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**May contain some errors as this is an unedited version and may change slightly before publication.**

By the time I arrive to the bar, the parking lot is packed, and I have to park down the street. I walk inside and squeeze my way through the crowd of people drinking and dancing. 

“Finally!” Kenzie scolds when I manage to find a seat. “Thought you were gonna bail on me.” 

“Is Rowan and Elle here yet?” 

“No, but they’re on their way. Hopefully this crowd weeds out soon though.” 

Ethan comes up and hands me a coaster. “They will. Most of them come here to have a few drinks before they go to house parties.” 

“Start me off with a Jack and Diet,” I tell her. 

Moments later, Elle walks in and I give her a hug. “I’m so happy you could make it.” 

“Only because Dr. Dickhead gave me off.” She rolls her eyes as if even she’s surprised. 

“Which means you need to take full advantage and drink!” 

She orders a cocktail and we catch up. “So, you gonna tell me more about this Gavin?” 

“There’s nothing to tell.” 

Kenzie snorts, then walks to the other side to help a customer. After the awkward Thanksgiving dinner, I told my sister to butt the hell out. She’s the only one who knows the whole story and though Elle knows we had a one-night stand, it’s all the details I’ve given her. I was with her and Kenzie the morning after it happened because Elle begged for help with birthing a calf, so I arrived hung over as hell and asked if either of them knew of a Gavin. Since neither did, I had hoped he was just driving through town. 

My luck would have it otherwise.

“When we were officially introduced at the ranch, I acted like I didn’t know him and he’s been torturing me ever since,” I say quickly before sucking down half my drink. 

“But you do know him.” 

“Yes, but I didn’t want him to know that! I wanted to pretend our night never happened and he’s hell bent on not letting me.” 

Elle laughs, sipping her own drink. “Well, it sounds to me like Gavin wants a second-night stand.” 

I groan, shaking my head. “Not happening.” 

“Perhaps you’re just so memorable, he can’t get you out of his head.” She shrugs with a cocky grin. “I mean, you are a babe.” 

“Well, he can find another babe because it’s not gonna be me,” I say matter-of-factly. 

Elle smiles around her straw, looking behind me. “Speakin’ of the devil.” 

I quickly glance over my shoulder and see Gavin walking inside with Grayson, Diesel, and Rowan behind him. 

Fuck me.

Of course they’d invite him. Dammit. 

“Hey!” Rowan rushes toward us and wraps her arms around us. 

Kenzie squeals and starts taking all their drink orders. 

“Hey, Maize.” Gavin’s hoarse voice comes to my ear, and I shiver. 

“I see you’ve turned your obsession into stalking.” 

“Is it stalking if it’s the only pub in town?” 

I turn and see his flirty grin, which causes me to look away and motion for Kenzie to refill my glass. 

“Let me buy you a drink,” he says, taking the seat next to me. 

“That’s not necessary.” I inch my seat away from him.

“Maize, shut up and order the expensive shit.” Kenzie waggles her brows. 

“Round of shots?” Gavin asks, and I sag my shoulders, giving in. “For everyone,” he confirms. 

“Vodka,” I say. Gonna need it if he’s determined to bother me all night. 

Kenzie makes shots for all of us and soon we’re three shots in. Diesel and Rowan are in their own little world as Grayson taunts Kenzie at the other end of the bar. Elle is playing pool with some guy, leaving me alone with Gavin.  

“Looks like you’re stuck with me.” 

“I’ve noticed.” I groan, taking a sip of my second Jack and Diet. After the shots, I needed something else. 

“C’mon, I’m not that bad. You should give me a chance like you did four months ago.” 

I nearly choke on my drink and hope he doesn’t notice, but by the sly grin on his face, I know he does. 

“You’re delusional.” 

“You keep sayin’ that, but I’m not buying it, Maize Bishop.” 

I roll my eyes, not giving into this little game of his. Maybe if I keep drinking, I’ll be able to tune him out. 

“Hey, we’re all going to Wyatt’s for the ball drop,” Rowan tells me. “Wanna come?” 

“Y’all leavin’ now?”

“Yeah, we’re gonna drink and eat snacks there,” she confirms. 

I look at Kenzie, then back to Rowan. “No, I’m gonna stay with my sister.” Though she’s a grown ass woman and can take care of herself, I still worry about her and don’t want to leave her alone on New Years Eve. 

“Okay, babe. Text me if you change your mind.” She kisses my cheek, and I watch as all the guys and my cousins walk out the door. 

“You aren’t going with your friends?” I ask Gavin, shocked that he didn’t even consider it. 

“You’re all the company I need.” He smirks before taking a drink and looking at me over the neck of his beer. That move shouldn’t be sexy, but as I watch the way his throat tightens and veins pop, I realize I must be drunker than I thought.

“I’m not here to entertain you, so go to the party.” I wave my fingers toward the door. I can’t be trusted alone with him.

“Who said I expected you to? You’re quite presumptuous.” He turns his body toward mine so our knees are touching.

“I’m presumptuous?” I balk. “I beg to differ considering I keep telling you to go away and yet, here you are always bothering me.” 

“I’m just sittin’ here,” he says calmly, motioning for Kenzie with his empty beer bottle. “You’re the one who keeps lookin’ at me like I’m your next meal.” 

I choke on my drink and it takes me a minute to recover. “You’ve lost your mind.” 

“That’s not what you said the first night we met.” 

“Okay, now I know you’ve lost your damn mind.”

“What can I get you lovebirds?” Kenzie asks casually, and if looks could kill, I’d be shooting fire at her.

“Maize and I are gonna do some shots.” 

“No we are not,” I interject. 

“It’s no fun playing drinking games by myself,” Gavin says, giving me a little smirk that makes me want to slap it off his too sexy face. “You only have to drink if you lose anyway, so what do ya say?” 

Kenzie waggles her brows when I glance at her. I sigh with a shrug, giving in. “Fine.” 

She starts lining up shot glasses, then pours vodka in them. “Have fun you two.” Flashing a wink, she moves to the other side to help Ethan. 

“Alright, Cowboy. What’s this game?” 

“Ever heard of two truths and a lie?” he asks. 

“Unfortunately, yes. You really wanna play this game with me though? I’m pretty good at reading people,” I say matter-of-factly, but it’s really the booze talking for me. 

“Even more so now.” He chuckles, grabbing two of the glasses and setting them in front of us. “If you don’t guess the lie, you drink.” 

“And if I do, you drink.” 

“Let’s play. Ladies first.” He gestures toward me and it takes me a minute to think. 

“Okay. When I was six years old, I fell off a four-wheeler and sprained my ankle. I’m left-handed. And…” I tap my lips, thinking of the final one. “I’ve never had a one-night stand.” 

The corner of his lips tilt up, and I wonder if he’s going to guess right or not. 

“Jesus, you’re playin’ dirty. Alright, well then I’d have to say your lie is the last one.” He slides my glass over with a cocky grin. 

“Wrong.” I slide it back toward him. “I was eight and it was a horse.” 

Gavin shakes his head “Oh, I see you’re really playin’ dirty. Two can play that game, darlin’.” Without arguing, he takes the shot and downs it.

The alcohol is definitely buzzing though my veins because I can’t take my eyes off him. His buff biceps, the way his veins pop in his arms, and the way his eyes focus on me as if I’m the only one in the bar. It’s hypnotizing. 

“Your turn.” 

“Okay, get ready to lose.” He flashes an arrogant smirk. “I rode my first bull when I was nine years old. I won my first championship when I was nineteen. I’ve never had a one-night stand, then left the morning after without as much as a goodbye.” 

I glare at him, knowing he purposely said that last one to see how I’d react. Well, too bad for him it’s not going to work.

“Nine years old? Bullshit. Take the shot,” I tell him confidently. 

Gavin grins, grabbing it but then sets it down in front of me. “Wrong, sweetheart.”

“No way! Nine years old?” 

“Yep. Believe it.” 

Groaning, I take the shot and shoot it down. I must be getting drunk because I can hardly taste the alcohol anymore, which is not a good thing. If I’m not careful, I’ll get too wasted and let my guard down, but I can’t let that happen. 

“Well, we’re one and one. What’s the tie breaker?” I ask, noticing two shots left.

“How about I ask you a question and if you tell me the truth, I take both of those shots.” 

“And if I lie?” 

“You kiss me at midnight.” 

I sit up straighter, keeping my eyes focused on his. Is he for real? 

“How will you know if I’m telling the truth or not?” I ask. 

“Because I already know the answer.” 

“I might be drunk, but I’m not stupid,” I tell him.

“Never said you were, but you wanted a tie breaker and I gave you one.” 

“How about we each take a shot and call it even?” I take one of the glasses and hold it up. 

“Why? Afraid you’ll actually have to be honest for once?” he challenges, and I can hear the hurt in his tone. 

Instead of answering him, I down the vodka, then slam the empty glass on the bar. “You don’t know me, Gavin.” 

He leans in close, causing a shiver to ripple through me. Then his mouth lowers to my ear. “I know enough to know you like your ass slapped.” Gavin licks his lips, then continues, “Hard.” 

I squeeze my eyes, flashes of our night resurfacing that I’ve tried to push away for months. Every time he’s near, memories flicker through my mind and as much as I’ve tried to ignore it, with him so close it’s impossible.

For a second, I want to give in—into the desire and have a repeat of our night—but I know nothing good would come of it. He’s older, more experienced, and more likely to break my heart. No dating men who work on the ranch is my number one rule and for good reason. It never ends well. 

“Excuse me,” I say, pushing off my stool and walking toward the restrooms. 

I rush into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. I’m completely red and flushed and there’s no denying my body reacts to him. Our night together is the hottest sex I’ve ever had, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a repeat, but I can’t risk my heart again. 

Not after the last time it got demolished. 

After I wash my hands and calm my breathing, I step into the hallway and gasp when I see Gavin standing against the wall with his arms crossed. 

“What are you doin’?” I stutter.

“Making sure you weren’t running off on me again.”

“Again?” 

Gavin steps toward me, closing the gap between us. “Yes, again. The morning after we had sex, you bailed on me. No note, no explanation, just up and left.” 

“I have no idea what you’re talkin’ about.” I hold my ground, not giving in. “Perhaps you have me confused with another girl you slept with that night.” I shrug as if that thought doesn’t faze me.

“Trust me, I’d never forget you, Maize. We drank, I kicked your ass in pool, and by the end of the night, I had you screaming my name in bed.” 

His words have a shiver running down my spine. Damn him. 

“So you wanna tell me why you keep denyin’ it?”

“Because it didn’t happen.” I snort. 

“It’s almost midnight.” 

I nearly get whiplash with his topic change. Kenzie shouts from the bar that there’s thirty seconds left. 

“Yeah?” 

“Since you’re so hell bent on blanking out the memory of us, perhaps I should remind you.” Gavin flattens his palm on the wall next to me and my breath hitches as how close his mouth is to mine. “Let me kiss you.” 

“That’s not a good idea.” 

“Everyone should get kissed on New Years Eve. Even a frustrating, gorgeous woman like you.” 

“Maybe I want someone else to kiss me.” I shrug, mocking a smile. “You’re not really my type. No offense.” 

“You sure about that? I was your type the first time.”

“Again, that never happened.” 

People start chanting down the time and we’re seconds away from midnight.  

“Ten, night, eight…” he whispers. “The opportunity might not come around again, Maize.” 

Five, four, three, two…

 

Continue reading on October 13th! 
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