Authors: Rainey Anne
Now that she wasn’t trying to diffuse a bomb, Sarah saw that Jack had put on a few pounds around the middle. A beer belly, she’d bet money on it. Jack had always been way too fond of alcohol. She caught a hint of silver and noticed an earring flashing in his left lobe. That was new. When Jack moved closer to her, Brodix let out a low rumble. She swung her gaze toward his, her own anger rising up. “Seriously? I’m getting a headache here.” She sighed at the tight expression on his face and said, “I did not invite Jack here, Brodix.”
Brodix went so quiet it made her jittery. He stood absolutely rigid as he looked from her to Jack. “Do the smart thing, Jack. Go away,” he said, his voice low, deadly.
For Brodix’s sake, Sarah put a few feet of carpet between herself and her ex. Jack’s lips thinned as he pointed a pudgy finger at Brodix. “Who the hell is this?” he asked. When Jack stood a little straighter and puffed out his chest, Sarah had to hide a grin. The drinking must have killed off a few too many brain cells if he thought he could intimidate Brodix.
“None of your business,” Sarah shot right back. She pointed toward the door. “Now go, before I call the police.”
“He damn near attacked me,” Jack whined as he smoothed a hand down the front of his wrinkled shirt. “Go ahead and call the police. They’ll arrest him for assault!”
Sarah snorted. “Seems to me it could’ve been much worse.” Jack’s cheeks reddened. Sarah had to count to ten before she had her anger under control. “What are you doing here so late on a Sunday? For that matter, why are you here at all?”
Jack crossed his arms over his chest. “Before this asshole came at me, I was trying to explain all that.”
“Explain now,” she said, trying to remain civil and failing miserably.
“Fine, but I don’t see why he needs to be here.” Jack glanced over at Brodix.
Brodix only stood there, his face devoid of emotion, and silently waited.
Jack rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Look, Sarah, I came here because I wanted to apologize.”
“Wow, that’d be a first,” she mocked.
Jack took her hand in his and moved closer. Sarah could smell the alcohol on his breath, and her stomach rolled. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Brodix shift restlessly. He didn’t like Jack touching her, she realized. Not even to hold her hand. Surely that meant something. She was too tired to try to figure out what, though.
“I made a mistake letting you go, Sarah. I know we left it on bad terms, but I want you to give me another chance. Give us another chance.”
Sarah couldn’t believe her ears. “Bad terms?” She pulled her hand away from his grasp. “Are you kidding me with that?”
Jack had the gall to look affronted. “I had hoped you’d be a little more forgiving. What happened before, it’s all in the past, baby. I still care about you.”
Ah, now that was the idiot she remembered so well. “No.”
His head jerked backward as if she’d slapped him. “What?”
“You heard me. No way in hell will I ever give you another chance.”
Jack’s eyes went round. “You don’t mean that. It’s late, and you’re tired.” He stepped closer to the door. “I’ll come back tomorrow, and we can talk more.”
“No need; we’re done.”
He stared another few seconds before he finally let out a breath and turned toward the door. No more words were exchanged between them. He mumbled something about calling her in a few days, after she had a chance to calm down, but Sarah was beyond listening to anything Jack had to say.
“Asshole,” Brodix gritted out as he slammed the door behind Jack.
Sarah took hold of the knob and opened it right back up again. “You too. I have to work tomorrow, and if you stay, I’ll never get any sleep.”
Brodix smiled, and Sarah’s heart fluttered. “I like the way you took care of Jack, sweetheart.” He pulled her into his arms and held her tight. She instantly sank against his warmth. Okay, so she was putty in the man’s hands. Whatever.
He leaned down and kissed her forehead, and Sarah’s body vibrated to life. “You do realize that no other man can ever do for you what I do for you, right? And you’re the only woman for me. No other can hold a candle to you.”
Boy, he played dirty. “Brodix,” she whispered.
“And you can be sure that I’ll never be quite so easy to get rid of,” he murmured. “Jack’s a damned fool. I’d fight like hell for you, Sarah.”
After a fleeting kiss to her lips, Brodix gently set her away from him and walked out of her apartment, softly closing the door behind him. Sarah was proud of herself. She gave it a full ten seconds before bursting into tears. She was in love. What on earth was she supposed to do with that?
Sarah hadn’t seen Brodix since she’d pushed him out of her apartment on Sunday. They’d talked every morning and every evening. In the middle of the day, Brodix often sent her naughty text messages. He told her he missed her, but work had kept him busy and he hadn’t been able to get away. She’d emailed the rest of her interview questions, and she’d been pleased when he’d replied to all of them. The article was written and turned in. She’d written an incredible piece, but she wasn’t sure Brodix would see it that way. Her stomach churned when she thought of him reading the article, or more specifically the part about how he’d found his foster mom dead. She’d waffled back and forth about whether or not to put it in there, but in the end, she’d left it. It was a better story for it and would grab readers’ attention. It would be great for the grand opening, she just knew it. But would Brodix see it that way, or would he think she’d betrayed him? Used him to get what she wanted, a great front page story?
Yeah, she’d gotten what she wanted. He’d gotten what he’d wanted too, hadn’t he? And even though she knew he was working—practically around the clock, thanks to the day job and trying to get ready for the grand opening of the restaurant—she worried maybe he didn’t really want to see her anymore. That maybe he was making excuses. Was he done with her? Half of her knew Brodix would never be so despicable as to dump her without an explanation, but part of her, the part that had been hurt by Jack’s infidelity, wondered.
Now it was Friday evening, and the grand opening of the restaurant would be fully underway. She was curious how it was going but was too chicken to call Brodix and find out. She was afraid of what he and the rest of the Jenningses thought of the article. Her editor had loved the piece. It hadn’t been the headliner, but close enough that it should’ve helped bring in customers. And her career was finally beginning to get back on track. All great stuff. So why was she down in the dumps? Easy—because of Brodix. Her heart squeezed tight as she imagined his face when he read the paper. Would he hate her for what she’d had to say about him and his family?
She looked at the clock and groaned. Brodix was expecting her at the restaurant at seven o’clock, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to go. She was afraid. Afraid Brodix would never share the same feelings for her that she felt for him Afraid he hated her now.
“God, loving a man isn’t supposed to be this difficult,” she muttered.
When her doorbell rang, Sarah’s heartbeat sped up. Had he changed his mind about meeting at the restaurant and decided to pick her up instead?
Excitement skittered through her as she jogged across the room and yanked the door open. “Lucy,” she said when she saw her coworker and best friend standing in the hall, a garment bag slung over one arm.
“Wow, don’t sound so thrilled,” she said, pushing her way inside the apartment. She’d pulled her long, straight dark hair into a high ponytail, and she wore a pair of old jeans with holes in the knees. With the tight, long-sleeved red V-neck T-shirt, Lucy appeared all of eighteen. Young and cute, that was Lucy. A burlap sack couldn’t hide her friend’s beauty. The garment bag Lucy carried in one hand caught Sarah’s attention and she frowned, curious what was in it.
Sarah closed the door behind her. “I’m always happy to see you, of course, but I was expecting someone else.”
“That hottie you told me about?” She tossed her load over the back of a chair and wagged her eyebrows. “The one in the article?”
Momentarily forgetting about the bag, Sarah plopped onto the couch, feeling ridiculously weepy. “Yeah, that one. We’re meeting at the restaurant later.”
“Then why the long face?”
“I’m not sure I’m going,” she admitted.
“And why the hell not? He’s gorgeous, and he’s into you. As an added bonus, he owns the Blackwater Bar and Grill, which just happens to be the talk of the town. The place is a huge hit, babes.” She sat next to her and patted Sarah’s thigh. “Thanks to your article.”
Sarah covered her eyes and let out a miserable groan. “I haven’t been able to ask him what he thought of the article. I’m terrified he hated it. Scared because I revealed something personal.”
“It’ll be fine. He’ll understand. Plus, you love him. So, there’s that.”
Sarah’s head shot up, and she stared at Lucy. “Huh?”
“You’re in love with him, but you don’t know if he feels the same way. Am I close?”
“Dead on, but what gave me away?”
“If you could see yourself right now, you wouldn’t have to ask. It’s clear you haven’t showered, and I’m betting you haven’t eaten. You’re lovesick.”
“Great, so do you have a cure or what?”
“Yeah.” She pointed to the black, zippered bag. “There’s a dress in there with your name on it. We’re going to that restaurant, and you’re going to look hot as hell. He won’t know what hit him. Then, while he’s down for the count, you spring it on him. Tell him how you feel.”
“And if it’s not…reciprocal? If he hates me because I shared his personal tragedies with the entire county?”
“Kick him in the teeth,” she helpfully supplied.
For the first time all day, Sarah laughed. “Wow, you’re nuts, but I love you.”
“Awesome. Now go shower.” She wrinkled her nose. “Seriously.”
An hour and a half later, Sarah found herself standing with Lucy inside the Blackwater Bar and Grill. Several heads turned their way, and Sarah’s face heated. “What was I even thinking wearing this thing,” she grumbled. “I feel like I’m wearing two Band-Aids, for Christ’s sake.”
Lucy winked and looked her over from head to toe. “Yeah, but you look really hot. He’ll have to drag his tongue off the floor once he gets a load of you. You’ll see.”
Sarah groaned, suddenly not so sure about anything. “And what about you, huh? I didn’t even know you owned dresses like these.”
She shrugged. “David used to want me to dress like a soccer mom. So of course, as soon as I kicked his mooching ass out, I bought several outfits that no soccer mom would ever be caught dead wearing.”
Sarah looked at Lucy again. The dress she wore was black, strapless, and had triangle-shaped cutouts down the front, stopping just below her navel. She could see Lucy’s cleavage through the little triangles. It was weird, but she hadn’t realized Lucy even had cleavage. She looked sexy and wild. The purple streak down the left side of her long black hair seemed to shimmer in the low lighting. Sarah thought she looked exotic. With Lucy’s large, almond-shaped blue eyes and full, unpainted lips, she could have passed for a runway model. She was a mysterious gypsy, and every man in the room would want a taste of her. Sarah hadn’t realized Lucy could look so incredible.
Not that what Sarah wore was anything less than devastating. The figure-hugging, cream-colored silk dress had narrow strips of butter-soft cloth that wrapped around her breasts and hips. Falling well above her knees, it was the most lethal thing she’d ever worn. It left her midriff exposed, and Sarah had the urge to wrap her arms around her middle to hide the expanse of skin.
They’d been there for a while, making the rounds in the bar. Sarah had looked around for Brodix but came up empty. “Come on, I need a drink. Preferably something strong.”
“Now you’re talking,” Lucy said with a grin.
Side by side, Lucy and Sarah strode up to the bar and grabbed a couple of stools. The bartender came over straightaway. “What can I get you lovely ladies?”
“A cosmopolitan for me, thanks,” Sarah said as she surreptitiously looked for Brodix.
“The same,” Lucy answered, giving the man a beaming smile.
The bartender’s eyes lit with warmth and lingered on Lucy’s triangles as he murmured, “My pleasure, ma’am.” As he went off to mix their drinks, Lucy leaned close and asked, “So, I heard they’re looking for live music here, but they haven’t found anyone that fits the bill. Has Brodix said anything?”
“No, I didn’t know they were considering hiring a band.” Her mind stuttered to a halt as she realized Lucy’s intentions. “You want to audition.” She stared at her friend. Lucy had the voice of an angel. “Oh wow, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. They’re going to eat you up.”
To Sarah’s utter shock, Lucy blushed. An honest-to-goodness blush. She hadn’t seen her friend blush once since they’d met five years ago. “I don’t know about that, but I’m going to try.” She slumped and looked down at the bar top. “Working at the
as a copy editor pays the bills, but it’s boring as snot. I need some excitement in my life, you know?”
“Just look at you. You’re gorgeous, and every man in this place is staring. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if our drinks were free with the way that bartender looked at you. Add in the fact you sing like a goddess and you’re smart as hell, and they’d be crazy
to hire you.”