“Hey, Kyle. Whiskey?” She tossed a coaster in front of him that said The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. -Ernest Hemingway.
“And Coke. How’d you guess?”
She shrugged. “You just look like a whiskey guy.”
He shrugged back and turned to me, ignoring her while she poured her drink, but I could tell she was listening to everything, the corners of her mouth tight.
“So,” he started, “you should definitely come with me to Noir tonight. We’ve got bottle service.”
“Kyle, it’s Wednesday.”
He looked at me like I was crazy as he took the drink Cam set in front of him without offering her so much as a glance. Her eyes met mine, and I could almost hear her say, See? before she turned back to the register.
I chuckled. “You’re gonna puke at practice tomorrow.”
“Maybe, but what are they gonna do about it? I’m the number two wide receiver in the NFL. You think they’re not going to put me in because I’m hungover at practice?” The big, bawdy laugh was back, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. As if he were invincible.
I felt Cam roll her eyes even with her back turned to us. I was starting to remember why it had been a while since I’d seen him, and I looked him over. The wide-eyed kid from Nebraska was nowhere to be seen these days, but I knew that deep down, his goodness hadn’t left him completely. I just hoped he didn’t self-destruct before he figured it out for himself.
“Come on,” he urged. “Garcia and Jensen will be there, and a ton of chicks. I’ll even give you dibs.”
With that, Cam walked away like she was carrying a lemon between her shoulder blades.
Kyle finally looked in her direction, watching her walk away. He jerked his chin at her as she leaned on the bar, smiling at the girl with the book while they talked.
“Weird bar, weird chicks.”
I frowned, gripping my glass a little tighter. “Cam’s not weird.”
“Yeah, she is. I bet she doesn’t even own a single pair of heels.”
“That doesn’t make her weird,” I said matter-of-factly. “That just means she doesn’t like heels.”
He still looked confused. “She doesn’t even wear makeup or anything.”
“Because she looks fine without it. What’s your issue?”
“I don’t know, man. She’d be bangin’ if she just put a little makeup and a push-up bra on.”
I shook my head, resisting the urge to deck him. “You’re an asshole.”
But he laughed and clapped me on the shoulder. “Oh, come on, man. Don’t be so sensitive. I’m just fucking with you. Cam’s cool — you know I like her. She’s a funny chick, just not your type.”
“And what exactly is my type?”
“Not that.” He nodded to Cam again.
“She tells me that all the time.” I shifted in my seat, watching her.
“Well, then she’s smart too. Thank God you friendzoned her from the jump,” he said with a laugh and took a drink.
“We friendzoned each other,” I corrected.
“Whatever. So are you coming out tonight or what?”
“Or what,” I answered, thankful for the change of subject. “I’ve got work in the morning.”
“So do I, and it’s not stopping me.”
“Well, apparently I don’t have the job security you do.”
He chuckled. “All right, all right. Would this weekend work better for you, Princess? So you can get your precious beauty rest?”
I rolled my eyes with a smile. “Yeah, this weekend could work.”
“Good. Then it’s settled. We’ll get drunk, get you laid, hang out with the boys. It’ll be everything you need.”
“If you say so,” I muttered, not at all interested.
“I say so.”
“Then how could I argue?”
Kyle held up his glass, smile bright. “Cheers to that, motherfucker.”
I raised my glass to his with a clink and we drank, Kyle draining his in a single shot. He set the glass on the bar and stood, fishing in his back pocket for his wallet.
“Yeah, this place gives me the fucking willies, dude.” He tossed a twenty on the bar and slapped me on the shoulder. “It’s good to see you, brother. This weekend, it’s on.”
I smiled. “Good to see you too. Good luck tonight.”
He laughed. “Oh, luck’s got nothing to do with it. Don’t get crazy here in the bookstore, okay?”
“Hey, don’t joke. You haven’t seen this place when the new comic book issues come out.”
He narrowed his eyes in concentration. “It’s like you’re trying to talk to me, but I can’t understand a word,” he joked before turning, calling over his shoulder, “Later, man.”
I raised a hand in parting.
Cam didn’t come back until he was gone, and she had an overdone smile on her face.
I raised a brow. “What’s that look all about?”
“I was told if I don’t have anything nice to say not to say anything. Plus, I made a promise to a good buddy that I wouldn’t give him shit about his assbag friend who looked like he was scared of books.”
I laughed. “I think you’re right. About him being afraid of books, that is.”
She leaned on the bar, smiling sweetly at me. “They don’t bite. Much.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle, leaning toward her too. “Don’t let him know, or he might come back,” I said conspiratorially.