North of Light(8)

By: J.M. Paul

“I’ll see you later then.” Trey winks before disappearing into the growing crowd.

The place is almost standing room only. Guys are flirting, girls are giggling, and alcohol is flowing. The groups’ chatter swirls into the air to mix with Cami tuning her guitar.

“Good evening, ladies and gents. I’m Cami, and this is BUG”—she strums the acoustic guitar around her neck—“which stands for Big Ugly Guitar. We’re your entertainment for tonight, so sit back, relax, drink your faces off, and tell all your social media sites what a rock star I am. Don’t forget to tag me.” Cami picks up a white piece of cardboard that reads @CamiLovesBug.

She flashes her winning smile, and the crowd chuckles.

“This performance is dedicated to my crutch.” With that, Cami starts her first set.

I laugh and then return to writing. Several songs later I notice Connor standing in front of me.

The way he’s studying me—serious and heavy-lidded—makes me want to readjust myself on my stool, but I won’t let him see me squirm. Instead, I drum my fingers against the menu.

“You know, the service kinda sucks around here.” I revert to my snarkiness to defuse my unease. “What’s a girl gotta do to get some sustenance?”

Connor’s lips slowly tip into a delicious smirk, and his eyes twinkle with mischief. “I could say all manner of different things you could do, but I’m on the clock, and it probably wouldn’t go over well.”

“You’re a pig.”

“No, just a warm-blooded guy with an appreciation for beauty.” His gaze dips to my lips and then back up.

I roll my eyes and lift a brow. “How do you manage to date if those are your moves?”

He leans in and crooks his finger at me, beckoning me to lean forward. My butt stays firmly planted on my seat.

“Those aren’t my moves, Journal Girl,” he whispers. “Maybe, if you play your cards right, I’ll show you a few of them later.”

“Mmm.” I bend slightly closer to Connor but not near enough to send red flags flying in Cami’s direction. At my movement, Connor’s eyes turn darker and flare. “Not even if you were the last man on Earth.” I sit back and cross my arms over my chest, feeling smug until I notice the gleam lighting up Turkey Head’s face.

“Hmm.” Connor stands tall. “Now, see, that’s just a challenge, and you know what they say about placing a challenge at a guy’s feet, don’t you?” When I don’t say anything he continues, “Never throw one out if you don’t want him to step up to the plate.” He leans back in. “I just stepped up to the plate and plan to enjoy every minute of the game, Journal Girl.”

Well, crap.

“Hey, bro.” Trey slaps Connor on the back.

“What’s up?” Connor reluctantly drags his attention away from me.

I listen to Cami sing the last song of her set and try to ignore the guys’ conversation, but they’re having it right in front of me, so it doesn’t work. And I’m nosy.

“John and Smith backed out of the game tomorrow.” Trey holds his phone up, so Connor can read something on the screen.

“Shit.”

“Double shit, to be exact.” Trey shoves his phone back in the pocket of his apron. “What are we gonna do?”

“Find two other people to go.” Connor shrugs.

“Everyone already has plans for Thanksgiving by now.” Trey scratches his head.

“Hey, crutch.” Cami slides onto the stool next to me and winks. “I couldn’t have made it through that without your presence. Did I rock your world?”

That set went fast.

“You made us all your bitches.” I smile at her.

“Well, of course I did, but I’m parched. I need to wet my whistle before my break’s over,” Cami says.

When we turn toward Connor and Trey, they’re staring at us with identical mischievous grins.

Cami and I give each other questioning side glances before Cami says, “What are you two up to?”

“You’re coming to the Lions game with us tomorrow. A group’s going, and we came into two extra tickets.” Connor reaches across the bar and tugs a lock of Cami’s fire-red hair.

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