One Time Only by Lauren Blakely



Jackson is that kind of guy.

When his pics show up, comments flood the page.

Peeps weigh in saying if he were protecting them, they’d arrange for trouble so he’d have to wrap his arms around them.

Understandably.

He’s got short dark-blond hair, close-cropped. Piercing hazel eyes that see into your soul. Thick, strong, muscular legs. A flat-as-a-board stomach. The man was a Marine and tops six foot four, maybe five. There’s no one else you’d want protecting you.

And the uniform? It’s pure porn. Blue slacks. A tight button-down that stretches across his chest, the sleeves rolled up and showing off the veins in his forearms. He’s everything you could want in a protector.

He’s a triple-take dude.

No, wait. That’s wrong. He’s a perma-take. You can’t stop looking at him.

And yet . . .

I won’t get caught up in what I can’t have. I might like everything, but I respect the hell out of boundaries.

I like women who like men and I like men who like men, but I do not ever try to turn a guy who’s straight. What would be the point? The way I see it, there’s a whole wide world out there teeming with men and women who like to play, who like to have fun, same as I do.

Fun should never come with shame. Or regret. Or doubt.

When I’m with Jackson, I focus on having a good time with my employee. Though “employee” feels like such a weird term for the person who’s by my side all day long.

The person I do almost everything with.

When the waiter brings the next round, Jackson thanks him then lasers in on me. “So, what’s on your mind tonight, boss? You going to give me a hard time about whether the Beatles are better than the Stones, if mustard is harder to live without than ketchup, or whether California is a cooler state than New York?”

Out of habit, I answer, “Stones, mustard, Cali.”

But then I tilt my head, latching onto something in his voice.

A note.

A sound.

Almost like he doesn’t want to leave this scene either.

Almost like he wants to stay, for reasons I can’t quite figure out.

But I want to. Oh hell, do I want to.





2





Jackson





Just to be clear, this is all I’ll allow.

Surface talk.

Nothing deeper.

Nothing more.

These random debates we engage in keep my mind off the white-hot lust that’s camped out in my chest.

Shooting the breeze in a bar won’t get under my skin.

Well, no more than anything with him does.

No more than any talk.

Any moment.

Any night with my client, the sexy-as-sin rock star who I hate being attracted to.

The guy with the long, lean body.

With the ink painted all over his toned arms, his trim chest, his tight abs.

Yes, I’ve seen him with his shirt off.

The whole world has.

It’s his thing. He rips off his T-shirt at the end of the occasional show and tosses it into the audience.

I’ve seen those damn shirts go up for sale on eBay for a few thousand, sometimes more. I’ve told him he should donate them to charity. He says they’re for the fans, and he wants the fans to be happy.

It’s yet another topic we don’t see eye to eye on.

We disagree on nearly everything.

That helps my keep-my-hands-off-him cause.

So, when he tosses the Beatles versus Stones, mustard versus ketchup, and California versus New York questions back at me, I deliberately pick the opposites.

“Beatles, ketchup, New York,” I say, and I take a drink of the seltzer.

He huffs, as if mortally wounded by my different tastes. “The next thing I know you’re going to tell me you prefer Santana’s cover of ‘Black Magic Woman’ to the Fleetwood Mac classic,” Stone says.

I give him my most serious stare. “Everyone does. That’s up there on the list of cover songs that are better than the original. Like the Fugees ‘Killing Me Softly’ is better than Roberta Flack’s, Jeff Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah’ beats Cohen’s, and Hendrix’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’ absolutely surpasses Dylan’s.”

He curses. “Dammit.”

I grin. “I’m right. And you know it.”

His eyes narrow—those intense green eyes that are so gorgeous, that I hate that I love looking at. “You’re right,” he grumbles. “The Fugees killed it with that tune. Buckley rendered all other cover songs impotent. And yes, Hendrix’s version is better, but Santana’s? Don’t make me play you both.”