by Riley Scott
If there was ever a good time and place for love to bloom between two reckless and broken hearts, it surely wouldn’t be in a bar. But for Lennon Willis and Alex Daniels, a passionate one-night stand just isn’t enough to quench their thirst for one another—however ill-timed.
A free-spirited artist determined to outrun the ghosts of her past in California, Alex flees to the sunny shores of Florida’s Gulf Coast seeking solace and healing. Instead, she finds hardheaded bar owner Lennon—and a connection she can’t seem to deny.
On a journey of self-discovery and healing, the two must determine their fate. Is chemistry enough to keep their inner demons at bay, or will their encounters only pour whiskey on the fires of self-destruction?
FROM THE AUTHOR
"On the Rocks is a story close to my heart. Having met my wife at what we refer to as the worst possible time for both of us, I learned firsthand that love rarely chooses the right time to shake up our lives in the best way. With that experience and the desire to show that sometimes the road to happily ever after is a bit rocky, the theme for On the Rocks was born. Once I had the concept, I did a bit of daydreaming and my characters took on lives of their own—Alex as an artist and Lennon as a bar owner.
Given that much of the story takes place in a craft cocktail bar (for which I created custom cocktails included in the book) and that it portrays the messy side of love, the title should have come much easier than it did. But as I poured a whiskey “on the rocks” one night, it just clicked. From start to finish, On the Rocks is probably my favorite book I’ve ever written, and I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you all."
Hip-hop music thumped from the loudspeakers near her head, and Lennon closed her eyes. The music coursed through her as she danced unashamedly. Throwing her head back and forth with the rhythm of her circling hips, she loosened her shoulders and smiled, content with the daze swirling through her brain.
“Cheers!” She heard her best friend Grant’s voice boom through the crowd, as he approached and shoved another lemon drop shot in her direction.
Shaking her head, she grabbed the shot and raised an eyebrow. “You know I hate these fruity drinks.” She scowled but softened it to a smile and mouthed “Thank you,” so as not to appear ungrateful.
“I know,” he said, rolling his eyes. “But if you’d for once stop worrying about acting tough and just drink it, you’d find out it’s actually delightful.”
It was a conversation they’d had a hundred times, and given their propensity to go out on Tuesdays, when Lucky’s—the local gay bar—ran a special on lemon drops and Vegas bombs, it was one they’d likely have a hundred more. As she gulped down the shot and returned the plastic cup to him, the beginning notes of a Cher number came over the speaker.
Behind her, Grant and a dozen or so other gay men yelled and headed for the dance floor. Laughing, she beckoned him over to dance with her. As she turned to welcome him into an embrace, she caught sight of a brunette sitting in the corner. Pulling Grant closer, moving her hips along with his, she looked over his shoulder, analyzing her—someone who seemed as out of place there as a flower in a snowstorm.
Amidst the crowd of sweaty dancers, leather- or flannel-clad lesbians ranging in age from thirty to fifty, fit men in V-necks and tight jeans, and an array of partiers of all genders dressed casually as Lennon was in her jeans, Chucks, and a Halestorm concert tee, sat the tall, slender woman dressed in many colors. Her multicolor paint-splattered, light-wash jeans contrasted yet somehow worked seamlessly with a newspaper-printed shirt and a vibrant, yellow scarf. Lennon moved Grant out of the way, and as he bobbed his head sideways, he followed her glance.
His eyes danced, and he laughed. Grabbing her face in his hands, he directed her gaze into his eyes. “Don’t,” he said gently, leaning in to kiss her forehead.
He was right, she knew. But, nonetheless, she pushed his hands away gently. “I’m going to grab a drink,” she practically yelled over the loud music.
“No, you’re not,” he said, shaking his head, “but I’ll see you at home.”
She could see him mouthing the lyrics to Peaches’ “Fuck the Pain Away” but ignored him. It had been his latest go-to in his attempt to create a soundtrack to her life, despite the times she’d insisted she wasn’t in pain. She’d put that all behind her already. True to her word, she stopped by the bar first.
“Angel’s Envy, double, neat, with a splash of water,” she ordered when the bartender nodded in her direction. As he poured her drink, she glanced back to the seat where the woman sat. Finding the spot empty, she let out a sigh and reminded herself it was likely for the best—for both of them. Grabbing her whiskey from the bar, she made her way to the lounge chair in the corner and pulled out her phone. She heard a familiar ding and opened up Tinder.
“Shit,” she muttered, seeing a message from last night’s hookup asking for another date. A pang of guilt pierced her heart, but her fingers didn’t hesitate in pushing the Block button on the screen. Leaning back into the chair, she smiled, replaying the previous night’s encounter. It had been fun, wild even, but that didn’t mean it warranted a second night.
Work’s too busy right now, she thought, rehearsing the line she knew she’d give them if they happened to pop into her bar. It was busy, of course, but that wasn’t the reason. Even through a fog of alcohol, she couldn’t lie to herself.
As if on cue, her phone lit up with an incoming call—from her most recent ex. Seeing her name pop up on the screen sent a jolt through her. Too little, too late, Leigh. Too late. Shuddering, she hit Ignore.
She closed her eyes to ward off tears. She could call her back, get some answers to the questions she had, and find closure. Or she could do what she knew would feel better in the moment. Letting adrenaline fuel the willpower she’d been missing for too long, she swiped through her contacts to find her name, finally blocked the number, and then shoved her phone angrily into her pocket.
“Hard pass on that one, I see.”
Lennon jumped and stood upright. Looking up, she gazed into the deep honey brown eyes of the woman she’d seen across the bar. Lennon forced a laugh, trying to catch her breath. “Uh…” she started. “I…just an old friend,” she said. “Well, former friend.” She cleared her throat. “I’m Lennon, and you’ve got to be new to the area.”
The woman leaned back, a mixture of surprise and arrogance dancing in her expression as the corners of her brightly painted red lips lifted into a slow, broad smile. “That I am,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “I take it you’re the welcoming committee. Do you serve the whole town or just the gay bar?”
Lennon raised an eyebrow. “What’s your name?” she asked, ignoring the question. She grabbed her whiskey and downed the entire glass.
“Alex,” she said, looking Lennon up and down brazenly.
“Well, Alex…” Her reply was cut off by Alex’s lips descending on her own. They were soft but she was anything but gentle as she pressed against Lennon’s mouth, dragging her teeth across Lennon’s lips. She felt the sigh escape her before she could stop it.
“Damn,” she said, pulling away. She leaned back, eyeing Alex sideways. Used to being in charge, she had been shaken by that display of confidence.
“Do I get the tour or not?” Alex asked, her eyes smoldering with passion from the kiss Lennon had cut short.
A little thirsty, Lennon noted, but with her arousal growing under each passing second of Alex’s gaze so was she.
“I suppose I’ve got the time,” Lennon said, winking as she signaled for Alex to follow her up to the bar. “What are you drinking?” she asked, looking back over her shoulder, taking in the long, dark hair cascading down around Alex’s full breasts, her high cheekbones, and her perfectly crafted smoky eye and winged eyeliner.
The bartender in Lennon couldn’t help but analyze Alex’s simple answer. Good in bed. Artsy. Decent taste in music. Maybe just a touch crazy. The wine order, paired with their brief but telling physical interaction, told Lennon she was in for a fun night.
Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Alex while she ordered their drinks. Alex bit her lip, and Lennon shivered. She couldn’t wait to feel those full lips against every inch of her body. She was fairly certain she’d found someone with the force to make her relinquish control in the bedroom for once. The possibility both excited and scared her, as her mind momentarily raced back to summer days, too much beer by the pool, and the thrill of giving in.
She straightened her shoulders and smiled at Alex.
“Just Alex, or is it short for something?” Small talk was a risky game. If you talked too much, sometimes they got attached. Worse yet, sometimes she got attached. But she couldn’t help herself. Alex seemed just as ready as Lennon was for a drink, a quick fuck, and the parting of ways.
“Why do you care?” Alex asked, playfully running her fingers up and down Lennon’s arm and cementing Lennon’s assessment.
“Fair enough,” Lennon answered, handing the wineglass over to Alex before she paid the tab.
“I don’t usually accept drinks from strange women,” Alex said.
“Suit yourself,” Lennon said. “It can be risky, for certain, but I can assure you this one’s safe.”
Alex pressed the glass to her lips and smiled before taking a sip. “Alexandra.” Her eyes shimmered with glints of mischief. “Alexandra Daniels.” She ran her finger across her bottom lip.
“Well, Alexandra, where did you come from before you decided to pop into Lucky’s tonight?”
“California.” She sipped her wine and looked away.
“You’re a long way from home,” Lennon noted. “Vacation, business, or relocation?”
“We’ll see.” Alex shrugged. “Could be all three.”
It was a game. Lennon knew as much, but her body tightened each time Alex sipped her wine, each time she looked into Lennon’s soul with those brilliant eyes. She’d play the game, because she wanted…no, needed Alex’s touch.
She tried to focus on her drink. When she’d left the house this evening, this hadn’t been her intention. She glanced at Alex and ran her finger along the rim of her glass. Intentions be damned, because she wasn’t about to miss out on this adventure.
“Nice,” Lennon said after a moment. She nodded and sipped her whiskey.
“Lennon as in John Lennon?” Alex asked.
“The one and only.”
“You look a little more rock star than hippie,” Alex noted.
“Oh, a Beatles fan by birth. Lazy rock star vibes by choice,” she said, pointing at her clothing.
Alex laughed and set her now empty wineglass on the table. She pulled Lennon close. “Take me home,” she whispered in Lennon’s ear, her voice thick like honey, before biting her earlobe.
Her body tensed, and she could feel the wetness forming between her legs. She pulled back and downed her drink before leaning into the embrace. “I think I will,” she said, running her lips over Alex’s neck. She saw Grant watching and laughing in the background over Alex’s shoulder. “Told you so,” he mouthed.
She smiled at her friend and spun out of Alex’s arms. “Let’s get going,” she said, putting her hand on the small of Alex’s back and leading her out of the bar.
After a quick stop for a slice of pizza on the walk home, Lennon unlocked the front door to the two-bedroom coastal Craftsman she called home. She allowed Alex to enter first, then shut the door and pressed her against it. This was no time for small talk, both of them seemed to have silently agreed. Alex’s body melted in her hands, and she let out small moans of pleasure as Lennon kissed up her neck and back to those luscious lips.
In the background, she heard a man clear his throat. Sighing, she pulled back.
“I thought you were still out,” she hissed through clenched teeth, looking to the living room, where Grant was staring at her. She questioned for the millionth time why they still were living together this long after college even though they could both afford to live alone, then reminded herself that this was their dysfunctional version of a family and that it kept some of the loneliness at bay.
“Everyone left,” he said, turning away from her and turning on the television.
“Sorry,” Lennon mouthed to Alex. She shot a glare in Grant’s direction before grabbing Alex’s hand and making her way to her bedroom.
To her surprise, Alex wasn’t upset but instead was laughing. “I feel like I’m in high school all over again, sneaking around just to get laid.”
“Oh, you think you’re going to get laid?” Lennon teased as she shut the door behind them and turned on her music to keep noise from spilling over into the living room.
“I think it’s a pretty safe bet,” she said, turning off the light, taking control, and pushing Lennon back onto the bed. Straddling her, Alex began grinding against her.
“So much for not drinking with strange girls,” Lennon laughed as Alex quickened the pace.
“I think I’m getting more than just a drink out of the deal,” Alex said, kissing her again. Placing her hands on Alex’s hips, Lennon hungrily pulled her in harder. In a tumble of passion, they worked quickly, ripping each other’s clothes from their bodies and tossing them to a heap on the floor.
Alex kissed her way down Lennon’s curvy body, taking a hardened nipple into her mouth and sucking gently before kneeling between her legs. She teased with her tongue, and Lennon bucked her hips in pleasure. Savoring the decadence of Alex’s tongue, she threw her head back and laughed in surprise. Of all the women she’d shared a bed with, few had so expertly and so swiftly found the perfect spot and rhythm. She felt her body tense. Not yet.
“My turn,” Lennon said, using her hips to roll Alex over to the other side of the bed.
She smiled as she reached down, feeling for the first time the wetness between Alex’s legs. She gasped as she plunged inside, causing Alex to arch her hips and cry out with a mix of shock and delight.
“God, I’ve needed this,” Alex cried out through her moans.
“Me too,” Lennon answered, pressing her lips to Alex’s and speeding up her pace.
Thrusting with her hips to keep the rhythm, Lennon moaned at the sight of Alex’s enjoyment. Alex tightened around her fingers, wrapping her long legs around Lennon’s body and scratching her nails into Lennon’s back before going limp.
Deterred for only a minute, she turned in the bed, now face-to-face with Lennon, and smiled. “I’m not done with you yet,” she said in a sultry tone, returning to her place between Lennon’s legs. She smiled as she slid her fingers inside, thrusting and somehow answering each of Lennon’s unspoken pleas. The same wavelength, matched energy, whatever the hell you wanted to call it—it was pure ecstasy as she continued to pump in and out, moving lower and using her tongue in tandem.
“Oh God,” Lennon cried, balling the sheets in her hands as she felt herself lose control slowly, then all at once. She tried to hold off but couldn’t resist. Her orgasm hit, bringing wave after wave of pleasure.
Smiling, Alex sauntered forward, bringing their lips together again in a sweet and tender kiss. “Rest up, because I’m still not done with you,” she whispered.
Lennon sucked in a breath, and Alex pulled Lennon’s body close to hers, wrapping her arms around her. Lennon stiffened. Cuddling wasn’t in the cards normally, but she needed a minute to gather her thoughts. With her back pressed up against Alex’s body, she exhaled quietly.
No one had ever brought her to orgasm on the first try. Her head swam with questions and confusion swirled around like a Tilt-A-Whirl. She tried to keep her breathing rhythmic so as not to disturb Alex, who was gently wiggling back and forth in the embrace, a clear sign that she had been correct about not being done just yet.
Throwing caution and confusion to the wind, Lennon closed her eyes. She didn’t need to sort this out. This wasn’t anything more than a one-night stand with multiple innings. Reaching back, she gently caressed Alex’s perfectly round backside and then gave it a gentle pat.
“Mmm,” Alex moaned, throwing her head back to make eye contact. “Are you ready?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Lennon said, flipping her over and diving in, consequences no longer seeming relevant.