First chapter of Delilah & Dallas
“Dallas, are you gonna get your ass in gear and go get the donuts you promised me half an hour ago?” Stone leaned on the bar he’d just cleaned and gave me a shit-eating grin.
A smile so much like my own that we’d often been compared to twins, but I was the baby of the family and he was four years my senior. A fact he loved to rub my nose in because he looked as young as me. Which was a total lie; Stone was deluded. I held up my middle finger, flipping him the bird.
“Oh, that’s mature,” Levi said, shaking his head as he appeared through the door that led to the back office. Levi was the eldest and, some would say, the mature one out of all of us. Whatever. He was my brother, and he was the one who made sure the bar ran smoothly. Out of the five of us, he was the only one who was good with figures and had patience.
“Then you tell geek-freak over there to butt out of my business,” I growled as I turned to finish changing out the empty bottles of liquor with full ones.
“What? All I said was it's time you went to get the morning donuts.” Stone rubbed at his stomach. “Some of us are hungry.”
Fox signaled from the other side of the room, where he’d been taking the chairs off the tables now that the wooden floor was clean and dry.
I shook my head. “I’ll go, just give me a damn minute.”
Fox grinned while Stone held out his hand to Fox and money was exchanged. Levi laughed.
“I’m the fuckin’ youngest, yet I’m the only mature one amongst us.”
That got more laughter, but I didn’t wait to listen to any more ribbing. Grabbing a twenty out of the till, I headed for the door.
“You keep believin’ that, little brother,” Stone called out behind me. It didn’t warrant a reply, so I let the door slam behind me.
The bright sun blinded me for a second, and I had to stop to let my eyes adjust.
Binks, a regular who often was the first through the door when we opened, sat on the bench outside the bar, looking as if he were catching some rays. “You’re early today, the missus kick you out?” It was a well-known fact that Binks and his wife had fought for years. That she only tolerated his drunk-ass because he’d inherited a large sum of money and gave her everything her greedy-ass wanted. It was rumored Binks drank because of her skanky ways, but I wasn’t one to pry in others’ business.
I waited for a beat, and when Binks said nothing more, I gave a sympathetic nod and walked down the sidewalk to the shop next door to our bar. When the last owner had put up the store for sale, we’d sat down to discuss expanding the bar because we were the only local bar within a hundred-mile radius. By the time Levi had done all the calculations, the shop had been sold. We’d all bitched and moaned for days afterward at the lost opportunity to increase business.
One look at the new owner and I’d lost that opinion in a heartbeat. Delilah was a stunner, long jet-black curls that fell over breasts that any red-blooded male would want a glimpse of in a scanty lace contraption. Although, it was her rounded, full hips and lush ass that made me want to beg and crawl over hot coals. She was all woman, with curves enough to drive any sane man to drink.
A trickle of sweat slid down the side of my face that had fuck all to do with the heat from the sun and everything to do with where my head often went with thoughts of delicious Delilah. Fuck, I’d had more dreams about what it would be like to sink… I shut the thought down when my underwear started to feel far too snug. The last thing I needed was to appear like some perv, though I wasn’t sure if she didn’t already think that. Delilah had shown about as much interest in me as I would to a dead animal on the side of the road. She appeared to avoid me at all costs, or that’s how it came across. It’s why my brothers loved to tease me. They were only too aware of the big problem with my attraction. It was totally one-sided and often painful if I was in her company for more than a few minutes.
The first time I’d gone into BiteSizedCakes, as the shop was called, was when Stone had a craving for something sweet. At the time I’d been grouchy about being the one sent like a fucking errand boy. That hadn’t lasted. The second Delilah had appeared from the back of the shop carrying a tray of divine-smelling cookies, with the glimmer of a smile on those pink, soft lips, I was a goner. I wasn’t one who could recite poetry, but at the moment, I’d have fucking tried, just to get her to give me a full smile.
From then on, Delilah hadn’t shown me the slightest bit of interest, no matter how hard I tried. It was pitiful, and I was the first to admit it. But I was no quitter. So I squared my shoulders, and with a stomach full of butterflies, I shoved open the door with a little more force than was needed, tripped over the step, and banged the door off the wall.
At six-five, it wasn’t like I could fade into the background when it appeared that every eye in the packed shop turned in my direction. Most of the people were familiar to me, as were the smirks on a couple of guys’ faces and the following giggles from a group of teenagers who decided to bat their eyelashes at me.
Working to keep my embarrassment under control, especially with my rep as a badass who no one fucked with, I stood tall, towering over everyone in the shop. I flicked my hair over my shoulder and gave all those still stupid enough to gawk at me a hard stare.
All my brothers had a reputation as men no one fucked with. We didn’t tolerate any shit in our jointly owned bar. It had been that way since we’d bought out old man Hopkins when he deemed that he’d had enough of cleaning up blood off the floor from the fights that broke out on a nightly basis. It had changed, but no one could rid the world of idiots, especially when alcohol was added into the mix. Some people just got stupider. But at least the number of fights had reduced with our way of dealing with troublemakers: kick their asses hard enough to take them into the next week.
The door at the back of the shop opened and a familiar dark head appeared, giving my heart a little workout.
“Storm, I’m gonna be another five minutes with those buns in the oven.”
That got several choked laughs, which brought a flush of pink to coat Delilah’s face as she carried on as if she hadn’t noticed. “You okay for a few more minutes?” Delilah’s green-brown eyes, which changed with her mood, swept the busy counter, and landed on me. There was a flicker of what appeared to be annoyance, but it was gone too fast for me to be sure.
“I’m fine. I can cope with this rowdy bunch.” Storm flexed her arm and a tiny muscle appeared. “No one would mess with these beauties.” She made a show of kissing her arm, which got several more laughs, and Delilah rolled her eyes, even though she was smiling at her friend.
“You’re late today,” Storm said, drawing my gaze from the door Delilah had disappeared back through and had not reappeared at the designated five minutes. Not that I was counting. Okay, I was, but who could blame a guy?
I got the impression she wasn’t going to come out until I’d left. I swallowed the sigh and gave Storm a smile. “My brothers were nagging, so I delayed, just to piss them off.”
“You lot are worse than a bunch of teenage boys.” She shook her head and tendrils of hair fell about her face, framing it. As lovely as Delilah, she just hadn’t lit a spark in me. Now, I wasn’t so sure about my brother, Stone, but he’d remained tight-lipped. That was nothing new.
I shrugged and gave her my best killer smile. She fanned her face. “You need to be careful who you aim that at. One day I just might take you up on the offer that goes with it.”
Right at that moment, Delilah appeared behind Storm. Delilah’s lips thinned, but she said nothing as she took the full tray to the far side of the counter. Once it was down, she went to the customer behind me, never once looking at me.
Fuck me sideways, was I ever going to catch a break?
Storm sucked her lower lip in between her teeth as if she were struggling not to laugh. I thrust the twenty-dollar bill at her. “I’ll have one of your twenty-dollar treat boxes.”
Two minutes later, I was out of the shop with a box of treats and the urge to kick someone. Preferably the guy, whom I didn’t recognize, behind me in the shop. The same guy Delilah had given one of her precious smiles to.
The temptation to do just that drove me back to the bar because the last thing I needed was to show off my temper. That would end any hopes I ever had of getting Delilah to notice me.
What hope? You’re dead in the water.
I stomped back to the bar, shutting out the voice that sounded way too much like Levi.
Copyright © 2021 by Jayne Paton