My first two weeks at Lima Academy had been exhausting, but in a good, fun, and productive way if I didn’t count the run-ins with the Steroid Twins. They were jerks—relatively harmless jerks—but they were easy to ignore for the most part. Especially since I’d learned to be quicker with the pretend phone calls when I saw them enter the offices.
Every day there was some form of grunt work that involved me navigating the congested streets of Philadelphia either by foot or car to track down something Mr. Browser just had to have. But I was also learning, and the excitement of the new job was nowhere near wearing off, even if most of the guys on the sales team were total assholes who spent more time staring at my ass or breasts than working.
Swallowing a yawn, I closed my closet door and gave my bed a long, lusty look. I started toward it but stopped myself. Last night I had sat down around eight in the evening, for a few minutes, and ended up passing out, sleeping straight through the night.
I was not falling for that trick again.
Besides, I wasn’t exactly sleepy per se, just weirdly tired. I really hoped I wasn’t coming down with a cold or something. The last thing I needed was to potentially miss work for being sick, and because of that, I knew I should be staying in that night and resting, but I was bored out of my mind. And it was Friday night.
And I missed my girls.
For now, I Skyped with Yasmine and Denise, two girls who’d been with me my entire college experience, whenever we were free, which wasn’t as often as I liked. Yasmine had moved to Atlanta and Denise was in Baltimore, which was too far from here. Once I was situated, I wanted to make a little trip to see Denise.
Grabbing my purse, I headed out to my car. Truthfully, I was feeling way too lonely and I needed to get out. Back home, there was always someone to hang out with or someplace to go, and I really hadn’t connected with anyone here.
Well, except Nick, but that wasn’t really a long-term connection. At least not yet. Who knew, though? We could become friends, but I wasn’t going to meet anyone sitting in my apartment, marathoning all the seasons of Supernatural.
Mona’s parking lot was pretty packed, and as I headed in, I wondered if Nick was working . . . and yeah, I also wondered if he had plans later. That last thought brought a smile to my face.
Music and pool balls clanking off one another greeted me as I stepped through the door. Grateful I didn’t wear anything heavier than a cardigan, since it was rather toasty inside, I moseyed on around two guys and approached the bar.
I saw the girl with the glasses first—Roxy. She’d changed the color of her glasses and the streak in her hair. Tonight, both were blue and they matched her shirt. A laugh burst out of me when she turned, and I was able to read what was on her shirt.
A BARTENDER KNOWS HOW BAD HEAD IS.
The other guy, the one with the short bronze hair and military written all over him, was also behind the bar. If I remembered correctly, that was Jax, the owner. Near the well, Roxy was working; I squeezed myself in between two stools.
Only a few seconds passed before her bespectacled gaze drifted past me and darted back. Surprise widened her eyes. “You came back.”
What an odd statement.
Roxy whirled toward the owner and shouted, “She came back!”
Jax arched a brow as he glanced in our direction and then shook his head. Unperturbed by the lack of interest on his part, Roxy looked like she was seconds away from doing a cartwheel. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said, leaning against the bar in front of me. “What can I get you?”
Pushing aside the strange greeting, I flicked my gaze to the bottles beyond her and then gave up on trying to think of a drink. “I’ll go with whatever you have on tap.”
“Coming right up.” Roxy whirled around, and like a little tornado, she moved behind the bar, returning with a full glass. “Want to start a tab?”
I shook my head and handed over cash. Opening a tab always ended with me drinking way too much. “Keep the change.”
Roxy smiled, and I realized the bruise that had been on her face before was completely gone. She returned from the cash register after getting a guy sitting two stools down a fresh bottle. “I was starting to think I’d never see you again. It’s been, what? Two weeks?”
“I started a new job,” I explained. “I think it kind of wore me out a little.”
“Totally understandable.” She propped her elbows on the counter. “You’re enjoying it here?”
I nodded. “It’s taking a little bit to get used to the city. Where I come from, we don’t have anything like that.”
“Yeah, Calla—Jax’s girlfriend—has said that, too. But she’s actually from here, though she goes to Shepherd.” She paused long enough to take a quick breath. “But you don’t know her very well, right?”
“I just know of her. She seems like a really nice girl, though.” I took a sip of my beer. “You’ve lived here your whole life?”
“Born and raised. I love it. It’s really the perfect locale. Super close to the city but still has a town feel to it—one sec.” Roxy buzzed down the length of the bar, handling someone who walked up with an empty drink.
Taking another sip, I turned around and scanned the bar. There was such a unique mix of people here, young and old, all different ethnicities and backgrounds.
“There’s a lot of hipper bars in the city,” Roxy said, returning. She grinned when I turned back around. “Sorry. You had that look on your face. Not a bad one,” she quickly added. “Mostly just checking everything out kind of look. I’m surprised we actually get a younger crowd here. There’re so many more options in Philadelphia.”