Home > Show Me the Way (Fight for Me #1)(10)

Show Me the Way (Fight for Me #1)(10)
Author: A.L. Jackson

A blessing given just the same as the curse.

Ollie groaned then fiercely shook his head, like he was shaking off the memories, the horror, before he strode across the small area and grabbed the bottle of whiskey. He poured it across the shot glasses and passed one to me and Kale.

He lifted his in the air. “To Sydney. We’ll never forget.”

I lifted mine, Kale did the same, the three glasses clinking in the middle. “We’ll never forget.”

I tossed back my shot, the burn of it sliding down my throat and filling my stomach with flames.

No.

There was no chance I would ever forget.

Ten minutes later, Kale and I had moved out into the front of the bar. I grabbed our regular table, which was tucked in the back, while Kale went to grab us drinks.

A blur of voices echoed off the red brick walls of the bottom floor. Olive’s was all the rage in Gingham Lakes. Trendy and popular and packed.

A place I probably wouldn’t step foot in if it weren’t for the fact Ollie was the owner.

The din was a mind-numbing thrum that dulled the senses in the same way the dimmed, muted lights hanging from the ceiling somehow slowed the atmosphere, the band playing tonight super mellow and adding to the laid-back vibe.

Made me feel like I was right in the middle of everything without setting foot in the throng, this impression that the night might go on forever and it was all gonna end in the blink of an eye.

Raucous laughter and shouting seeped down from the upstairs area that housed a bunch of pool tables and led to the huge balcony that overlooked the river.

Tonight was no different than most nights at Olive’s. The bar was packed, crawling with people out seeking a good time. A few minutes to cast aside their worries and cares.

I fought the urge brimming in my gut to pack it up and head home.

Truth was, I hated the idea of that, too. I knew my daughter was undoubtedly curled up on the couch next to my mom, who was all too happy to have her spend the night. Frankie Fridays, as she liked to call them, were their standing sleepover date.

If I showed up, Mom would shove me right back out her door. The woman was constantly nagging me to get out more. Insisting I needed time to “find myself” and figure out just how it was I was going to live my life.

She just had no clue I didn’t need this bullshit. I had zero interest in the women who were watching the men who crawled the bar like hawks and the men who were watching them like prey.

That fucking game they always liked to play.

So, week after week, I sat back and pretended like I wasn’t even there. Oblivious to it all.

I’d managed it for years. Until tonight. All that self-control fled the second the door swung open.

Twilight billowed in and the goddamned air was sucked from the room.

For fuck’s sake.

Was she stalking me?

There had to be no other explanation. The woman kept popping up everywhere. Invading my space. Conjuring thoughts I couldn’t entertain.

But there she was.

Again.

She walked right through the door of Olive’s. Her presence stampeded out in front of her. Consuming everything.

Agitation lit me up, singeing my skin.

Tonight, she looked like she’d just stepped off the runway with those long, long legs encased in a tight pair of black pants and super high heels. Chestnut hair, which was normally all mussed and heaped on her head, swished around her like the silky calm of a midnight river.

Fuck. Me.

I didn’t know if I liked her better like this or the total mess she normally was, the way she’d been earlier this afternoon when she’d stopped me in my tracks when I was in the middle of giving my crew instruction in front of Broderick Wolfe. No doubt, I looked like some kind of blundering idiot who couldn’t find words.

Tongue-tied.

That was because I was too busy letting my dick do the talking, the traitor perking up at the sight of her standing outside her grandma’s run-down, closed-up diner that had seen far better days.

Had taken Broderick calling me on it, all while wearing a knowing smirk on his face, before I’d snapped out of my stupor and had gotten back to the meeting.

Guessed I should have expected trouble the second I’d seen her outside Pepper’s Pies with Nikki and Lillith.

I would have been right.

Her face split into a grin when her sight landed on the two of them. They were sitting at the bar, drinking their frilly drinks and chatting like they did just about every Friday night.

From behind me, a hand suddenly clamped down on my shoulder.

I jumped like some kind of pussy.

Just fucking awesome.

Kale laughed. “Dude, why so jumpy?” He set a fresh beer in front of me and pulled out a chair. By the time he sat, he was all grins and amusement.

That was just Kale’s way. He had the ability to find the good in the moment, something light and easy and fun, even on a day like today.

“Did you start shit with one of those big fuckers and now you’re scared?” He wasn’t so discrete when he pointed at a couple of guys who looked like they’d probably rolled up on bikes and had rap sheets a few miles long. “Don’t tell me I’m going to have to step in and protect you.”

Leave it to Kale.

But that sure as hell wasn’t what had me on edge.

I shifted a bit so Rynna was off to my side and not directly in front of me, situating myself in a way that let me pretend she wasn’t there.

Pretended I couldn’t feel the heat radiating from that tight body.

Pretended that feeling didn’t exist. The one that left me restless.

Edgy.

Hungry for something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

I shot him a glare. “You wish, asshole. If anyone needs protecting, it’s you, standing around looking like a pretty boy. You’re just begging to get your ass kicked.”

He cracked up.

“Hey, someone wants to kick my ass? It’s only because they wish they were me. All the ladies love me.”

He smirked, slinging back a gulp of the dark liquid dancing in the rocks glass he clutched in his hand. Kale was the cockiest asshole around. It was a total mindfuck he still managed to have the biggest heart of them all.

Sitting there, people had to think he’d stumbled to the wrong table. There I was, looking like I belonged with the guys he was just referring to while he was all sharp angles and crisp lines, clean-shaven, his blond hair slicked back, and his button-up and pants perfectly pressed.

“Take it you’re not on call this weekend?”

He rocked back with a big, satisfied sigh. “Nope. I’ve got the whole weekend off. Don’t have to be back until Sunday night. It’s like a goddamned Christmas miracle right smack dab in the middle of summer.” He hefted a shoulder. “Besides, figured Ollie might need me, too, so I asked for it off. Somehow it was approved.”

I nodded, understanding, trying not to let myself get dragged right back into the somber mood from back in the office, knowing neither Ollie nor Kale needed that shit. Dwelling wasn’t going to change a goddamned thing.

“So, how’s my Frankie-girl?” Kale asked, quick to change the subject.

The smile on my face was instant. “Good. Started taking ballet. Cutest damned thing I’ve ever seen.”

“No shit?” He shook his head. “She’s getting so big. Time flies, doesn’t it? Seems like only yesterday she was learning to walk.”

I roughed a hand through my hair. “Yeah. Goes by too damned fast. Blows my mind she only has another year before she starts kindergarten.”

He pointed at me with the same hand wrapped around his rocks glass, laughter falling out around his words. “School . . . dude . . . you are so fucked. If I think you’re overprotective now . . .”

I wiped the sweat that was suddenly beading on my brow. Honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to handle that. Someone else being responsible for her care. The fact that I might not know exactly where she was at all times and who she was with.

I stomped down those thoughts, refusing to give them voice, and started to tell him about her bitch of an instructor, figuring he’d get a kick out of it.

That was right when I felt the air thicken.

I rubbed at the back of my neck, fighting it.

The shock of awareness that sliced through the darkened bar.

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