Twist:A Dive Bar Novel(10)

By: Kylie Scott



Joe turned in his chair, peering through the window at the brilliantly painted statue on the corner. “Yeah. They do different art installations every summer then sell them off as a fund-raiser at the end of the season to pay the artists.”

“Wow.”

“Moose were the theme one year. Another time we had fountains on every corner. It was a little crazy,” he said.

“Cool.”

He tipped his chin, studying me.

I took the opportunity to sniffle. So feminine.

“I wanted to talk to you a bit more about what happened between us online,” he said, his mouth a serious straight line. “How I came to use my brother’s profile.”

Ugh. “I’m pretty sure I found out everything I needed to know last night.”

“I didn’t mean to lie to you, Alex.”

“Once is a mistake.” I crossed my legs, kicking my black leather bootie back and forth. So I was a little aggravated. Sue me. “Months’ worth of emails is not. You could have introduced yourself to me, Joe, told me who you really were. You chose not to. Christ, no wonder you kept putting off meeting. I should have known something was wrong.”

“You’re right. I shouldn’t try to sell you excuses.” A big sigh from my “friend.” “Truth is, I’m not used to being the bad guy. Usually I’m the one cleaning up my brother’s messes.”

“Lucky me.” Right behind my eyes, what had been a mild ache became a dull pounding. I pushed my sunglasses further back on my head, rubbing at my temples.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, it’s just this stupid head cold. Please, continue. You’re not used to being the bad guy, huh?”

His frown deepened. “I know it must feel like you don’t know me, but you do. It was just a couple of details. But the person talking to you, that was me.”

I shook my head. “I don’t care. Look, you’re forgiven. Okay? If that’s what you need, you got it. All good. It’s in the past.”

“Thing is, Alex, I don’t think I really ever saw us meeting. I don’t know.” He scratched his head. “It was always going to be a clusterfuck that wound up with you hating me. And I liked you too much to want to ’fess up to that.”

“As a friend,” I inserted. “I know.”

“Yeah. But it’s done. You’re here now. Seems stupid if we don’t take this chance to try and get to know each other face-to-face,” he said. “Guess what I’m asking is if you’ll stay a few days. Let me make this up to you.”

“God, are you serious? No. Absolutely not,” I said, resolute. “I’ve had liars in my life before, Joe. No. I can’t. I’m going home.”

He visibly sagged.

“Sucks that you’re having issues being the jerk in this situation. But that’s not my problem.”

No response.

“Excuse me. I need to go to the bathroom.” Time to go splash some water on my face. Pull myself together. Only when I pushed back in my seat and stood, the whole world whited out, spinning in dizzy circles. My muscles weakened and suddenly gravity was not my friend.

“Shit. Alex.”

A strong hand gripped my arm, keeping me from keeling over. Already up and out of his chair, Joe guided me back down into my seat. Maybe going nowhere was best. Yeah, I’d just hang. No doubt this would all pass in a minute.

“You’re gray,” said Joe, kneeling at my feet.

“Actually, I don’t feel particularly great.” In fact, if there’d been anything in my stomach, I’d have probably thrown up all over him. Ha. What a statement that would have made. Only then, I’d feel bad because he was being so sweet and all.

Coffee cups clattered on the table.

“Is she okay?” the waitress asked Joe.

“You mind grabbing her some water, Jess?”

“Sure.”

I heard swift footsteps. The growl of a motorcycle passing by outside.

“Maybe I caught some bug on the plane yesterday,” I said, pondering my shit condition. The only swooning women I knew came out of Georgette Heyer novels. I wasn’t the fainting type. “This seems a bit worse than a stuffy nose.”

“You nearly passed out just now. You can’t fly in this condition.”

“Shit.” I groaned on the inside. “I guess not. Perhaps I’ll see if I can extend my stay at the hotel.”

“And who’s going to look after you?” he asked.

“I don’t need someone looking after me.”

“Hey,” he said, forehead furrowed all stern-like. “You could have fallen and seriously hurt yourself just now. Hit your head or something.”

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