Read Spiked Lemonade: A Bad Boy Sailor and a Good Girl Romantic Comedy Standalone Online
Authors: Shari J. Ryan
I don’t know what I was getting her mind off of, but as I look up toward her eyes that I can now see clearly and not just from the side, the realization hits me. I know this woman.
How could I forget her?
“Nice to see you again, Doc.”
I don’t remember her name, and that makes this suck. “What a small world we live in,” I tell her.
“I never left the area,” she says. “So it’s not that small of a world. It looks like you just came back.”
She never told me her name. That’s why.
“How are you?”
She grins a half smile with the part of her face that wasn’t affected. “I’m alive,” she says.
“We need another drink,” I tell her.
“I’m still not going home with you,” she jokes.
It’s not funny anymore. I need to know what happened to her life after that day. “We’ll see,” I joke back, afraid of saying the wrong thing right now.
“I should have waited for you to leave first,” she says.
“Why? So you could stare at my ass on the way out? I get that a lot, believe it or not.”
“I can only imagine,” she says, grabbing her coat from the back of her bar stool.
“Don’t leave,” I tell her.
“Don’t stay,” she tells me in return.
I don’t know what she means by that but I drop more money down onto the bar and follow her, checking her ass out the whole way out into the parking lot. “How are you?” I ask again.
She turns to face me, standing beneath the one light in the empty parking lot. The scars on her face illuminate, and I can almost remember where each piece of shrapnel was located.
“My sister and brother-in-law won’t talk to me. My nephew is dead, and my niece isn’t allowed to contact me.”
Life after tragedy is never the same, but apparently, in Bambi’s case, it’s particularly disheartening.
“What about you?” I ask the same question but in a different way, hopeful for a change in her answer. After all, it isn’t the life around us that makes us who we are. It’s the life within us that forces us to keep living.
Wow, you’re quite the philosopher tonight, Jags.
She glances up to the starlit sky and closes her eyes against the darkness bearing down on us. A slight gust of wind blows her dark hair into her face, and the effect stiffens her posture. “I can lie to you and tell you I’m this strong chick who has her shit together, and that I walked away from that attack with only the scars on my face, but that would be a lie.”
“Yes, it would,” I agree. It’s obvious by the chip on her shoulder that the heaviness she carries around comprises a large part of who she is. I never knew the person she was before the explosion, but I’m willing to bet that girl was very different from the woman I’m talking to tonight.
“I hate my life. I hate every morning that I wake up. I hate every breath that I take. I hate the seconds I accidentally look into a mirror and catch my horrid reflection. I hate when people look at me for longer than necessary.” She exhales loudly, and the minty breath from her mouth acts as a punch to my face. “But do you know what I hate most about my life?”
I suddenly don’t want to know this answer. “What’s that?”
“I hate it when a man hits on me because he only saw one side of my face.” I want to tell her I would have hit on her if I saw the other side of her face too, but I’m a jackass more often than not, so I might not have. More than likely, I would have been too busy wondering what happened to her, what she had gone through, and why the scars were so sloppily lined along her cheek. “Thank you for not disagreeing.” I was too busy considering the truth when I’ve already been called out for agreeing with her statement. I’ve never been one to lie, nor cherry coat my thoughts. Though, in this case, the truth would just add another scar to her body.
“Look, Bambi, just for the record, it was never my intention to take you home with me tonight. I was just looking for a little late night chat to clear the old noggin. Although, if you don’t have anything better to do, and I don’t have anything better to do…”
She laughs, a gut rolling laugh. “Wow, you are an impressive man, you know that?”
“You could just say no. Jesus,” I shoot back.
“No, I will not sleep with you.”
“Who exactly mentioned a word about sleeping together? I was going to ask you to get a damn cup of coffee, but clearly, you have bigger needs than I can fill right now.”
The laughter ceases and she rolls back on her heels as she places the tips of her fingers into her back pockets. “You impotent or something?”
“No,” I reply snippily.
“Where do you live?” she asks.
live?” I reply.
She nods her head toward the other side of the lot where the entrance of a trailer park is. “Right over there.”
“Well, I’ll be damned. We’re neighbors.”
“Bull,” she says, pulling a butt out of her back pocket. She tucks the white stick between her lips and reaches back into her pocket for a lighter. I watch her light up, close her eyes, and inhale as if the nicotine were breathing life back into her soul.
“You callin’ me a liar, Bambi?”
“You don’t live in that park. I’ve seen every person who lives there,” she says before taking another long drag.
“I never said I lived in the trailer park. I said we were neighbors,” I correct her.
“Well, unless you live inside of the bar here, we’re not neighbors.”
I point to the half-lit blinking sign behind the trailer park. “Right over there.”
“The Sawdust Motor Inn?” she laughs.
“It isn’t nice to laugh at people’s living quarters,” I warn. The truth is, I haven’t spent a night there yet. I’ve been avoiding bunking with my buddy since I don’t like to be that rude houseguest who overstays his welcome, so my rental car has served the purpose of my cat naps, but now I’m looking forward to a solid eight hours of sleep in my near future.
“That place smells like semen,” she says, snarling as smoke wafts from her nose.
“How do you know?” I ask, smirking. “Anyway, I can think of worse scents.” With a raised brow, I lean back against the telephone pole we seemed to end up at. “But tell me, since you seem to know so much about this ‘hood, do you know of any good breakfast joints around here?
“That little shack behind Chet’s serves breakfast.” She drops her butt to the pavement and grinds the steel toe of her boot over it.
“Yeah, you know the bar where you were just hitting on me?”
“A breakfast shack next to a hole-in-the-wall bar? Where the hell am I?” I scoff through laughter.
“Don’t knock it. They have the best bacon hash you’ll ever have.” She pulls her leather coat tightly over her chest and moves past me toward the opening of the trailer park.
“What exactly is bacon hash?” I yell after her.
“You’d have to see for yourself.” Her voice carries through the soft wind and the grinding of gravel under her boots. “Have a good night,” she says, waving over her head at me. “Watch for cockroaches, Boston.”
The word forces a shiver down my spine. War I can handle. Blood, guts, missing limbs, yeah, I can handle that shit. Rodents and insects, no fucking thank you. How the hell did she know that, though?
Should I offer to walk her home or some shit? Seems to me like I’d get a swift kick to the balls if I did something dumb like that, but—yeah, I like my balls right where they are. Plus, I think I just saw another bulb blow on the Sawdust Motor Inn sign, and if any more go out, I might not be able to find my way home tonight.
With Bambi out of sight, I head through the lot and squeeze through some bushes in hopes of finding a shortcut to the motel since my lazy ass is sick of walking, talking, and any other word that ends in an
The closer I get to my new sleeping arrangements, the quieter the world around me becomes—the moments I fend off—the moments I try to ignore—the moments the nightmares follow me like my own damn shadow.
You need help, Jags. You should talk to someone. Running isn’t the answer. You can’t run away from your nightmares forever. The voices of reason take over, and I want to shove the heels of my palms into my ears to stop the sounds, but the dialogue is inside of me and there’s no way to muffle those words.
I pick up my pace and push open the front office door of the motel, finding a girl
who couldn’t be more than fifteen standing behind the plastic-coated countertop. Her hair is stringy, kind of blonde but tinged darker from grease. Black makeup is caked below her bottom lashes, and her cheeks are sunken in as if she hasn’t eaten in a month. Her focus lifts from the magazine she was focused on
, and her eye contact is direct, though her pupils are nearly hidden behind her eyelids. “Hey,” she says. “Need a room or…”
“There’s an ‘or’ option?” I ask, taking a look around this small area that, indeed, smells like bodily fluids. The surrounding windows have cracks running from top to bottom
and the floor is covered in brochures and dirt. I think it’s dirt. We’ll go with dirt. The one wall without windows has peeling orange wallpaper, exposing a coffee-brown, rotting wooden wall, and wow, this place is just spectacular. To think that my hotel app said this place was only three stars, I don’t even know what to say.
“Yeah,” she sighs, as if I’m annoying her. “There’s an ‘or’ option.”
“What exactly is the ‘or’ option you speak of?” I am in a motel, aren’t I? What else is there besides a room?
Access to my own personal bathroom?
Before I have a second to come up with another possibility for this “or,” the girl unbuttons the top three clasps of her shirt.
Oh, hell no
. I look behind me, scared someone would accuse me of watching a kid take her fucking shirt off. Thankfully, we’re completely and utterly alone, which is probably not a great thing right now, especially since her eyes haven’t left my face as she unclasps more buttons. “Okay now, not sure where you’re going with this ‘or’ but you can keep your clothes on.”
“I’ll lower my rate to fifty dollars,” she says.
. This chick is for real.
“Doll, I’m not paying you fifty
cents, not only
because you’re probably fourteen or fifteen but, I’m also not the type to accept such a generous offer as that one.” How the hell is she even old enough to work here?
She quickly rebuttons her shirt and straightens upright. “I’m seventeen,” she corrects me.
“Still a minor and I’m still not interested. I just want a room. Can you help me with that?”
Flustered and awkward, she presses her fingers through her hair and sucks in a thick breath and holds it. She punches at the buttons on her computer and whips out a key with a green rubber key chain. “Room 206. The charge is $80 a night. I’ll need a credit card for incidentals.” As she’s spewing off her memorized spiel, I hand her my card and look over my shoulder again. I can’t believe this kid was selling herself out to any rando who walks into this sleazy motel, and sadly, it was obvious she’s not used to being turned down.
With my focus held solely on a brochure for some local festival, she hands me my card and receipt. “I’m sorry for that,” she offers.
I look up at her, finding true sadness pooling in her child-like eyes. “There are other ways of making cash, kid. Don’t sell yourself.”
“With all due respect, sir, sometimes my ‘jobs’ are my only means of making enough cash to eat.”
Without a second thought, I reach for my wallet to my put my card away and pull out a hundred-dollar bill. I place it down on the counter and lean forward. “There are other options. Dinner’s on me tonight, kid.”
Her focus drops to the bill on the counter, and her lips part slightly with surprise. “Thank you,” she mutters quietly. “You’re still one of the good ones.”
I take my key and head out the door and up the flight of stairs to the second floor. My room is only a few doors down and I can almost smell the incoming sleep waiting for me.
I unlock the door and press inside, flipping on the light.
Andddd…now I’m flipping off the light.
Seriously? Why does this shit continuously seem to find me?
I CAN’T CONTINUE
living here. I shouldn’t be living here anyway. I
a house and this isn’t it. Squeezing my hands firmly over my headphones with the slightest hope that I can block just some of this noise out, I imagine myself by an ocean, and I pretend I’m on a swaying boat, rather than a rocking bed.
With a glance over at the alarm clock once again, I decide that six in the morning is an acceptable time to show up at work. As much as I love Cali, I’m not sure I can sleep in the room beside her for one more night.
I tear open my duffle bag and pull out my work clothes, noticing the intricate wrinkles beautifully covering my blouse. Crap! I poke my head out of the bedroom door and look to see if the coast is clear of anyone.
Thank goodness, it is
. I tiptoe across the hall to the linen closet, praying for an iron.
. At least I will have wrinkle-free clothes to go with the pretty bags under my eyes today.