Jax arched a brow as he glanced in our direction and then shook his head. Unperturbed by the lack of interest on his part, Roxy looked like she was seconds away from doing a cartwheel. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said, leaning against the bar in front of me. “What can I get you?”
Pushing aside the strange greeting, I flicked my gaze to the bottles beyond her and then gave up on trying to think of a drink. “I’ll go with whatever you have on tap.”
“Coming right up.” Roxy whirled around, and like a little tornado, she moved behind the bar, returning with a full glass. “Want to start a tab?”
I shook my head and handed over cash. Opening a tab always ended with me drinking way too much. “Keep the change.”
Roxy smiled, and I realized the bruise that had been on her face before was completely gone. She returned from the cash register after getting a guy sitting two stools down a fresh bottle. “I was starting to think I’d never see you again. It’s been, what? Two weeks?”
“I started a new job,” I explained. “I think it kind of wore me out a little.”
“Totally understandable.” She propped her elbows on the counter. “You’re enjoying it here?”
I nodded. “It’s taking a little bit to get used to the city. Where I come from, we don’t have anything like that.”
“Yeah, Calla—Jax’s girlfriend—has said that, too. But she’s actually from here, though she goes to Shepherd.” She paused long enough to take a quick breath. “But you don’t know her very well, right?”
“I just know of her. She seems like a really nice girl, though.” I took a sip of my beer. “You’ve lived here your whole life?”
“Born and raised. I love it. It’s really the perfect locale. Super close to the city but still has a town feel to it—one sec.” Roxy buzzed down the length of the bar, handling someone who walked up with an empty drink.
Taking another sip, I turned around and scanned the bar. There was such a unique mix of people here, young and old, all different ethnicities and backgrounds.
“There’s a lot of hipper bars in the city,” Roxy said, returning. She grinned when I turned back around. “Sorry. You had that look on your face. Not a bad one,” she quickly added. “Mostly just checking everything out kind of look. I’m surprised we actually get a younger crowd here. There’re so many more options in Philadelphia.”
“But Mona’s is nice,” I told her, meaning it. “Yeah, it’s not . . . the most in style.” I glanced at the neon Coors sign over one of the pool tables. “But I like it.”
“You need to get out more,” came a voice from behind me.
Roxy folded her arms as she raised her brows at the intruder. I turned sideways. A tall man stood there, his close-cropped dark brown hair matching his classically handsome face. He winked in Roxy’s direction.
“It reminds me of home,” I replied, raising my glass to my lips.
The guy laughed. “Then I’m kind of worried about your home.”
Before I could respond, Roxy sighed. “Shut up, Reece.”
A smile broke out across his face as his gaze shifted toward her. “Oh, I love it when you get bossy with me.”
“You love me,” he replied.
“I don’t know why.” She sighed again, much more dramatically. “But I do.”
So this was the boyfriend she’d mentioned last time. Nice. Roxy had good taste. Reece tapped his fingers on the shoulder of the guy on the stool. The man looked over at him, and Reece raised his brows. “Why don’t you be a gentleman and let this lady have the seat?”
Before I could voice my protest, the man was out of the seat. “All yours, officer.”
Officer? Roxy’s boyfriend was a cop? For some reason, I had a hard time picturing her with one. “All yours,” Reece offered.
“Thanks.” I sat down, and my feet thanked me. “You didn’t have to do that, though.”
Reece took the spot I’d been standing in. “A guy shouldn’t be sitting when there’s a lady standing. It’s as simple as that.” Stretching at the waist, he leaned over the bar and tapped one finger off his lips.
A pink flush spread across Roxy’s cheeks, but she planted one on him. As she started to lean back, Reece’s hand snaked out and curved around the nape of her neck. Holding her in place, he tilted his head to the side and really went to town.
Watching them, I felt my eyes widen, and also felt the need to start fanning myself. That was a kiss and then some, and it just kept going and going. One of Roxy’s arms had gone around Reece’s shoulders, and I half expected him to drag her across the bar. A slow grin pulled at my lips, but underneath the amusement, there was a sliver of unsettlement. Almost like unease, but tinged in another emotion I had tasted earlier. I wasn’t sure why I felt that, at this moment, but I sat my beer down on the bar, next to my purse.
From a few feet away, Jax turned to us. “Really, guys?”
With a deep, rumbling chuckle, Reece let go of Roxy, and she settled back on her feet, her eyes unfocused. Someone catcalled, and she blinked rapidly. Narrowing her eyes at her boyfriend, she straightened her glasses.
“You’re terrible,” she admonished. “And you make a horrible first impression.”
“I think I make an awesome first impression,” he replied, sending a grin in my direction. “I’m Reece Anders—the love of Roxy’s life.”
I couldn’t resist that grin. “I’m Steph Keith.”
“Ah, the infamous Steph.” He glanced at Roxy. “Where is—”
“On break.” Roxy’s smile was too bright, too wide. “Sorry about his rude interruption. He’s socially damaged.”
“I’m also very thirsty,” he replied, eyeing the tap.
Roxy cocked her head to the side. “You see Jax over there? Why don’t you get him to serve you?”
“That’s mean,” he murmured, but he was still grinning as he pushed off the bar. “I’ll be back.” He wheeled around, heading toward Jax, who stood farther down the bar. As he rounded me, he tapped my shoulder with his fingers. “I like it when she’s feisty.”
I laughed outright as Roxy let out an exasperated groan that Reece largely ignored. “He seems like a handful,” I said once he was over by Jax.
“Girl, you have no idea.” Her eyes widened behind the glasses. “But he’s . . . he’s a great man, and I’m so incredibly lucky, like more than you can realize.”
“Oh, sounds like there’s a story there.”
She smiled softly. “There is. I would . . .” She trailed off as another smile nearly split her face. “Perfect!”
Realizing she was staring at something behind me, I looked over my shoulder. My mouth dropped open. A woman had just walked in, and I . . . I didn’t even know what she was wearing.
It was a dress. I think. A dress made out of . . . black duct tape, maybe? That’s what it looked like. Skintight, it was nothing more than strategically placed stripes of some kind of black material. It crisscrossed her svelte body, leaving very little to the imagination with the amount of side boob that was visible. Her heels were high enough to make me feel like a wimp for caving in and going with flats.