Home > Reckless (The Hartleys)

Reckless (The Hartleys)
Author: Valeria Heights

Chapter One




My plans for the evening: visit a bar I had never heard of in search of a man I hadn’t seen in years.

The only problem was I couldn’t recognize a single building around me and my phone was currently pressed to my ear, so I couldn’t check the map I used to guide me to my final destination. Apparently, living in Boston for the past five years wasn’t helping me in that particular part of the city. I remembered I had to turn left at some point, but I had no clue where exactly.

“It should take about four to five hours,” my boyfriend Nick said over the phone. Killing the call so I could check the map again was an option, but it seemed rude to do it when details about a heart surgery spilled out of his mouth. He was about to save a life after all. I had decided to make that left turn and see if it got me where I needed to go, when Nick added, “I will be at your place around two.”

“Great,” I tried to fake enthusiasm. Not that I didn’t want to spend time with him. I did. But he meant two in the morning. Lately, we had been seen each other mostly in the middle of the night. I got that his residency pretty much dictated his entire life, but I had a nine to five job and these middle-of-the-night visits had started to become less and less charming and more and more exhausting.

“Do you have plans for tonight?” he asked. “It’s Saturday. You should go out. Have some fun.”

“I am out. I’m doing my friend Clementine a favor.”

That was both a truth and a lie at the same time. I used the word favor because I honestly thought it would help her, but Clem hadn’t asked me for it. In fact, if she knew where I was headed, she would probably call me all kinds of words for crazy and stupid. And rightfully so.

“The one with the dog?” Nick asked. It wasn’t a surprise he couldn’t tell the difference between my friends, my colleagues, and my family. He had never met any of them and we had been together for almost six months now.

“No,” I said, doing my best to hide the disappointment. “That’s my colleague.”

I put him on speaker. I figured that if he couldn’t make the effort to remember the name of my best friend, I was entitled to divide my attention between him and the task I had devoted myself to for the evening.

The app on my phone showed I was going in the right direction, but that couldn’t be true. The buildings around me seemed too old and industrial, but it said I was only two minutes away from my destination.

“Oh, yeah. The colleague. You walked her dog while she was away for a long weekend. I remembered. Who was Clementine again?” I opened my mouth to explain yet again, but he cut me off. “Sorry, babe. I have to go. You will tell me later.”

“Okay. Bye,” I barely managed to say before he hung up.

Maybe I should have mentioned I was looking for someone. A man. But Nick focused on who Clementine was, rather than what I was doing tonight. He also knew nothing about Tyler Hartley. And I knew I couldn’t explain Tyler Hartley in one sentence over a quick phone call.

My first crush. My childhood obsession that bled into my first years of adulthood. The love that brought me to Boston in the first place.

It was too much to unpack in a two-minute conversation.

I didn’t plan on searching for him. That thought never even crossed my mind. Until earlier that day when I saw his photo on social media. A girl had posted it in the middle of the night in a private group I was a member of, with the following text: The cutest bartender in Boston.

I starred at that photo for longer than I should have. Cute didn’t even begin to do him justice. He was gorgeous. His blond hair looked messy, yet somehow perfect. Probably because Tyler Hartley was a total mess himself and it just suited him. His green eyes looked straight into the camera. He was pouring a beer with a carefree smile that I wanted to erase from his flawless face.

Clementine called him for two weeks straight, trying to talk to him. He never returned any of her calls. Didn’t even bother to send her a message. She worried her older brother might be in trouble, and that son of a bitch ignored her because he was busy charming the girls he was serving drinks to at some shady bar.

I finally stopped in front of the questionable establishment Tyler worked in, wondering if I should be feeling bad for acting like a stalker. That was the first time I would be cornering him like that, and I had been in love with the guy for almost a decade, so I decided I shouldn’t make a big deal about it.

Besides, ever since Clem got engaged two years ago, I started preparing myself for the inevitable rendezvous. He was a shitty brother, but he wouldn’t miss her wedding. And yet the nuptials were kept on hold for so long, I forgot about our impending get-together.

I opened the door of that bar without any hesitation, and just waltzed in.

My first impression? The place looked old and neglected.

My second impression? The waitresses were naked.

What a douchebag must the manager be to make them dress like that? They were wearing a top that resembled a bra and shorts that showed half their asses.

The place was a typical man cave. I bet married men going through their midlife crisis loved it. It smelled of wood, leather, alcohol and sweat. Naked women serving them drinks in dimmed lights.

The misogynist’s paradise.

I walked past people, stepping over peanuts and who knows what else on my way over to the bar counter. And there he was, pouring drinks to a group of women. One of them wore a wedding veil. A banner hung over their heads. Last fling before the ring. Why would any woman have a bachelorette party here of all places?

The women burst out laughing, heads flying back, at something Tyler said, and it hit me. They were here for the cutest bartender in Boston. Charming.

These girls were going to stay there for a while by the looks of it, so I took a deep breath and marched over there. I wouldn’t choose to start the conversation in front of an audience, giving our history, but I had no choice apparently.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I imagined Tyler lifting his gaze and meeting mine before I reached the counter, but that didn’t happen. He didn’t even glance in my direction. He was focused on his customers.

I sat right next to the bachelorette and her friends. They were having a good time and I couldn’t help but smile. I would have to throw a bachelorette party for Clem at some point.

Minutes passed and Tyler seemed unaware of the fact a new customer was sitting there, waiting for a drink. So I cleared my throat and tried to raise my voice enough for him to hear me without sounding like I was desperate go get his attention.

“Excuse me?” I waited for him to turn and finally notice me. He didn’t. “Excuse me? Hello?” I waved my hand in his direction determined to catch his gaze.

The girls were too loud. He was flirting with the one wearing a Maid of Honor crown on her head, leaning closer to her, whispering something in her ear, while she batted her eyelashes.

I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself by calling him a third time, so I just lifted my butt from the wooden stool I was sitting on, leaned over the counter putting my entire upper body in front of the girls.

The laughing and shouting stopped. So did my heart the moment his eyes met mine. The good thing was my brain was still working properly so I managed to say something instead of just starring at him.

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