Twist:A Dive Bar Novel(8)

By: Kylie Scott



“Call me if you change your mind,” she said. “I’ll be here … sharpening my shoes.”

“Thanks.” I laughed softly. It was the only semblance of mirth I could manage. “Later.”

Coffee. Right.

I could do this.

A beat-up silver Bronco sat at the curb. The thing was basically a monster truck—probably normal around these parts. Getting up hills in heavy snow would take some work. Though it wasn’t the truck that caught my attention. Nope, it was the ridiculous tangled mass of blond hair and beard pressed against the side window that made me stop in my tracks.

Damn. It couldn’t be. I stepped closer. “Eri … Joe?”

Sleeping Beauty slept on.

Don’t tap the glass. Let sleeping stalkers lie. Don’t tap the glass.

And yet … ever so politely, I tapped on the glass.

“Huh?” A groan accompanied the batting of eyelids and much squinting. “Yeah, yeah. I’m awake.”

Slowly, the window rolled down.

“Hey,” he said, voice still thick with sleep. “Morning.”

We just kind of stared at each other, perplexed.

“You slept in your car?” I asked.

A shrug. “Didn’t want you to leave before we had a chance to talk.”

I turned away, crossed my arms.

“Look, Alex … can we talk?” The car door cracked open and I took one giant step back as he stood tall on the sidewalk. He looked beyond rumpled, fitting, given the circumstances. Before beginning his vigil, he’d obviously changed out of last night’s wet clothes. Long legs were encased in another worn pair of blue jeans, and a faded gray hoodie covered his upper half. The width of his mighty shoulders was stretching the material a little. Equally large feet, or at least seriously large sneakers, completed the outfit. I wondered, did guys ever buy oversize shoes to try and benefit from the feet-to-penis-size belief? Was there a market for that? And I was standing there staring at the man’s crotch in a total daze.

My gaze darted to his face, cracked wide yet again on a yawn. Thank goodness he hadn’t caught me. That would have been bad. I really needed to get my sick wandering thoughts under control.

“Please?” he asked, eyes all intense.

“I’m pretty sure we covered everything last night.”

For a moment he hung his head, then he looked me straight in the eye. “I’m pretty sure we didn’t. Please. Let me buy you breakfast. You need food, right? Coffee?”

Sleeping in his car definitely showed commitment. Plus, I did need coffee. “Okay.”

He smiled. It wasn’t a full-out grin, more a cautious curving of the lips. “Great. Thanks.”

I nodded.

“There’s a good place just down here,” he said, stuffing his hands in his jeans pocket and giving me side-eyes as we started walking.

Man, this cold sucked. I pulled out my wad of tissues and blew my nose for the umpteenth time this morning. Gah. Already, I could feel my poor nostrils chafing. Aloe vera Kleenex was urgently required, along with more aspirin. “Is there a pharmacy nearby?”

“About a five-minute drive. You sick?” He gave me a dubious once-over. “You’re not looking so hot, but I didn’t want to get in any more trouble by saying something.”

“Wise.”

The man held his silence.

“I must have caught a chill last night from walking in the rain.”

He winced. “Ah, shit. I’m sorry.”

I shrugged.

“Be happy to take you to the pharmacy or wherever you want to go.”

“That’s okay,” I said, ambling alongside him. Walking any faster would have required energy. “I can go in the Uber on the way to the airport.”

No reply.

Halfway up the next block he stopped outside a café, holding open the door. “Here we are.”

The place seemed nice. Bright green walls covered in community notices. Only a few of the shiny old diner-style aluminum tables were taken this early in the day. He pulled out a chair for me by the window and I sat, mumbling my thanks. Breakfast was going to be awkward as all hell. Maybe I’d just caffeinate and run. Hit the road to Spokane. Sure, I’d be loitering around the airport for hours and hours, but even that had to beat rehashing my oh-so-recent embarrassing past with this guy.

What I really wanted to do was swan-dive into a big soft bed and sleep for about a week. Too bad that wasn’t an option.

Opposite me, Joe sat forward in his seat, arms braced on the table. I’d returned to my usual attire, skinny jeans and boots (there were only two pairs of socks and about a hundred Band-Aids covering my poor blistered feet) and a black bulky, comfy sweater. No makeup or hairstyling, that’s for sure. If the man was surprised by the lack of last night’s glamour, it didn’t show.

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