Make Me Beg

By: Rebecca Brooks

For my favorite mixologist, Robert





Chapter One


Flipping through profile pictures was like hunting through the sales rack at a bargain-basement blowout. Plenty of options, and all of them bad.

There was the guy who’d once told Mack it wasn’t “appropriate” for a woman to work at a bar. Then someone who called himself Killer Pete and dressed as a zombie in every. Single. Picture. And oh look, her dentist. Wasn’t he married?

She hovered over a close-up of a hot bearded guy, then saw he lived in Vancouver and was in town visiting friends. Swipe. She never should have signed up for this thing. Five seconds into looking at profiles and already it was clear there were no datable men in this town.

She thumbed through, the faces blurring together, until suddenly one caught her eye. Brown hair messy over bright blue eyes, three days of stubble, a perpetually teasing half smile.

She stopped and looked closer. It couldn’t be. Connor?

She’d never go out with him. He was arrogant, a total player, and even though they’d worked side by side at the Dipper in Gold Mountain for years—him in the kitchen, her behind the bar—he still talked like he was going to pack up any second and leave town for something better. In other words, so not her type.

But it was just a profile. What was wrong with taking a peek?

The first picture was of Connor in his chef’s jacket, head tilted back, laughing at something somebody—probably Mack herself—was saying. Another one showed him in a T-shirt damp with sweat, messy hair sticking out from under his hat as he carried a snowboard slung over his shoulder, the muscles of his biceps hard and cut in the sun.

She swallowed.

Damn.

The next picture was of him on a hiking trail in a field of wildflowers, squinting up at a snow-covered peak. His face was turned, and as much as she tried to resist it, the angle forced Mack to consider certain things. Like necks. And clavicles. All the possible places to—

“What are you looking at?”

Mack jumped, toppling over the barstool as she clutched her phone to her chest.

When she looked up, she found herself face-to-face with blue eyes. Three days of stubble. And a teasing smile identical to the one she’d just been looking at on her phone.

“Nothing,” she said quickly, attempting to slide the phone into her pocket but fumbling and dropping it instead. Connor picked it up with a flourish as he righted the stool.

“Checking up on me?” His bright eyes danced, and he winked.

Fuck. He’d totally seen.

She tried to think fast. “I was seeing if you were coming. The app says how far away a user is.”

It would have been a more convincing answer if her voice didn’t sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks on speed. She could only guess how red her cheeks were.

She tried to grab for her phone, but he pulled it away. “Since when did you join the meat market?” he teased.

“Abbi did it this weekend,” she admitted, ready to throttle her best friend for getting her to agree to it in the first place. Live a little, Abbi had said. Try something new. She’d relented, and now look where it had gotten her.

“And?” Connor asked. “Snagged any catches yet?”

She knew it was coming, and then—yup. He actually mimed throwing out a fishing line.

“Something tells me the women who message you on that app aren’t too concerned about personality,” she said skeptically as he pretended to reel in the fish.

“Personality? Mack, you’re overthinking this. All you have to do is send some messages letting the hot single guys in Gold Mountain know you’re on the prowl. They’ll be all over you.” He made a noise that was maybe supposed to be sexy but sounded more like a cat left out in the rain.

“Thanks,” she said, making a face. “But I’ll pass.”

He reached out like he was going to return her phone and then yanked it back as soon as she went for it. She was so short, all he had to do was lift it up to keep it out of reach. She practically fell on him trying to grab it.

“Come on, Ellinsworth,” he said as she smacked his arm. “Let the pros help you out. What are you looking for, anyway?”

“Like I’d tell you.”

“You will if you ever want your phone back.” He smirked.

She threw up her hands. “I don’t know, okay? Somebody smart, for starters. Funny. Interesting. Hardworking, but not at the expense of everything else. Dead sexy wouldn’t hurt, as long as I’m allowed to be choosy.”

His hand flew to his chest. “Wow, Mack. I’m flattered. I had no idea you felt that way about me.”

“Oh, and not a man-whore,” she added, giving him an obvious once-over. “Did I mention that?”