“I don’t know.” I scrunched up my face, thinking about it before guessing, “Thousands?”
“Fuck you, man. This wouldn’t be so funny if it was happening to you.”
“Oh, I do believe it did happen to me, and you were the first fucker in line to haggle me about it, too. So...humph. Payback’s a bitch, honey.”
“What’s a bitch?” Gamble asked, joining our conversation.
“Nothing.” Moody as all get-out, Asher picked up a tray of dirty glasses and marched out from behind the bar to carry them to the kitchen for cleaning.
Gam arched his eyebrows and glanced at me. I nodded my head toward the stage. “He grew a boner for the dark-headed chick who sang the last song. Felt rejected when she stuck her tongue down some other guy’s throat afterward.”
“Ah.” Gamble nodded and then snorted out an amused laugh. “It figures he’d go for another singer. She did sound good, though.”
I shrugged, even though I agreed. When I saw the redhead who’d been on stage with her approaching the bar, I moved in to take her order. Right before I called a greeting, I racked my brain for her name. It’d been something close to Cody, or Jude, or...Jodi! That was it.
“Hey, Jodi.” Resting my elbows on the counter separating us, I nodded my head in greeting and flashed her a smile.
She glowered back. “Ten.”
We hadn’t ended so well. Aside from a little oral pleasure, we’d never gone the whole way, and it wasn’t because neither of us was willing. She’d turned a little testy about doing anything in the dark, so I’d dropped her flat. And she’d been hateful to me ever since.
“Good job up there.” I tipped my chin toward the stage where someone was now slaughtering a Tim McGraw song. “Who was your friend singing with you?”
She sniffed and tipped her chin. “None of your damn business. Are you going to serve me, or not?”
A couple months ago, I would’ve twisted that question around into something dirty and spit back an answer that really would’ve pissed her off. Tonight, I was a good boy and nodded my head obligingly. “Sure. What’ll you have?”
Jodi gave me her order for three drinks, which told me she was probably buying for her friend too, and her friend’s man. I set the glasses on the bar in front of her and said, “This round’s on the house.”
“Good.” She sent me another bitter sneer and picked up one glass to down half the contents. “It’s the least I deserve for the way you treated me.”
“Hey.” I scowled right back. “I wasn’t that shitty to you.”
“And yet I went away, feeling like a complete idiot.” When hurt streaked across her face, I shifted, suddenly uncomfortable.
I’d been too freaked out to let anyone see my birthmark all these years, and I’d probably left dozens of women feeling insufficient because of my issues. What an awful fucking self-realization.
I opened my mouth to apologize when she kept on, “And after all this time, the first thing you say to me is, ‘who’s your friend?’ Well, fuck you, Ten! Fuck...you. You can’t have her.”
Her voice had risen in volume. Cringing, I glanced around to see if anyone had heard her, and sure enough, Gamble was glancing our way. When his gaze clashed with mine, he lifted his eyebrows, curious.
I turned back to Jodi, panicked. “Jesus, Jo.” I lowered my voice and slid my hand along the counter in her direction. “I’m sorry, okay. I swear to God I never meant to put you through something that’s obviously stayed with you this long.” She wasn’t buying my apology, so I sucked in a breath and went all out. “I was going through some personal issues back then, and I had no business trying to mess around with any girl. It never even occurred to me that hiding something I was ashamed of would actually make you feel as if you ever did anything wrong. Because you didn’t. You were fun as hell to hang out with, and I’m just...I’m sorry.”
She stared at me for a moment before slowly nodding. “Okay. When you put it that way, I guess...I guess I can forgive you.”
I nodded respectfully. “Thank you. Oh, and for your information, I wasn’t asking about your friend for my sake. I already have someone. I was asking for...a friend.”
“Then...who?” Her gaze wandered around the bar until it landed on Gamble. She leaned in closer, her eyes widening. “Noel Gamble? The big ESU quarterback has a thing for Remy?”
Remy? So the love of Hart’s life was named Remy, huh? That was kind of a cool name for a chick.