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Authors: Kimberly McKay

Second Chances (8 page)

BOOK: Second Chances
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Chapter 14

 

 

Paige dumped a large bucket of ice into the bin, behind the bar to prep for the dinner crowd.  When she turned to reach for a second helping to top it off, she nearly knocked over her boss.

“Watch what you’re doing!”  Linley glared at her. 

“Sorry.”  Paige waited for her to pass, before reaching for more ice.

“Did you cut the lemons and stock the bar?”  Linley peered over the ledge.

Paige watched her twisted mouth, as she scrutinized her work.  It was almost as if Linley was looking for something wrong, to reprimand her.  In the last few weeks, Paige had worked especially hard making sure everything she did was perfect, as she felt she had a target on her back.  She wasn’t sure what she did to aggravate Linley, but the woman was relentless in her grudge. 

For example – today, her opening duties were to roll silverware for the hostess station before wiping down the menus, but Linley ordered her to prep the bar.  Since she wasn’t scheduled to work that station, it shouldn’t have been on her rotation.  But, since her nephew was scheduled as bartender tonight, she allowed Grant to skip his pre-shift duties and delegated them to her.  Instead of taking up herself, she kept quiet as she needed this job.

Paige patiently waited, knowing that the bar was in perfect order, as Linley peered over her work with a harsh eye.  She’d even taken an extra step to dust off the shelves and turn all the labels to face out with perfect alignment.

Disappointed when she couldn’t find anything out of order, Linley lifted the hatch of the second ice bin and glared when she found it empty.

“Finish up here.  Get this filled up!”  She glared to Paige, who had a bull bucket in hand.

“Of course.  I’m ready to - if you’d kindly step aside.”  Paige blinked, trying hard to hold her tongue as Linley walked off.  She sighed and drained the last bit of ice, as Poppie stepped in behind her.

“That woman is going to be the end of me.”  Paige grumbled. 

“Cover her with kindness is what my mom always says.”

“Oh, I know.  Trust me.  I’m being kind … by not dumping this ice over her head.  God forgive me – all I can think of is to physically harm her.” 

Poppie joined Paige in a hearty laugh, and then said, “You know I caught her spying on you and your friend the other night.”  She pulled her apron around her waist and tied it behind her back. 

“Friend?”  Paige frowned, trying to recall who she was talking about.

“Yeah – the cute football player in the parking lot.” She nodded her head. “And was she in a foul mood afterward.”

Just then Linley walked by and glared at the two of them.

“Don’t make me regret assigning you two girls together.”  Linley waved her hand toward them.  “Get to work.  We’re going to be busy after the game. If Grant tells me you two aren’t pulling your weight, I’ll reassign you.”

Both girls nodded and started looking busy.

“Why would she spy on me?”  Paige whispered while straightening the napkins on the bar tops.

“You saw her that night.  She was practically drooling over him when he arrived.”

“She was!”  Paige groaned. “Great.  That’s the last thing I need.”

“Speaking of the handsome devil.”  Poppie raised her eyes and nodded toward the door.

Paige looked up to see Nick, and a young girl, whom she could only assume was his daughter, enter the lobby.  She spun around to face Poppie, and asked, “How do I look?  Do I need to go freshen up?”

Poppie’s eyes lit up.  “You look great. Go get ‘em.”

Paige stepped into the lobby and laid a hand on the hostess’ arm, saying, “I’ll seat this one.”

Nick watched her approach, thinking she was the perfect mixture of sexy and cute.  He wasn’t sure if he wanted to pick her up and carry her off or wrap his arms around her and snuggle.  Either idea had merit, but he knew he had to win her over first.

“Hi. You want to sit in the bar?”  Paige asked.

“That’d be great.  This is my daughter, Katie.  Katie – this is Paige.  She’s a friend from school, who’s just moved back to town.”

Paige took the young girl in who was just on the cusp of growing up.  Her long pigtail and pixie face were the only things tying her to her childhood.  Paige’s heart warmed when she looked down into Katie’s warm brown eyes.

Katie cocked her head, suddenly realizing why her father insisted on driving across town to eat instead of staying close to home. 

As she sized Paige up, she thought she had kind eyes, and she wondered if she was as interested in her dad as much as her dad seemed to be into her.  As far as she knew, her father hadn’t been on any dates since her mom left them. 

Katie smiled at the pretty waitress, thinking,
It’s about time.

“Nice to meet you.” She slid her hand into Paige’s.

“You too. Come on in, and I’ll take care of you.”

As they followed her toward a small booth in the bar, Katie noticed a petite blond woman approach.  She reminded her of a hawk, ready to clutch its prey.  She was fast to approach and opened her arms as if expecting a hug.

“Oh, Nick! You’ve come back. It’s so good to see you.”  Linley’s eyes gleamed as she approached.

Nick quickly slid his daughter in front of him, blocking her attempt for contact.  Katie giggled, wondering if this lady knew how obvious she was.

Linley cleared her throat and took a step back.

“You don’t want to sit in the bar, do you?”  She frowned and tried ushering them away.  “I have a nice private table for you in the back of the restaurant.”

Nick held his daughter’s shoulders to let her know to stay put.

“No, that’s okay.  We’re here to see Paige.”  He took his seat.  “Sit down, sweetie.”  He watched as his daughter scooted in across from him.

Nick looked to Linley and dismissed her, saying, “Thanks anyway.  We’re well taken care of.”

Paige stood by, trying not to giggle.  She looked to Katie, and sent her a secret grin.  Katie caught Paige’s eye and saw the mischief in them.  In that moment, she knew she and her dad’s new friend would get along famously.

“Well.”  Linley straightened her back and lifted her chin to Paige. “Make sure you give them top notch service.  Can I see you for a moment?”

“I’ll be right back you guys.”  Paige put a couple of cocktail napkins on their table and followed her boss to the kitchen.

As soon as they were out of sight and earshot – Linley spun around and whipped her finger in Paige’s face.  When she tightened her lips, all the wrinkles around her them compressed leaving her mouth looking like she’d eaten a sour lemon.

“Don’t you ever embarrass me again,” Linley scolded.

“What did I do?  I didn’t say a word.”  Paige was truly shocked.

“You want to play games here?  I have been around the block a time or two and know girls, like you.”

“Girls, like me?  Wait a minute.  I’m confused.  I work hard, I keep my head down, and I do everything asked of me.”

“Poor pitiful Paige.  You think you can play your sad little song and everyone comes to your rescue?”

Paige’s eyes watered up, not from sadness but from anger.  To keep from doing or saying anything she’d regret, she quickly shut down the adrenaline that was coursing through her veins.

  “If you’ll excuse me – I have to take care of my table.”

As Paige walked back towards them, Nick could see she was visibly upset.

“Everything okay?” He asked.

“Yup.”  Paige took a deep breath, hoping she could move past the myriad of emotions coursing through her.   She took a deep breath, and forced a smile before saying, “What can I get you?”

Just as she was about to take their drink order, Linley swooped in behind her with a large plate onion rings.

“On the house,” Linley said.  “What can I get you two to drink?  Paige has been reassigned to another section, so I’ll be taking care of you tonight.”

Paige’s jaw dropped.  What was this woman’s problem?  Why couldn’t she just leave her alone?

Nick sighed and shut his menu.  He met his daughter’s eyes and frowned.  He didn’t want to be rude, but it was apparent that this lady was not about to let them eat in peace.

“Actually, we were just leaving.  We only came to say hi to Paige.”  Nick stood, sidestepped Linley, and draped his arm around Paige’s shoulders, saying, “Walk us to the door.”

“Sure.” Paige grinned, liking the way his body felt next to hers. 

“Katie, thank the lady for the onion rings.”  Nick threw over his shoulder.

Katie grinned up at the older woman, who was staring daggers at Paige and her dad’s back.

“Thank you,” she mimicked a little too sweetly, before sliding out of the booth to follow her dad out to the foyer.

“I think you just got me fired,” Paige whispered.

“No, I’m friends with the owner.  I wouldn’t let that happen.  What is with her?”

“I don’t know.  Apparently she was spying on us in the parking lot the other night.  She might be a stalker.  If I were you – I’d steer clear of Tight Ends.” Paige pulled away from his arm to push open the front door.

Nick quietly closed the gab between them and said, “No way.  I kind of like this place.”

If it weren’t for the fact that she was at work, Paige could have easily lifted up to her toes for a kiss.  Instantly she berated herself for such thoughts, especially since Katie was only a few feet away.  She cleared her throat and pushed the door wide open.

“Thanks for coming to see me.”  She sighed, wishing for more time with him.  She then turned to Katie, and said, “It was very nice to meet you.”

“You too.” Katie grinned.  She wondered how long it would take for either of them to acknowledge her. Watching the two of them was like watching some animal mating ritual.  She giggled thinking it was sweet to see her dad this way.

As father and daughter walked out to their truck, Paige’s heart felt light.  She wasn’t sure what was going on between she and Nick, but whatever it was – she hoped she’d see him again soon.

Chapter 15

 

 

That night she tossed and turned with epic proportions.  Every time she closed her eyes, Paige would

see Nick’s dark chocolate eyes as he stared down at her.  As she remembered how close he stood - she groaned and rolled over once more in frustration.

“Go to sleep!”  She ordered herself, knowing it was futile.

At midnight, she glanced at her clock and slowly reach for her phone.  She hit the home button and scrolled to find Skylar’s contact to send a message.

You up?
She texted, hoping she wasn’t waking her friend up. Then she remembered it was Saturday night, which meant Skylar would still be out at any number of local bars in Alexandria. Instantaneously, Skylar’s face lit up her screen.  Paige quickly tapped the green dot to answer.

“Sorry to text so late.”  She yawned, running her hand through her hair.

“Are you kidding me?” Skylar laughed.  “I almost lost it when I saw you were reaching out this late.”

“I’ll bet.” Paige grinned, imagining her friend’s face.

“It’s so unlike you. Who’s got you up this late?”  She teased, unaware of how close to the truth she was.

Paige groaned.  “Ugh, I don’t know.”
              “Whoa.  Is there someone?”  Skylar plugged her ear, to drown the sounds from the bar around her.

“I think so.  It’s my brother’s friend from school.  He was a couple of years older than me.  I had this huge crush on him then.”

“And now?”  Skylar grinned, hoping this was the distraction her friend needed. 

“Let’s just say I still have a crush on him. And he’s still as sexy as I remembered.” She remembered his dark eyes, and breathed in before saying, “He may have been flirting with me, but it’s a scary leap to think it – let alone say it.”  Paige’s stomach fluttered.  “Skylar, you know I can’t go down this route.  What am I doing?”

Skylar lifted her hand to wave goodbye to her friends.  “Hold on.  I’m leaving to go somewhere more quiet.  Fill me in.”

Skylar listened to her friend spill the details of the last few weeks while hailing a cab.  She slammed the door shut, and leaned up toward the driver to say,“Eager and Charles, please.” She then sat back into the back seat and turned back to her conversation with Paige.  “You mean he was waiting for you outside – for who knows how long in the cold?  Then he brought his kid in to sit in your station and left when he couldn’t visit with you uninterrupted?  And you’re still not clear on it all?  Hello – earth to Paige.  He likes you!”

“Oh gosh!”  Paige leaned her head back and stared at the ceiling. “Don’t you think it’s too soon?”

“Um, no.  Girl – you are more than ready, and it’s overdue.  Get after it and don’t call me again until there’s something to report.  Call him!”

Paige shook her head.  “No, I can’t do that.”

“Yes, you can and should.”

“I’m not calling him!” She laughed.  “I don’t even have his number, but I might find a way to run into him.”  She paused briefly.  “Thanks.  I needed this.  I miss you.”

“I miss you too.  Maybe I need to come out there for a visit.”

“I’d love that.  Let’s plan it. Talk soon.”

Paige hit end and yawned as she slid her phone on the nightstand. Talking to Skylar had helped immensely. She fluffed her pillow, and within a few minutes slipped into a sweet slumber in which Nick’s face greeted her.

In her dream, he reached for her hand to pull her close.  All else around her became hazy – except his face and how she felt in his arms.  She focused on his mouth, as he dipped his head and ran his hands up her back.

This time, she tossed and turned for other reasons, as they tapped into a passion that she’d never knew existed.

The next morning she awoke feeling inspired for the first time in months. The emptiness that had claimed her heart slowly dissipated as curiosity and hope took its place.  She smiled thinking how funny it was that one dream could portray such promise; that sprung to life once awake.  She took steps toward the mirror in her room and took extra care to look her best today.

BOOK: Second Chances
13.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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