Read One Last Call Online

Authors: Susan Behon

One Last Call (8 page)

BOOK: One Last Call
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Sarah moved to the side so his hand slid away from her shoulder. Josh wanted to keep touching her. He counted himself lucky to have gotten away with it for as long as he had. Sarah had allowed it for show. Act or not, she’d fit perfectly next to him when he’d had his arm around her.

He glanced at his dad, who was checking under the hood of the vehicle, pretending to be working on the lines and not eavesdropping.

“Y’all go on and get somethin’ to eat.” Twenty years out of Tennessee and Kenny still hadn’t entirely lost his accent. His dad nodded toward Sarah. “You look like you need to sit down, sweetheart.”

Josh took his cue and steered Sarah out with a hand at her waist. “C’mon, Sarah. My treat. Bacon cures everythin’, and if it doesn’t, it should.”

Sarah dug in her heels. “What about my car? What am I supposed to drive now?” She gazed longingly at her little Mini Cooper. “I don’t suppose you have a car I could rent?”

Kenny cut in before Josh could discuss a temporary replacement vehicle. “Sorry, Sarah. We don’t have anythin’ available today.” He wiped his hand on a rag and straightened. “Maybe by tomorrow? Shouldn’t take too long to get this mess under the hood fixed, anyway. Josh could give you a ride. He wouldn’t mind, would you, son?”

“I wouldn’t mind at all. I’m your man. Just tell me where you want to go.”

“I’ll tell you where you
go.” Sarah mumbled it. Josh heard her well enough. So did Kenny if his chuckle was any indication.
He was sure Sarah could tell him where to go and give him directions south, straight to Hell. She still needed a ride.

“You can tell me over breakfast. After that, I’ll take you home so you can rest.”

She still wasn’t budging. “No and no. There’s too much stuff to do. I have to make some calls about a replacement waitress, and I need to stop at the bar for a liquor delivery this afternoon. I don’t have the time.”

“Do you have time for bacon?”

Sarah’s stomach gave a high-pitched gurgle, and she slammed a hand to her midsection to stop it. “That didn’t happen.”

“No sense livin’ in denial, honey. C’mon. Food first and then you can yell at me all you want.”

Kenny called out over the engine, “See you two later. Give my best to your mama for me, Sarah.” Josh wondered if Lucy had gotten a hold of him when she was all riled up or if he’d talked his way out of being in the dog house.

“Sure thing.” Sarah speed walked in front of Josh. When they reached the parking lot, she muttered, “Let’s go before I think too much about your dad giving his
to my mom.”

“I don’t know if bacon can fix that. Tell you what, we’ll order one of Sonny’s cinnamon rolls too. With that kind of incentive, I guarantee you’ll be too happy chewin’ to care about anythin’ else.”

Sarah didn’t stop or turn around. “Don’t think bribing me with food porn is going to change anything between us.”

Did she have to use the word
Now Josh was picturing sex. Food and sex. Food and sex with Sarah. Food and lots of sex with Sarah. He could think of some interesting uses for the cinnamon-roll frosting already.

“Josh?” Sarah had done an about-face and was watching him.


She pointed an accusing finger at him. “Don’t even think about it because it’s never going to happen.”

“How do you know what I’m thinkin’?” Had he been drooling?

“You have that look in your eye guys get when they’re imagining sex.” She narrowed her bright green eyes in warning. “Or maybe you’re having some kinky food fantasy. Either way, forget it.”

“Forget the sex? Or the food? I’m up for either. How about both?” He couldn’t help saying it, but he wasn’t stupid. Josh was prepared to duck if she so much as tightened her fist to take a swing at him.

“Food, yes. We can do that. Sex with you?” Her lips were set into a grim line until she smirked. “Not even for bacon.”

She hadn’t slapped him yet so that was promising. It could also mean her arms were too sore to lift. Speaking of sore…“You should soak in a hot bath when you get home. It’ll help loosen your muscles.” Now there was a fantasy. Naked Sarah, candlelight reflecting off of her slick skin, all dewy and covered in bubbles, with her hair up and the tops of her…

“Stop trying to get me naked.” The woman was a certified mind reader.

“I didn’t mean to soak in a bath with me. Hey, if you insist, I’m sure we can work somethin’ out so we’ll both fit.”

“Josh?” Sarah’s hands clenched up into little fists.

He took a step backward. “What?”

“Trust me when I say this. Given all the choices, I’d rather have the bacon.”

“Sarah?” He took a step forward, then another one to see if she would back up.

She stood her ground. “What?”

“No, you wouldn’t.” He couldn’t stop the grin that spread across his face in spite of the sparks shooting from her eyes.

“Josh, you underestimate my love for bacon and my…”

“…hatred of me?” Josh wished he wouldn’t have reminded her of it.

“I don’t hate you.” Sarah’s expression shuttered, and the vibrancy she’d shown while they were bantering disappeared.

“You don’t? What would you call it, then?”

Sarah closed her eyes and let out a deep, frustrated breath. “Look, it was a long time ago. I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s forget it and move on, okay?”

Josh opened her door and helped her up as gently as possible. He started the truck, and they drove along in silence for a few moments.


His voice startled her out of whatever she was thinking.

“What do you mean, no?”

“I can’t move on until we talk about it. I want to explain what happened.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want to hear it. You left
ago. End of story. You can talk about anything else, the weather, global warming, the state of the union, even the state of my mom’s love life…just not that.”

“Fine. How often do you think your mom and my dad get frisky?” He’d meant to shock her. He’d shocked himself. That image wasn’t something he needed in his brain.

“Good Lord, Josh! Really? Okay, let’s put that on the list of things to never ever discuss too.” She leaned toward the passenger window and crossed her legs away from him. “Let’s stick to weather. That’s a safe subject.”

“Weather? Hmmm…let’s see. What can I say about the weather?” He glanced at what he could see of her profile and rubbed the side of his arm in thought. “It’s been cloudy lately, wouldn’t you say? I sure have missed the sunshine.”

Sarah groaned at the use of his endearment for her. “On second thought, we don’t have to talk at all.”

He caught her wince when Sarah reached over and flipped on the radio. Josh turned the volume down. Sarah turned it up. He turned it off.

“You’re gonna have to listen to me sooner or later, Sarah. I’m not goin’ anywhere.”

* * * *

Sarah refused to speak to Josh. He wasn’t going anywhere?
So what?
The leaving had already been done. Josh could leave again for all she cared.

Once again, they sat in a parking lot. They were mired in uncomfortable silence since Josh turned off the blasted radio. He’d parked behind Sonny’s Side Up Diner. Neither one of them had made a move to leave the truck.

“Fine. I don’t want to sit here all day. Where did you go?” Sarah wouldn’t ask why he left. At seventeen, heartbroken and needy, she would have asked. At thirty, it didn’t matter. She was only appeasing her curiosity now.

“I went to Afghanistan.”

“What?” The only thing that would have surprised her more would be if he’d said that he’d caught a flight to the moon.

“I joined the Marines and headed off to boot camp almost as soon as I signed the papers. After Parris Island, I got deployed to Afghanistan.”

Once again, Sarah refused to ask why. Like,
hadn’t he told her he was enlisting? By the time she’d found out Josh was gone, he’d left her with a stupid note that only had two words on it.
Goodbye, sunshine

She opened the door and slid off the seat to the pavement. “Thanks for serving our country. Let’s eat.”

Josh sat behind the wheel a second longer. When she slammed her door and took off for the diner, he got out and joined her.

“Aren’t you gonna ask me why I joined the Marines?”

Hell, no.

“I never meant to hurt you.”

Sarah whirled around to face Josh. She wanted to yell at him, scream at the top of her lungs right there in the town square, and to hell with gossipy witnesses. The words came out in a shocked whisper instead. “Holy hell, Josh! Tell me you didn’t say that. Tell me you seriously didn’t just say that!
I never meant to hurt you?
How freaking stupid can you get?”

They’d made it to the front of the café and even though Sarah was still fuming, enough reason had returned to make her glad she hadn’t broadcast their conversation.

Josh held a hand on the rail, ready to open the door for her. “I had to leave. Trust me on this, Sarah. I would have hurt you more if I stayed.”

Chapter 7

didn’t go as planned. Sarah sat there giving him one-word answers while staring at everyone in the diner except him. Josh didn’t have her attention, but he sure had that of every other citizen in Madison Falls. Every Tom, Dick, and Jane with a fork and a coffee cup was giving him the eye. Although the clinking of silverware and the murmur of voices continued around them, he didn’t let that fool him.

He knew the gossips were keeping an ear out for anything juicy. Mabel Thompson from the bank had walked in behind him and Sarah, so who knew how much of their conversation she’d caught. Now Mabel was practically taking notes on her napkin while she whispered to Gladys Jenkins from the Madison Falls Market.

His landlady, Darlene Donaldson, was two booths over and definitely giving him the eye…and a wink. Not something he wanted to witness this early in the morning. She twirled the end of her silver braid and watched Josh over the rim of her sky-blue coffee cup. The woman eyeballed him like he was something on the menu and she was ready to take a bite.

He dropped his toast on his plate and rubbed a hand over his eyes to wipe away that visual nightmare. He was raised to respect the elderly, but Darlene was more forward and flirtatious than any older woman he’d ever encountered. Considering he was from the South, that was saying something. Rumor had it that she was also a might handsy, if given the chance, so Josh never got within touching distance of her.

Josh gave Darlene a polite nod and went back to studying Sarah over the lemon-yellow table top. She sipped her orange juice from the tall glass the waitress had brought her. She hadn’t been thrilled when Josh had asked Gracie to throw a bendy straw into the tumbler to make drinking easier on her. As soon as Gracie left, Sarah raised the juice to her lips and told Josh where he could shove his bendy straw.
Ouch. So much for trying to help.

He didn’t know if her wooden posture was because she was pissed at him or because her muscles were aching again. Sarah didn’t seem to have any problem eating her bacon and eggs. Her movements were slow and precise so she could be faking being okay. Josh wanted to give her some more pain reliever. In this town, it would have been blown up to look like a drug deal in no time. It was better to err on the side of caution and wait a bit. She wouldn’t take more medicine right now anyway.

They’d passed Keith and Sabrina Sutton on the way in. At first glance, they were a mismatched pair. He gave off the appearance of a big, hulking, modern-day Viking, while his petite ginger-haired wife was no bigger than a minute. The only thing not little on her was the nice-sized baby bump she was sporting. To Josh, it looked like she’d eaten a basketball. Keith was fussing over her by setting Sabrina’s feet in his lap and nudging more of a cinnamon roll her way.

He’d met Keith at Sarah’s Suds and Spuds a few months ago during a karaoke thing. Josh had pushed away from the bar, holding his drink, and accidentally slammed into him. Half his beer landed on the front of Keith’s shirt. Josh was pretty sure, then and there, he was a dead man. He’d apologized, knowing full well he was about to get the shit beat out of him anyway. It wasn’t every day you soaked a six-foot-four Thor look-alike with Bud Light and lived to tell the tale.

Instead of opening a can of whoop-ass on him, Keith apologized for not paying attention and gave him a few manly slaps on the shoulder. Josh had done his best not to lurch forward with the force of each
of comradery. He was in decent shape himself, but the slam of each friendly blow was like a wrecking ball to his back. God forbid the man ever really hit someone.

Before Keith had left to towel off his shirt, introductions were made, and Josh had been invited to sit at a large table full of familiar faces. He’d already known Sophie and Tracy from back in high school when he’d dated Sarah. They were a few years younger than him and were best friends back then too. He remembered Reed Sutton, sort of. He’d been in the same grade as Sophie and Tracy. His brother, Keith, must not have been in high school yet or not as gigantic as he was now. Josh was sure he would have remembered him.

There were others not native to Madison Falls, so he didn’t feel as much of an outsider as he had all those years ago. Tracy’s husband, Ben Carrington, was an import, as was her brother, Christopher. Keith’s wife, Sabrina, and her sister, Fiona O’Malley, weren’t from the area either. They’d moved here to run the Pizza Palace where Josh ordered takeout at least twice a week. They made the best pizza he’d ever eaten.

At first, Josh thought everyone was in couples, except he’d noticed Chris King and Fiona O’Malley sat on opposite ends of the table from each other. They weren’t a couple, but something weird was going on with them. No one else seemed to notice, so Josh kept his mouth shut and enjoyed the karaoke singing. He hoped like hell Sarah would come out and say hi to her sister while he was at their table. He’d caught fleeting glimpses of her halo of blonde hair behind the bar before she’d slipped away into the back, as usual.

BOOK: One Last Call
5.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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