The theme for today is Cheers and Drinking Toasts. Wouldn’t you know it? I couldn’t find a single one of my characters saying “cheers!” or offering a toast. But don’t fear – I did find a scene in Fancy Free where Alice, the heroine is trying out a few drinks, ones she hasn’t tasted before. After all, what better way to cap off a lousy and frustrating day?

Fancy Free by Shelley Munro

“Go easy. You’ll choke if you’re not careful. Here. Have some beer. It will soothe your throat.”

Alice eagerly accepted the glass of beer and chugged it down. “Tastes good.”

“I’ll get another one,” he said, his tone wry when she lifted his glass to her mouth again. “How the hell can you be an almost virgin? You either are or you aren’t.”

Horrified, she turned to stare at him. Oh my goodness. She’d told him. She’d really told him.
James gestured at the barman and ordered another beer before turning back to her with a grin. “So what’s the answer?”

“I refuse to tell.” Why would she bare her soul to him? He was practically a stranger. A sexy stranger, who if rumor could be believed—as per this morning’s paper anyway—had a parade of beautiful, leggy women strutting through his bedroom. Alice glanced down at her cloth-covered knees with a rueful sigh. No way did she qualify in the leg department.

James Bates wasn’t the right man for someone who wanted security. She had to remember that and try to ignore his pretty face and sexy smile.

Steven…ah, Steven didn’t seem to want her, or at least he refused to speak to her on the phone when she’d rung him at midday. She frowned. They’d dated for over a year. They had so much in common. Alice had thought she’d known him well and couldn’t believe his sulks. She wanted, needed, a partnership, someone she could rely on one hundred percent, a man who held the same values she did. A secure future with no financial hiccups. And a man who stood at her side—no matter what.

Alice picked up one of her glasses and peered at the dregs. She placed it back on the bar and picked up a gin and tonic. Steven had fallen down on the last item. She glanced at the man beside her. Nope, that man didn’t look like Steven.
James brushed against her arm when he shifted on his barstool and every one of her senses went on high alert.

She smelled his citrus and spice aftershave and heard each one of his deep even breaths. A heavy sigh drifted past her lips while her gaze zapped back to study his sexy mouth and his sparkly blue eyes…

He was so pretty.

Oh boy. Eyes front. There was obviously something very wrong with her. Every inch of her skin tingled and her mind drifted to sex with alarming ease. She consoled herself with the fact that anything sexual rated as work-related. That sort of helped with her guilt except she kept fantasizing about sex with James. Close and very personal sex.

Somewhere, somehow during the day, she’d shoved Steven aside and replaced him with Mr. Dashing Dangerous. Her actions reminded her of a desperate woman. Heck, she was a desperate woman, a little voice in her head whispered.

Alice straightened abruptly and wobbled on her barstool. Her arm and the outward curve of her breast brushed against his arm before she grabbed the bar and righted herself. The friction between their bodies set off a series of pleasurable explosions inside. Despite one audible pant, she attempted calm and cool. Mmm. Okay, that had never happened when Steven touched her.

Alice gulped and slowly looked across at James. Warmth and heat radiated from his eyes, and she wanted to bask in the masculine attention. Then she noticed the laughter and twinkle in his blue eyes and indignation surfaced.

“You’re laughing at me.” Alice drained the last of her gin and tonic and set the glass on the bar with a distinct clunk.

“No, I’m not,” he said. “What you see is admiration. Not every woman would take work at a condom company in her stride.”

“Oh.” Alice peered closely but his eyes moved across his face. All three of them. She winced when her head suddenly whirled around and around. With a shocked gasp, she screwed her eyes closed before opening them again.

“Are you okay?”

“Did you know you have three eyes?” Alice blinked. “All blue like the sky. And two noses. What on earth do you do with two noses? What do you do when you have a cold? How do you know which one to blow first?”

James leaned close to place his arm around her shoulders. “I think your parents named you well,” he murmured, a chuckle underlying his words. “You’re very curious.”

“Will you come back to the bed and breakfast with me?”

“Sure, I’ll walk you home. Make sure you get there safely.”

Alice attempted to focus on his middle eye. “No, I mean I’m tired of wondering what all the fuss is about. I want to learn the mysteries of sex.”

James glanced at his beer before he looked back at her. He hesitated before his mouth firmed as though he’d made a decision. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Her lips puckered up into a pout, a seductive one, she hoped. Difficult to concentrate with that number of eyes. She had an argument ready to refute. She did. “But an owner of a condom company should know how to work the apparatus.” Yeah. Alice nodded abruptly and regretted it. It doubled the number of eyes. “There’s something wrong with your face. It keeps sprouting eyes. You’ve got six.”

His mouth twitched. “Do you drink very often?”

“Waz that got to do with eyes?”

“Absolutely nothing,” he agreed. “You ready to go home now?”

Alice checked her drinks. No whiskey left. No gin left. But the glasses. Ye gods. They had gone forth and multiplied. There were four of the blighters. She shuddered, the unpleasant taste of the whiskey still a recent memory. “Finished.”

“Let’s get you home then.” James jumped off his barstool and waited at her side. When Alice attempted to emulate his feat, she teetered, toppling sideways and ending up with her nose pressed into a muscular chest. Ooh! Very nice.

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