Hank threw a wadded-up napkin at my face. “You don’t have to worry about that, killer.”
I playfully punched his arm, and then made a beeline for the employees’ bathroom. Once inside the stall, I shimmied my panties down to my knees and sat, the bass of the music outside keeping a muffled but steady beat. The thin walls vibrated, and I envisioned my bones doing the same.
After checking my phone, I set it on top of the gray plastic toilet paper container. Still nothing from T.J., but I was the last person to text. I wasn’t going to be the kind of girl who begged for attention.
“You ’bout done?” Trenton said from the other side of the stall.
My entire body tensed. “What the hell are you doing in here? This is the girls’ bathroom, Stalker Texas Ranger.”
“Did you just insinuate I’m comparable to Chuck Norris? Because I’ll take that.”
I flushed the toilet, and then pushed open the stall door so hard it slammed against the sink counter. After washing my hands, and pulling out a couple of paper towels, I made sure to glare at Trenton.
“Glad to see employees really do what the sign says. I’ve always wondered.”
I left him alone in the bathroom, and headed out the employee entrance door.
The moment I stepped outside the chill cooled the bare parts of my skin. Cars were still pulling in and parking haphazardly on the grass on the far side of the lot. Car doors were slamming, and friends and couples were walking to the entrance, slowed by a long line of college students waiting for others to leave so they could get in.
Trenton stood next to me, pulled out a cigarette and lit it, and then lit mine. “You should really quit,” he said. “Nasty habit. Not attractive for a girl.”
I craned my neck at him.
“What? I’m not trying to be pretty. I’m not a girl.”
“I’m not trying to be pretty, either.”
I peeked over at him, trying my hardest not to feel flattered. A warm feeling pooled in my chest, and then began to spread, making it all the way down to my fingers and toes. He had the best worst effect on me. As if everything I was—and wasn’t—was desirable. I didn’t even have to try. Trenton’s unrepentant appreciation for everything he knew about me was addictive. I found myself wanting more, but I wasn’t sure if it was the way he made me feel that I liked so much, or the familiar feeling. This was like my first three months with T.J. The warmth I’d felt a second before faded, and I began to shiver.
“I’d offer you my jacket, but I didn’t bring one,” Trenton said. “I have these, though.” He held his arms a bit away from his body, palms up.
I shrugged. “I’m fine. How was the last few hours of work tonight?”
He crossed his arms across his chest. “You’re doing too good of a job. Hazel was bitching that you weren’t there, and then Calvin started in, too.”
“Did you at least take up for me?”
“What did you want me to say? Shut the f**k up, Hazel! She’s a terrible worker and I don’t want her here!”
Trenton shook his head. “You make no f**king sense. But I think I like it.”
“Thanks, I think.” I pinched the cherry off my cigarette and stepped on it. “Back to work.”
“Always,” Trenton said, following me back inside.
Blia returned to the front kiosk, and then Jorie came up to relieve Raegan. Trenton was working on his fourth bottle of beer by the time Raegan returned, and he seemed more irritated after every drink I made.
He nodded but didn’t stop staring at his intertwined fingers resting on the bar. I noticed for the first time that his T-shirt featured two pale bluebirds, above the words DO YOU SWALLOW? His many tattoos complemented the shirt and distressed jeans, but the pink, white, and purple plastic bracelet didn’t.
I touched the plastic with my index finger. “Olive?”
He turned his wrist a bit. “Yep.” Even the mention of his best friend didn’t cheer him up.
“Who’s here?” I said, squinting while I shook another cocktail.
I glanced around, and there he was, just a few feet down from Trenton’s left, flanked by Jeremy and Kylie. She was in another short dress, only this one was gold and a lot tighter. “Just ignore him. We’re having a good time tonight.”
“We are? I’m sitting here by myself,” he snapped.
Clay smiled at me, but I looked down, hoping not to encourage any snide comments from him that would set Trenton off. No such luck.
“Look, Jeremy! It’s the bitchy secretary!” Clay said. He was drunker than he was in the tattoo parlor.
I looked for Kody, but didn’t see him. He was likely at the entrance, where the fights had been breaking out. Gruber was on the west wall, where scuffles were also known to occur. Tuffy was on break, so Hank was probably at the entrance checking IDs and taking money.
Clay still hadn’t seen Trenton, but Kylie had. She had one arm around Clay’s back, and one hand on his stomach, the tip of her ring finger tucked into the waist of his jeans. Even though she was draped against Clay, she kept her eyes on Trenton, waiting for him to notice her.
“I’ll take a bottle of Bud, Bitchy! And you’re not getting a tip, because you kicked me out the other night.”
“Want me to do it again?” I asked.
“I can take you into a dark alley and bend you over,” he said, weaving.
Trenton tensed, and I put my hand on his. “He’s plastered. Give me a sec and I’ll have Kody escort him out.”
Trenton didn’t look up at me, he just nodded, his knuckles white.
“I’m not in the mood for your shit tonight. Go order from the kiosk.”
“Beer me, bitch!” Clay said, just before he noticed whose hands I was holding.
Trenton left his seat, barreling through a few people.
“Trent, no! Goddammit!” I jumped over the bar, but not before Trenton got a couple of punches in. Clay was already on the ground, bleeding. I fell on my knees and covered my head, covering Clay with my body at the same time.
When nothing happened, I looked up, seeing Trenton standing over us, his fist shaking and high in the air. Kylie was standing next to Trenton, looking down on us. She was simply spectating, not the least bit concerned about Clay.
Kody and Raegan were standing next to me when I stood up, and Kody helped Clay to his feet. Jorie pointed to Clay, and Kody took him by the arm.
Clay yanked his arm from Kody’s grasp and wiped the blood from his mouth with his sleeve.
“You want to go again, sunshine?” Trenton asked.
“Fuck you,” Clay said, spitting blood on the floor. “Let’s go, Kylie.”
Trenton pulled Kylie against his side and pointed at her. “Is this your girl?”
Trenton grabbed Kylie and leaned her back, planting an open kiss on her mouth. She kissed him back, and for a few seconds they were both more than enthusiastic. Trenton slid his hand down her side and then cupped her ass with one hand, keeping her neck in the crook of his other arm.