Sandcastle Kisses(7)

By: Krista Lakes & Mel Finefrock

“Thanks, man.” Robbie sighed and shrugged his shoulders at me and continued to try to coax Paul up the stairs.

“No.” Paul stopped in his tracks, his suit hanging in unattractive folds. He had spilled something on his shirt. “She needs to earn the tip I gave her. Besides, she wants it. Just look at her.”

I couldn't stop the heat from rising from my stomach to my cheeks. The insult to my honor burned. My fist balled up but my feet refused to move. I wanted to slug his pasty little head in.

Noah stepped in front of Paul, blocking his path to me. Noah was somehow bigger, more intimidating than he had been down in the bar. He leaned forward and whispered something in Paul's ear, something that made the older man go even paler. Paul's round chin bobbed as he swallowed nervously.

“Now, go upstairs with Robbie,” Noah growled. Robbie took Paul's arm, guiding him to the stairs I was unfortunately standing next to. I wanted to step away from him, but I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing I was afraid of him. So, I stood my ground.

As the drunk man came closer, he reached out his grubby mitt and squeezed my chest. I gasped and stepped back, but Noah's fist was on Paul's cheek faster than I could raise my hand to slap him. Paul sprawled out on the floor and held his palm to his cheek, shock in his eyes.

“Get upstairs.” Noah's voice held a threat I knew Paul didn't want to test. He scampered to his feet and hurtled up the stairs with Robbie tailing after him.

“Nice shot, Noah. I'll make sure he gets to a bathroom, or Owen will throw a fit.” Robbie turned. “I'll come find you at the bar to pay up, Izzy.”

“Are you okay?” Noah asked. His voice was low and soft as he put his hands on my shoulders. I could feel myself trembling against him. I wasn't quite sure why; I dealt with drunks on a regular basis at the bar, but I guessed it was just the suddenness of it all that had shaken me.

“Yeah,” I said, giving him a wobbly smile. “Not the first time I've been hit on at a bar. Remind me to stay on your good side. How'd you hit him so fast anyway?”

One side of Noah's mouth went up in a small half-smile as he bent down to look me in the eyes. His blue eyes held nothing but concern, the edges of a flame still there but not directed at me. I felt giddy this close to him, his hands warm on my shoulders. If I leaned forward just a little, I could've kissed him.

“I used to box. Never professionally or anything. I just liked the exercise.” His lips curved into a stronger smile as he looked at me. I could see now where he got those beautifully sculpted arms and chest. He was so close I could practically taste his kiss. A kiss from him sounded wonderful. It would certainly make me feel better.

“Where's Paul?” Owen asked, breaking the tension between us. His eyes flashed daggers, and anger filled his voice. Dean was one step behind him, looking deadly. I almost felt sorry for Paul.

“Upstairs. Robbie's with him.” Noah straightened and dropped one of his hands, but thankfully left one on my shoulder.

“Are you okay?” Owen asked, turning to me. “That poor catering girl is pretty shaken up.”

“I'm fine. I deal with drunks all the time. He just surprised me is all.” I gave him a stronger smile. “I should go check on Lana.”

“I'll go with her,” Noah volunteered. “You and Dean go make sure Robbie doesn't give Paul a swirly.”

Owen nodded, heading up the stairs with Dean. Noah turned back to me, and together we went out to the front porch where Lana and the other caterer, her sister Rosie, were sitting on the porch. Night was deep and dark, but the porch light held them in a protective, warm, yellow light. Rosie had her arm over Lana's shoulder, and as we came out she gave her a squeeze.

“You two okay?” I asked.

Rosie nodded. “I've got her, Izzy.. She's gonna be fine,” She squeezed Lana's slim shoulder again. “If it's okay, I'd like to take her home.”

“I'll let Rachel know, and I'll make sure you two get your full check,” Noah assured her. I knew he would too. There was something in his voice that told me he would pay it out of his own pocket if he had to.

“Thanks.” Rosie smiled and pulled Lana up. “Let's get you home.”

Lana stood and gave us both an appreciative smile. “Thanks. And thank that other guy for me too.”

Noah nodded and we followed them with our eyes as they headed into the parking lot before heading back downstairs ourselves.

I glanced at my watch as we headed back behind the bar. It was a little after two in the morning. Time had flown by. The Halo Tournament was over, and Owen had won. Jack met us at the bottom of the stairs, his brows drawn together.