I chuckled and looked down. “Thanks for dinner.”
“You owe me,” Trenton said, watching me get out.
“And I’d do it again,” he said as I shut the door.
I walked to the building, and Trenton waited until I stepped inside before he began to back away.
Raegan was sitting up on her knees on the couch cushions, gripping the back with her fingers. “So?”
I looked around the apartment and tossed my purse onto the love seat. “So . . . that was maybe the best nondate date I’ve ever had.”
“Really? Even better than when you met T.J.?”
I frowned. “I don’t know. That was a pretty good night. But tonight was . . . different.”
Raegan raised an eyebrow and lowered her chin. “This could get messy. You should just tell him.”
“Don’t be stupid. You know I can’t,” I said, walking toward my bedroom.
My phone buzzed once, and then again. I fell onto my bed and looked at the display. It was T.J.
“Hello?” I said, holding the phone to my ear.
“Sorry it took me so long to call . . . we just got in . . . everything okay?” T.J. asked.
“I thought I heard something in your voice when you answered.”
“You’re hearing things,” I said, trying not to think about how adorable Trenton looked with a sleepy Olive draped over his shoulder.
THE BETTER PART OF SUNDAY MORNING WAS SPENT IN BED. Around ten thirty, my mother texted me, asking if I was coming to Sunday lunch. I informed her that because of the trip cancellation, Hank had taken the opportunity to call an employee meeting. It was mostly the truth. The employees hung out at the Red every Sunday afternoon, and then we’d all go home to freshen up for the Sunday night shift.
Mom didn’t hesitate to send back a message meant to make me feel guilty.
“I’m riding with Kody!” Raegan yelled from her bedroom.
“K!” I yelled back from my bed. The phone call with T.J. hadn’t ended until the wee hours of the morning. We discussed vague parts of his project that he could reveal, and then we talked about Trenton and Olive. T.J. didn’t seem even the slightest bit jealous, which sort of pissed me off. And then I felt guilty when I realized I was trying to make him jealous, so I spent the rest of the conversation being super sweet to him.
After a long pep talk with myself, I threw off my covers and shuffled to the bathroom. Raegan had already been in there. The mirror was still fogged, and the walls were still sweaty from the steam.
I turned on the shower, grabbed two towels while the hot water kicked on, and then pulled off my worn Bulldog Football T-shirt and tossed it to the floor. The fabric was so thin it was see-through in some places. It was T.J.’s shirt, heather gray with royal-blue writing. I wore it the night before T.J. left to go back to California—the first night we slept together—and he didn’t ask for it when he left. That shirt represented a time when everything was perfect between us, so it held a special significance for me.
By noon I had dressed, jumped in the Smurf with minimal makeup and wet hair, driven to the closest fast-food restaurant to grab a couple of items off the value menu, scrounged up $2.70 in coins to pay for lunch, and then made my way to the Red Door. The entrance area was empty, but music was playing through the speakers. Classic rock. That meant Hank was already there.
When I sat down at the east bar, Hank came around from the other side and smiled. He was wearing a black button-up shirt with black slacks and a black belt. Typical for him during work hours, but he was usually dressed down on Sundays.
I straddled a barstool, and rested my chin on my fist. “Hey, Hank. You look nice.”
“Well, hello, good-lookin’,” Hank said with a wink. “I’m not going home before open tonight. Paperwork and all that fun shit. Did you enjoy your weekend off?”
“I did, under the circumstances.”
“Jorie said Trenton Maddox was hanging around your table Friday night. I must have missed it.”
“I’m surprised. Usually you’re watching the Maddoxes like a hawk.”
Hank made a face. “I have to. They’re either starting a fight or finishing one.”
“Yeah, they almost finished one with Coby, the jackass. Even when I told him who they were, he still didn’t back down.”
“I already need a drink!” Jorie called from the other side of the room. She was walking in with Blia. They both took a stool on each side of me and put their purses on the bar.
Jorie lifted an eyebrow. If it was possible to flirtatiously chomp on a piece of gum, she was doing it. “You tell me.”
“I’d say you had a pretty good night,” he said with a smirk.
“Ew,” I said, my entire face compressing. Hank’s dark, curly hair, light-blue eyes, five o’clock shadow, and tan skin made him attractive to nearly every female between the ages of fifteen and eighty, but Hank was twelve years older than us, and I’d witnessed so many of his shenanigans that he was more like a cute but ornery uncle to me. The only thing I wanted to visualize him doing was paperwork and counting money at the end of the night. “No one needs to hear that.”
Hank was responsible for the end of at least a dozen marriages in our little town, and he was notorious for paying attention to barely legal young women just long enough to dip his stick. But when Jorie began working at the Red last year, he was obsessed. Jorie, an army brat with nine cities under her belt and unimpressed by most things, was definitely not falling for Hank’s charms. It wasn’t until there was a major turnaround in his behavior and reputation that she gave him the time of day. They’d had a couple of setbacks, but they were good for each other.
Tuffy walked in, looking tired and depressed as usual. He was a bouncer at the Red until he was fired. Hank had a soft spot for him, though, and rehired him six months later as a DJ. After his third divorce and third bout with depression, he missed work too many times and got fired again. Now, on his fourth wife and fourth chance at the Red, he was reduced to working the entrance and checking IDs at half pay.
Just a few seconds later, Rafe Montez followed behind Tuffy. He took over for Tuffy as DJ, and frankly was far better. He was quiet and kept to himself, and even though he’d worked at the Red for nearly a year, I didn’t know much about him other than that he never missed a night of work.
“Holy shit the bed, Cami! Debra Tillman told my mom that you were at Chicken Joe’s with Trenton Maddox!” Blia said.
Jorie’s bleached curls flipped from one shoulder to the other when she looked over at me. “Seriously?”
“I was coerced. He showed up at my apartment with a little girl. He told her she could go to Chicken Joe’s as soon as I got ready.”
“That’s kind of sweet.” Blia brushed her long black hair off her shoulder and smiled, making her beautiful almond-shaped eyes turn into thin slits. She was barely five foot two and always wore sky-high shoes to make up for being vertically challenged. Today she wore inches-thick wedges with white skinny jeans and a floral top that scrunched at her midriff and fell off one shoulder. With her beauty-queen smile and flawless saffron skin, I always thought she was destined to be famous rather than waste her time behind the front beer kiosk, but she didn’t seem interested.