With the first shrill ring of his phone Eric was wide awake. He was used to interruptions, but he didn't have to like them. He swore, rolled over, searched in the dark for the ringing phone, and knocked both the latest bestseller and his watch to the carpet. He cursed again. Phone calls at--he checked the clock--two twenty in the morning could only mean a fire, and one that's bad enough to call in off-duty firefighters. Why the hell did it always have to happen on his first night off?
The love to serve unselfishly whenever I am called.
He was out of bed before the third ring.
"Hello," he barked, hiking a pair of jeans over his hips and reaching for a shirt.
He expected a similar harsh response, but rather than his chief's gruff voice, he heard a feminine giggle. "You sound funny."
What the hell? Eric pulled the phone away to look at the readout. This wasn't his chief's number. It wasn't any number he recognized. Listening again to more giggles, he sat on the edge of the bed and tried again. "Hello?"
"Helloooo," the voice sang. "Your voice is weird. I guess I woke you up huh?" More giggles.
"Who is this?"
"Thiss iss your sisser..." More musical words. "Member how you said that what I needed was to get good and drunk? Well guess whaa-haat?"
Oh Jesus. A drunk. He didn't recognize the woman's voice, so his first impulse was to snap his phone shut. On the other hand, if it turned out to be someone he knew, he'd feel like shit for hanging up.
"Shh," she whispered. "Don't tell Mom. I got a drunk on."
He smiled, adrenaline slowing, since he knew he wouldn't have to run into a burning building. "I won't tell."
She giggled. "You sound funny. Did you get a drunk on too? Oh my phone is blink-eting. Did you hear that? Was that your phone? Kevin, I'm drink. Drunk. Keeev-in! I'm drunk. I gotta tell you something too. I went to The Ranger for drinks, and you said not to go by myself and I did anyway because I'm bad! I'm bad, Kevin. I'm a bad girl. Oh! You should see what I got ... the bar had pens. For free! I got a blue one, and a pink one, and a ... hey..." he heard rustling, and he imagined her digging through a purse. "Hey! Someone stole my yellow one! Kevin, someone stole my yellow pen!"
"It's okay." Eric tried not to laugh. "We'll get you another yellow—"
"Yeah but that's not right, taking someone's pen like that. I was drinking my--hey, did you know they have a drink called a slippery nipple? It's yummy." The music in the background switched from country-western to a news report and to rock and roll before settling on hip hop, then the volume increased and she started singing along.
Sort of. She didn't seem to know the words, and Eric couldn't get one in edgewise.
A male voice came through. "Come on, sweetheart. We can't wait out here all night. Let me just call you a cab."
"No way. Huh uh. Cabs are icky." Her voice grew distant, and Eric imagined that she'd forgotten she had him on the line. Muffled sounds, and a few tones as she pushed buttons. "...and that was the last time I rode in a taxi. Gross."
"Why don't you turn off your car and let Mac drive you home?" The guy's voice practically dripped through the phone with the amount of condescension he'd poured on. "I'm sure he won't mind."
"Huh uh. You guys can go. I promise not to drive 'cause I called my big brother and he's ... was that your phone, Kevin?" Her voice was clear, obviously speaking through the mouthpiece again. "It's beeping. My phone's beeping. I think the battery is pooping out. Can you come get me? Don't tell Mom, but come get me, ‘kay? I'm waiting in my car, ‘kay? And hurry 'cause some guys are watching. I think they don't want me to wreck, or they wanna drive me, but I said no, so no ... because you know ... and remember that document-chaly we saw about the girl who went home from the bar with ... ah more beeps ... Kevin did you hear me?"
"I hear you, but..."
"Kay, 'cause almost everyone went home already, except a couple'a guys and the bar twender are staring at me. Bar twender?" She laughed. "Twender. That's a funny word. And he looks grumpy." She lowered her voice to whisper again. "Maybe he needs a drunk on too. I'll ask."
Eric heard her ask, but he couldn't decipher the reply. "Kevin's coming, mister twender twinkle twonk ... twonkley twonk... Oopsies. Blinkey beeps again. Phone's pooping, Kevin!" She sang, just before the phone went dead.
"Shit." Eric ended the call, then tried to redial. It went straight to voicemail, where the same voice--but this time level and succinct--explained that Joanne couldn't come to the phone. At least he had a name.
Lot of good that does. This Joanne would be at The Ranger bar, sitting in her car waiting for her brother Kevin who would never come. He stared at his phone until the keyboard dimmed.
He could call her a cab.
No, she'd refuse it, thinking Kevin was on his way. He could call The Ranger, and explain...
No, one of the “guys watching” would end up taking her home. For some reason that bothered him. Eric didn't have a sister, but if he did, he wouldn't want her climbing into a car in her condition with whoever "Mac" was. A complete stranger taking a drunk woman home? That's asking for trouble.
He pulled on a T-shirt and was at the front door before he stopped to think. He'd be a complete stranger taking the drunk woman home.
He snorted, and pulled the door shut behind him. I can trust me.
* * * *
The Ranger wasn't in the best part of town, and it was notorious for being the place to pick up an easy lay. He could see why Joanne's brother didn't want her going out alone. The parking lot had three vehicles. A woman sat behind the wheel of one, dancing along with the music that shook her car. Three men stood by the door, their eyes on the woman, until he pulled in beside her, then they shifted their attention to him.
He left his truck running, closed his door behind him, and greeted the men with a toss of his head.
"We're closed." The tallest one spoke, even tapping on the sign in the window.
"I'm here for Joanne."
"You her brother?" The stocky one crossed his arms, and looked Eric over suspiciously.
Joanne would only prove him a liar, so Eric shook his head. "I just got a phone call to pick Joanne up at The Ranger." That was the truth.
"We've been keeping an eye on her. She's in no condition to drive."
No shit. The woman in the car was oblivious to the men outside. She tossed her head side to side, and sang into an imaginary microphone. "Yeah, I gathered that." He walked around Joanne's thumping car, and knocked on her window.
The first thing he saw was a big pink bubble. When it popped, she pulled the gum back into her mouth, smiled, and waved.
Cute. A mass of blond waves, and a smattering of freckles across her nose. She looked like someone's baby sister all right. Eric smiled, and motioned for her to roll down the window.
She blinked a couple of times before she nodded, curls bouncing on her cheeks. She held up a finger while she fumbled on the door panel. Eric chuckled when she locked and unlocked the doors several times before the window came down, and hip hop music blared through the opening.
"Well hello there, cutie pie. What's your name? I'm Joanne, but you can call me ... um ... Joanne." She climbed up to kneel on the seat and lean out through the window, propping her generous breasts on one forearm, and twisting a finger through her hair with the other hand in a drunken flirtatious gesture. He amended his first impression. This was no little girl. Her cheeks were flushed, either from her solo driver's-seat dance, or from the alcohol, giving her skin a soft warm look. Long lashes framed big blue eyes.
He crouched down. "My name's Eric. Kevin wanted me to come and get you." That wasn't quite a lie; it was more of an assumption.
Her brow wrinkled, and she tilted her head like a curious puppy dog. "Oh, you know my brother? Kevin sent you?"
He bit the inside of his cheek. "Come on. Shut off the car, let's get going."
"Okay, but first do you want to see my pens? I got some free pens tonight." The bubble gum fell out of her mouth as she spoke. "Oopsie. Watch your step there, I dropped something." She braced a hand against his gut. "Don't move. I'll get it." She crawled through the window, and tried to reach for the pink blob on the asphalt, a move which propped her hips on the window opening, leaving her butt at his eye level.
The men on the sidewalk laughed, and one even mumbled, "Oh yeah, now that's a nice ass." Eric glared their way, and the laughter ceased.
He couldn't really blame the guy; her ass was pretty damn fine. From his vantage point, he could see down the gap of the waistband of her jeans, and into the crevice of her cheeks. Creamy smooth skin, and a pink thong. Damn.
"Come on, Joanne. Just leave it." He curled his hands under her arms and pushed her upright, and managed to get her back into the car without bumping her head on the window opening. On the way, he got a face-full of silky hair, and though he didn't mean to, he breathed in its perfume. She smelled pretty damn good for spending an evening in a dive like The Ranger. Like peaches and daisies. "You don't want that gum now anyway, now let's go. I'm here to take you home."
"But I don't know you. I'm waiting for my brover ... bro-furr. My brother. Kevin."
Now all three men on the sidewalk had crossed their arms, watching the exchange. Apparently they'd assigned themselves her guards. He tried again. "If you aren't home in five minutes, Kevin says he's going to tell your mother you got drunk."
Her eyes grew wide. "He promised he wouldn't tell."
"Take it up with him. Let's go." He opened the door, and she caught herself before she fell out. She chattered away about free pens and stale peanuts as he rolled up the windows, killed the engine, and locked the doors. After tucking her keys in his front pocket, he was able to get her on unsteady feet, and around her car to his truck. "We'll get her car in the morning," he told the tall one, who he assumed was the bartender. "Thanks for keeping an eye on her."
He ground his cigarette out in the cat-litter ashtray. "No problem, man. She can come back any time, she's a kick."
Yeah, he could just imagine what a kick this woman could be to a bunch of horny bastards. At least she had enough sense not to go home with a stranger. Well ... almost.
She lifted her left foot to the side step on his truck, thought a moment, then switched to her right, weaved a bit, then slipped from the step to fall face first on the seat. With a laugh, she crawled forward, leaving her rear swaying right in front of Eric. He reached to help her, but pulled back when he realized the only way to do so would involve a handful of saucy ass. He curled his fingers into fists while she scrambled to right herself.
Eric buckled her belt, ignoring the men's chuckles.
Her giggle brought his gaze up to hers. Her blue eyes so guileless. "You're so much a such a nice guy. Buckling my safe-te-curity belt. Will you tuck me into bed, too?"
Maybe not so innocent. The watchdogs on the sidewalk snickered, and Eric's gaze immediately dropped to her chest.
Her T-shirt was tight enough to hug every curve. It wasn't anything special, just a plain light-pink T-shirt, but from this proximity he could see the outline of the cup of her bra. He followed the line down the slope of one breast, and back up the other.
She laughed, a low husky sound, so different from her earlier giggles. "Looks like my brother's friend is a boob man!" She reached for the hem of her shirt, and inched it up her stomach. "Wanna see? I think you'll like—"
"No!" He stopped her hands, mindful of the watchful eyes on the sidewalk. "Keep your shirt on, Josie."
She giggled again, and Eric immediately missed the husky laughter. "Josie. I like that. Josie. It's like a nickname isn't it? Kinda like Joanne but not. It's like a short Joanne name, like a nickname. Josie. Hey guys!" She tried to stand up, but the seatbelt only gave so much, and she ended up shouting over Eric's shoulder at the men. "I have a nickname! Did you know that? It's brand new. It's Josie, like a pussycat. Do you like it?"
Eric grabbed onto her waist, and forced her back into her seat. He swore he only left his hands on her long enough to make his point. With a stern look into her guileless face, he extracted himself, and closed the door before she heard their response.
"Oh yeah, honey. I like your new nickname a lot." The stocky one grabbed his crotch lewdly, as the others laughed. "You come back tomorrow night, and I'll give you all kinds of names. I won't tell your mama either."
"Watch it, buddy." Eric spoke from between clenched teeth. His fierce expression did the trick, and he didn't hear another peep as he walked around the hood to the driver's side. Joanne was bouncing in the seat, apparently dancing along to the music in her head. He silently dared the bastards to mention her swaying tits.
He shook his head. He had no reason to be protective of this complete stranger, other than his upbringing. Maybe his career as a firefighter. Courage to share and endure the ordeal of those who need me, as the oath went. Still, he didn't speak to the men, he simply got behind the wheel and pulled away.
"Bye guys! See you later!" Joanne waved through the back window. "Thanks for the pens! Hope you catch the yellow-pen thief!" She continued to bounce and giggle as they drove down the dark street.
"Why don't you tell me your address so I can take you home?"
She rattled it off, detailed the recipe for a slippery nipple, and reminded him again that she'd dropped her gum on the asphalt. He had to promise her that he didn't step in it before she clapped a few times like a two-year-old at a birthday party, then she froze.
"Oh ... oh no." Her mouth dropped open, and she covered it, like a little kid caught sneaking cookies. "Uh oh."
Eric smiled. "What's the matter?" He stopped at the light on the corner and looked over at her.
"I need to tinkle."
Eric screeched to a stop at the closest all-night convenience store. From the way she squirmed in the seat, he thought she might not make it, and he'd end up with a mess in his truck. She tried to get out of the truck before releasing her seatbelt, and he laughed out loud watching through the store windows while she wiggled and danced through the aisles toward the restroom. A few minutes later, she emerged, then spent some time in one of the aisles before making a purchase at the counter.
She weaved back to the truck, swinging a small plastic bag, and wearing a big smile. "I bought more bubble gum!" She pressed the bag against the passenger window and pointed at the pink package inside. "Bubble gum," she enunciated, waiting for his nod before twirling around with her arms in the air.
It took her a few tries to get the door open, but she finally flung it wide and announced, "Bubble gum! Brand new and strawberry flavored. Want some?"
"No thanks. I'm not a big fan of bubble gum. We need to get you home."
She settled in her seat. "And you'll tuck me in, right? You promised." There was that sexy laugh again.
"I never promised--oh shit."
Her hand trailed a path from his knee to his hip then back down again. Eric gripped the steering wheel. The image of her tight ass, covered only with a thin strip of pink lace, flashed through his mind. He sucked air through his teeth.
"If you're my big brother's friend, you must be a pretty good guy." She dropped the bag of gum onto the floorboard, and crawled across the seat. "I didn't know my brother had any cute friends. What's your name again? Joe?"
He didn't correct her. It didn't matter. He'd just take her home and drive away. "Sit down, Josie. Get your seatbelt on." Eric refused to look at her. He stared at the splattered bug on his windshield. "Anyone waiting up for you?"
"Are you up for me?" She rubbed him through the seam of his jeans, and his cock started to pull on his pubes.
The bug started to blur, so he blinked until it came back into focus. Like a naughty child, his cock disobeyed direct orders and continued to grow stiff. Refusing to give the convenience store cameras a show, Eric shoved his truck into reverse and then continued down the street.
"How will I ever thank you for the ride?" She spoke into his ear, her breath sending a wave of shivers down his spine.
Not much farther. Thank God. "Sit down. I don't want to get pulled over."
"Just pull over then. And I'll sit on your lap." She cupped his balls, and Eric swerved.
"Mm, you like that. I can tell."
Yeah, it was pretty obvious, when his cock throbbed for more attention. "We're almost there. Sit back, Joanne." He tried to keep his voice steady, but his gut had clenched with each stroke of her hand.
"Say please," she licked his earlobe.
"Fuck ... please."
She giggled. "You said 'fuck, please'." She settled in beside him, and even slid her knee on top of his. "Mm, I think slippery nipples make me horny."
That was a visual he didn't need right now. "Alcohol makes every woman horny." God, he wished she'd stop licking his earlobe. Or maybe just a little lower. Her breath in his ear sent shivers down his spine.
"Really? No wonder why all the guys were buying me drinks and stuff." She rubbed up against him, her nipples poking through her bra and T-shirt hard enough for him to feel. He tried like hell to ignore her pumping hips reflected in the windshield. "Ever had a slippery nipple, Joe?" she whispered.
It took superhuman strength, and he figured he'd be canonized, but he was able to move her hand off of his lap, settle it onto hers and pin it there.
Her apartment complex came into view. Almost done, Eric. Focus. He parked and unlocked the door. "Here we go. Time to sleep it off, Josie." She needed to get the hell out of his truck before he put her hand back on his dick.
"Okey dokey, Joe." She turned toward the door, but before he could breathe a sigh of relief, she turned back and went straight for his crotch. "But first I want to play with you."
"Jesus." The back of his head hit the headrest, and he white-knuckled the door handle. Thirty seconds. He'd let her play for thirty seconds, then he'd stop her. She pressed her palm against his ridge, then dragged slowly down. Nope. Won't make it.
His traitorous arm actually protested with a tremor when he forced her hand away again. He dug her keys out of his pocket and pressed them into her palm. "Here ya go. Let Kevin know your car is still at The Ranger. Which apartment is yours?"
He ducked to look through his windshield. He found the door, and noticed the lights were all out, including the one by the front door. Damn, he didn't like that.
"It's an 'fish-en-see'," she went on. "Know what efficiency means, Joe?"
"Yeah, I know what that means."
"It means cheap-ass-crappy puny place for losers who live alone. But guess what, Joe? It's all I can afford, and now I can't even..." Her face crumbled. Those big blue eyes suddenly heavy with tears. "I lost my job today."
"Yeah. My boyfriend fired me. Right before he broke up with me. Or maybe after. Actually, it might have been at the same time, I can't remember." She stared at the keys in her hand, turning them over before clutching them tight enough to leave a mark. "Dumb to date your boss. My mom told me that. I don't listen I guess."
"Shit. I'm sorry, Josie."
Her voice changed. No longer cheerful and fun, it had dropped to a low rumble that he had to strain to hear. "Yeah, well Kevin told me I'd feel better if I went out for a few drunks ... drinks with some friends. They were all busy though, so I went by my--" she sniffed, "by myself."
No tears. Please. Eric could fight a mean fire. He could drag a three-hundred-pound man down four flights of stairs, but he was weak as fuck when it came to a woman's tears. He gave her arm a friendly slug. "But you had fun anyway, right?"
She didn't answer, she just stared at her keys. When a tear rolled off her nose and splashed onto them, she reached up to wipe her eyes.
Fuck. Eric shut off the engine. How the hell had he gotten involved? Although he was used to his sleep being interrupted, he'd been looking forward to a good solid eight-hour stretch. He figured he could just drop the woman off, watch her walk inside, and then drive away. He didn't need this shit, but glancing over at her in his passenger seat, he knew he was already committed. This was someone's kid sister, someone's best friend. Someone's daughter.
Strength of body to deliver to safety all those placed within my care.
"Come on, let's get you tucked in."
She didn't move, even when he slammed his door and walked around the truck to open hers.
"I wanted to drink enough to pass out." She wiped her keys on her jeans. "How much do you have to drink to pass out?"
He tugged her out of the truck, and she slumped against him. "You don't want to know."
"I just don't want to feel anymore. It hurts." She dropped her keys, and he held her steady as she picked them up.
"You'll really hurt tomorrow." He smirked.
"I'll just get drunk tomorrow then."
He managed to get her up the flight of stairs and propped on the railing. He took her keys, trying like hell to ignore her sniffles.
"Yeah, but hold on a minute, Joe. I don't feel that good."
Before he could swing her door open, she'd leaned over the railing and vomited on her neighbor's barbecue grill.
"Oh nice." He chuckled.
"Linda's gonna be pissed." She spat.
He dragged her inside and flipped on the light switch. She wasn't kidding. Cheap-ass crappy puny place it might be, but at least it was clean. It looked as though she'd already moved out. There were no pictures on the walls, no plants in the windows. The furniture consisted of a huge mattress set on a metal frame in the far corner, next to what might be considered a kitchen, and a desk which must double for an entertainment center, since a small television sat beside a laptop.
She rushed to the bathroom, where she continued to purge. Poor girl, he shook his head, and went for a glass of water. He stood in the bathroom doorway until she flushed the toilet.
"Here. Drink this, it will help."
She lifted her head from the bowl.
"Go on. Half the pain of a hangover comes from the alcohol dehydrating your system. The best thing to do is rehydrate before it hits you."
"I deserve to be in pain. I suck. My whole life sucks. I'm a failure and a flop, and I puked on Linda's barbecue."
He smiled. "I'll go hose it off. Drink the water."
She took the glass and rinsed her mouth out, spitting into the toilet a few times before taking a few swallows. "You'll hose my puke?" She looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes. "I like you, Joe."
"You'd like anyone who'd hose your puke. Let's go. Time to brush and get ready for bed. I'll be back to tuck you in."
"I'm sleeping in here." She hugged the toilet, even gave the lid a friendly pat.
"At least brush your teeth. You'll be sorry if you don't."
"Yeah, that didn't taste as good coming up."
He helped her to her feet and left her leaning over the sink brushing her teeth.
Three minutes later he was surprised to find himself hosing Joanne's vomit from some lady's barbecue grill at three o'clock in the morning. A smart guy would hop in his truck and drive away. She was safe and sound, his conscience should be clear. He could be back in bed within twenty minutes. After rubbing one off.
His cock twitched behind his fly. Joanne had some talents. Even sloshed, her hand knew exactly where to go to drive him to the edge. He wrapped the hose around the spigot, and like an idiot, adjusted his cock, went back up the stairs, and into her apartment. He'd just wait until she fell asleep. Then he'd go.
Thank God he didn't work tomorrow.
He found her lying on her bed. A T-shirt covered her hips, but left her long legs bare, curled up against her chest as she lay on her side in a fetal position. She's asleep. With a grin, he took a step backward toward the door, but then he heard the whimper.
"What am I going to do?"
Against his better judgment, and every damn warning blaring through his brain, Eric crossed the room and sat beside her. "It won't look so bad tomorrow. I promise."
"He left me. He said I wasn't any fun. I can be fun, can't I?"
"Sure you can." She’d made him smile multiple times already, and he'd only just met her.
She blew her nose, and threw the Kleenex toward the trash can but missed. "Maybe I'm not pretty enough. Do you think I'm pretty?"
"Yes." He didn't even hesitate. She was pretty. Even with a red nose and tear-stained cheeks. "I think you're very pretty." He moved one strand of hair aside, and tucked it behind her ear.
"Maybe it's the sex. I thought he was happy. I tried to keep him ... well ... you know." She blushed.
Sobering up. Getting some inhibitions back. Eric pulled the blankets to her shoulders. "Maybe he's just an asshole who doesn't know what he had."
Her eyes snapped back up to his. "You think so?"
"Sure." Who was he to say? He didn't know the guy. Hell, he didn't know this girl. "You'll feel better after a few hours' sleep." He leaned over her, tucking her in like he'd promised. When he stood, she reached out and grabbed his hand.
"Will you stay?"
"I don't think—"
Damn it. He needed to jack off.
"Just until I fall asleep. Please, Joe ... just hold me. I don't want to feel so alone."
I promise strength--strength of heart to bear whatever burdens might be placed upon me. His indecision must have shown, because she lifted the blankets and scooted to the center of the bed.
"Five minutes," he pledged, kicking off his shoes.
"'Til I'm asleep," she corrected, tugging him against her, until she had her legs wrapped around his, and her face buried in his chest.
Fuck. His cock reacted in the expected manner.
"Thank you, Joe." She sighed, her breath warming the cotton of his shirt.
"Good night, Josie." He willed his hands to stay still on her back. Now go to sleep. He closed his eyes and replayed last week's drills at work. He worked out the Epinephrine dosage for a two-hundred-pound man in anaphylactic shock. Anything to keep his mind off the soft-as-hell body tangled with his. Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep.
And so he did.
Author: Olivia Brynn
Publisher: Liquid Silver Publishing
Eric Layton is used to being awakened by the phone. Firefighters are always on call.
When his phone rings in the middle of the night, he’s halfway to the door before he realizes that it isn’t his chief calling him in for an out-of-control fire. The woman on the other end, however, is a little out of control, and in fact a lot drunk. Before he can explain that he’s not her brother, her cell phone cuts out. His conscience won’t let him leave the woman waiting, but is he prepared for the chemistry that flares once the stranger climbs into his truck?