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If There’s No Tomorrow
Joanna’s had been a staple in downtown Clearbrook since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. The restaurant was kind of stuck in the past, weirdly existing somewhere between big-hair bands and the rise of Britney Spears, but it was clean and cozy, and practically everything that came out of the kitchen was fried. Plus it had the best sweet tea in the entire state of Virginia.
“Oh man,” I murmured. “What in the world is he doing?”
“What does it look like?” Dary’s eyes widened behind her white plastic-framed glasses. “He’s basically humping a blow-up dolphin.”
I pressed my lips together, because yep, that was what it looked like.
Whipping her phone out of my face, she cocked her head to the side. “What were you thinking?”
“He’s cute—was cute,” I explained lamely as I glanced over my shoulder. Luckily, no one else was within hearing range. “And I didn’t have sex with him.”
She rolled dark brown eyes. “Your mouth was on his mouth, and his hands—”
“All right.” I threw up my hands, warding off whatever else she was about to say. “I get it. Hooking up with Cody was a mistake. Trust me. I know. I’m trying to erase all of that from my memory and you’re not helping.”
Leaning over the counter I was standing behind, she whispered, “I’ll never let you live that down.” She grinned when my eyes narrowed. “But I understand. He has muscles on top of muscles. He’s kind of dumb but fun.” There was a dramatic pause.
Everything about Dary was dramatic, from the often abhorrently bright clothing she wore to the super-short hair, cropped on the sides and a riot of curls on the top. Right now her hair was black. Last month it was lavender. In two months it would probably be pink.
“And he’s Sebastian’s friend.”
I felt my stomach twist into knots. “That has nothing to do with Sebastian.”
“You’re so lucky I actually like you,” I shot back.
“Whatever. You love me.” She smacked her hands down on the counter. “You’re working this weekend, right?”
“Yeah. Why? Thought you were going to DC with your family this weekend.”
She sighed. “A weekend? I wish. We’re going to DC for the whole week. We leave tomorrow morning. Mom can’t wait. I swear she actually has an itinerary for us, like which museums she wants to visit, the expected time in each one, and when we will have our lunches and dinners.”
My lips twitched. Her mom was ridiculously organized, down to labeled baskets for gloves and scarves. “The museums will be fun.”
“Of course you think that. You’re a nerd.”
“No point in denying that. It’s true.” And I had no problem admitting it. I wanted to go to college and study anthropology. Most people would ask what in the hell would you do with a degree in that, but there were a lot of opportunities, like working in forensics, corporate gigs, teaching and more. What I wanted to do actually involved working in museums, so I would’ve loved a trip to DC.
“Yeah. Yeah.” Dary hopped off the red vinyl bar stool. “I got to go before Mom freaks. If I’m five minutes past my curfew, she’ll call the cops, convinced I’ve been abducted.”
I grinned. “Text me later, okay?”
Waving goodbye, I grabbed the damp rag and ran it along the narrow countertop. Pots clanged together, echoing out from the kitchen, signaling it was close to shutting down for the night.
I could not wait to get home, shower off the scent of fried chicken tenders and burnt tomato soup, and finish reading the latest drama surrounding Feyre and the fae courts. Then I was moving on to that sexy contemporary read I’d seen people talking about in the Facebook book club I lurked in, something about royals and hot brothers. Five of them.
Sign me up for that.
I swore half the money I made waitressing at Joanna’s went to buying books instead of filling my savings account, but I couldn’t help myself.
After wiping around the napkin dispensers, I lifted my chin and blew a strand of brown hair that had escaped my bun out of my face as the bell above the door rang and a slight figure stepped inside.
I dropped the lemony-scented rag with surprise. A breeze could’ve knocked me flat on my face.
For the most part, the only time anyone under the age of sixty came into Joanna’s was on Friday nights after the football games and sometimes Saturday evenings during the summer. Definitely not on Thursday nights.
Joanna’s made its bread and butter off certified AARP members, which was one of the reasons why I started waitressing here during the summer. It was easy and I needed the extra money.
The fact that Skylar Welch was standing just inside Joanna’s, ten minutes before closing, was a shock. She never came in here alone. Never.
Bright headlights pierced the darkness outside. She’d left her BMW running, and I was willing to bet she had a car full of girls just as pretty and perfect as her.
But nowhere near as nice.
I’d spent the last million years harboring a rabid case of bitter jealousy when it came to Skylar. But the worst part was that she was genuinely sweet, which made hating her a crime against humanity, puppies and rainbows.
Tentatively walking forward like she expected the black-and-white linoleum floor to rip open and swallow her whole, she brushed her light brown, blond-at-the-end hair over her shoulder. Even in the horrible fluorescent lights, her summer tan was deep and flawless.
“Hey.” I straightened, hoping she wasn’t going to place an order. If she wanted something to eat, Bobby was going to be pissed, and I was going to have to spend five minutes convincing him to cook whatever she wanted. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing much.” She bit down on her glossy bubblegum-pink lip. Stopping next to the red vinyl bar stools, she took a deep breath. “You’re about to close, aren’t you?”
I nodded slowly. “In about ten minutes.”
“Sorry. I won’t take long. I actually wasn’t planning to stop here.” I silently added a sarcastic Really? “The girls and I were heading out to the lake. Some of the guys are having a party, and we drove past here,” she explained. “I thought I’d stop by and see if...if you knew when Sebastian was coming home.”
I clenched my jaw shut. It should’ve been obvious the moment Skylar walked through those doors that she was here about Sebastian, because why else would she be talking to me? Yeah, she was sugary sweet, but we didn’t operate in the same circles at school. Half of the time I was invisible to her and her friends.
Which was okay with me.
“I don’t know.” That was a lie. Sebastian was supposed to come home from North Carolina on Saturday morning. He and his parents were visiting his cousins for the summer.
A twisty pang lit up my chest, a mixture of yearning and panic—two feelings I was well acquainted with when it came to Sebastian.
“Really?” Surprise colored her tone.
I fixed a blank expression on my face. “I’m guessing he’ll be back this weekend sometime. Maybe.”
“Yeah. I guess.” Her gaze dropped to the counter as she fidgeted with the hem of her slinky black tank top. “He hasn’t... I haven’t heard from him. I’ve texted and called, but...”
I wiped my hands along my shorts. I had no idea what to say. This was so incredibly awkward. Part of me wanted to be a total bitch and point out that if Sebastian wanted to talk to her, he would’ve responded, but that just wasn’t me.