Big week. The Braves swept the Nationals and are still firmly perched atop the NL East. I have re-edited Wildly Inappropriate and the story will be available again by the end of the week. And...my daughter's having a girl!
Six days later, Verity Alexander studied her reflection in her vanity mirror. The tattoo had been worth every penny, she decided. Things were looking up all the way around. Her editor had salivated over the outline and first three chapters of the new story. And, she’d found the ring. Not that the ring was necessarily a good thing. She was still trying to get a reading on that. Her crystals had remained stubbornly mute, as had the gazing ball. She hoped the problem was on her end. a lack of use. With the Watchers in her home, she hadn’t been willing to open her mind to her gift often. The less the Triscaro knew about her, the better.
The sound of the phone interrupted her musing. She grabbed for the phone with one hand and a hand mirror with the other, still studying the tattoo. “Hello?”
“Vee, it’s Sage. I need a favor, please, please, please. You know I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t desperate.”
“You want me to bartend tonight?” Vee guessed. Sage wouldn’t be begging otherwise.
“That damn Garrity. You were right about him, I caught him stealing last night and fired his ass, but I can’t find another bartender and get them trained overnight. I need you for a week, maybe more because Avery’s in Jamaica. Please, Vee,” Sage wheedled.
Verity felt the same tangle of feelings she always had toward Sage. Love and exasperation. “I’ll help you, but I’m not splitting my tips.”
“No problem, I’ll kick in your percentage. Be here by nine? The door code’s changed. 7776. Gate code is still the same.”
Vee repeated the number that unlocked the employee entrance door. “For a minute there, I thought you were going patriotic.”
She swallowed her sigh. Sage lived in the moment. And, she’d never been forced to attend school with humans and learn American History the way Verity had until she’d turned twelve. “See you at nine.”
“I’ll get somebody to prep your bar.” Verity disconnected the call before Sage guilted her into coming in earlier to slice up fruit.
Vee stood in the staff locker room, trying to untangle the strings of jet beads dangling from the hair comb in her hand. Sage insisted that female staff wear one of two approved hair ornaments, and Vee wasn’t about to use the roaring twenties style headband with feathers. She could just imagine pieces of the stringy black-dyed ostrich feather landing in someone’s drink as she worked. When the final two strands of beads came loose, she gave her hips a little shake in celebration.
She brushed her hair away from her face, and caught the two strands above each ear, securing them behind her head with the comb, letting the rest fall free down her back.
Glancing at her watch, she realized she needed to get to her post. She gave herself a final once-over in the mirror, turning to look over her shoulder as best she could. The sign on the mirror reminded her to wash her hands. Out of habit, she tucked the small tin of healing ointment into her front pocket before slamming the locker closed, though the ointment had worked so well she doubted she’d need it tonight. The tattoo hadn’t itched the way Thane assured her it would.
Time to go to work. The VIP bar opened at nine. She prayed someone had actually been assigned to do the prep.
She entered the quiet room and quickly went to work, logging into the computerized register. She occupied herself by setting up the bar back the way she liked it, and checking to be sure every surface sparkled as customers started drifting in.
Soon, she was busy, too busy to notice when her sister appeared behind the bar.
“Vee, you saved my life.”
Again, Vee thought silently, giving Sage a quick hug. “Don’t mention it. The tips have been fantastic. Don’t you have better things to do than supervise me? And,”—she shoved her sister aside playfully—“you’re in my way. Oh, and ask somebody to haul up a new keg of Budweiser, would you? I was ashamed to sell the last beer I tried to pour; it was almost pure foam, so I’ve been giving the guy free Bud Light.” She nodded in the direction of the customer who wanted that brand.
Few things annoyed Sage more than her staff giving away profits, Verity knew, hiding her grin. “You could’ve paged somebody,” her half-sister grumbled.
“Like I have time to figure out that complicated intercom system?” Vee plunked the six glasses onto a tray. Brushing past Sage, she delivered the order to the group of eight seated at the long bar.
Customers piled into the bar and Vee once again lost herself in the simple task of filling drink orders, keeping the long bar as sparkling as possible, and washing up glasses. The music seemed to grow louder, if possible, but she found herself enjoying the band, going so far as to dance a bit as she poured shot after shot of alcohol into glasses, and crafted the elaborate drinks Obsidian featured.
Stacking her tray full of ornate drinks, she spun and felt her elbow connect with the heavy gallon jar of maraschino cherries. A full-blooded adorii could have used her powers to slide the fruit to safety. All Verity could do was clutch the tray of drinks and watch the sticky mess explode. Cherries bounced and rolled everywhere at her feet and the juice splashed everything from her shoes to her elbows. Tips had been good, but not when she deducted the cost of her leather pants. Dammit.
Mike Reardon entered the VIP bar, hoping to find a spot quieter than the crowed main room. The music thrummed painfully in his temples and he wished like hell he hadn’t agreed to come out with his teammates. All he wanted was a quiet place to have a beer and lick his wounds. His run of inexplicable errors was killing him. He needed something to change his luck. Victor and Paulo insisted what he needed was to get laid, so they’d dragged him here. Not that he was in the mood for talking, much less trying to pick up a woman. All evening, his teammates talked about nothing but baseball, a topic he was sick of at the moment.
All the tables in the room were full, but the long bar itself was empty. He didn’t see a bartender as he slid into a seat. Suddenly, a head popped up, followed by the rest of a delicious female form. Her back was to him, but Mike stared in disbelief at the reflection of the woman’s face in the mirror behind the bar. She looked like the woman he’d seen at Thane’s, the gorgeous, nearly-nude woman, getting an enormous tattoo. She wore a long-sleeved shirt so he couldn’t be sure. The bar was too dim to tell if the eyes were the same unusual color as those belonging to the girl stretched out in Thane’s chair.
She suddenly fired a towel at the sink, grabbed a new one, shoved it under running water, wrung it out, and disappeared once more.
His headache receded. He relaxed in his seat, patiently waiting for her to surface.
The blonde head popped up a few moments later, her back still to him. He couldn’t take his eyes off her reflection in the mirror. Suddenly, she whirled.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize you were waiting. What would you like?”
You. “Bud draft, please.”
She chuckled, but she swiped at her pants, eyes still lowered. Fine by him, he’d just watch while she fussed with the tight black leather pants. But he wanted a look at her eyes.
“That keg is empty. I’ve been waiting on a replacement all night. But,” she continued, leaning forward and lowering her voice and finally raising her eyes to his face, “the good news is, I’m giving away shots out of spite for being ignored. Interested?”
Oh, he was interested, all right. Those eyes were definitely lavender. The view down the snug top was definitely interesting. “Sure, that sounds fine.” Mike forced the words past a suddenly-dry throat. She didn’t recognize him, apparently. And he was having trouble talking. Maybe because he’d seen her before, and not just at Thane’s. It hadn’t hit him until after he’d left the tattoo parlor, but he’d actually been seeing this face for a long time.