North of Light(7)

By: J.M. Paul

“Cursing relationships and asshole men.” I take a sip of the green concoction. He made it stronger than the last one.

Smart man.

Connor frowns, and I scowl back.

Cami studies us with her brows scrunched, but her concern melts away when she realizes I have an alcoholic beverage.

“You’re drinking tonight?” She claps her hands.

“Apparently, it’s sacrilegious if you don’t get blitzed the night before Thanksgiving.” I set the glass down and shrug. “Who knew?”

“Uh, just about everyone. Who the hell wants to think about the torture that is forced family time tomorrow?” Cami widens her eyes in mock horror.

“Exactly.” Connor slaps the bar.

I narrow my eyes at him, but his sparkle in return, unaffected.

“It’s about time you joined the party, Noles.” Cami bumps my shoulder and then chugs half of her beer.

I hate that nickname.

“Hey, man.” A tall, built guy pats Connor on the back, and they do some weird boy handshake before bumping shoulders.

“It’s about time you got your ass to work. How’s it going?” Connor asks.

“I’m living the dream,” the new guy says sarcastically.

New Guy’s behind the bar with Connor and also wearing a black Harry’s T-shirt, so I assume he’s another employee.

“If I could get my A-hole of a boss to give me a raise, I’d be living in better style.” New Guy playfully punches Connor in the shoulder.

“Yeah. Good luck with that, bro.” Connor flops two menus onto the bar top between me and Cami.

I’m about halfway into my second drink—possibly starting to see double—and Connor’s a good enough bartender to know I need food.

I give him a sneering smile but flip open the menu to peruse my heavy-on-the-carbs choices.

“You know Cami,” Connor says to New Guy and points to my best friend. “Journal Girl, this is Trey. Trey, this is Journal Girl.”

“Hey, Trey.” Cami winks and sips her beer in a more ladylike manner than she did before.

“Hey.” I give him a small wave and get back to the important task of figuring out what I’m going to devour.

“Journal Girl?” Trey questions, and I feel him studying me.

“Connor’s creativity is astounding. The comedic world had better watch out for this sneaker.” I jerk my chin at Connor and then pat my journal, so Trey understands where the nickname originated.

“My creativity is top-notch, Journal Girl. Don’t deflect your jealousy on me.” Connor flicks the corner of the menu I’m studying.

“The name’s Noel,” I grumble before peering up into his smiling jade eyes.

“Cami, you didn’t tell me you had such hot friends.” Trey playfully shoves Connor out of the way and offers me his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Noel.”

Trey’s cute in a bad boy covered in tattoos sort of way. It’s not normally my thing, but he’s really working it in his favor. He’s tall and brawny, and he has a thick head of blond hair and a strong jaw covered in stubble.

I take Trey’s hand and expect him to shake it once and release me, but instead, he lifts it to his mouth and presses a kiss against my skin. He holds eye contact the entire time, and there’s an adorable smirk on his face.

Connor loudly clears his throat. “I think it’s time you get to work, Trey.”

“Probably.” Trey grazes his lips against my knuckles once more before releasing me. “My boss is a douche and will probably refuse to pay me. But any time spent in the presence of beautiful women is worth it.”

Cami chuckles and shakes her head. I scoff but give him the grin he’s searching for.

“Are you ladies sticking around awhile?” Trey ties a black apron around his hips.

“I’m the entertainment tonight.” Cami finishes her beer and stands.

“Cool.” Trey nods and then assesses me.

“I’m her support crutch”—I tilt my head toward Cami—“so I’m here until the end.”

“Crutch this, beotch.” Cami bumps her hip against mine, picks up her guitar case, and heads toward the designated spot for her performance.

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