Read Crossing the Ice Online

Authors: Jennifer Comeaux

Crossing the Ice (5 page)

BOOK: Crossing the Ice
6.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“You always babysit when they go out. They can’t find someone else?”

“Liza’s going to a sleepover, but I always offer anyway. It’s the least I can do since they let me live with them rent-free.”

My peripheral vision showed someone taking a seat at the other end of the bar. I turned and found Josh giving me a little smile and wave.

“Who’s that?” Meredith straightened up with interest.

“That’s Josh. He’s part of the new team that trains with us. The brother and sister I told you about.”

“You didn’t mention he’s a total hottie.”

Maybe because I was trying not to notice how much of a hottie he was. “Well, he’s a customer now, so I need to take his order.”

I grabbed a menu and silverware from under the bar and placed them in front of Josh. “Hey, what can I get you to drink?”

“Scotch neat and just leave the bottle.”

He wasn’t smiling anymore, and I froze in place. “Um… okay…”

His straight face cracked, and he broke into quiet laughter. “I was just joking.”

My shoulders relaxed. “I thought maybe skating with Stephanie might have driven you to drink.” I bit my lip and stammered, “I mean… I... sorry, I know she’s your sister and all.”

“No, you’re right. Steph’s not the easiest person to get along with.”

Since I’d called her a bitch at the barbecue, she’d pretended I was invisible at the rink even more than before. It was nice I didn’t have to talk to her but also extremely awkward when we found ourselves alone in the locker room.

“I don’t know how you skate with her
and
live with her,” I said.

“It’s why I don’t mind going out to eat every night. I had more of my own space at our parents’ house, so being in tighter quarters here with her is taking some getting used to.”

“Can I get my check?” grumpy Mr. Mayer, the low tipper, called out to me.

“Sure.” I turned to him and then back to Josh. “What can I really get you to drink?”

“I’ll just have water. Thanks.”

I printed Mr. Mayer’s bill from the cash register behind the bar and then delivered Josh’s glass of water. Since he was still examining the large menu, I went back to Mr. Mayer’s now-vacated spot and opened the black check folder. On the tip line, the old man had written one dollar.

“Seriously?” I said.

Meredith was walking past the bar and stopped when she heard me. “Uh-oh. How low did he go this time?”

“He had a thirty dollar steak, and he tipped me one buck.” I slapped the folder shut. “That’ll pay for less than a minute of my lessons.”

“Cheap ass,” Meredith said before resuming her path to the kitchen.

I put on a smile and took Josh’s order before I cashed out my other customer, leaving Josh as the sole patron at the bar. He looked beside him at the line of empty seats.

“Should I be worried about the lack of people here?” he asked. “I’m trusting your claim that this place has good food.”

“It gets really busy on weekends. There’s a guy that plays the piano on Friday and Saturday nights, and all the old geezers come out. It’s a totally happening scene.”

“Sounds entertaining. Anything’s more happening than what I’d be doing at home.”

“And what would that be?”

He took a sip of water and thought a moment. “Probably listening to my iPod on full blast so I don’t have to hear Steph watching reality TV at volume level fifty.”

“You should come check it out this weekend then. The piano guy’s actually pretty good if you can put up with some of the cheesy songs he plays.”

He leaned slightly forward. “After a lifetime in skating, I’ve become immune to cheesy music.”

One of the waiters interrupted us, asking me to fill a drink order for his table, so I slid down the bar to get the wine. As I poured two glasses of red, I glanced at Josh and caught him watching me. He quickly looked away to the TV behind the bar. Was I being too friendly, encouraging him to come back to the restaurant so soon? I didn’t want to send the wrong signals. He just seemed like he could use the company. I’d gladly help anyone get away from Stephanie.

I scooted into the kitchen to see if Josh’s dinner was ready and came out carrying a tray with his grilled salmon and asparagus. His eyes grew big as I set down the plate, and I parked myself in front of him, waiting for him to take a bite.

“You’re going to stand there and watch me eat?” he asked.

“Until you tell me how you like it.”

He smiled and tasted a piece of the fish. His eyes stayed on his plate as I sensed he wasn’t comfortable being watched. His strong jaw moved slowly, and I found myself studying his mouth for the first time. He had nice, full lips. The kind that were made for kissing…

Jeez, what are you, thirteen again?
I backed off and picked up a dishrag to wipe a nonexistent spot from the bar.

Josh finished chewing and waited a long moment, not giving me any hint of his opinion as he continued staring downward. Finally, he placed his fork on the plate and looked up at me.

“It’s excellent,” he said.

I pumped my fist. “Success!”

“You’ll have to tell the owner you’ve recruited a new regular.”

“I will. Maybe he’ll give me a ten cent raise.”

He cut into his asparagus. “How long have you been working here?”

“About two years. My dad was laid off from his job, and things got pretty tight, so I looked for something that could fit into my training schedule.”

“Is he still out of work?”

“No, he found a job in Boston — that’s why my parents moved. It’s just not as good a position as he had before so I needed to keep working.” I folded the dishtowel and hung it under the bar. “They’ve been really good to me here, letting me take off for competitions and always giving me the dinner shift on weekdays.”

“It still has to be tough working all night after skating all morning.”

“There are some mornings I really hate the alarm clock.” I laughed. “But I try to keep a consistent schedule — leave here by ten, in bed by eleven, so I can get eight hours of sleep.”

“Your life sounds as exciting as mine.” He smiled.

“At least you’ve been to college already. You must’ve had some exciting times there, right? Frat parties, football games…”

He stared at his glass and traced the rim of it with his thumb. “With skating always coming first, I didn’t really have the typical college experience. It was pretty much train, go to class, eat, study, sleep.”

I eyed him with one brow skeptically raised. “Not even one night of drunken debauchery?”

He slowly shook his head. “I’ve never had a drop of alcohol.”

“Really? You knew how to order a scotch.”

“It’s my dad’s favorite drink.”

I studied him harder, and he looked down and reached for his napkin. I’d thought I had limited social experience, but Josh might be even more inexperienced than I was. Even I had gone through the ritual of sneaking into a club and getting sloppy drunk (okay, it had only been once, but still).

“Wanna try some vodka?” I joked and pointed to the line of bottles behind me.

His smile returned. “I’m good, thanks.”

“Okay, you just let me know because I make a mean Moscow Mule. At least that’s what my customers tell me.”

I gave him space to finish his meal while I organized glasses at the other end of the bar. When I went to refill his water, he was on his last piece of fish.

“I’ll be tempted to have this again this weekend, but I’m curious if everything else is just as good,” he said.

“So you’re definitely gonna come for the big entertainment?” I realized after I spoke how excited I sounded.

Josh apparently picked up on it because his grin grew a little wider. “I’m psyched for the blue-hair crowd and the cheesy music. Sounds like this will be the hottest spot on Cape Cod.”

I laughed and moved over to the cash register. “Can I get you anything else? We have some yummy desserts. Not that I eat them on a regular basis,” I added hastily.

“I’ll wait and splurge this weekend. Gives me something else to look forward to.” He paused and grimaced. “How sad is it that one of the highlights of my week is dessert?”

“Hey, I’ve been known to take an hour to eat a piece of cake just to make it last. There’s no shame in anticipating and appreciating dessert.”

I gave him his check and carried his plate to the kitchen. When I returned, he was standing and putting his wallet into the back pocket of his jeans. I brushed aside the twinge of sadness I felt because he was leaving and marched confidently toward him.

“Thanks again for the recommendation,” he said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bright and early!” I chirped a little too enthusiastically.

He walked away, and I bopped myself on the head with the bill folder before opening it. As I counted the cash, I realized Josh had left double the expected tip.
What the hell?
Was he pitying me?

I squeezed the money in my fist and hurried for the door. Josh was a few steps into the parking lot. I called his name, and he spun around.

“What is this?” I held up the cash. “I didn’t tell you about my dad losing his job because I was looking for a handout. I don’t need your charity.”

He looked stunned. “I… I didn’t… that’s not why I did it. I heard you say that old guy only gave you a dollar, so I wanted to give you what he should have. What you deserved.”

The tension in my body melted, and I softened my voice. “You didn’t have to do that. You can’t cover every cheapskate that comes in here. You’ll be broke by the end of summer.”

His lips twitched upward. “It just didn’t seem right.”

“Well, thank you. Mr. Mayer owes you a drink. A non-alcoholic one.” I smiled. “And I owe you an apology for getting all defensive.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s forgotten.”

I let out a breath. “Good.”

We stood quietly, making the crickets chirping around us sound even louder. Josh fiddled with his keys and took two small steps backward.

“So… goodnight again.” He slowly walked in reverse toward the row of parked cars.

“Goodnight.”

When he eventually turned to his car, I went inside and thumped myself on the head again, that time with the heel of my hand. What was it about Josh that threw me off balance and made me act like an idiot? If anyone else had left me a humungous tip, I’d be dancing around and bragging to Meredith.

Me and hot rich guys apparently weren’t a good combination.

 

****

 

When Friday night at the restaurant came and went and Josh didn’t show, I hid my disappointment behind the smiles I gave my customers. And there was a steady stream of them all night long. I was dragging the next day during the lunch shift and needed to sneak in a nap before Em and Sergei left for their dinner reservation.

With Liza gone for her sleepover, the twins and I had the run of the house. We played hide-and-seek and then built Lego animals until their bedtime. While we played I sometimes sat back and just watched Quinn and Alex because their interactions fascinated me. Children’s behavior in general fascinated me, but the twins’ behavior with each other was even more interesting. As they figured out the building blocks, they seemed to be able to communicate with each other without even saying anything. I’d heard about twin intuition, but I’d never realized at how young an age they felt it.

Quinn and Alex had their own bedrooms, but Quinn had been sleeping in one of Alex’s twin beds since they’d graduated from their cribs. I tucked them in under their blue comforters and went to turn off the lamp, but Alex tugged on my sweatpants.

“Read to us?” he asked.

I brushed the tuft of blond hair over his forehead. “Sure, my sweet boy.”

I picked up the book on the nightstand. It had kittens and puppies on the cover.

“Daddy read dat last night,” Quinn said.

“I’ll get something new then,” I said.

I chose another book from the hundreds on Alex’s tall bookshelf and settled on the plush carpet between the two beds. As I read the story about farm animals and sounded out all the required “moos” and “cock-a-doodle-doos,” the twins’ eyes drifted shut, and I trailed off reading before I reached “The End.” After switching off the lamp, I headed for my own room, which had formerly been the guest room, and collapsed on the bed. Not yet nine o’clock on a Saturday night and I was ready to crash. Even the senior citizens who hung out at the restaurant had a later bedtime.

My phone sat on the nightstand, and the red light was blinking. I grabbed it without moving my head from the pillow and clicked to read the text message.

Meredith:
Your hottie friend is here. He looked bummed when I told him you weren’t working.

An immediate smile came to my lips. I read the message again and started typing.

Me:
He so wants me.

Me:
I’m totally kidding (in case you didn’t get that).

I laid the phone on the bed and pressed my cheek to the cool pillowcase. There’d been a time many moons ago when I’d thought Josh
did
want me. Well, in the innocent way a fourteen-year-old boy wants a thirteen-year-old girl. Mark and I had competed against Josh and Stephanie at the Indy Pair Challenge, and a group of us were hanging out afterward in Mark’s hotel room when boredom had turned into a cliché teen movie.

“Let’s play Seven Minutes in Heaven,”
my friend Sarah said.

“What the heck is that?”
Mark asked.

“You know, when each girl picks a boy’s name out of a hat, and they have to go into the closet together for seven minutes.”

I chewed on my thumbnail and peeked up at the three boys in the room. No way did I want to go in the closet with Mark. That would be so awfully awkward. And his buddy Tim wouldn’t be a much better option. He was annoyingly loud and always making stupid jokes.

And then there was Josh.

He was s-o-o-o cute but so quiet. He hadn’t said a word to me, but I’d caught him staring at me a lot. What would I do if I had to go in the closet with him? I’d never kissed a boy. Do I open my mouth? I’d seen people on TV do that. Would my braces get in the way?

BOOK: Crossing the Ice
6.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Push & Pull by Maya Tayler
Terra Nostra by Carlos Fuentes
When Fate Dictates by Elizabeth Marshall
The Alpine Nemesis by Mary Daheim
BirthStone by Sydney Addae
Letters From The Ledge by Meyers, Lynda
Doon (Doon Novel, A) by Langdon, Lorie, Carey Corp