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Authors: Erin Lark

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BOOK: Finding Orion
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But there I
sat, passing the time with Simon and girlish small talk. We’d hung out before,
but between our differing schedules and how fucking tired we both were, those
hang outs almost never happened unless I went down to the bar when he was
there.

David was the
quieter of the two, and I’d only met him a handful of times. But of those
times, they were always pleasant. The two of them were made for one another.
Simon, the boastful, outgoing alpha male to David’s quiet as a mouse
personality. Together, they kept each other in check.
Except when they’re in bed.
No way
David was
quiet then. I’d heard two voices in that room, and was pretty sure Simon would
never pull a one-
nighter
, not even when David was out
of town.

"Hey,"
Simon shook my arm. "Is that your guy?"

Half awake, I
checked back over my shoulder at where Simon was pointing, and sure enough,
there was
Jace
. Like the night before, he was decked
out in a suit and looked just as exhausted now as he did then.

"You
weren’t kidding," Simon murmured when I turned around to face him. "He’s
hot."

"Simon!"

"What? I
can look, can’t I?" He was holding his arms up in surrender. "Okay.
Okay. But don’t think this gets you off the hook. I want details!"

I stuck my
tongue out at him and got off my stool.

Jace
smiled when
he saw me from the other end of the room, waving me over as soon as I was
within hearing distance. "You know, we really have to stop meeting like
this." He bowed his head,
then
said, "I hope
I didn’t keep you waiting too long."

I fixed my
blouse as I spoke. "I wasn’t sure if you’d come. It isn’t like we set up a
second date or anything."
You don’t
own me anything.
But, God, I was so glad he showed. "I couldn’t find
your number in the phone book."

"Well,
we did say we wanted to walk and talk again sometime. As for the phone number,
it’s unlisted.
Got tired of all the damned sales calls."

I laughed.
"But isn’t that what you do?"

He feigned
offense. "What? I would never cold call. Besides, I’ll have you know that
the customers are the ones who call me! Yeah, you believe that?" He shook
his head. "So, do you come here often?"

"Ha
ha, very funny."

He shrugged. "I
try."

We both
flattened against a wall as one of the other patrons walked past.

"You
want to get out of here?" I asked, gesturing to the crowd as it continued
to shuffle in through the doors.
"Starting to get a
little too crowded for my tastes."

"What
did you have in mind?"

"My
place upstairs?"

Jace’s
eyes
softened and his smile waned. "I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Not
tonight. I’m sorry." Then, as if he was trying to keep me from running
off, he said, "We could catch a late dinner if you want? Most of the restaurants
should still be open." He glanced down at his watch. "It’s only past
eight, plenty of time to grab a bite and maybe a movie?"

Is it really only eight o’ clock?
Hell, I
could’ve sworn I’d been down in the bar longer than two hours.
I waited for you, Mr.
Jace
Evans, and that’s all you have to offer?
I was obviously losing my mind. He
wasn’t Orion. Relationships didn’t work like that.
Give it time.
Patience was never one of my strong points, which probably
explained why Master Orion had me practice it every chance he got.

"Actually,"
I said, rolling my shoulders back. "I think I might call it a night."

Now it was
his turn to look hurt. We’d both made an offer, but instead of meeting halfway,
we went two different directions entirely. I could’ve had dinner and even a
movie, but
Jace
already said how he felt.
Not tonight.
It didn’t mean not any
night in the future, but even so, the formalities and the effort it would take
to use small talk during dinner wasn’t worth it just to go to bed alone.

"Didn’t
sleep well," I explained when he didn’t say anything.
"Maybe
some other time?"

He nodded. I
could see it was bothering him, but he said nothing.
"Another
time."

I turned away
before I could see him go, and when Simon glanced up at me, his face was a mix
of excitement, followed by worry and concern.

I shook my
head at him and he nodded, knowing better than to press the subject.

Drawing in a
deep breath, I took my time climbing the stairs to my room. Simon had already
mentioned how he’d be working until early in the morning. And while David was
home, I didn’t feel right bothering him about the fan in my bathroom. It could
wait. More than anything, all I wanted to do was fall into bed and get to sleep
as fast as humanly possible.
At least
Orion will be on time.
It was my foothold, something to look forward to
even on my
crapier
days.

A part of me
expected
Jace
to come up after me, but he didn’t.
Who needs him anyway?
Fishing for my
keys, I shoved them into the deadbolt and stumbled into my apartment. I could
handle myself for one night.

 

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

Simon met me
out in the hall the following Monday. His hair was ruffled in places, possibly
from a restless three hours worth of sleep. He held something out to me,
then
said, "That guy gave this to me after you left the
other night. I meant to give it to you, but David and I were out of town most
of yesterday."

I accepted
the folded note and shoved it in my pocket.

"Aren’t
you going to read it?"

"It’s
killing you, isn’t it?" I forced a smile, but I didn’t open the letter.

"I’m
just concerned, is all. Let me know if you need a bum buddy, okay?"

I snorted. "I
think you already have one." I gestured to his apartment where David was no
doubt still asleep.

"Wise
woman.
But really, if you need anything, remember we’re here. We’ve had our fair share
of nasty breakups with
hotties
like that one you had
last night. Been there, done that and all that crap."

This time my
smile was sincere. "Thank you, Simon. I think I’ll be okay, but even so,
I’m thankful for the offer." I double-checked my door to make sure it was
locked before heading for the stairs.

"You
have work today?"

"All
day," I called back to him, stopping at the top of the steps leading down
into the back of the bar. "I really hate Mondays."

"You
and me both,
chica
.
Have a good one."

Simon
disappeared into his apartment, and I let him sleep. No doubt he had another
night shift, either with the bar, David, or both.
Poor guy.
I sometimes wondered how he ever got any sleep. Or why all the
good guys were either taken or gay. Because if Simon were straight… I shook my
head.
Don’t even go there.

That was
forbidden territory.
He’s you friend for
Christ’s sake.
More like a very friendly neighbor. Who was there when my
parents split? Simon. And who was the one who came to check on me in the hall
when I was locked outside my apartment? Simon.

I could never
jeopardize the relationship I had with
him,
or David
for that matter. Friendship came before sex.
ALWAYS.
But if that’s true, why did you turn
Jace
away?
I had no idea. Maybe it was because of
Orion. Or maybe it was because I hadn’t seen any action in months. Either way,
I was beginning to fray at both ends, and if I didn’t find some kind of balance
soon, Simon and David would have to roll me up into a ball and put me back
together again.

****

Work was the
same as always. Boring, annoying customers with questions about products we
didn’t even have.
Karie
stopped by my register a few
times, but with
Farrin
hovering around with every
spare moment he had, it was hard to discuss much outside of work. Not that I
had anything I wanted to share anyway.

The
excitement I had the other night of possibly finding Orion in real life was
stomped out the very next evening. There was nothing to share, nothing to say.
So we worked.

At one point,
right before my lunch break, I happened to remember the note Simon had handed
to me. It was still there, resting against my leg. And the longer I thought of
it, the harder it was for me to concentrate on the forty-five minutes I had
left before I got an hour to eat and lounge around.

It could've
said a number of things ranging from an apology to a butt-hurt rage. I winced
at the latter. The last thing I needed in my life was more drama. Between my
parents still going through their divorce—even though they signed the papers
more than a year ago—and my older sister pretty much going off the radar, I
couldn't take much more.

I eyed the
trashcan behind the register. It would've been so easy to toss the letter aside
and just wait to see if
Jace
came into the bar that
night
. But what if I didn't read it? What if it was
important? Taking a deep breath, I used the repeated actions of ringing up
another customer to forget about
Jace
, Orion, and the
contents of the letter until I could get away from work.

Knowing my
luck, I'd open it just as
Farrin
was doing his
rounds, or worse.
Karie
could've seen, and until I
knew what it said, not to mention knowing more about
Jace
,
I was going to keep it to myself.
If you can help it.

My cell
buzzed just then. I'd made the habit of leaving my phone beside the register in
case family called, but more often than not, the cell vibrated because of
Karie
. I turned on the backlight to my cell and red her
text.

"Are you okay?"

I glanced
over in the direction of her register, but her back was turned toward me. She
rang up a customer, and as soon as I was sure they were outside of hearing
range, I sent her another text.

"Just tired."
I knew she wouldn't believe it, but
anymore, tired was code for either 'I don't want to talk about it' or 'Later.'

My phone
buzzed her quick reply.
"Let me know
if you need to talk."

"Thanks."

That was as
far as our conversation would go. With the lunch rush filling our lines and my
break in less than an hour, we probably wouldn't talk again until after we
closed for the night. Most of the time, I would've waited for
Karie
to get off to have drinks and just vent, but not
tonight.

I was kind of
relieved she had to work a few hours later than I did. But I wouldn't be able
to avoid her for long.
You probably won't
have to.
After tonight, I'd either know enough about
Jace
to actually tell her about him, or he and I would go our separate ways. Then it
wouldn't matter.

The rest of
the morning was just as slow as when I first got in. It would've helped if the
customers were at least a little talkative, but it seemed as if everyone was
having a bad Monday.

I glanced at
the clock and turned off the light on my register, ringing up the few customers
who were left in my line before clocking out.

Farrin
tried to get
me to fix an isle before I left, but I was off the clock. Whatever it was could
wait.
Or he could just ask one of the
stockers to clean it up.
I was registers. The extra work I did in the store
when we were super slow was just my way of passing the time.

Seeing as I
wasn't terribly hungry, I grabbed a sandwich from the deli and stepped into
Karie's line.

She smiled at
me, finished with her last customer, and then leaned over the counter. "So,
did you mean tired as in later now, or later
later
?"

I handed her
my lunch and spoke as she hit a few buttons on her monitor. "Later as in I
don't know yet."

She passed
the sandwich back to me and waited for me to pay before asking, "It is
about that dream guy of yours?"

"Sort
of.
It's hard to explain." I glanced back at a customer making a run for her
line. "Anyway, I'll talk to you later."

Karie
called at me
as I made my way to the front of the store. "Have a good lunch."

 
After waving in her direction, I passed
through the front doors and stepped outside. The breeze whipped my hair, and
for once, I was glad I didn't have to worry about it slapping me in the face. I
never was one for high maintenance, so trimming my hair where it barely fell
past my ears had been a good move on my part. Not to mention the money I saved
on shampoo and conditioner.

BOOK: Finding Orion
3.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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