Especially with him.
He took his bow and mouthed the words to her across the bar: You are so gonna pay.
“I’m not tired,” Taylor declared.
They stood in the hotel parking lot after they’d dropped the bridal party off at their suite. The stripper had done his thing, and Taylor had walked him out, officially done with the evening. She’d chatted with the young man, who was putting himself through college by dancing for women, and she’d tipped him extra while Pierce rolled his eyes. Bella was known to own the mushiest heart of the group, but Taylor had a soft spot for people sacrificing to follow their dreams.
Plus, he’d done an excellent job.
“Me, either,” Pierce said. “Do you have a wedding tomorrow?”
“Neither do I. Let’s go to karaoke for a few drinks. I need to bleach out certain parts of the evening.”
She patted his very fine ass. “I think most of the women in the bar don’t want to forget.”
“Real funny. Did you tell Cassie to come over to me?”
She gasped. “Of course not!”
He stared into her eyes and cursed. “Hell, you did! That’s low. You’re buying the drinks.”
He locked his equipment in his car, and they headed to the Boiler Room. The dimly lit tavern was in Congress Hall and housed in a cellar. The combination of rich wood, concrete floors, and casual vibe was perfect for hanging out and kicking back. Neon signs blinked BAR and LOUNGE, and they were able to grab two seats right at the bar. The band had retired after their set, and karaoke was now in full session.
They ordered two beers, but the munchies had set in hard, and Taylor craved something with cheese badly. She directed her question to Winona, the bartender. “Any way to get a pizza?”
Winona shook her head. “Sorry, kitchen’s closed, hon.”
Pierce leaned over the bar. “I know we’re being pains in the ass, but I’ve just finished the bachelorette party from hell. Can you beg Ed to do me a solid?”
Taylor watched as the woman practically melted. “Aww, those type of nights suck, don’t they? Hell, I got you covered. Ed owes me one. Want anything else?”
“Just the pizza will do. You’re the best, Win.”
The bartender’s smile showed her clear devotion, and she left her spot to go back in the kitchen.
Taylor shook her head.
“What?” Pierce asked.
“You are something else, dude. I swear, I don’t know how Gabe keeps getting picked for Beach Bachelor. There’s no one in this town who wouldn’t do anything you asked.”
He shrugged and took a sip of beer. “Been here my whole life, just like you. Part of the perks.”
She studied his profile in the dim light. “Yeah, but it’s more than that. No matter where you go, you fit in.”
His gaze narrowed, suddenly intense. “So do you.”
She opened her mouth to protest, then shut it. It was too deep to get into at this hour, especially while listening to karaoke. So she nodded in agreement and turned toward the makeshift stage.
They listened to bad renditions of popular songs and drank their beer. The spike of adrenaline eased, and she slowly began to relax. Winona came back with a pizza to share, and they hungrily feasted until it was gone except for the remnants of crust Taylor always left behind.
He shook his head and ate her leftovers. “Why do you leave the crust? It’s the best part. I know you’re not afraid of carbs.”
“I don’t like it. And you’re wrong: the cheese is the best part. Why do you like brussels sprouts?” She made a gagging noise.
“If you roast them with olive oil and seasonings till they’re almost burnt, they’re delicious.”
Her brow shot up. “Dude, you’ve made them in your kitchen?”
He concentrated on his crust. “No, I had them at Iron Pier, but if I wanted to cook them, I could.”
She laughed. “You always rag on me for not knowing how to cook, but you’re just as bad. You’d die without Uber Eats.”
“Good thing we’ll never get married. We’d either starve or go broke.”
She knew his response was meant to be a jab, but her brain caught on the word married and gnawed on it. “You want to get married?” she asked, suddenly curious.
“Of course.” He pushed his empty plate toward Winona and nodded in thanks.
She knew that. He’d always been as vocal about settling down with a bunch of kids as she’d been about running in the opposite direction. Hell, even now, Winona was staring at him with flirty eyes, just waiting to pounce on a date invite. “I guess I’m surprised you haven’t met anyone yet.”
He gave her a look. “Taylz, I’m not even thirty. I’ve got time. It’s women who begin to panic.”
“You never really told me what happened with Jill,” she said. “After you broke up, you were pretty closemouthed about the whole thing, and then Jill started avoiding me like I had cooties.”
“She was jealous of you. It was becoming problematic.”
Her jaw dropped. “Are you kidding? Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
Pierce shrugged as he lifted his hand and got them another round. “It didn’t matter. Why upset you? She was too jealous for me. I want someone who knows me. A woman not afraid to give me her full trust.”
A strange satisfaction settled over her, followed by a sting of guilt. She felt terrible she’d messed up a prospective relationship for Pierce, didn’t she? Then again, if Jill wasn’t the right woman, then things had worked out for the best. It would kill her to watch him settle down with a woman who couldn’t appreciate him. “Well, I agree, you deserve that. Can you imagine the dirt I can give to your future wife?”
He snorted. “I can do worse. I know you a hell of a lot better than you know me.”
“Excuse me? Not even close. Try again.”
He tilted his head. “Yeah? Wanna bet?”
Temper stirred at his cockiness. “Hell yes.”
A strange look of satisfaction flickered over his face. She refused to think of it as a warning, positive she’d show him up in no time.
Pierce slowly smiled. “Good. Let’s play.”