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Kelly Allen stared at her reflection in the bar window. She almost glanced over her shoulder to see if there was someone standing behind her, for the woman staring back was unrecognizable.
The wind whipped up, sending a gust billowing under her voluminous skirt. Batting it down with one hand, she gripped the lapels of her coat tighter around her upper body. She'd borrowed the coat from her friend and it was too small and didn't quite close properly. A shiver raced down her spine. It wasn't so much the cold, although it was a cool, damp night. It was more a combination of fear and anticipation that held her captive as she continued to examine the woman reflected in the window.
It was a shadowy image at best. The streetlights and the muted glow from the surrounding businesses were the only illumination. It had rained earlier in the evening but now it was just a light drizzle. Puddles filled the streets and Kelly curled her toes in her impractical high-heeled shoes.
Although the reflection was dim, she knew all too well what she looked like. She was still amazed at the transformation her friend Lori had wrought in one afternoon. Kelly had curly, shoulder-length auburn hair that she usually kept ruthlessly pulled back in a severe bun, but Lori had styled the thick mass and added some kind of gel to it. Now it was artfully tousled, falling around her shoulders.
That wasn't all her friend had done. Kelly never wore much makeup beyond a swipe of mascara and a slick of nearly nude lipstick, but Lori had added eye shadow and eyeliner and now Kelly's blue eyes looked deep and mysterious. A touch of color on her cheeks actually made her look like she had cheekbones and a rich plum lipstick accentuated her full lips. It was amazing how some makeup and a new hairdo changed her look.
But Lori hadn't been finished by any means. Her friend had poked and prodded her until she'd donned the outfit that they'd decided on. Kelly hadn't been so sure, but her friend had been insistent, so Kelly had reluctantly squeezed her size sixteen body into a tight bustier and a many-layered skirt that fell to just below her knees.
The bustier was mostly black with red trim and laces running up the front. It cupped her breasts, pushing the already large 36 D-cup mounds even higher. Kelly had to fight the urge to keep tugging at the front of her top. She'd never worn anything cut so low in her life. If she bent over too far, she was afraid her nipples would show. But she had to admit that her cleavage was impressive.
The skirt was made of a silky material that matched the bustier. Layers of crinoline beneath it caused a swishing sound when she walked. A hint of red peeked out from beneath the hem of the skirt. Black fishnet thigh-high stockings and high-heeled shoes completed her ensemble.
Kelly was a tall, sturdy girl standing a shade below six feet in her stocking feet. With the three-inch heels that Lori had insisted she wear, Kelly felt like a giant. But even she would admit that she looked different. With her waist cinched in and her breasts accentuated, she looked, well, almost sexy. It was so unlike her that she'd kept checking the mirror at home until Lori had finally pushed her out the door and into the waiting cab.
Her fingers clenched as she pulled away from her reflection. Material crinkled as she looked down at the most important piece of her costume her mask. It too was black and trimmed with red and covered most of her forehead and nose. Combined with her makeover, it would easily conceal enough of her face to mask her true identity. Without it, she'd never have the nerve to attempt what she was about to do. Placing a hand on her stomach to try to calm her jittery nerves, she took a deep breath and slowly released it. She, Kelly Allen, was about to walk into Brannigan's Pub and seduce the owner, Liam Brannigan.
Liam Brannigan was the stuff of women's fantasies. He had hair so black it looked almost blue in some lights and he wore it long and loose around his shoulders. His eyes were the same dark blue as a night sky and a perpetual shadow covered his chin, giving him a sexy, just-got-out-of-bed look that had caught more than one woman's eye.
And that was even before you got to his body. His shoulders had to be almost a yard wide and his massive chest tapered down to a lean waist. His legs were long and muscular and the way he filled out a pair of jeans ought to be illegal. At six-foot-four, he was even taller than she was. And in Kelly's experience, that didn't happen very often.
Just the mere thought of him had her breasts swelling and her nipples puckering. She could feel them pressing against the stiff fabric of the bustier and it took all her willpower not to press her hands against them to help ease the ache. Her panties were already damp with need. She could feel the cream slipping from her body as she pictured Liam in a pair of tight jeans and nothing else. Kelly gulped back air to try to calm herself.
She'd been working as a waitress at Brannigan's for more than a year now. Most people didn't seem to think of it as a profession but Kelly had long ago decided that, not only did she like it, she was proficient enough at it to make decent money. At twenty-six, she was settled and content with her life. She enjoyed her job, her friends and her hobbies. She didn't date much and hadn't had a serious relationship in two years. Most men were put off by her height, her weight or both. Kelly tried to convince herself that she didn't care but it still stung.
Brannigan's was a neighborhood pub. They opened at eleven, just in time for the lunch crowd, and closed at one o'clock in the morning. They served both lunch and supper mostly sandwich platters and soups. The rest of the day, they served pub snacks. And, of course, the beer flowed freely all day long. It wasn't a rowdy place but, rather, a comfortable one. They had a lot of regular customers and were a favorite hangout in the neighborhood.
Personally, Kelly thought that many of the female patrons flocked there just for the chance to glimpse Liam. And who could blame them? Liam's good nature and his easy, friendly manner attracted both males and females alike, while his sheer size kept the occasional drunk or problem customer in line.
A door opened and closed and the noise from the bar filtered out onto the street. The annual Halloween Masquerade party was under way and had been for quite some time. It was already close to midnight. Liam hadn't been too happy with her when she'd asked for the day off, but since she'd worked all the holiday shifts since she came to Brannigan's Pub, he had agreed. She really hadn't liked leaving him short-handed for the party but Lori had insisted that she'd need the time to work her magic on Kelly.
In the end, Kelly had gone in at nine this morning and left at three in the afternoon. That way, she'd been able to take care of most of the preparations for the party as well as cover the lunch crowd. People had been in a celebratory mood during lunch and many of the patrons had been planning on coming back for the party. Several of them had asked if she was going to be at the party, but she'd told them that she had other plans for the evening. Liam had continued to scowl at her every time she'd said that. It had only added to her guilt.
But she'd done it anyway. It was her own fault she was in this predicament. One night not so long ago, she'd had one too many glasses of wine and spilled her well-kept secret to Lori. For more than a year, she'd secretly yearned to seduce her boss. It was more than just that, though. After working side-by-side with Liam for a year, Kelly knew that he was everything she'd ever wanted in a man. Hardworking and loyal, he inspired the same in his staff. His humor was infectious and he had a basic honesty about him that was very appealing. They shared many of the same views on things but had enough differences to keep it interesting.
But Liam was not a settling-down kind of man. At thirtytwo, he owned his own business, had good friends and plenty of interests. He never lacked for female companionship but he never had a serious relationship. He worked hard and he played hard. The fact that he lived in an apartment above the bar meant that he worked long hours and he always teased that no woman would put up with that. But Kelly knew better. If there was no woman in his life, it was by his own choice.
That was fine with her. She was under no illusion that she could attract and keep a man like Liam, but she could take this shot at a one-night stand. Hot, grinding, sweaty sex was just what she needed according to Lori. And after many restless nights dreaming about Liam, Kelly was finally willing to agree with her. She might not get forever, but she would have this one night with him. That was, if she could work up enough nerve to open the door and go inside.
It had all seemed so simple back at her apartment with Lori goading her on she'd dress up in a sexy outfit, put on her mask, saunter into the bar and seduce Liam. It was only now she realized just how many flaws there were in her flimsy plan.
Number one, she couldn't saunter in her high-heeled shoes. Used to wearing flats or sneakers, Kelly had been practicing walking in her shoes for days. But as hard as she tried, she still tottered on her heels. The first pair of shoes Lori had pressed on her had been a disaster. Kelly had been unable to even stand up in the four-inch, impossibly skinny heels. Lori had relented and they'd settled on a pair of black three-inch heels with open toes and a slender strap that wrapped around her foot. It had taken a lot of practice but at least she could walk in them, and even she admitted that they made her feel sexy.
Problem number two was she didn't really know how to go about seducing a man. Yes, she'd dated, but she'd never purposely set out to seduce anyone into having a one-night fling. In fact, she'd never had one in her life. The two men she'd had sexual relationships with had been men she'd dated seriously for several months before she'd actually slept with them.
And problem three was that underneath the sexy saloon girl costume, she was still Kelly Allen tall, overweight and not very confident in the sexual arena. She chewed uncertainly on her lip and immediately stopped when she realized she was wearing away her lipstick. A part of her longed to run home, haul off the costume, and wrap herself in her flannel pajamas, but another part of her wanted to reach out and take a chance at getting what she wanted. And she definitely wanted Liam Brannigan. Besides, her cab was long gone and it would be almost impossible to hail another on a busy night like tonight.
A man in a cowboy hat, denim shirt and tight jeans sauntered by. He stopped, turned and stared at her, emitting an almost soundless whistle as he did so. Kelly was shocked when he slowly ran his eyes up and down her body. His lips turned up in a slow, welcoming smile. "Well howdy, sweetheart." He tipped back his hat with his index finger as his smile grew wider. "Are you going to the party?"
It was now or never. Slipping her mask down over her eyes, she adjusted it so that it was comfortable. In the soft, sultry voice that she'd been practicing, she smiled at the cowboy. "I believe I will."
He reached out and pulled open the door to Brannigan's, motioning her forward with a sweep of his arm. "After you, beautiful lady."
Placing one foot in front of the other, Kelly took the steps that led her from the cool, damp street and into the waiting party.
Copyright © 2009 by Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.