Stay with Me / Page 44

Page 44

I was a wee bit anxious about that as he drove us to Mona’s. I was doing everything not to worry about that when I heard my phone ding in my purse. Happy for the distraction, I reached inside and pulled it out, discovering I had an e-mail from the financial aid adviser at Shepherd.

My heartbeat stuttered. “Oh God.”

“What?” Jax asked, glancing at me as he hit the main road.

“I have an e-mail from my financial adviser. It has to be about the student loans, if I got my application in on time,” I told him.

His gaze moved back to the road. “Well?”

“I’m afraid to read it.”

“Want me to read it?” he offered.

I could’ve hugged and kissed him then. “Yes, but you’re driving, and if it’s good or bad news I don’t want to die in a fifty-car pileup.”

He snorted.

Taking a deep breath, I opened the e-mail and waited for the damn message to download. Of course, it took freaking forever and I was close to slamming my head against the dashboard while I waited, but the message finally appeared. I hastily scanned it, looking for key words. When I found the word congratulations among other things like loan amounts, I let out an excited squeal and twisted toward Jax so fast I almost choked myself with the seat belt.

His full lips curved into a wide smile. “I’m assuming it’s good news.”

“Totally! I got approved. It’s enough money. The aid is going to go ahead and push my classes through,” I told him, practically bouncing in my seat.

He reached over, placing his hand on my knee, and squeezed gently. “That’s great news, honey.”

It really was. “That’s one giant stress off my shoulders. At least I know I’ll be able to finish up school. That’s huge.”

“It is. I’m thrilled for you.”

From the tone and the smile on his face, I could tell he really was happy for me, and that made me all warm and fuzzy until I realized that meant I seriously would be leaving in August to go back to school and Jax would be here.


How could I have forgotten about that?

Some of my happiness took a nosedive, not a big one, but enough that I was annoyed at myself for letting it do that and frustrated because I suddenly felt like I needed to define exactly what we were and what that would mean when school started back up.

By the time we got inside Mona’s, and I was behind the bar, chopping up limes and some fresh green, minty stuff, I managed to find a happy medium between the two. I was going to enjoy what I had now and not worry about what the future held, because there was a lot of stuff still unknown about my future. Like the fact I had to produce my mom before tomorrow night.

And that wasn’t looking like it was going to happen.

The fact Jax had kissed me before he disappeared into the office, in front of Nick and Clyde, might’ve had something to do with not stressing out over a ton of things I had no control over.

“That’s my boy,” was all Clyde had said before he ambled off into the kitchen.

Grinning, I shook my head as I moved the cutting board aside. All and all, things were good, I supposed. I was no longer a virgin. I was in love with the guy who took said virginity, and I was pretty sure he liked me. A lot. My financial aid was approved.

And I made it to Wednesday evening without anyone running us over, bodies being dumped on the front lawn, or wearing Dermablend.

A great three days, I decided.

The bar was slow, with just me and Nick behind the bar when a young couple walked in. In the time I’d been here, I knew they weren’t regulars as I watched them occupy two empty stools.

They made an adorable couple—she was short, like teeny-tiny Roxy sized, and he was supertall, with messy brown hair. The girl had the prettiest blue eyes, a stark contrast against her darker hair.

“What can I get you two?” I asked.

The girl smoothed a hand over a University of Maryland shirt. “Just a Coke, please.”

“And a menu,” the guy added, dropping his elbows on the bar top. “And another Coke.”

“Coming up.” After grabbing their drinks, I handed over a plastic-covered menu for them to share. “The fries are great. So are the chicken wings if you’re a fan of Old Bay Seasoning.”

The girl’s eyes lit up. “I love Old Bay. I think it’s a requirement of going to school in Maryland.”

University of Maryland wasn’t too far from Shepherd. “You guys traveling through?”

He nodded. “Visiting Philly for the day. Syd’s never been.”

“Have a good time?”

Syd nodded. “He took me to my first Phillies game, but I didn’t order anything to eat, so now I’m starving.”

The guy scanned the menu. “I think we’ll go for an order of fries and wings. Bone in. Sixteen.”

I skedaddled off to place the order and when I returned, old man Melvin was at the bar, waiting for me.

Oh no.

I smiled at him even though he looked like he was ready to unload, but my smile faltered as the door opened, and Aimee with two e’s rolled in. Her gaze swept the bar, and not finding Jax, she made her way over to the bar farthest from me, in front of an annoyed-looking Nick.

I sat the beer down on a napkin in front of Melvin without him asking, hoping that would somehow fend him off.

It didn’t work.

“What’s this I hear about Rooster’s body being tossed on your doorstep?” he demanded, wrapping his hand around the bottle.

The guy stiffened, and the girl’s eyes widened.

“Damn shame what these druggies are doing to this town,” Melvin went on, oblivious to the eyes on him. He took a hefty swig of his beer. “This used to be a good town, a good place. Now we have them keeling over dead, bullet wounds to their heads. Freaking shame.”

“Kyler,” the girl whispered as she talked to him slowly. “Um . . . ?”

He said nothing as his gaze moved to me. Before I could speak, Melvin decided he wasn’t done. “Can’t say it’s a shame about Rooster, though. Who didn’t see that messy end coming for him? He was nothing but a lowlife and—”

“Are you wanting wings or fries today?” I asked, hoping to distract him before he sent the poor couple running off into the night screaming bloody murder.

Distracted by my question, he eventually grumbled out an order for wings. As I left to place that order, the couple’s wings and fries were ready. When I returned, I was thanking the heavens that Melvin’s buddy had showed up and they moved away from the bar.

“Sorry about that,” I said, placing the baskets on the counter. “We usually don’t have those kinds of problems.”

The guy leaned in. “Was there really a body on your porch?”

I winced. “Yeah. Long story.”

“Whoa,” he murmured, sitting back.

The door swung open again, and I looked up, spying Katie strolling in. I knew the exact moment the girl saw her, because her eyes grew even wider. Might have something to do with the fact Katie was wearing a hot pink fishnet dress over what appeared to be a bikini. Or pasties. I didn’t want to look long enough to figure it out.

Grinning, she bounced over to where I was at. “Girl, you look good today. Despite the fact you got dead bodies dropping on your head.”

Oh. My. God.

“Actually, you look like someone who got recently laid,” she continued, and my mouth dropped open. “Yeah, you do. You so do.”

I was seriously beginning to wonder if she really did have super stripper abilities or something. But I was not discussing this with complete strangers sitting right next to us. “You on break, Katie?”

“Nope. Heading into work. Thought I’d pop over and make sure you weren’t rocking in a corner somewhere, whispering to yourself out of trauma or some shit.”

“I’m totally okay,” I told her. “But thanks for checking on me.” And I really meant that.

She started to say something, but then Jax appeared at the end of the hall, coming from the recesses of the office. He glanced over at me and winked. I felt a stupid grin curve on my lips.

“He totally got in your pants,” she stage-whispered, and the guy sounded like he choked on a chicken wing.

Jax moseyed off, and before I could even figure out how to handle that statement, Aimee turned to us, displaying an elegant twist of her neck.

“He’s so hot, isn’t he?” she said, batting big eyes at me. “Jax, that is.”

Rolling his eyes, Nick turned away from her and moved to the bottles at the back of the bar.

I opened my mouth, but Katie beat me to it. “Bitch, are you on the crack? Because I’m pretty sure that hot boy named Jax was just all winking at Calla over here and didn’t even see you sitting there. Just FYI.”

I pressed my lips together so hard I thought they’d split as Aimee’s face reddened. She stared at Katie for a moment and then whirled around, flouncing off in the direction of where Jax was grabbing empty glasses and baskets off the table.

I sighed.

Katie turned to me. “I’m gonna yippie-ki-yay that bitch out of this bar one of these days. Mark my words, hand to God, and all that jazz.”

Why did I suddenly have visions of Bruce Willis?

Then she flounced off in the opposite direction, toward the door.

My gaze drifted to where the young couple sat, their eyes wide and their mouths slightly agape. They looked at me in unison.

“Welcome to Mona’s,” I said dryly.


Roxy stood behind the bar Saturday night, slim arms folded across her chest and her legs widespread. Her black frame glasses were slid up, resting just under the perfectly messy bun.

Her eyes were narrowed into thin slits and the bitchy jut to her chin was cute. I’d told her that a few minutes before, when I’d hit the bar to get beers for the group of guys in the back, and she hadn’t thought that was cute, which made her look more bitchy.

And cuter.

The victim of her death glare was Aimee with two e’s. For the fourth night in a row, Aimee was here, sitting at the bar with a friend who sort of looked orange. Roxy had nicknamed the friend Oompa One.

I had to grin because the death glares were for my benefit. Aimee was actually pretty nice to Roxy and even me, but she made it obvious why she was here, and Roxy was so not down with that.

Every time Jax came behind the bar, Aimee monopolized his attention when she could. And like every night before, he must’ve been ridiculously funny about things, because not a minute passed where Aimee wasn’t laughing loudly. Or flipping her hair over her shoulder. Or leaning on the bar, giving Jax and Roxy at times a clear shot at her boobage.

And every so often, like the last four days, Jax would catch my eyes, give me a look, and I wouldn’t care about Aimee sitting at the bar, doing everything possible to get some return flirt action.

Then again, I figured Jax could put an end to Aimee’s attempt by telling her he wasn’t available. I mean, we hadn’t given each other labels, but we were together in every way we could be together.

And . . . and I loved him, so whatever. We were together.

He hadn’t said those words to me, but I hadn’t, either. And I wasn’t going to think about that right now or make a big deal out of it. In spite of all the stuff, I was actually kind of happy and it was Saturday with no sign of Mack.

I would not ruin this.

Taking the order of Old Bay chicken wings to Melvin’s table, I grinned at the old man as I placed the basket between them. “Here you go. Anything else?”

“We’re good.” The skin around his eyes settled into deep grooves as he grinned. “As long as you give us another one of those smiles.”

I laughed. “You old flirt.”

He chuckled as he snatched up a chicken wing. “If I was twenty years younger, you and I would be cuttin’ up that floor.”

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