I was going to change that.
Mind made up, I put the candy bowl on the counter, got changed, started toward the door, backtracked to grab a handful of Nerds for much needed sustenance for my sweet-pea-sized baby during my reentry into society.
Mona’s parking lot was the opposite of packed. For Halloween, I expected it to be busier, but I could count on both hands how many cars I saw. Grabbing my beaded clutch off the seat, I headed into the bar.
A few older guys were back at the pool tables, the sound of balls clanking off one another breaking up the low hum of music. My gaze swiveled to the bar. A lot of the stools were empty. As I walked forward, I saw that Calla was in town. Her long blond hair was pulled up in a ponytail and she was waitressing, if the apron was any indication. The white T-shirt and black shorts were vaguely familiar. It was the green sticker on her shirt that gave it away. I grinned.
Calla was dressed like Sookie Stackhouse.
Then I saw Roxy standing near her.
I burst out laughing. Her hair was hidden under a brown wig that looked like someone had taken a weed whacker to it, and her normally purple glasses were replaced with round, owlish-shaped ones. If the lightning mark drawn on her forehead with what appeared to be an eyebrow pencil wasn’t a dead giveaway, the black cloak and red and gold scarf was.
“Harry Potter?” I asked as I hopped up on an empty seat, placing the clutch in front of me. “You dressed up as Harry Potter?”
She grinned as she grabbed a bottle of tequila. “You have no idea how long I’ve been planning for this.”
Calla leaned against the bar beside me. “We went with a book theme. Of course, we were the only two people who actually followed through.”
Remembering what Nick had said, I wasn’t surprised. “Can you even see with those glasses?”
“Barely,” Roxy chirped. “But it’s worth it.”
Reece walked past me, coming from the direction of the restrooms, dressed as a convict in a white and black striped outfit. Ironic. “It’s kind of weird that my girlfriend is now a prepubescent boy.”
“Only if you make it weird,” Roxy replied before turning her big-eyed stare on me. “Glad you decided to come out. Who are you dressed as?”
I glanced down at myself. “Um . . . a lazy college student?”
“Nice,” Reece replied, angling his body toward mine. “And I hear congratulations are in order.”
Nodding, I was surprised to feel my cheeks heat up as Calla bobbed her head. “Yes!” she exclaimed. “God, I’m lame. Congrats! You and Avery are going to have like baby twins. Though she’s a couple of months ahead of you.”
That wasn’t weird or anything if I thought about it. “Thank you,” I said, meaning it.
Reece grinned over my head at Calla. “You’re next. I keep telling Jax that.”
“Oh no. I’m not open for baby business any time soon.” Calla looked pointedly at Roxy. “Maybe it’s going to be a little Reece or Roxy Anders next.”
Reece nearly choked on his drink.
Shaking her head, Roxy wisely ignored both of them. “Soda or water?” she asked me.
“Do you have ginger ale?”
Calla clucked her tongue with sympathy. “Are you feeling nauseous?”
“Not right now, but I’ve been drinking so much of it, I think I’m addicted,” I explained.
She glanced at the door as two women roamed in. “How has your morning sickness been? I know Avery has been having a horrible time with it.”
“I’ve been lucky so far, because it hasn’t been too bad. My mom seems to think it will be like her.” The two women who came into the bar sat at one of the round tables in the center. They picked up laminated menus. “She had a fairly easy pregnancy.”
“I hope for your sake it is. The stuff Avery has been telling me makes me want to swear off pregnancy for life.” Calla shuddered. “With Cam traveling back and forth between Shepherd and D.C., he’s missing out on all the fun stuff.”
“He’s still playing soccer?” I asked.
She nodded as she glanced over at the women. “Be right back.”
As Calla hurried over to the customers, I glanced around the bar. Roxy placed a glass of iced ginger ale in front of me.
“Nick’s back in the kitchen,” Reece said, obviously reading my mind. “Does he know you’re here?”
“I didn’t tell him I was coming out.” I sipped the drink, loving how the fizzing bubbles burst across my tongue. “I kind of decided to come out last minute.”
Roxy frowned as she turned her attention to Reece. “Back up. Why would she need to tell him, Reece?”
Her boyfriend opened his mouth and then took a moment, appearing to consider what he was about to say so he didn’t dig himself a grave he couldn’t climb out of. I bit down on my lip to stop myself from grinning. “What I’m trying to say,” he stated slowly, his eyes on Roxy, “is that he would probably just like to know where his girl is, and if she wanted me to, I could go and get him.”
I was Nick’s girl? Suddenly I wanted to giggle.
Roxy did not appear amused. Her frown deepened. “And why would he need to know where she is?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Maybe because . . . he cares?”
“Or maybe because he needs to realize that she’s a grown woman who doesn’t need to inform him of her coming and goings.”
His eyes narrowed. “Maybe he realizes that she’s a grown, capable woman, but he still worries about her safety.”
I rested my chin in my hand, using my fingers to cover my mouth. At this point I knew they weren’t talking about me. Calla streamed past us, heading for the kitchen. She shot Roxy and Reece a weird look.
“Maybe he shouldn’t worry so much,” Roxy shot back.
Reece sat back, crossing his arms. “Seriously?”
“Yeah. Seriously.” Roxy folded her arms, mimicking him.
Before Reece could respond, a door opened on the other side of the bar and Jax walked out, and right behind him was Nick. I straightened on the stool, pressing my lips together. Calla must’ve said something about me being there, because Nick’s gaze swung right to where I was sitting. While Jax entered the bar, Nick stalked around it, heading straight for me. I relaxed, starting to grin.
“What are you doing here?” Nick demanded.
Our little audience consisting of Jax, Roxy, and Reece froze as the worst kind of reasons bloomed in my mind at why Nick would be asking such a question. A strange slice of panic cut though me. Heat burned up the back of my neck. “What?”
On the other side of the bar, Roxy smirked. “Here we go again.”
This was so not happening again.
Nick was oblivious to how close he was to death as he placed a hand on the edge of the bar and leaned in, his face coming dangerously close. “What are you doing here, Stephanie?”
“Oh, man.” Jax spun around and headed toward the other end of the bar.
I took several deep breaths. “Why would I not be here, Nick?”
His brows lifted like twin wings, but Reece cut in before he could respond. “Answer that question carefully, my friend, because I just went down that road. It was curvy.”