Read One Last Call Online

Authors: Susan Behon

One Last Call (9 page)

BOOK: One Last Call
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Now he had her right in front of him, and he was blowing it.

“How’s your juice?”

“Fine.” She took another sip just to prove she didn’t need the straw.

“How’s the bacon?” Her plate was almost empty so it must have been good.

“Fine.”

“Want to split my cinnamon roll?”

“No, thank…” She rethought her answer and nodded. He cut the pastry in half and set it on another plate. “Thank you.” Sarah took a bite and closed her eyes in bliss.

Anything to sweeten her up.

Josh took hold of her free hand, and Sarah’s eyes flew open at the contact. She froze underneath him for a second before her surprise melted into indignation. Her small hand curled into a tiny fist within his grip. She tried to yank it away from him but Josh wasn’t letting go. Her gaze skittered around to the other diners.
Let them look.
Josh didn’t give a damn who saw him holding her hand. One way or another, Sarah Brandon was going to hear what he had to say.

“Listen, Sarah, I really need to explain things to you.”

“Nothing to explain.” She gave another futile yank in an attempt to free her hand.

“Yes,” he gritted out. “There is.” He used his other hand to uncurl her fingers. He traced the lines on her palm, soothing where her fingernails had dug into her skin.

She took another healthy sip of her juice and ignored him.

“Sarah…” Before Josh could get going on his explanation, Keith stopped by their table with Sabrina in tow. Sarah snatched her hand away and hid both in her lap in case he tried to make a grab for the other one.

“Well, what do ya know? Fancy meeting you here, Sarah
and
Josh.” Keith gazed down at them. Yeah, he hadn’t missed Josh taking Sarah’s hand hostage. “Wanted to stop by and give you a heads-up, Sarah. Red here is craving some more of those potato skins. Could you make sure to stock up before we get there tonight? You know how Sabrina gets cranky if she doesn’t get her daily dose and a half of bar food.”

That earned an embarrassed nudge from his wife. “Keith!” Sabrina’s cheekbones flushed a charming pink.

“What did I say? It’s true, sweetheart. You can’t help it if our little guy…”

“…or girl!”

“…
or
girl, has a taste for appetizers.”

Sarah joined the conversation at the mention of the baby. “How are you feeling, Sabrina?”

Josh noticed that Sarah discretely checked out her friend’s rounded belly. It looked even bigger up close.

Sabrina sighed and rubbed the baby basketball. “I’m telling you, Sarah, I feel as big as a house.”

Keith leaned in and confessed, “She’s a twin, so I’m hoping there’s two in there.”

His wife reared back in mock outrage. “Bite your tongue, Keith Sutton! I think one will be plenty enough for us to handle.”

Keith placed a big ham-sized palm against his wife’s tummy. “Ah, Red, you know I’ll be happy with whatever we get.”

Sabrina rested her hand over his and leaned against him. “I know.”

Sarah took in the happy couple with a polite curve of her lips. By degrees, her game face settled, and there was sincere warmth in her eyes. “I know I’m only your sister-in-law’s sister, but I’m claiming aunt rights too.”

Josh had no experience with babies so he remained quiet.

Sabrina placed an affectionate hand on Sarah’s shoulder. “Of course you can be an aunt! You’re the only one around here with aunt know-how!” She waved that away. “Never mind about that. It’s been going around that you hit an entire herd of deer with your car. Are you okay?”

“Herd? Really?” Sarah laughed at the description. “No, there was only one deer and I missed it. When I swerved, my car slid into a ditch.” She gave her friends a reassuring grin. “Just a little accident. The deer’s fine and I’m fine. After a little work, my car will be as good as new too.”

It was going to take more than a little work, and they both knew it. He wasn’t so sure she was fine either. He didn’t have an opinion on the deer.

“I’m glad to hear it.” Sabrina took in the attentive eaters. “Next thing you know, it’ll be a near-miss with a group of stampeding buffalo, and Josh will be your knight in shining armor who pulled you from the fiery wreckage, risking life and limb.”

Sarah rolled her eyes. “Oh, yes. I’m sure the story will take on some embellished details. One thing is true, though. Josh did come to my rescue by pulling my car out of the ditch.”

“Well, now, I suppose you
are
Sarah’s knight in shining armor, then.” Sabrina playfully teased Josh.

“Nah, I wouldn’t say that.” Josh watched Sarah to get her take on it.

Sarah finally directed a handful of words his way. “What would you say, then?” He got caught in that green-eyed gaze and held it until she looked away first.

What could he say?
That he’d slay dragons for her? Lord knew that was true enough and the last thing she wanted to hear. He went with something just as honest and sat back casually in his seat. “I’d say it’s a good thing I drive a tow truck.”

Keith gave Josh a bone-cracking smack to the shoulder. “See you two later. We gotta head over to the restaurant so Sabrina can crack the whip and get things ready for the lunch crowd. If Reed stops in, tell him I’ll meet him at the building site.”

Sarah found her smile again. “If I know your brother, he and Ben are begging for baked goods from Sophie and Tracy right about now.”

Keith smirked. “Could be, but this one time, I thought Reed was only getting some cookies from Sophie, and I walked in on…”

“Keith!” His wife was on her tiptoes with a hand up, ready to place it over his mouth.

“What?” From Sabrina’s narrowed eyes, he finally caught on that what he was about to say was probably inappropriate. “Oh! Okay. So anyway, see ya two around.”

“Bye, Josh.” Sabrina took hold of her husband’s hand and tugged him toward the door. “See you tonight, Sarah. Keith was being honest about those potato skins. I could eat a dozen of them.”

And she had.
Josh had witnessed it for himself. Keith looked ready to say exactly that before thinking better of it. He strategically placed Sabrina on his left so she was a buffer when they passed Darlene Donaldson’s booth. The silver-haired cougar craned her neck to watch him walk out.

The other diners gave Josh and Sarah a reprieve by watching the Suttons make their exit too. It was obvious that this wasn’t the place for a heartfelt confession.

Josh raked his fingers through his hair in frustration. “Look, if we can’t talk here, can we talk somewhere else?” She finished off her juice without acknowledging the question. He caught her hand before she could snatch it away. “Sarah, come on. Let me have my say, and then I’ll leave you alone. I won’t bother you except for the stuff with your car. Okay?”

Sarah yanked out of his hold and lowered her voice. “Fine. I need to get back to my house so I can borrow Mom’s car before she takes off to get her
oil changed
again. I’ll give you whatever time it takes you to drive me home to spit out what you have to say. After that, I don’t want to hear anything more about it. Got it?”

Yeah, he got it. Josh had as long with Sarah as it took to drive her home. He would honor that. He would. Sarah never said he couldn’t drive the long way to get there.

* * * *

“Josh, you missed the turn on Prospect.” For a guy who wanted to talk, he sure wasn’t saying anything. “Did you hear me? You were supposed to turn right back there.”

“Yeah, I heard you, darlin’.” Josh drove one-handed, resting his left arm on the frame of his open window.

“So, turn around.”

He stared straight ahead and raised the volume on the radio. Sarah turned it off. There they went playing radio tag again.

“Damn it, Josh. Turn the truck around so I can get home.” If this kept up, Lucy would be gone running errands by the time Sarah got back to the house.

“You’ll get home, Sarah.” He slid her a hot look and a wink.

“Do I have to get out and walk?” She pointed at the next street sign. “Because we’re going the wrong way.”

“No, we’re not.”

“Have you forgotten where I live?”

“No.”

Sarah made a show of looking around the truck cab. “Are you hiding duct tape and a shovel?”

That snapped him out of it. Josh shook his head. “You think I’m gonna murder you since I’m drivin’ a different route? What kind of books have you been readin’?”

“We’re heading toward the Falls. Plenty of woods surrounding it to hide a body. The roaring of the water would drown out anyone’s screams.”

That only made him laugh. “Are you givin’ me helpful hints?”

“No! What I’m saying is there’s no other reason to go out there.”

Josh gave her a quick once-over. “I can think of a few, sweetheart. Don’t you remember?”

Hell, yes, she remembered. That was why she wanted him to turn the truck around. “I’m not going parking with you in broad daylight!”

He checked his side mirror and made another turn. “You wanna wait ’til it’s dark?”

“I don’t want to wait at all.”

“Works for me.”

Sarah wanted to smack that self-satisfied grin off of his face and then climb onto his lap and kiss it better. Wait. No, she didn’t. “I mean, I don’t want to go there, for parking or whatever.”

Josh went quiet again.

“Joshua Logan, I don’t have time for this. Turn this truck around. I mean it!”

“Ooh, baby girl, you used to only call me Joshua when you were really mad.”

He switched driving hands and laid his arm over the back of the bench seat. Sarah leaned forward so he couldn’t play with her hair. “So, why don’t you take me home and I won’t have to call you anything.”

“I gotta confess. Back in the day, I used to make you mad on purpose so you’d call me Joshua. I loved how you said it in that prim little voice like some strict librarian. You never did stay mad for long, though. You made me work for it, but I could always talk you out of a snit.” Those memories tugged a fond smile from his lips. “Sometimes if the talkin’ didn’t work, remember what I used to…?”

“No.”
Yes.

“No, you don’t remember?”

“No, it’s not going to work. Whatever you have in mind, you can forget it. These aren’t the good old days, and I’m not some naive teenager ready to melt over a Southern twang and some sloppy kisses.”

“Whoa, wait. What do you mean sloppy? My kisses were never sloppy. You used to love my kisses. You weren’t complainin’ back then.”

“I didn’t know any better. Live and learn.”

“When I kiss you—and that’s a
when
, not an
if
—the last word you’ll be thinkin’ is
sloppy
. That’s if you’ll be thinkin’ anythin’ at all.”

“Aren’t you sure of yourself? One thing hasn’t changed. You’re still as cocky as ever. You can forget it. There is no
when
; there isn’t even an
if
when it comes to you kissing me. Dream on, bud.”

“Bud?” She could tell Josh was trying to hide a smile by the way he bit his lip.

“Yeah, bud! I have some other names if you want to hear them.”

He ignored that. He stared at her mouth instead. “Your lips were always so soft. You used to wear that cherry Chapstick religiously. My favorite flavor. You still use it?”

“No.”
Yes.

“I bet you do.”

“You’ll never know.”

“Never say never, darlin’.” He threw the truck in park. “Here we are.”

“Why did you drive me all the way out to the Falls, Josh? What the hell are you trying to pull?”

Sarah had to admit that it was beautiful out here. The trees surrounding the lake were full, lush, and deep green. The lake itself was surrounded by pastel pink and purple wildflowers, and the sun shot sparkles over the water’s surface. They’d snuck away here as teenagers when they needed a hideaway so they could be alone. It was still one of her favorite places, even if it usually brought up memories of Josh.

“I’m not tryin’ to pull anythin’. I needed you to listen to me, and what I have to say is gonna take longer than a ten-minute drive back to your house. All I want is to get this off my chest.”

He took off his seat belt and angled himself toward her. “Look at me, Sarah.”

“No.” She’d stared at the sinfully gorgeous man enough for one day, thank you. Looking and listening to him at the same time would be sensory overload.

“Sarah?”

“Go ahead and talk. I’m listening.” She stared out the window at the lake.

“I almost killed a man.”

“You did what?” Sarah yanked her head around so quickly, she felt the instant kink. “Ow! Oh, hell. Ow, that hurts!”

Josh reached for her seat belt and unlatched it. “Damn, Sarah. I’m sorry. I should have led into that a little better. Are you okay? Here, turn around and let me rub out the kink.”

“That’s not happening.”

“I’m not gonna hurt you. Trust me. I know what I’m doin’. My physical therapist taught me a thing or two.”

“Why did you have a physical therapist?”

“I’m gettin’ ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginnin’.”

Sarah wavered, sitting there with her hand holding her head on to her neck.

“Sarah, I’m not dangerous.” Josh’s voice had turned low and soothing. “Keep your phone on your lap with nine-one-one at the ready if you want.”

Now Sarah had to know what the rest of the story was. She gingerly maneuvered herself so she was facing toward the passenger window. “Okay, I’m listening. Just no funny stuff.”

“Trust me, sweetheart, there isn’t anythin’ remotely funny about this.”

Chapter 8

JOSH
had to start somewhere. He decided to stall a few minutes to collect his thoughts a little better. After years of practicing this conversation, actually saying the words was harder than he thought. He stared at Sarah’s wilted ponytail. It was only a little past ten in the morning, and it had already lost the battle with gravity.

“Is it okay if I fix your hair?”

“You want to fix my hair?” The hand at her neck moved up to her hair. “What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothin’. It’s beautiful, but it’s comin’ a little undone. I need to get it out of the way.”

She groaned. “Figures. My arms hurt worse when I raise them over my head. I tried to get the ponytail over as quickly as possible, and I couldn’t get it in tightly enough.”

BOOK: One Last Call
8.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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