Trenton laughed, and then looked at Kody. “Can you give me a ride home? We’ve had a little bit to drink.”
Kody jingled his keys. “Yeah, man. I’m heading over here in the morning to grovel if you want to pick up your car.”
“Sweet,” Trenton said. He stood up, ruffled my hair with his fingers, and then grabbed his keys. “See you at work tomorrow.”
“You get anywhere with her, man?” Kody said, purposefully louder than necessary.
Trenton rushed me and turned, lying on top of me, letting his entire weight push me down. “No way. Who else can you drink Crown straight from the bottle with?”
“Myself,” I said, grunting against his weight. I elbowed him in the ribs, and he pulled himself up by the back of the couch, awkward and dramatic.
When the door shut, I tried not to smile, but failed.
THE BOTTLE CRASHED TO THE FLOOR, AND BOTH HANK and Raegan stared down at the broken shards and splattered liquid.
“Fuck!” I said, bending down to pick it up.
“I got it,” Gruber said, hurrying behind the bar to clean up my mess.
Week two of my new job, and it was already beginning to wear on me. Going straight from class to Skin Deep wasn’t difficult Mondays or Tuesdays, but Wednesday through Sunday kicked my ass. Trying to keep up with studying and papers after a shift that lasted until after 2:00 AM, and then waking up for a 9:00 AM class was grueling.
“You all right?” Hank said into my ear. “That’s the first time you’ve dropped a bottle since you learned to flip ’em.”
“I’m fine,” I said, wiping my wet hands on the towel that was tucked into my back pocket.
“Wait a goddamn minute!” Raegan yelled at the impatient jerk standing among forty other impatient jerks at my station. “I still don’t understand why you’re doing this for Coby,” she said, a residual frown still on her face.
“I’m pretty sure it’s called enabling. Why would he straighten up, Cami? He has you to bail him out after a two-minute guilt trip.”
“He’s a stupid kid, Ray. He’s allowed to screw up,” I said, stepping over Gruber to get to the Blue Curaçao.
“He’s your younger brother. He shouldn’t be a bigger f**kup than you.”
“Everything isn’t always the way it’s supposed to be.”
“What kind of bar is this? That’s one of the top ten beers ever made! You should have it year-round!”
I rolled my eyes. Thursday night was coin beer night, and always packed. The dance floor was shoulder to shoulder, and the bar was three rows deep of drink calling and doubled as a prime spot for what Hank affectionately called the Meat Market, and it wasn’t even eleven o’clock, when the rush would start.
“Got it!” Kody said, pushing through the crowd to get to a writhing mob.
The patrons were always more violent for two or three days after a fight. They’d watch Travis Maddox maul some guy without mercy, and then everyone at that fight walked away thinking they were equally invincible.
Raegan smiled, pausing for a few seconds to watch Kody work. “Damn, he’s hot.”
“Work, bitch,” I said, shaking the hell out of a New Orleans Fizz until my arms burned.
Raegan groaned, lined up five shot glasses, pulled the stack of napkins to the lower shelf, and then tipped a bottle of Chartreuse upside down. She overpoured the shot glasses, and then ran a thin line across a clean section of the bar. She flipped a lighter, and fire erupted.
The group closest to the bar leaned back, away from the flames crawling across the wooden plank in front of them, and then cheered.
“Back the f**k up!” Raegan yelled as the fire burned itself out after thirty seconds.
“Nice!” Trenton said, standing in front of me with his arms crossed.
“Stay away from the west corner,” I said, nodding to the red sea of swinging idiots parted by Kody and Gruber.
Trenton turned, and then shook his head. “Don’t tell me what to do.”
“Then get the hell away from my bar,” I said with a smirk.
“Hey, Baker,” I said with a smile. He’d been slipping twenties into my tip jar for over a year.
Trenton frowned. “You’re missing your shirt,” he said.
I looked down at my leather vest. Yes, my tits were out to play, but I worked at a bar, not a day care. “Are you saying you don’t approve of my attire?” Trenton began to speak, but I put my finger against his lips. “Aw, that’s cute. You thought I was really asking.”
Trenton kissed my finger, and I pulled back my hand.
Raegan slid a shot to Trenton, and winked at him. He winked back, lifted his glass to her, and then walked across the dance floor to the pool tables, not ten feet from the fight Kody and Gruber were still struggling with. Trenton watched for a few more seconds, shot the complimentary whiskey from Raegan, and then walked to the middle of the mob. Like a drop of oil in a bowl of water, the squabbling group backed away.
Trenton said a few words, and Kody and Gruber escorted two of the guys toward the exit.
“I should offer him a job,” Hank said, watching the scene from behind me.
“He wouldn’t take it,” I said, mixing another drink. Unlike his little brother, I could tell that Trenton would rather not fight. He just wasn’t afraid to, and like the other Maddox boys, it was ingrained in him as a default option for solving a problem.
Every few minutes for almost an hour, I found myself scanning the room for that buzzed brown hair and white T-shirt. The short sleeves fit snug around his biceps and broad chest, and I inwardly cringed for noticing. Trenton had always stood out to me, but I’d never tried to get to know him well enough to figure out why. He’d obviously stood out to a lot of females, and the thought of waiting in line didn’t appeal to me, but I still noticed. It was hard not to.
Trenton leaned over to take the winning shot at one of the pool tables, his white hat turned backward. Clearly one of his favorites, the dingy white still made his leftover tan from summer look even darker.
“Holy cow balls! There’s already been two fights at the entrance!” Blia said, her eyes wide. “Need a break?”
I nodded, taking payment for the last cocktail I’d made.
“Don’t be long. This place is five seconds away from blowing up.”
I winked. “I’m just going to pee, smoke, and I’ll be right back.”
“Don’t ever quit us,” Blia said, already starting a drink order. “I’ve decided that I’m not ready for the east bar, yet.”
“Don’t worry. Hank would have to fire me first.”