Twist:A Dive Bar Novel(3)

By: Kylie Scott

“Right,” I shot back. “So I’ve just been, what? Imagining all of this?”

“Depends.” He smirked. “Did I start constantly emailing you around the time you went off your meds?”

“Eric,” scolded one woman. Slim, redheaded, and pregnant.

“You’re Nell.” I gave her a finger wave. “He told me about you, sent me pictures of you all and the Dive Bar.”

The woman’s eyes widened.

“He never mentioned you were expecting, though. Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” she said hesitantly.

Next I turned to the other redhead in the room. A tall, nicely built guy covered in ink. “And you’re Vaughan, Nell’s brother. You’re a musician. You recently got engaged to Lydia there, the lovely blonde at your side. Hi.”

“Hi.” Lydia’s lips thinned in surprise. “Huh.”

“If I’m a crazy person, how would I know these things?” I turned back to Eric, my own hands sitting on my own damn hips. “How would I know that you went to school with most of these guys? That you only lived a couple of streets away from each other when you were kids?”

Eric’s mouth opened but nothing came out.

“Oh my God.” A familiar gorgeous, dark-skinned woman with a head full of corkscrew curls stepped forward. “Are you one of those psychics? Mom’s always watching that shit on TV. I never believed before, but…”

“Nah, she’s a stalker,” said Eric. “Got to be. I was bound to pick one up eventually.”

“I am not a stalker.” Given how tight my fingers were rolled up into fists, however, I might soon very well be accused of assault and battery.

“Do me,” said the dark-skinned waitress. “Who am I?”

“You’re Rosie, one of the waitresses here.”

“Got it in one!” Rosie smiled. “Can you tell me anything about my future?”

“I’m sorry. I’m really not psychic.”

“Oh.” Her smile turned upside down. “That sucks.”

“What’s going on?” asked a deep, booming voice from behind us.

I spun, staring straight into the startled eyes of a man who could only be described as a blond Bigfoot, a case of beer casually hoisted on one enormous shoulder. His golden mane flowed down over his wide shoulders, a beard covering the bottom half of his face. I guess it kept him warm in the winter, but seriously. Who needed that much hair?

“Hi, bro, welcome to the crazy.” Eric slapped the big man on the back. “You didn’t happen to send me a psychic stripper for my birthday, did you?”

Dark shocked eyes fixed on me. Joe. It was his brother Joe, of course. The man was just a whole lot bigger in the flesh than I’d ever imagined. Not that I’d spent a lot of time imagining him or anything.

“What?” He shook his bearded head at Eric in confusion. “No. Of course not.”

“A stripper?” I asked in disbelief. “Seriously?”

Eric’s gaze went straight to my shoes. “You got to admit, those are some serious heels.”

He had a point. Still, I highly doubted I looked like the kind of woman who wore pasties at parties on a regular basis. Let alone as if I had any dancing skills or could even attempt to climb a pole.

“All right, enough,” ordered Nell. “I think this poor girl might be the victim of identity theft.”

I froze.

“Look, ah … obviously something’s up here. Why don’t we take this into the back office?” said Joe. “Somewhere a little more private. We don’t want to embarrass her.”

“I think I’ve pretty much reached peak embarrassment overload,” I said, giving him a forced smile. “But thanks.”

Strange, the man’s skin, the bits visible, at least, had turned a kind of ashen color. He honestly looked ready to hurl at any moment. That or faint.

“You okay, man?” asked Vaughan, also noticing.

“Yeah, yeah. Never better.” It was a wonder the guy’s pants didn’t catch on fire. Even I could tell that one was a blatant lie.

“So you’ve never met Eric in the flesh before?” Nell asked. “Only online.”

I nodded. “Yes. We only ever swapped emails.”

With a pained look, Nell came closer, lowering her voice. “It couldn’t have been Eric. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t even find a computer’s on switch, let alone write actual emails on a regular basis. It took him forever just to learn how to spell his own name.”

Eric screwed up his forehead. “Hey. That’s beside the point.”

“Shush.” Nell waved a hand at him. “I doubt it was him who set up the account on this dating site at all.”