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BRAND NEW ME
by Meg Benjamin

Genre: E-book, Contemporary Romance

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Note: Deirdre Brandenburg, my heroine, is a bit of a mouse when she first goes to work at the Faro. But after a makeover, she’s a honky tonk girl. Here’s Tom’s first glimpse of the new Deirdre.

Considering that it was a weeknight, business was surprisingly brisk that evening. Tom did a quick head count—two or three empty tables, and a couple of groups of six. He checked his watch. Deirdre was a few minutes late, which didn’t seem like her. But Tom figured she was entitled to the occasional messed-up day, as long as she didn’t make a habit of it. Besides, she’d stayed late with the lunch shift today.

Fortunately, Sylvia was on time for once. And making sure everybody knew it. “Where is that Deirdre, anyway? I can’t take care of all these tables by myself.”

“She’ll be here. Have Chico carry the drinks over for you.”

Sylvia pouted in his general direction before flouncing back to her tables, giving her hips an extra flip in his direction. Tom made a show of not noticing. He hadn’t taken Sylvia up on any of her earlier implied offers, and he wasn’t interested in starting now. He mixed a couple of whiskey sours and checked his watch again.

“I’m here,” Deirdre panted behind him. “I’m sorry. I got held up.”

Tom turned toward her and froze, staring.

Her jeans were like a second skin that fit better than most people’s first one did. Her bright red T-shirt looked to be maybe a half-size too small—it hugged the curves of her breasts lovingly. She’d pulled her long black hair up in a topknot, but a few strands lapped against her neck and the golden hoops at her ears. And her lips were pinker than usual, as if she’d been chewing on them.

She was, without doubt, the hottest woman he’d seen within the last month. Possibly year. Possibly decade.

Tom squinted at the black printing across her chest. “Liddy Brenner Festival 2007?” Somehow he managed to keep his voice from shaking.

“It was one of the ones in the back room at the shop. I hope you don’t mind.” Deirdre chewed her lip for a moment and Tom felt all the blood leave his brain, heading south.

“That’s okay,” he croaked. “Use them any way you want.”

“All right. Could I get some change?”

Tom went on staring at her, trying to get his brain back in gear again. “Change?”

“My ten dollars in singles?” Deirdre’s brow furrowed. “Are you feeling okay?”

He closed his eyes for a moment. “Never better. Ten dollars, coming up.” He turned hurriedly toward the cash register. Anything to get away from staring at the honky-tonk vision in front of the bar. She’d probably have to slug him in another minute or so.

When he turned back again, Deirdre gave him a dazzling smile that had his groin throbbing. “Thanks.”

She started to tuck the money into her jeans pocket, then paused, sliding her fingers in slowly so that she could work the dollar bills under the skin-tight fabric.

Amazing. He hadn’t thought it was still possible for him to get this hard this fast.

Deirdre gave him another bright smile then and headed for her first table.

Tom blew out a breath as he watched her. Something told him it was going to be a very interesting night.