Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons Page 65

The man sat in the chair across from me. He was a good-looking man with dark hair and a neatly trimmed beard, but he had an edge to him that made me uncomfortable. Muscles stretched his t-shirt and tattoos peeked out under his sleeves. Resting an elbow on the table, he held his beer bottle over the table edge and leaned forward. “Well, hello there, gorgeous. What’s a girl like you doin’ in a place like this?”

Even with my lack of experience, I knew that had to be a tacky pickup line. The question was how to handle it. I decided to go with my instinct. After taking another long drink, I set the bottle down. “Is that the best you’ve got?”

Where had this Sassy Rose come from? It had to be the beer. I loved beer.

He tilted his head back and laughed, a deep throaty sound. When he recovered, he winked. “I think that earns you a drink.” He went over to the bar and brought back two bottles, handing one to me. Holding up his beer, he grinned. “Here’s to what’s looking like an interesting evening.”

I clicked my bottle into his, then took a drink.

“Are you here all alone?” He put his arm along the back of the chair across from me.

“I’m waiting for a friend. She should be here any minute.”

His mouth lifted into a slow lazy grin.

I suspected I’d just said the wrong thing. To hide my shaking hand, I took another drink. Crappy doodles. I’d been here less than ten minutes and drank one and a half bottles of beer. I needed to slow down.

“You wanna shoot some pool while you wait for your friend?”

“Let me check if she’s tried to call.” Searching the contents of my purse revealed my mistake. I’d charged my cell phone before I left. And never unplugged it.

I had two choices: leave or stay. The whole purpose of me being here was to get information and I suspected my opportunity had just presented itself. I smiled. “Sure.”

I took a long sip of my beer and set it down before I slid from the stool. He stood in front of me, extending his hand. “Skeeter.”

“Uh…” I couldn’t tell him my real name. “Jane.”

Instead of shaking my hand, he held onto it, slipping his other arm around my back. “Well, Jane. How good are you at pool?” He led me to the back corner, where his two friends watched, not bothering to hide their grins of approval.

Where in the dickens was Neely Kate?

“I’ve never played.”

His eyebrows raised and he studied me. “Then what’s a nice girl like you doin’ at a pool hall all alone when you’ve never played before?”

His friend handed him a bottle and Skeeter pressed it into my left hand, still holding onto my right. “My friend…Sasha…she’s getting married next week so we decided to get a little loose and crazy and do something we’ve never done before. Like play pool… I mean shoot pool.” Why did I always babble when I was anxious?

Skeeter hovered over me, making me nervous. The condensation from the cold bottle dripped down my fingers, tempting me to take another drink to bolster my courage.

“I like loose and crazy,” he said.

I pulled my hand from his and took a step back, holding my bottle in front of me. “Then it’s your lucky night.” Before I realized what I was doing, I’d taken another long sip, then set the bottle down with a clang.

Skeeter’s butt rested against the side of a pool table, his hands behind him, drumming on the edge. He smirked. “I guess it is.”

He was too sure of himself to suit me, and the beer had begun coursing through my veins. “You gonna show me how to do this or what?”

His eyes widened in surprise. “Eager, huh? I like that. I’ll get you a cue.”

While he was gone, his friends checked me out. I gave them the best haughty look I could muster. A difficult task when I couldn’t feel my face.

An arm slipped over my shoulders and I looked up in to Skeeter’s face, his beer breath blasting me. He handed me a pole. “This here’s the cue stick. You line it up with that white ball and hit it so that the white ball hits another ball and sinks it into a pocket.”

His condescending tone rankled my nerves. “I’ve heard of pool. I just haven’t played it.”

Skeeter chuckled. “Just trying to make sure you know the rules.”

I looked into his face, wondering if I had missed something in my beer-hazed state.

His arm dropped from my shoulder and he moved over to the table. Grabbing a rack from the wall, he scooped up the balls and rearranged them, then rolled the rack back and forth until he had them where he wanted them. He lifted the wooden rack and left the balls in a perfect triangle. Bracing his hands on the table edge, he leaned forward, staring at me. “Do you know what to do now, Jane?”

It took me a second to realize that he was talking to me. “Yeah, you have to get the stripes or the solids into the pockets.”

“And who gets to decide who’s stripes or solids?”

“I dunno.”

“The person who sinks the first ball.” He picked up his cue and leaned over the table then struck the white ball. It slammed into the triangle, sending balls everywhere. Several dropped into the holes.


Still hanging over his pool cue, he leered at me.

Where the hell was Neely Kate?

Skeeter took a long drag of his beer and set it down on the table. “Come ’ere and let me help you hit the ball.”

“I can do it by myself.” Grabbing my stick, I walked over, trying not to wobble in my heels. I stopped at the side of the table, directly in front of the white ball. “So what do you pick? Solids or stripes?”

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