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  • Writer's pictureJill Marie Denton

His Three Friends | Mar 14, 2020

Part Two:

Julian’s Pub was a madhouse at eight-thirty, just as I’d expected. The sports bar’s lobby area was mobbed with lads in mesh jerseys, cradling amber-filled glasses and hollering over the din of the television announcers on the surrounding flat screens. A few females jockeyed for their attention as voluptuous servers in striped referee tops swept between them with damp trays.

Fried appetizers and ten-dollar cologne lingered on the air as I nudged inside. A few heads turned as my thin trench pulled opened at the collar, revealing the neckline of a ruby body-con dress I’d picked out earlier in the day. Carefully navigating the hardwood floor on black stilettos, I made my way to the end of the bar where I knew my target would be perched, as he always was, after a long shift and sweaty martial arts session.

He was alone with his back to me, a ballcap turned backward on his head. His olive eyes were no doubt focused on the screen above the bar’s extensive collection of draft handles. A group of athletes in crimson gear and white helmets gathered on the fifty-yard line, planning their next move as he watched, enthralled, with a bottle of his favorite imported lager in his fingers. I’d picked up many six-packs of it over the years, ferrying them back to the house for impromptu visits.

The bartender glanced up to see me coming, gifted me a quick smile then went about his work as I approached Shawn’s back. He was hunched over the bar top, his head tipped up and his mahogany locks tucked under the loose-fitting cap. Both arms rested on the surface as the maelstrom around him continued.

And he was utterly uninvolved in it. He was in his own little world. Just he and the football team, engaged in a battle captured on the screens surrounding him.

As predictable as ever, Shawn.

“Hey there,” I greeted, craning over his shoulder. “Mind a little company?”

Shock and pleasure swept over his face as he turned to me, his eyes bright. “Hey! I wouldn’t have expected you here tonight. This isn’t your crowd.”

“You’re almost right about that,” I replied with a rehearsed smile. “I was in the neighborhood, thought I’d stop in. Besides, I wanted to show my support.”

I edged to the seat on his left and swept open my coat fully. The shade of my new dress matched Shawn’s jersey perfectly by design, but with its abbreviated hemline and snug bodice, it left little to the imagination.

I was never one for sports apparel but fortunately tight dresses in hometown colors made a much stronger impression anyway.

His gaze swept over me though he tried to disguise it. He shook his head once hard, gripping his beer bottle a bit tighter as he turned away to refocus on the screen.

Nailed it, I thought with a hidden smirk.

“You must be feeling better,” he uttered from alongside my seat, his beer held an inch from his lips as his eyes stayed on the tv’s action. “Last time I saw you, you were dressed like my mother.”

“Not better, necessarily. But I was lonely. Is that fair to admit?”

I watched as his eyes traipsed downward to the lip of the bottle as he lowered it to the counter. He considered his words carefully as I waited alongside, facing him fully. He kept his body forward in the seat.

“Sure. I… I imagine it’s been pretty hard for you lately. I’m just glad you’re out and about. If your goal was to get noticed here tonight, you shouldn’t have any trouble with that.”

“I was hoping for a little attention, yes,” I murmured, in close to his side. “I guess it’s a bit much?”

He snickered, turning his head to me with a soft expression. “You’re always a bit much. It’s one of your best qualities. But you’re going to make me look out for you tonight, aren’t you?”

I shook my head, letting my silver hoop earrings swing. “No, you’re not my keeper. And you worked hard today I bet. It certainly looks like it.”

I reached out and touched an oblong purpling bruise on his forearm, mid-way between wrist and elbow. Little divots flecked the skin. He flinched but didn’t pull back.

“The bastard almost had me in an arm bar. I had to go for his neck. Biting’s not allowed so he’s banned from training for a few weeks, but he got me. This’ll hurt for a while.”

“Looks vicious,” I replied sweetly, kissing the pad of my thumb and gently coaxing it over the spot. “I wish you’d be careful. I know you’re the tough guy, but this stuff makes me so nervous.”

He was frozen on his stool, his eyes fixated on the bruise as I lingered over it. I watched his chest rise and fall a few times as he pressed his lips together.

The sound of the groaning crowd around us diverted his attention to the screen in an instant.

Damn. Time for Plan B.

I uttered his name twice before he eyed me again.

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to ignore you. This is a really important game and we’re down three going into halftime…”

“Yeah, I heard,” I snickered, glancing around at the crowd. “I won’t keep you. Remember how you offered me some help if I needed it?”

“Of course,” he replied, his eyes on the screen as the last seconds ticked by on the play clock. “Whatever you need, I gotcha. In like, seven seconds.”

I shook my head with a chortle. I’d waited this long. Seven more seconds wouldn’t kill me.

Besides, he was so attractive, so ruggedly handsome, watching his mossy eyes fixate for a little longer and imagining my fingers in his soft hair wasn’t a chore.

When the whistle blew and the swell of music kicked in to interrupt the broadcast, he turned his stool to me completely. His chiseled jaw was set, his eyes narrowed slightly as his tough palms moved to my knees.

“What do you need?”

I couldn’t help grinning as his expression turned curious. “Come with me.”

{Part 2.5 Coming Mar 21, 2020} <3 JMD

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