited as Nick joined her in the toast. "Happy Birthday, Nick," she murmured, before taking a sip. "Did you make a wish?"
"Oh, I've been making wishes all night." He gave her a long, heated look.
"Have any of them come true?" she asked, sounding a little breathless, her honey skin taking on a soft rosy glow.
"A few." Nick leaned in closer, one hand rested on the bar, the other gripped the back of her chair. He stared back at her intently, his lips mere inches from hers. "But the night's still young, and I'm still wishing."