“Yes I do. I’m your friend. You’re having boy problems and you were almost kiddie-napped a few days ago. This is total friend duty and I’m so coming over. So stay right there, lock your doors, and hide the kids. I’m coming on.”
I giggle-snorted. “Did you just quote Antoine Dodson?”
“Maybe.” Roxy drew the word out. “I’ll be over in like fifteen minutes tops. Okay? I just need to brush my teeth and maybe my hair.”
“All right. I’ll be here.”
I didn’t even think twenty minutes passed, which made me wonder where she lived exactly, because I didn’t know, and how fast she was driving, but she rolled into the house wearing cutoff jean shorts and an oversized tank top that barely covered her sports bra, and her hair in a messier knot than mine. She looked unbelievably cute, in a way I couldn’t hope if I dressed like that.
She was also carrying a white box that she plopped down on the coffee table. “I brought doughnuts. We need fat for this conversation.”
I didn’t think I could eat without hurling, but it was supersweet of her. She sat on the couch and leaned forward, slipping open the lid and revealing an assortment of goodies. I grabbed some leftover fast-food napkins off the kitchen counter and joined her on the couch.
She’d already demolished half a chocolate-covered doughnut. “Tell me everything.”
Exhaling a pent-up breath, I sat beside her and told her everything, starting with Aimee, something she was well aware of, and ending with this morning. I even told her about making plans for when I returned to school. When I finished, I surprised myself by picking up a glazed doughnut.
“Okay.” She plucked up her fourth doughnut and I wondered where she’d put the other three. “Let’s start with Aimee. The girl does not think any guy will turn her down and I’m pretty sure she has to know he’s into you, because everyone knows. Hell. They see it.”
Roxy grinned around a mouthful of doughnut. “From the minute you showed up, Jax had his eyes on you, literally and figuratively. It’s pretty obvious.”
Warmth buzzed through me as I mulled that. I liked knowing that people thought that. Then I felt kind of dumb, because it probably wasn’t as awesome to other people as it was to me.
“You know I’ve noticed the way Aimee hangs on Jax,” she continued. “I’ve been perfecting my death glare on her since she hit the bar. Sadly, it isn’t working.”
I cracked a grin at that as I popped a small bite in my mouth. Her death glare also wasn’t working on Reece, either.
“Jax doesn’t feed into it. Granted, he could do more to make sure she got the message, but he’s not returning the sentiment. Not once. But he’s a nice guy.” Picking up a napkin, she wiped at her fingers. “It takes a lot to get under his skin. You’ve seen that. And he’s way nice to us females. He was simply raised right.”
“He was,” I whispered.
“But you also have a right to be pissed with everything.”
“I do? Right?”
Thank God, I wasn’t completely crazy and a giant screwup.
“I’d cut a bitch if she showed up in the middle of the night at my man’s house, if I had a man, but whatever. I’d probably want to cut him, too, and it would take me some time to get over it, but . . .”
I sat back, tucking my knees to my chest. “Here comes the ‘I f**ked up’ part?”
“Yes. And no.” Roxy smiled as she twisted toward me. “This is your first relationship and your first fight. Hopefully it’s your only relationship, but it’s definitely not going to be your last fight. This is probably going to happen a lot of times.”
I knew that. I just forgot about that because I was an idiot.
“And you did basically accuse Jax of being an active man-whore while he’s been with you, so he’s going to be pissed, but he’s not going to stop liking you. And if he’s does, he isn’t worth your time. But that’s not how Jax is. He’ll cool down and you two will be fine.”
Nibbling on my lower lip, I let her words bang around what was going on in my head. Everything she said was reasonable. Hope sparked. “Do you think I should call him?”
“I think you should give him a little time,” she suggested. “It’s never wrong to let the guy come to you. Right? You both were wrong and you need to remember you weren’t the only one who messed up.”
“You’re right.” I sighed, tipping my head back against the couch. “Do you think I should’ve left this morning?”
“Um . . .” She adjusted her glasses. “Well, if you didn’t have all this crazy stuff going on? It probably wouldn’t have mattered. Jax probably isn’t happy, but he’ll see you tonight.”
“No. He’s going to the party. You and Nick are working tonight, remember?”
“Shit,” she groaned, collapsing against the arm of the couch. “I completely forgot.”
“Did you make plans, because I’m sure we’ll be fine tonight.”
Roxy laughed. “I’d need to have a life to have plans, but I was planning on lying out, reading, and eating junk food into the wee hours of the night like any hot, single twenty-two-year-old.”
Her smile widened and then our eyes met as she reached over and patted my arm. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
I smiled back, and even though I’d been on the verge of a complete breakdown this morning, I felt a lot better, like everything really would be okay. “Thank you.”
“If not, I’m sure your mom has a little black book around here and she probably knows someone we can hire to kick his ass.”
“Oh my God,” I said laughing.
She giggled as she curled up against the arm. She was so tiny, she barely took up half a cushion. “We’ll call that Plan B.”
“What’s Plan A?”
“You show up at his place wearing nothing but a sleek black trench coat and when he opens the door, you jump his bones.”
Laughing again, I shook my head. “I like Plan A.”
“And I bet he would, too.”
Wednesday night, I was a bundle of nerves. My stomach was full of them, and I could barely hold down the late lunch I’d grabbed with Roxy after we visited Clyde, which was nothing more than half a chicken salad sandwich.
For a crap ton of girlie reasons, I’d taken my time as I got ready for my shift as Roxy waited for me. I put waves into my hair, expertly applied my eye makeup, and glided on a shade lighter than crimson on my lips. I knew the guys from the bachelor party would probably hit the bar at some point; meaning Jax would be with them.
I hadn’t tried getting a hold of Jax until I’d gotten into my own car and Roxy was in hers. I’d sent him a quick text saying that I hoped I’d see him tonight. Then, because I’d been scared like a little girl with a monster in the closet, I’d dropped my phone in my purse and turned the music up. I didn’t check to see if he responded until I got to the bar.
“Not a big deal,” I’d told myself as I climbed out and headed in, but my heart was pounding.
There’d been no response at six.
There’d been no response by nine.
And to make everything all the more screwed up, Aimee was conspicuously absent from the bar. Granted, she could’ve finally gotten the message, but my heart hadn’t slowed down, and I was beginning to think that maybe Roxy had been wrong this morning. Maybe he’d changed his mind.
“You feeling okay?” Roxy asked after I handed over an appletini I wasn’t sure I made correctly.
I was feeling totally paranoid. “Yeah.”
She watched me carefully. “You haven’t heard from him, have you?”
Clamping my jaw shut, I shook my head.
“Calla, I didn’t—”
The door opened and my gaze swung toward it sharply and my heart jumped like it had done every time tonight. It wasn’t Jax.
Katie strolled in, rocking heels that could double as stilts. She didn’t teeter in them. Nope. She sashayed herself over to the bar, tapping a woman on the shoulder. “You’re in my seat.”
Roxy laughed softly.
The woman must’ve been accustomed to Katie, because she muttered something under her breath as she exited the seat. Katie dropped down, hitching the sparkly tube top up over her br**sts. “Whiskey. Straight up.”
My brows rose. “Bad night?”
Her eyes rolled. “June—one of the girls—is trying out a new routine. Belly dancing. The girl can’t even grind to hip-hop without sending men running through the door like their wives just showed up.”
“Then how does she strip?” Roxy asked.
Even Nick appeared to be listening from where he stood a few feet over, on the other side of the ice well.
“Who knows? She’s got great tits and a nice ass. Anyway, I just can’t deal with it.”
I grinned as I poured her the shot and then slid the glass toward her. Not a drop spilled.
“Aw, look, you’re like a real bartender now,” Roxy remarked.
I shot them both a look and then the door opened. My head swiveled toward it so fast I was surprised I didn’t get whiplash. My breath caught and I almost dropped the whiskey bottle.
Reece was the first one in, wearing worn jeans and a button-down shirt, looking fine.
“Damnit,” groaned Roxy. “Seriously. I thought for sure that tonight I wouldn’t have to deal with looking at him.”
I glanced at her.
Katie snorted as she raised her glass. “I’d take several long nights with him.” Then she downed the whiskey in one gulp. “Holy guacamole,” she gasped.
A couple of other guys strolled in. I saw his older brother, and I was surprised to see Colton with them, but it made sense. The husband-to-be was a cop. My heart was really dancing now, because Jax had to be with him.
Katie looked over her shoulder. “See! Even June ran them out!” She threw up her hands.
The door swung closed and the laughing group of men moved to an open table near the pool tables. My heart sank to my stomach.
Jax wasn’t with them.
“They were at the club, right?” I heard myself ask.
“Yep. Didn’t get out of hand.” Katie inspected her nails for a moment and then she looked up, her blue eyes filled with sympathy.
I took a step back, bumping into Sherwood, who, like a damn ghost, had gotten behind the bar and was doing something with the glasses.
Roxy watched me, brows knitted. “Calla . . .”
I seriously doubted that Katie had fallen from the pole and developed super-stripper abilities, but she was staring at me like she knew exactly what I was stressing over.
“Jax was with them,” she said.
Not a surprise. I knew he would be.
Roxy moved closer as she scanned the bar. Her gaze caught Nick’s and he moved to help a customer.
“Okay,” I whispered, and I wasn’t sure how she heard me over the noise.
Katie sucked her glossy pink lip in. “The guys were having a good time, but Jax didn’t look too happy and then maybe a half an hour before I came over, Aimee showed up.”
The worst kind of feeling erupted in my chest.
“It was really different, because Aimee has never stepped foot in the club.”
Of course not, because Aimee was there, because Jax was there.
“About ten minutes after she showed up, Jax left.” Katie’s eyes met mine. “And Aimee left, too, right behind him. I’m not saying they were together. But she was literally right behind him.”
Oh my God.
“Calla.” Roxy touched my arm. “Aimee is like a step up from a stalker. You know Jax didn’t ask for her to show up there.”
I looked at her, but I wasn’t sure I saw her. The hollowness from earlier was back. “He hasn’t returned my text I sent him before we came to work. I sent him a text. He hasn’t responded.”
“Okay. This doesn’t mean anything,” Roxy said quickly.
Really? Aimee showed up last night. He ran her off, but the conversation was questionable. We got into a huge fight. He didn’t sleep with me, was gone when I woke, and he hadn’t tried to contact me all day and he didn’t respond to me. None of this was looking good.
My throat burned.
Something powerful bled out of me as I stood there, like bleeding out from a well-placed stab wound that was meant to kill you slowly.
“You two are more than friends. You haven’t said that to me, but I know,” Katie said as she tapped her finger on the side of her head. “I know.”
“Katie,” Roxy sighed.
“I told you that your life was going to change,” she went on. “Remember? I told you. I didn’t say it would be easy.”
I stared at her.
Luckily, a whole crew of people rolled in, rushing the bar, so I didn’t get a chance to respond to Katie, and I threw myself into filling orders in a way that bordered on obsessive. I didn’t even notice when Katie left.
Roxy tried to talk to me several times, but I avoided her, because I knew she wanted to talk about Jax and I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t do it.
I made three Long Island iced teas and I smiled. I laughed. I took money. I made tips. And then I made a ton of Jäger bombs for Reece’s table since Roxy was suddenly helping Gloria.
He didn’t mention Jax.
I didn’t, either.