Page 35

“Hey, hot stuff.” Rachel smacked my ass in greeting.

“What’s up?” I nodded her way. She bent over at the waist, stocking the cooler with bottles of beer. Rachel was gorgeous and she knew it. She was tall and slender with long bleached-blonde hair and cherry-red lips. A series of girly tattoos made up a half sleeve on her right arm—butterflies, flowers, hearts, things like that. I was convinced a lot of our male patrons came in just to hit on Rachel.

“Sammy’s out tonight and so is one of our bar backs, so we’ll be busy. Hope you can handle it.”

“I think you know I can.” I’d been working here on and off for four years. I knew the place inside and out. Just because I didn’t maintain regular shifts didn’t mean shit. Tending bar was like riding a bike. Put a shaker and a bottle in my hand, and I knew what to do.

“Cocky much?” she teased, winking at me beneath thick black lashes.

“It’s not cocky if it’s true.” I jumped into action, punching in at the register and grabbing a crate of glasses to stack beneath the bar.

The evening crowd began to filter in and take up seats at the bar and the nearby high-top tables. Rachel and I managed to keep up our easy banter while mixing drinks and pouring beers from the tap. She flicked a beer cap at my chest. “Hey, lover boy.” She nodded her head toward the far end of the bar. “Looks like you have a visitor.”

My eyes followed Rachel’s stare to the end of the bar, where I spotted her. McKenna. Guilt burned in my subconscious for my actions the other night. I couldn’t believe how far I’d let things go.

“Cover me for a second?” I called out to Rachel, already making my way toward the end of the bar.

McKenna looked completely out of place here. Her gaze darted around at the jostling bodies as her hands clutched at the shoulder strap of her purse, holding it securely around her body. When her eyes met mine, her expression softened just slightly. She stepped closer to the bar, sliding onto an open stool in front of her. The guy immediately to her left smiled and pushed himself closer.

When I approached, McKenna’s eyes lifted to mine and she bit her lip, seemingly unsure about being here. Damn right, she should feel unsure. This place was a meat market and she was a delicious, juicy steak.

The douche bag next to her lifted his hand to get my attention. “Another beer and whatever this pretty young thing wants.”

McKenna’s eyes widened, as if she suddenly realized that coming alone to a bar might not have been the best call. But I wouldn’t let anything happen to her.

I leaned closer, getting in the guy’s face. “You’re done here. I’m not serving you anything more, and you sure as shit aren’t buying her a drink. I suggest you leave.”

“What the—”

I slammed a fist onto the bar and the guy quickly rose and took off.

“Why’d you do that?” she asked, looking bewildered.

I wouldn’t explain my actions to her. Not until she explained some things to me first. “Why did you come here?”

“Your brothers said you were out. I was worried you were—”

“Out drinking and picking up women?” I supplied.

She nodded.

“Nope. Just working.” Christ, she was watching me with those pretty sapphire-blue eyes, looking at me like she was both hurt and disappointed. I turned to the guy next to us. “What can I get for you?”

“Bud Light,” he called back. I cracked open a bottle and handed it to him, punching the order into the register to add it to his tab before turning back to McKenna.

“No freebies, honey. You want something to drink?” Rachel said to McKenna, suddenly standing next to me.

“She’s a friend, Rachel. Back off.”

Rachel laughed, throwing her head back. “Yeah, they’re all your friends until morning. Right, Knox?”

Curiosity burned in McKenna’s gaze as she appraised Rachel. Looking back and forth between us, I could see the wheels in McKenna’s head spinning, wondering about my history with this feisty blonde. All it took was one little look from McKenna and I felt unworthy of her. This would never work. Why was she here? Didn’t she get the memo after the other night? Unless she was back for more…

McKenna pulled her gaze from Rachel to focus back on me, and straightened her shoulders. “What time do you get off?”

“Two,” I croaked, wondering what she was doing.

“I’ll wait then. Give me a Diet Coke, please.”

Rachel rolled her eyes and stormed away. Shit, I didn’t know what her problem was with McKenna being here. As long as I did my job, she shouldn’t care that McKenna was hanging out at the end of the bar.

“What are you planning to do? Stay here and babysit me, make sure I go straight home after my shift?” She didn’t respond. In any other circumstance it might have angered me, but coming from McKenna, I knew her concern was genuine. “If we have any chance, you have to trust me, angel.”

Her eyes flashed on mine. “Do you trust yourself?”

I leaned closer. “Around you? No.”

Blush colored her cheeks. “I went to your house. I still owe you guys dinner, and when Luke told me you were here—at a bar—what was I supposed to think?”

“The worst, apparently.”

Her gaze zeroed in on Rachel, who was still watching us with a scowl. “Have you slept with that girl?” She tipped her head toward the end of the bar where Rachel was polishing pint glasses.

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