Home > At Peace (The 'Burg #2)(13)

At Peace (The 'Burg #2)(13)
Author: Kristen Ashley

Joe didn’t respond verbally, he just reached out and nabbed a cherry by the stem, turned and held it out to me.

I stared at the cherry. He was serious.

“Fifty dollars to knot the stem with my tongue?” I checked, just to make sure.

“You can’t do it.”

“I can do it, I’m just…” I paused, coming off my elbow I reached out and took the cherry from him, “out of practice.”

Joe didn’t say anything and I wondered how I got myself into this. I was going to be sitting there moving my mouth around like an idiot while Joe watched and probably in the end not knotting the dumb cherry stem.

But I couldn’t back out now. It wasn’t about the fifty dollars, it was about my pride.

I plucked the cherry off the stem with my teeth, looked anywhere but at Joe as I chewed and swallowed, took a sip of my vodka and cranberry juice to clear my mouth in preparation for my endeavor then popped the stem in.

Within seconds, I’d done it. It wasn’t hard at all. I guessed it was like riding a bike.

I slid the stem from between my lips, showed him the result and set it on my cocktail napkin.

His clear blue eyes were on the stem when I asked, “You impressed?”

His head tipped to my glass. “That your last?”

I stared at him a second not following then I asked, “Last drink?”


“Um…” I tried to gauge if he was trying to say he was ready to go home since he was my ride. It would be rude to make him stay longer when he wanted to leave so I answered on a question just in case he was ready to hang out awhile since I wanted to hang out awhile. “Yes?”

“Drink up, buddy.”

I guess he wasn’t ready to hang out awhile.

I was weirdly deflated the cherry stem knotting thing hadn’t impressed him. Tim thought it was the shit.

I lifted my drink and put the straw to my lips, sucking back the rest of my vodka at the same time Joe’s fingers wrapped around my upper arm. He slid me off the stool as I kept the glass in my hand, straw to my mouth and sucked. I also kept sucking on my straw as Joe grabbed my purse from the bar and handed it to me then slid the fifty from the bar and shoved it in my front jeans pocket.

I looked up at him when he called, “Morrie, Violet paid or is she on a tab?”

“Tab,” Morrie answered.

I was realizing that I might be drunker than I expected seeing as I was standing which everyone knew made you drunker after you sat for a good while and imbibed. Therefore, since I was assessing the level of my drunkenness, I didn’t intervene when Joe dug his wallet out of his pocket, pulled out some bills and tossed them on the bar.

“That doesn’t cover it, I’ll catch you later,” Joe told Morrie.

“You got it, dude,” Morrie replied.

Joe shoved his wallet back in his pocket and pulled the drink out of my hand even though I was still sucking the dregs out through the straw (making that slurping noise). He put it on the bar, grabbed my hand and dragged me to the door.

He was parked on the street several car lengths down from the bar. He bleeped the locks as we approached and when we got there he pulled open the passenger side door.

For some reason his truck seemed significant to me and my first ride in it even more significant so I just stood in the door, staring at the seat I should be planting my ass in and not moving because I was both unbelievably scared and utterly thrilled. Neither feeling made a lick of sense but I had them both all the same. It was like, if I got in his truck and the door closed on me, my life was going to change radically.

“Buddy, climb up,” Joe sounded impatient when I just stood there staring in his truck and he used my hand to push me closer to the seat.

I tipped my head way back and looked at him. “You have a nice truck,” I informed him mostly in an effort to stall.

Joe ignored my compliment and ordered, “Climb up.”

“Maybe I should walk home,” I suggested.

Joe stared down at me a second then he let go of my hand, bent at the waist, slid an arm behind my knees and one around my waist and, within half a second, my ass was in the seat. Another half a second, the door was closed.

Joe Callahan just lifted me bodily into his truck.

I took in a deep breath and closed my eyes.

“What’s the matter with me?” I whispered into the cab and opened my eyes to see Joe had rounded the hood. He opened his door, swung his big body behind the wheel and slammed his door.

We were both in and that feeling of fear assailed me, along with the thrill but the thrill was edging out the fear. I was in the passenger seat of a car, it wasn’t me driving, it wasn’t me responsible. It was me who got to sit back and relax and be taken home.

And I was in that truck with Joe Callahan. Joe Callahan who was scary and thrilling all in himself. He was more man than I’d ever known and I spent most my adult life around cops. His maleness filled the cab, dangerous, assertive, assaulting my senses. I didn’t like him, I was pretty sure of that fact but I admitted, drunk and sitting in his truck, that he fascinated me and not because he was Security to the Stars but because he was Joe Callahan.

“You wanna buckle up?” Joe asked and I turned to see he was facing me, forearm on the steering wheel, the truck was running and Joe was looking as impatient as he sounded.

He wanted to get home.

I wanted to know where he got those scars on his cheek.

“Sorry,” I mumbled and buckled up.

Joe put the truck in gear and pulled into the street.

“This is nice of you,” I said as he drove.

Joe didn’t answer.

I realized Joe wasn’t much of a conversationalist at about the same time I realized the truck was nice. It was clearly top of the line with all the bells and whistles and he took care of it. It wasn’t just shiny on the outside but the inside was clean and looked brand new. The ride was quiet and smooth and Joe drove the big truck like he was born behind the wheel of a pickup.

As he drove silently, I was again reminded how nice it was just to sit back and let someone drive me home. There was no particular reason I was having this feeling since, not but a few hours earlier, Colt and Feb took me to J&J’s. And Tim always drove, I couldn’t remember a time when we went somewhere when he wasn’t at the wheel. This never bothered me, I didn’t care if he drove, it only bothered me when he wasn’t around to do it anymore but, after nearly a year and a half, I’d gotten used to it. Now I realized I missed it.

I was so deep in these thoughts I didn’t notice that we were on our street until Joe turned into his drive and something new hit me. Like being in the truck with him, the sensation was strong, it was scary and it was thrilling. After seeing this truck in his drive on and off for months, even before knowing Joe, but definitely after, and now sitting in his truck, in his drive, staring at his house through the windshield, a vantage point I never thought I’d have, I felt something I didn’t understand. There was something profound about it, something I couldn’t put my finger on but, for some weird reason, it felt life-altering.

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