I lifted an eyebrow. “And …?”
“Oh. Yeah,” he shuffled closer, “I remember those days. I know what it’s like. If none of them showed up, that means something came up.”
“Who are you talking about?”
“The popular crowd. You know, the ‘in’ crowd.” He nodded and patted my shoulder. “Something came up. I’m positive.”
“Why are you being awkward about this?”
“Oh.” He straightened and flashed me a grin. All that awkwardness was gone as he shrugged. “It’s called being a nice brother. My sis wasn’t a part of the ‘in’. She doesn’t know what it’s like. You and me,” lifting an empty glass, he pointed to me and then back to him, “we know what it’s like.”
Of course. Perfect sense. I shook my head.
“No worries, Sam. If he didn’t show, something must’ve come up.”
“What’s my brother talking about?” Heather plopped her order pad on the counter and leaned over, stretching her back at the same time.
“Nothing.” I needed to know what had ‘come up’ like Brandon insisted. Patting my pockets, I cursed under my breath.
“My phone’s in the car.”
“Go.” Heather waved me off. There was an extra oomph to her grin.
Narrowing my eyes, I paused. “What?”
She went still. “What?”
“What happened to you tonight?”
She’d said that too fast. My eyebrow went back up. “I call bullshit.”
She laughed. “Spoken like a true friend.” Then she indicated behind me, and I turned to see Channing at a back table. He’d been watching us.
“Ah.” It made sense now. “So the no-boyfriend-not-anymore is here and you two are going to get not-friendly tonight?”
“Something like that.” She chuckled before patting my arm again. “Go. I’m serious. I’ll have him finish the few dishes that are left. It’s not like he hasn’t worked back there before.”
He had? That was new info. I started for the door after making sure my car keys were in my pocket. As I passed by her, I muttered under my breath, “One of these days you’re going to have explain your situation to me.”
“Yeah,” she sighed. Her tone turned wistful. “Maybe one day I’ll know, too.”
That was weird. As I headed out, I glanced back over my shoulder. The happiness on Heather’s face was unmistakable. She had turned back to Channing and struck a seductive pose. I grinned as I remembered the first time I met her and pushed through the door.
The parking lot was surrounded by trees and on most days it was peaceful. It was beautiful during the day, but at night, it was eerie. It was especially creepy when most of the cars were gone. I had no doubt there was some big party, and drawing closer to my car, I could see that my phone’s light was blinking. I had messages—
“You’re that waitress from last week.”
I screamed at the deep voice, jumping around in one leap. My heart was in my chest, beating loudly and trying to pound its way out. A dark figure appeared at the end of my car, and I couldn’t see who it was. A hood was pulled over his face, casting it in a shadow, but he was large and muscular.
I needed mace. Why the hell hadn’t I listened to Logan the one time he joked about that? “Who are you?” I demanded, taking deep breaths so my heart could settle.
His hands went in the air, surrendering and he used one to pull his hood down. “I’m sorry. Really. I’m not here to hurt you. I just …” He took a deep breath and I heard his voice shaking.
It was Brett Broudou.
My eyes got even wider and my heart started racing again. His words weren’t very reassuring. I started backing away. “What do you want?”
“Nothing.” He held his hand out to me. “Stop. Please. I’m really not here to hurt you or scare you.”
“I beg to differ. I’m scared shitless right now.”
“I know,” he grimaced and slunk back a few steps. His shoulders went down, like he was trying to make himself smaller. “I’m really not here to scare you. That’s my brother. He’s like that.”
I hadn’t taken much account of how he looked in Manny’s the other week. I’d been too focused on avoiding them and the guys hid me right away at the gas station, but I had a better view now. He had a square face that was a little meaty from his bulky size. His nose was crooked, like he had broken it once and it never healed right. A slight scar ran down from his nose to his top lip. His lips had formed into a tentative grin. Peering closer, I tried to see his eyes better. Mason always told me that you could read a person’s intent through their eyes, but I couldn’t see his. It was too dark. Again, because we were in an almost emptied parking lot that only had one working light over it. Not the best meeting place to pick.
He didn’t look ready to attack me, but looks could be deceiving. My tone went flat. “Tell me what you want or I’m leaving. Next time find me in a crowded place if you want to talk, or better yet, don’t.” But there had been something in his tone. Regret? Maybe something else, friendliness? I wasn’t sure, but my heart slowed a little and my chest wasn’t as tight.