It had been a rotten day. It was the reason she was now at Jake’s. It was also the reason she would never do another favor for her sister. It was supposed to be an easy way to make a little money before her new job started.
She should have known better, especially after meeting her sister’s friend. She should have known the friend was just like her sister. She should have known that the son would be just as difficult as the mother. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.
So, here she sat, at the bar in Jake’s, trying to forget the terror of a child she had spent the afternoon watching. She sat at the far end of the bar, watching. She watched people come and go, couples dance to the jukebox, guys playing pool, girls playing Tequila games. She watched tall, sexy and dangerous enter and sit next to her at the bar.
It had been a rotten day. It was supposed to be a simple job of reconnaissance. It was supposed to take less than an hour. It was supposed to leave him the rest of the day to spend relaxing.
He should have known better. He should have known given his self-proclaimed best friend’s track record when it came to ‘emergencies’. He should have known it would go down hill when it turned out to be for her friend.
So, here he was at Jake’s, grabbing a drink since the rain was keeping him from riding. He figured he’d have a drink or two, watch people for a while, maybe play a game of pool. He took the last empty stool and noticed the brunette beauty on the stool next to him.
His phone rang soon after he sat down. He sighed as he looked at the caller ID.
“What?...I told you I would and I did...Are you kidding me?...It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t short...You didn’t even give me the right information...He didn’t even know her....What?....You know what? I’m hanging up.”
She wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but he was sitting right next to her. She was soon distracted.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
“Oh, come on. It’s just a drink.”
r32;r32;“I said no.”
“Hey bartender! Get her another of whatever she’s having.”
She was interrupted by tall, sexy and dangerous who reached across her swiftly. He grabbed the front of Mr. Annoying’s shirt. The guy looked at tall, sexy and dangerous and blanched. She was curious, especially when Mr. Annoying quickly apologized and left. She looked over and only managed to pull her gaze away from his blue eyes thanks to years of being taught by her sister and mother about her manners.
“Thank you....I guess.”
“I think I could have handled him.”
r32;r32;“I’m sure you could have. You just looked like you didn’t want to deal with him.”
She looked him over again, interested in how quickly he read her.
“You’re right. I didn’t.”r32;r32;
“You could say that. I babysat this little boy as a favor to my sister and he was a holy terror. I should have been prepared after meeting his mother, but I like kids so I thought he’d be different.”
“No. As soon as his mom and my sister left he told me he didn’t have to listen to me. I thought maybe he was just saying that because he didn’t know me. And then dinner happened.”
“Not what you expected?”
“No. First, he took 20 minutes to decide what he wanted to eat, but when I put it on his plate he refused to eat it. Not only did he refuse to eat it, but he went to the refrigerator and started pulling food out. I finally got him away from the refrigerator and was putting things back only to find him pulling everything he could out of the pantry. I figured a box of cheese crackers was harmless enough so he ate that while I put everything away. From there I went to being doused by the hose when we went outside to being used as the canvas when finger painting.”
“He sounds creative.”
r32;r32;“That’s one way to put it. When his mom and my sister got back I looked like a painted drowned rat and they were only concerned with how the little darling was. I am never watching that” She made quotes with her fingers. “‘sweet little angel’ again.”
They were silent as they drank. She put her glass down and turned to look at him.
“Nothing.” She paused. “Let me buy you a beer.”r32;r32;
r32;r32;“I know. It’s just a thank you for listening.”
He studied her for a minute.
“On one condition.”
“You play a game of pool with me.”
“I don’t know how to play.”
“We can fix that.”
It was her turn to study him.
r32;r32;“You get the drinks. I’ll get the table.”
She turned from the bar with two beers and saw a couple of guys back away from the pool table with the same look of recognition Mr. Annoying had.
“Seems I was right about you.”
“Right about what?”
“I labeled you as tall, sexy and dangerous when you came in. Tall and sexy is obvious, but it seems I was right about you being dangerous.”
“Depends on who you are.”
r32;r32;“Are you dangerous to me?”r32;
“Do you want me to be?”
“Teach me to play and I’ll think about it.”
He took her beer and set it next to his at the end of the table.
“What do you know about the game?”
“Not much. I know you hit the little balls with the intention of putting them in the holes.”
“Can we not call them balls?”
“A little too uncomfortable? Too close to home?”
She started skirting around the table, but he caught her by her back belt loop. He pulled her back with her back bumping into his chest. He wrapped his right arm gently around her waist. His voice was low and intimate.
“Now, are you going to listen to me or just mock me?”
He could feel her laughter as she answered.
“I’ll behave.” He tightened his arm around her just a bit and she was pulled closer to him. “Okay, okay. I’ll try.”
He put two fingers in her left belt loop and pulled, turning her around to face him in his arms.
“Are you ready?” Her breath hitched being so close to him. Nodding was safer. “You were right. We want to hit the....” He stopped, looking for a different word. She waited and crossed her arms when the silence continued. She smirked.
“They don’t have another name, do they?”
“No.” He leaned forward as she leaned back a little. His hand on her back pulled her close once again. “Now behave.” Her eyes sparkled and he smiled. “The game is all about angles.”
“Math wasn’t my forte.”
“Then we’ll just practice a lot.”
He turned her back around to face the table as he showed her the invisible path to look for when aiming at the ball. He helped her lean over the table to get the right pose and hand placement with the cue stick. When they were ready he helped her hit the cue ball sending the red ball into the corner pocket. She jumped up as she turned and he caught her in his arms. The laugh died in her throat as she looked into his eyes. Her voice was whisper soft.
“We did it.”
She laughed out loud before exclaiming.
“Let’s do it again!”
He smiled and shook his head as she picked another ball to aim for. After he’d helped her hit half of the balls into pockets she had decided she wanted to try it on her own. She had moved around the table looking for what she hoped was an easy shot when she looked up at her companion. She started to tease him, but noticed he was distracted, lost in his own thoughts. She laid her pool stick on the table and walked over to him. When she was right in front of him she tucked her hands in her back pockets, palms out. He finally came back to her.
“Hey. You alright?”
She didn’t look like she believed him, but didn’t push.
“Just know I can return the favor is all. You listened to me.”
“I know.” He motioned to the table with his beer bottle. “So, you gonna show me what you learned?”
He wanted to laugh at the determined look on her face, but didn’t want her to think he was making fun of her. She looked around the table, found the one she wanted, lined up her shot and knocked the balls around the table, but her target didn’t make it in. She huffed and he stood up at full height to go over and help her. She put up her hand to stop him.
“I can do it.”
“I know you can.”
She looked at him until she decided he was serious.
“Then why are you trying to come over here?”
He slowly walked around the table with purpose, his eyes never leaving hers. He stopped in front of her and whispered in her ear.
“I just like holding you.”
“Oh.” Her mouth lifted on one side. She handed him her pool stick. “In that case, I could use another lesson.”
It wasn’t long before the last ball was in a pocket. They realized they had an audience waiting for the pool table so they got fresh drinks from the bar and headed to a table in the corner.
“I do, thanks to you.”
“No, you did it yourself. I just gave you something to do.”
“Is that what you do?”
“Sometimes. I usually ride my bike.”
“A bike? You?” She tried not to giggle.
Her chair jerked forward as he hooked his boot under the front rung and pulled. Her upper body swung closer to him over the table. She braced her stop with her hands on the table.
“Not a bicycle. A motorcycle.”
“Ohhhhhhh.” Her face lit up. “Bicycle not tough enough for a guy like you?”
Her eyes were still sparkling, but she wisely clamped her mouth shut. She could tell he was trying to keep from being amused himself. She tried to look contrite.
“You’re going to make it up to me.”
She looked skeptical and a little worried.
“Ride with me.”
“Just around the block.”
“On your motorcycle?”
“That’s what I said.”
“But it’s raining.”
“The last guy to come in was dry.”
He held his hand out and waited. She looked at him, then his hand, then back at him. She reached out and put her hand in his.
She pulled the helmet off, grinning from ear to ear.
“That was incredible!”
“I’m glad you liked it.”
“I loved not being able to think, that all I could hear was the wind.”
“That’s one of the reasons I ride, to forget things.”
“Like today?” She asked quietly.
“Yes.” He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “I did a favor for a friend. Her friend was afraid her fiance was cheating on her and they asked me to check him out. I don’t usually get involved in stuff like that, but the crying was giving me a headache so I gave in. I followed him around, got bit by a dog, got attacked by some old woman who thought I was a peeping Tom and finally ended up at some dive. I had had enough so I just bought him a few drinks and got him talking. Turns out he doesn’t even know my friend’s friend. She just wanted to know more about him. Ruined my whole day for a girl I can’t even stand.”
“Hate when that happens.”
They both smiled.
She nodded. They headed to the door to go back into Jake’s.
“Thanks for the ride. I loved it.”
“I could tell. You yelled at me not to stop.”
“If we’re being honest that’s not the only reason I didn’t want to stop.” He stopped and she leaned up to whisper in his ear. “I like holding you, too.”
Before he could think about that confession too much she pulled him towards the door to the bar. He tugged her back by her hand and cupped her right jaw before claiming her mouth in a kiss. She wrapped her arms around his neck as his warmth seeped in replacing the cold left from the earlier rain. He didn’t rush her or stop her and she enjoyed his arms holding her close to him. They had to pull back for air and just enjoyed the other’s presence.
“Ready for another game?”
Her fingers stroked the short hairs at the nape of his neck. She smiled.
“You may have to help me.”
“I think I can handle that.”
He led her inside. As she took her jacket off she looked up and groaned. He started to look at her when he heard his name.
They met the two women near the bar.
“Jason! What are you doing with her? She babysat Michael today and when we got home he was handcuffed to a chair!”r32;r32; He looked over at Elizabeth.
“What? I told you he was a terror. Besides, the handcuffs were padded. I don’t even want to know where he found them. I was just protecting myself. He tried to handcuff me to the chair and I got him instead. It’s not my fault he didn’t know where the key was.”
Jason coughed and covered his mouth with his hand. She could see him trying to not smile. She thought about elbowing him but her sister’s shrill voice took over.
“Elizabeth! What are you doing with him? He ruined my life today!” She stomped her foot. “He was following the man of my dreams and he ruined it! Not only did Jason here get him drunk he won’t even speak to me anymore. Jason ruined everything!”
It was Elizabeth’s turn to look at Jason.
“What? You’ve met your sister. Wouldn’t you want to know how she is?”
She, too, tried to hide a smile behind her hand. The two women were now arguing with each other.
“You still up for that pool game?”
“I don’t think they’re going to leave us alone.”
“I have a table in my apartment.”