She strutted in our direction, her hips swaying in a way that drew the attention of nearly every man in the bar. The tall, statuesque blonde had confidence for days.
“You know what I need,” she said to Roxy, who was already grabbing a bottle of tequila. She glanced in my direction and her bubble-gum-pink lips pursed. “You’re hot. Wow.”
I opened my mouth, but I had no idea how to respond to that. At all. Nope. Nada.
“This is Steph.” Roxy placed a shot on the bar. “Steph, this is Katie.”
“Hi,” I said, wiggling my fingers.
Her gaze dropped and she checked me out more boldly than most of the guys there had. “Wait.” Her pink-tipped, super long nails grazed her shot glass. “Is this the Steph?”
“The Steph,” Roxy agreed. “She was the next one to walk into the bar after Aimee.” Heavy meaning dripped from her words. “And . . .”
I started to frown. First, Reece referred to me as the “infamous Steph,” and now I was “the Steph”? What in the world was going on here?
“Wow. This is awesome.” Lifting the shot to her mouth, she slammed the drink like a pro. “This is so freaking awesome. I knew it. I totally called it.” She tipped her fingers off her temple. “I’m psychic.”
Wordless, I shook my head as I glanced at Roxy. The bartender’s cheeks were turning red as she gave a lopsided shrug. “Katie has been dead on when it comes to her predictions.”
“It’s a gift. A curse. I fell off a greased-up pole one night. Hit my head. Long story that I’m sure I’ll have time to tell you later.” She propped a hip against the bar while I simply stared at her. “Is that your purse?”
When I nodded, she reached for it and, completely shell-shocked, I watched her open it and pull out my phone. Normally I would’ve been all over that, but all I could do was gape at her as her fingers flew over my phone.
“I’ve texted Roxy and me from your phone. So you now have our numbers and we have yours. There’s no escaping us. We’re going to adopt you as our new best-est friend-est in the world-est.” She slipped my phone back in my purse and plopped it down on the bar in front of me. “You’re going to get breakfast with us on Sunday. Of course, you’re probably thinking ‘Oh hell no,’ but you’re totally going to come.”
I was still gaping at her.
“There is so much we need to tell you.” Turning back to Roxy, Katie started to speak, but stopped, clapping her hands together. “I have the best timing. Ever.”
For a moment I didn’t know what she was talking about, and then I saw him. Nick. My heart did a little flop, and that shocked me as much as Katie did. My heart rarely flopped, and I hadn’t really thought about Nick during these two weeks. All right, that wasn’t a hundred percent true. I had thought about him a time or two or ten, but those thoughts were fleeting. So my reaction, the way I felt my cheeks flush and how my spine stiffened, surprised me.
Nick strolled out from a hallway on the other side of the bar. Wearing another dark shirt that seemed to be seconds away from bursting at the seams when he lifted his hand, thrusting his fingers through his hair, he looked as yummy as I remembered.
He went to where Jax stood talking to Reece, giving us an eyeful as he lifted a case of bottles onto the bar, his muscles rolling and flexing under the shirt. Reece said something, and Nick stepped back, laughing. The sound was loud and infectious, and my lips tugged up at the corners in response. He replied as he turned in our direction, his smile easy. His gaze lifted, drifting over the bar.
Our gazes collided in an instant.
Nick stopped in his tracks, as if he’d walked straight into an invisible wall. A strange tension seeped into his features as the smile slipped off his face. Shock splashed over it, and then he was heading in our direction on his side of the bar, ignoring Roxy as she stepped aside with a look on her face that said the only thing she was missing was a bucket of popcorn.
“Hi Nick,” cooed Katie.
She was also ignored as he stared across the counter at me, his eyes as cool as winter mint. Tiny knots formed in my belly as he placed both hands on the bar and dipped his chin. All I could think about was where his fingers had been the last time I’d seen him and whether they’d end up there again, because why not?
“Stephanie,” he said in that deep voice of his, and wisps of pleasure coiled tight. “What are you doing here?”
His question squelched the budding tendrils of pleasure as if he had reached inside me and caught them in a fist. I drew back, inhaling sharply as my stomach clenched. “Excuse me?”
“Oh no,” whispered Roxy, turning to the side. Someone waved a twenty dollar bill like a white flag of surrender and it caught her attention.
“You’re a dumbass,” Katie said to Nick, and then twirled toward me. “Give him hell. The payoff is so much better in the end. See you on Sunday. Tootles!”
As Katie pranced off, a faint pink crept across the center of Nick’s cheeks. He lowered his voice. “I thought we had an understanding.”
Perhaps, when I’d walked into Mona’s tonight, I’d fallen into some kind of alternate universe? Every conversation I was in felt like I was only hearing half of it. “An understanding of what?”
He tilted his head to the side. “You haven’t come back to the bar in two weeks.”
“Uh. Yeah. I’ve been busy.” My hair slid over my shoulder as I leaned forward, the edges brushing the top of the counter. “I don’t think I’m following where this conversation is heading.”
“You haven’t been back since the night we hooked up,” he explained, his moss green eyes cool. “So I figured we were on the same page.”
“Obviously we’re not.”
Nick glanced over his shoulder briefly, scanning the bar. His shoulders tensed when his eyes met mine again. When he spoke, his voice was low enough that I could barely hear him. “That night was just that night. One time. There’s no reason for you to come back here, especially you.”
Whoa. There was so much wrong in that statement I didn’t even know where to start. Anger rushed to the surface, crowding my senses, and for that I was grateful, because beneath the fiery emotion was a keen sense of . . . of disappointment. I didn’t know Nick that well, but from the brief time we’d spent together, I thought we had been on the same page. Not his page, obviously. His page had asshole written all over it, over and over again.
“Let me get this straight,” I said, my voice surprisingly level. “You thought that I would not come back to the bar, because we’d hooked up?”
He didn’t reply for a long moment. “That’s how it’s always been. One night. You said so yourself.”
That’s how it’s always been? Wow. I almost laughed, except nothing about this was funny. “And just to make sure we’re completely on the same page, you think I came back here solely to see you?”
One side of his lips curled up. “Well, why else would you come here? Someone like you is much better suited for the bars and clubs in the city.”
My lips slowly parted. “Someone like me?”
“You know you’re gorgeous. You know—”