Home > At Peace (The 'Burg #2)(12)

At Peace (The 'Burg #2)(12)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“Yeah,” Joe replied and slid in between me and the empty stool beside me which meant he came in close to me as well as cut me off from the bar as Colt and I were sitting on the last two stools by the wall.

He didn’t sit though. He stood there even after Morrie opened a bottle of beer, set it on the bar top and walked away. Then he still didn’t sit, just took a pull on his beer, his body mostly facing me but his torso was twisted to the bar.

Then his torso twisted to me and he looked down into my eyes.

“You talk to her about condoms?”

Again, it seemed he was starting a conversation in the middle but, even mostly drunk, I knew what he was asking.


He didn’t respond, just looked at me and I also knew what his silence meant.

“Kate’s responsible,” I explained though it was none of his business and even though my daughter was responsible, I was declaring this mostly hopefully.

“Were you responsible?” he asked.

“No,” I answered truthfully and pointing out the obvious.

He kept looking at me then he took a pull at his beer.

I aimed my mouth at my straw, captured it and sucked up some more drink.

I released my straw and asked, “Did you shovel my snow?”

His blue eyes leveled on mine. “What?”

“That day, when it snowed, did you shovel my drive?”

He didn’t answer at first then he said, “Yeah.”

When this knowledge was confirmed, I pulled in breath not knowing what to say because this was a nice thing to do and he didn’t seem like a nice guy then I settled on, “Thanks.”

He didn’t reply.

I was sucking up more vodka and juice, my head still in my hand, my elbow still at the bar when he spoke again.

“Your man gone?”

My chest got tight and my eyes lifted to his.


“Your man, came home last week. He gone?”

I blinked at him thinking about Tim coming home and how impossible that would be, and how beautiful, then I realized what he meant.

“That wasn’t my man. That was my brother, Sam.”

He nodded and took a pull of beer. I stared at him.

Then for some stupid reason I asked, “What about your woman?”

His eyes came back to mine but he didn’t reply.

“The one you were with that night Sam came,” I prompted.

“Nadia?” he asked like I’d know her name.

“The blonde.”

“Nadia,” he stated.

“She around?” I asked, not knowing why but also thinking that I wanted to know the answer and not knowing why about that either.

“Nope,” Joe replied.

“Oh,” I whispered and aimed my mouth at my drink.

We were silent a good long while, me halfheartedly sipping at my drink, Joe standing and taking intermittent sips at his beer. This was not comfortable for me. I felt the need to fill the silence but found I had nothing to say. However, watching Joe, he seemed comfortable in some kind of zone where he, his beer and the bar were one and he was content with that.

Finally I figured out what to say. “You don’t have to take me home, I can get a taxi.”

His eyes again came to me and he noted, “You live next door.”

“Well… yeah.”

“Buddy, I can take you home.”

“What if you want to go home and I want to stay?”

“I’ll wait.”

“What if I want to go home and you want to stay?”

“I’ll come back.”

Yeesh, he had an answer for everything.

“That’s silly.”


“Because it is.”

This was lame but with that much vodka in me, and considering I didn’t drink much, it was all I had.

I figured he thought it was lame too because he didn’t bother to respond.

I captured my straw with my mouth and took another drink.

We lapsed back into silence, Joe turning back to the bar and leaning two elbows on it, cradling his beer in both his hands until I found another topic of conversation.

“So, I’m guessin’ Kenzie’s keepin’ her mouth shut.”

Joe’s head turned and he looked at me. “Yeah.”

“Everything cool with your clients?”


“You’re home a lot more than normal,” I remarked stupidly since I didn’t want him to notice that I noticed but at the same time I was bizarrely worried that Kenzie Elise was costing him clients and that was why he was home more than normal.

“Yeah,” he said then said no more and I’d run out of steam on that particular conversational gambit.

When I fell silent, Joe turned his head away and, keeping one elbow to the bar, with his other hand he lifted his beer to his lips and arched his neck back to take a pull. This fascinated me for some drunken reason. He had a muscular throat and I could see it as it arched and worked with his swallow. Furthermore, his jaw was on display, I noted how attractive it was and that was fascinating for some drunken reason too.

I tore my eyes away from his throat and jaw and caught on the little tray of fruit Feb, Morrie and Darryl used in the drinks. Wedges of lemon, lime, cocktail onions, olives and maraschino cherries.

“You know,” I started to inform Joe and just his head turned to me again, “back in the day, you could impress a guy just by tying the stem of a cherry in a knot with your tongue.”

Why I said this, I had no idea. I just couldn’t sit there, silent and sipping my vodka and cranberry juice while he did the same with his beer. It was just too weird. I couldn’t hack it. I had to talk about something.

“Yeah?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I answered.

“You do that often?” he asked.

“Not really,” I answered since I was with Tim and only Tim, back in the day and then forever, but it had impressed Tim. “Seems strange to me, why that’d impress a guy.”

Joe made no attempt to enlighten me.

“It’s good you all grow out of that,” I noted sensibly.

“Give you fifty dollars right now, you do it.”

I blinked. “What?”

He straightened, pulled his wallet out of his back pocket, flipped it open and pulled out a bill. Then he placed it on the bar between us and I saw it was a fifty dollar bill. I looked up from the money to him when he spoke.

“That’s yours, you do it,” Joe said as he shoved the wallet back in his pocket.

“Are you serious?” I whispered.

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