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Chance Encounters

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This wasn't Lincoln's usual neighborhood, but it was safer than where he usually hung out and the bar wasn't so upscale that they'd turn him away. He and Derek had gone to a Cubs' game—another loss, though the Cubs had gotten two runs and a homer—and had felt like getting a couple of beers afterward. The Trophy Room had seemed like a good bet.

There was a TV behind the bar, running through score reports and highlights from other games around the country. Lincoln ordered a pitcher and pulled the peanuts over to where he and Derek could reach them.

The bar was about half full, probably hosting other post-game visitors and a few locals. Not so full that Lincoln couldn't see the redhead down at the end of the bar, though. Her gaze passed over him and then she smiled and looked down, hiding her interest by examining her drink.

Oh, yeah.

Long wavy hair and smooth creamy skin, and she was definitely pretty. Lincoln hadn't come here with the idea of picking anyone up, but on the other hand, why turn down a good opportunity?

He turned to tell Derek, but his friend had already seen. "Go for it," Derek said, "I think she likes you."

Lincoln picked up his mug of beer and moved down to where the woman sat. "Mind if I join you?"

"Not at all," she answered.

He slid onto the stool next to hers, and smiled. "I'm Lincoln," he said.

"Sara." Her eyes were such a beautiful, bronze-tinted brown, and her smile was even prettier.

"Did you come here from the game?" he asked.

"No—I work nearby, and I saw this place a couple of weeks ago. I've been meaning to come in, and this afternoon I thought, 'Why not?' So here I am."

"Where do you work?"

She smiled again, probably trying to avoid his question. "Nowhere important. How about you?"

Lincoln's dock-work was nothing to brag about, and she'd laid the escape for him anyway. "Same story with me."

Her eyes seemed to get darker, and she leaned toward him slowly. "There's a hotel two blocks from here," she said huskily.

He could smell the light perfume of her hair. "Then why are we wasting our time sitting here?" he laughed.

Lincoln got up first, then reached a hand under her elbow to help her stand. She was steady on her feet, and part of him was pleased at that. He liked to think he wasn't the kind of guy to take advantage of a woman when she was drunk.

They passed by where Derek was sitting, but Derek just waved them on. He'd been in Lincoln's place before, and he had to know what was going on.

Lincoln and Sara headed down the street, her hand hooked through his arm. Once they'd crossed at the first light, he slowed for a minute and leaned down to kiss her, giving them both a chance to see if the chemistry matched their expectations. She melted under his kiss, her lips tasting of rum and cherries. He liked the way her hands felt on his chest, pressing softly at first and then more firmly as she leaned into him for support.

God—he wasn't going to make it to the hotel at this rate, and neither was she. He pulled back slowly, adding a few kisses afterward to let her know he wasn't changing his mind about anything. Her eyes were so large, so trusting, that he found himself brushing her cheek with his hand like he needed to reassure her.

They started walking again, turning the corner up ahead. Down the street Lincoln could see the hotel—The Belden-Stratford—and was surprised that it seemed so familiar. After a moment, he remembered that he'd been there before.

Two years ago, Michael had asked him to come to an awards banquet to honor the top new engineers in the city. Lincoln had been surprised that Michael wanted him there (hell, he'd only been out of prison two months at that point), but he'd been happy to be asked. He'd even rented a suit for the occasion, tried to look presentable. It must have worked. When he'd met Michael in the lobby Michael had looked thrilled to see him, and he'd even introduced Lincoln to some of the people at his firm. Lincoln could still remember how proud Michael had been when his turn on the stage came, and it had made everything—the rented suit, the crosstown trip, the effort to stay sober for the evening—completely worthwhile.

Michael wasn't the type to do what Lincoln was doing right now, but so what? They were different, and Lincoln wasn't shy or careful about women the way Michael was. For Lincoln, chances like these made life interesting. This was about adventure and having fun, and if the woman didn't mind then why the hell should Lincoln? He looked over at Sara, and thought, Damn lucky, that's what all this is.

They went inside, and Lincoln was surprised when Sara held him back from going to the lobby desk. "This was my idea," she said, "so I'm paying for the room."


"No, really. I can afford it, and I picked the hotel."

"How about half?" Lincoln offered.

She smiled and shook her head. "No need. I'll be back in a moment."

Lincoln stared after her as she went up to the counter. This was new, but then again he'd been inside for awhile. Maybe things had changed.

"Got it." She came back with the key, and they took the elevator up.

He held her hand on the way—so soft and warm, so much smaller than his. Lincoln leaned in to rest his cheek against the top of her head. "You smell incredible," he said, and her laugh bubbled up, low and musical.

They pushed inside eagerly as soon as the room was unlocked, slamming the door behind them. Lincoln pulled Sara to the bed, rolling her down with him and kissing her with the strength of the lonely years behind him. Her hair was like silk against his fingers, her mouth so eager for his. The two women he'd been with since getting out of the joint had been interested and willing, but never anything like this.

Sara reached inside his jacket and pulled his shirt up, running her fingers across his skin. Lincoln did the same, brushing over the curves of her hip and breasts. She moaned into his mouth as he stroked her nipple through the lace of her bra. Then, putting a hand under her waist, he rolled her on top of him and let her take the lead.

She drew his shirt the rest of the way up, pushing on the edges of his jacket until he took the hint. She sat up while he got first the jacket off and then his shirt. When his head cleared the shirt, she was straddling him with her blouse off, her hair tumbling past her shoulders.

God, but she was beautiful.

She rocked over him slowly, like a rodeo princess warming up, and the movement fired off every nerve in Lincoln's body. As she dragged back and forth across him, Lincoln groaned. He was so hard that the motion almost hurt, almost, except that his excitement turned the sensation from torture to anticipation. He could have ripped her clothes off in a heartbeat, picked her up and positioned her on him and spun her like a top until the two of them screamed the hotel down around them.

Instead, he forced himself to go easy, running his hands up her waist and across her back to unhook her bra. She kept moving, slow and smooth with a glint in her eyes that showed she knew what she was doing.

Lincoln slipped his hands under her skirt, fingers finding the heat he sought. He braced his hands on the front of her thighs and stroked her with his thumbs, drinking in the sound of her surprised gasp and the quiet moans that followed.

She rocked harder, her hands struggling to unfasten his belt and pants while he worked her to wetness. She stopped long enough to fumble in her purse while Lincoln shoved his pants and underwear down. When she sat back up, she had a condom. She unrolled it over him quickly before shifting forward to rub herself over him again.

Lincoln wondered just how long she intended to keep that up, whether it was some kind of challenge he'd never run across before. He went back to thumbing over her, determined not to come outside her like a teenager.

He could feel her responding to his touch, her hips wriggling against him and her breathing growing more and more uneven. When her legs started to shake, he gripped the waist of her panties and ripped them off. Then he lifted her up and slid right on inside her.

She gasped, probably at the fullness of him, but she recovered quickly. She moved over him, adjusting as she went, and then settled into position and started a slow, steady rhythm.

Yesss. Lincoln practically groaned in relief, his whole body coming alive as she rode him.

He cupped her breasts, thumbing gently over her nipples. She moved harder now, faster, and he watched as her eyes fell closed and she lifted her face toward the ceiling.

Her breath shuddered, and he reached down to stroke her again, his skilled fingers helping her to the edge. Suddenly she clenched around him, her rhythm fiercely uneven as helpless gasps escaped her and she finally came apart.

Lincoln growled, his other hand gripping her hip to keep her from falling. He thrust up underneath her then, bouncing her until he came with an intense, muffled roar. Then he let her collapse against him, her hair a silken tangle on his chest.

Afterwards, as they dressed, Lincoln helped draw her clothes around her. He ran a light touch up her arm and pulled her hair softly out from under her blouse. But when he kissed her neck she stiffened—done with it all, he guessed, maybe feeling regret. That was all right. He'd been down that road before.

"Can't do anything about the underwear," he said, then added teasingly, "but I'm guessing that wasn't your only pair."

She laughed. "You're right. It'll make the ride home more interesting, though." She smiled up at him from under her eyelashes, slightly naughty—like some guy on the El might get an eyeful later. It made him want to start up another round with her, but he could tell she'd only done it as a one-time thing.

"I won't see you again, will I?" he asked lightly.

"Probably not. You're not usually in this neighborhood anyway, are you?" She pulled on her coat and picked up her purse.

"No," he admitted. "My brother works not too far from here, but I only come over here to see him or to go to one of the games."

Sara smoothed down her blouse and hair, then walked to the door.

"You'd probably like him," Lincoln added as an afterthought. "He's an engineer—smart, good-looking, professional. He's the kind of guy women want to marry."

She turned to look at him, her smile almost rueful. "Not my type," she said, and then she was gone.

Huh, Lincoln thought, frowning in surprise. She preferred someone like him to the perfect package that was Michael? Not that he minded, but he hadn't heard that one since high school, and both Michael and girls were different then.

He shrugged on his jacket and headed to the elevator. Oh well—it wasn't like it mattered.

After all, Michael would never know what he was missing.


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