Home > Show Me the Way (Fight for Me #1)(9)

Show Me the Way (Fight for Me #1)(9)
Author: A.L. Jackson

Nikki slung her arm around my shoulder, and I walked with them toward the entrance. “Eight at Olive’s. It’s on the corner of Macaber and 5th.”

“Why do I get the feeling you know this place well?”

Lillith widened telling eyes. “That’s because Ollie owns it. This one can’t stay away.”

Nikki sighed dramatically. “Ollie. Hottest man in all the land. Friend-zoner extraordinaire. But one day, I will make him see what he’s missing.”

“Ah, things are beginning to make sense now,” I said.

Nikki feigned sadness with the grim shake of her head. “No, Rynna, men make absolutely no sense whatsoever. There is no sense to be found.”

I laughed. God, I really liked them.

“Isn’t that the truth?” I said.

Lillith pushed open the glass door. It was smudged with its own layer of greasy dust, and the white logo on the front claiming Pepper’s Pies was barely visible. Still, I could read it as if I’d drawn it myself. It was a shaker tipped on its side, flecks of pepper pouring over a tumble of pot pies and sweet pies and pizzas.

Gramma’s offerings had always been unique and perfectly peculiar.

Just like the woman behind it.

I was washed with another wave of warmth, and I couldn’t help but think I was supposed to return. That no matter what the past held, this was where I had always belonged.

We stepped out into the hot Alabama summer day, and I blinked against the sudden glare of sunlight and the rush of sticky humidity.

Clouds threatened in the distance, building in the sultry heat.

Lillith hummed with a near imperceptible bounce on her toes. Her attention locked on the small group of men across the street, who’d gathered in a circle just inside the chain-link fence.

Most of them were in work clothes: jeans and long-sleeved shirts and boots. Though a single man with his back to us wore a black suit and a yellow hard hat.

Nikki leaned in and mock-whispered in my ear, “Suit-guy would be the fiancé, Broderick Wolfe. You know, the one who constantly has this one’s panties on fire. Look at her . . . she can hardly contain herself.”

I bit back laughter, my whisper just as faked. “How long until she goes running over there?”

“Oh, I’d say about two point five seconds.”

Lillith swatted at my arm, and God, for the first time since I’d returned, I felt truly, completely as if I were home.

“Stop it, you two. Like I don’t hear you over there.”

We both laughed. Nikki dropped her arm and moved to face me, pulling her cell phone from where it was tucked in her back pocket. “What’s your number in case you get lost?” she said with a grin hugging her mouth as she dipped her head to look down. Her fingers were poised to input my number.

I almost got the entire thing out before my mouth went dry and the numbers came to a sluggish, sticky halt, my tongue unable to form a sound.

The man standing next to Broderick had turned around and was looking in our direction.

The smile slid right off his gorgeous face when he saw me staring at him. But somehow, the transformation into the hard scowl was just as mesmerizing.

Just as hypnotic.

Maybe more so.

Because I felt weightless beneath his glare.

Fluttery and uneasy.

Mesmerized.

Those sage eyes were so hard and intense. Capturing me. Holding me hostage. So dark they should have held the power to conceal the fire that raged in the depths, scored like markers in his spirit.

But I saw it. Felt it where it stuck in the heated, stagnant air.

The pain buried underneath.

Nikki lifted her head in question, her fingers ready for the last two numbers. “Hello?”

Snapping out of it, I cleared my throat. “Oh . . . um, sorry, six-two.”

“Got it,” she said before she gave me a salute and backed away. “Eight o’clock, my friend. Don’t make me hunt you down. You know I will.”

I tore my attention from the man pinning me to the spot from the other side of the street. His hold was just as heavy as if he were right in front of me, physically restraining me with those massive hands.

“I’ll be there,” I told her.

“You’d better be.” She winked.

Lillith squeezed my hand gently before she backed away to cross the street. “It was great to finally meet you, Rynna. This is going to be good. I can just feel it. I’m so glad we took the chance and stopped in.”

She said it without realizing the impact her words had on me. The way they flooded me with warmth and hope. The way they nudged the aspirations at the root of who I was, freeing them from where they’d been trapped deep inside.

My gaze roamed, drawn back to the man who hadn’t moved an inch. Hostility rippled off him like heat waves.

I had no idea why I felt it. Compelled. Driven toward a man that seemed so rigid, so dangerous to my sanity.

But I felt it. He needed someone to revive his faith just as desperately as I did.

Because looking at him?

I suddenly knew he had none of it. That something had gone dim inside him.

That was the thing about chances.

We didn’t know their outcomes.

If we’d succeed or if we’d fail.

It didn’t matter.

I had to take a chance on him.

6

Rex

“You sure you want to be here tonight?” I asked Ollie. Guilt was threatening to consume me. Suck me down. Take me under.

I fought it, trying to be strong, because it wasn’t fucking right for me to be the one falling apart.

Ollie, Kale, and I were in the back office at Olive’s where it was quiet. Private. The elevated voices from the throng of people out front were dulled, barely seeping through the walls, the evidence of the live band little more than a throb that vibrated the floors.

Ollie roughed a tattooed hand over his mouth like that single act might hold the power to erase the burden. A low, humorless chuckle rumbled from his chest. “Doesn’t make much of a difference where we’re at, now, does it? Fuckin’ day will follow us, anyway.”

“Yeah,” I mumbled. Doubted there was a statement I agreed with more. This fucking date haunted us no matter where we went. No matter how much time had passed. There was no outrunning it.

Kale rocked back in the office chair where he sat at Ollie’s desk. He had spun the chair around so he could face us, his long legs stretched out in front of him and his fingers threaded at the back of his head. “Twelve years. Twelve years, and it doesn’t get any easier, does it?”

Ollie dropped his head back on the wall he rested against and squeezed his eyes closed. “Twelve years.” Ollie’s voice was nothing but a moan, close to tears. “Shut my eyes and, I swear to God, it feels like yesterday.”

Ollie was a big, burly asshole, who was covered in tats, and if you didn’t know him, he was intimidating as fuck. I’d seen grown men cross the street when he was heading their direction.

He’d bought Olive’s back when it was little more than a dive, when the place was in shambles and going under. I’d come along beside him, doing the physical labor to restore the interior. But it was his vision that made it the most popular bar in Gingham Lakes.

“And a fucking century at the same damned time,” I said, shifting on the file cabinet I was leaning on.

“I just . . .” Kale trailed off, unable to say the things every single one of us were thinking.

That it was too late.

That there was no chance.

There was no hope.

Even when it felt impossible to give it up.

Kale had always been the one who carried us through. He was an ER doctor over at the local hospital. He worked his ass off and usually did it with a smile on his face.

He was the kind of guy who would walk through hot coals for a friend. Hell, he’d stand right in the middle of the flames if it meant he could help a man out. Make your load lighter. The guy carried around the weight of the world, thinking it was his duty to offer relief.

Kale, Ollie, and I? We’d been through hell together. Each of us were so different, sometimes I wondered if we would have grown apart if it hadn’t happened. Had to wonder if that fateful day had forged something indestructible between us. A bond and a burden that never should have been shaped.

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