“First night, right?”
I look up at the other bartender who’s working with me tonight. “Yeah,” I reply.
The guy nods, holding a hand out. “Adam,” he says.
I shake his hand, grateful to finally have my cast off. It was annoying as fuck, but it was also stopping me from doing so much, including getting a job again. It’s good to have it off so I can actually try and get back to having a normal life again, as weird as that feels after all this time. Truth be told, sometimes I wonder if I even know what normal feels like anymore.
“Caleb,” I say, shaking his hand.
“Should be pretty quiet tonight,” Adam replies, waving a hand around the room. “I mean, for a campus bar, anyway.”
I grab a towel and wipe down the bar top. “It’s cool, not my first time pulling beers.”
“Oh yeah,” he says, leaning a hip against the bar. “Where’d you used to work?”
I throw the towel over my shoulder, moving to serve a customer before turning back to Adam. “Used to run a bar back in Rhode Island,” I say, not bothering to elaborate.
Running it might be a generous term given what I was really trying to do was dig it out of the big fucking hole my dad had sunk it into. And I didn’t even succeed at that because in the end we lost it, the bank claiming it back after we reneged on the repayments.
I still wasn’t sure how I felt about losing the last piece of the legacy my grandfather spent years building and my dad spent years destroying.
“Oh yeah,” he says, brows raised. “So, you go to school out here now or?”
I shake my head. “Nah, moved out to live with my sister who does, but not me,” I say. “Do you go to school here?”
Adam shakes his head once as he starts to stack some glasses in the small dishwasher. “Nah, not me. Traveling is more my thing,” he says, giving me a sideways grin. “Use this to help finance the trip,” he adds, arms out wide.
“Yeah, I wondered where you were from,” I start, crossing my arms over my chest. “What’s the accent?” I ask, having noticed it the second he spoke to me.
Adam grins as he turns to lean against the bar again. “Australian. Chicks over here love it, so you know.” He pauses shrugging once. “It’s handy.”
I chuckle. “I’ll bet. How long have you been here?”
“Hmmm,” he says, eyes flicking to the ceiling as though he’s mentally tallying the number. “Maybe three months.”
“Cool,” I reply, turning as the door to the bar opens and I see Reid and Sienna walk in, hand in hand as they head over toward the bar and grab a couple of stools. “Hey,” I say, grinning at both of them. “Beers?”
“Thanks,” Reid replies as Sienna nods. “How’s it going?”
I reach for two bottles and slide them onto the bar. “All good. Not my first rodeo,” I add, shrugging. “So, you know, pretty easy.”
Reid grins, clinking his bottle against Sie’s. “Nah, guess not. Although this is quiet for this place,” he adds, glancing around the room. “Wait till the weekend.”
I nod, smiling at him. “Pretty sure I’ll cope. What are you guys up to tonight?” I ask, wondering if it would be totally obvious if I asked them where Ruby is or whether she’s coming in too.
Sienna smiles. “Nothing much, just thought we’d drop by and see how you were going.”
I laugh, shaking my head as I glance at Reid. “Seriously?”
Reid shrugs. “Not my call.”
I shake my head at him as I mutter, “So pussy whipped.”
Sienna reaches over the bar to punch my arm. “Hey!”
Reid laughs. “Yeah but I’m getting plenty of it, so I’m fine with that.”
Sienna turns to him, her mouth open in surprise, which only makes him laugh even more before he leans in and silences whatever she was about to say with a kiss.
“Don’t worry, Sie,” I say, laughing as I reach over to gently nudge her. “You’re totally dick whipped too, so, you know.” I wink at her as I shrug my shoulders. “You’re both as bad as each other.”
Reid laughs again, slinging an arm around my sister’s shoulders as he pulls her close.
Adam wanders over and I make introductions, before he disappears again to serve some customers. Reid and Sienna end up staying for a couple more drinks, and it’s quiet enough that I can chat with them both, before they call it a night and head home.
The rest of my night isn’t too busy, the bar is mostly filled with college students looking for a couple of quiet ones. It’s a Tuesday night, so I wasn’t expecting anything big. It’ll be interesting to see what Friday and Saturday night looks like.
“Okay,” Adam says, walking over to me. “You good to close up?”
I glance at my watch and see it’s nearly midnight. “Shit, that went fast. But yeah.”
We push through our clean up and once we’re done, hit the lights, before heading out the back to the parking area. Adam’s car is parked in the lot and we say goodbye before he drives off. I still haven’t managed to get a car yet, but this place is within walking distance to Sienna and Ruby’s, so I’m not in any rush to get one.
Guess I’ll have to get something when I move out though, whenever that happens. Truth be told, I’m not really looking for somewhere to live right now. I should be, but I really like staying with my sister, even if I am sleeping on the couch. It’s been great just hanging out with her and Reid again. I wasn’t lying when I said I’d missed them these past two years.
Plus, I enjoy Ruby’s company too. In addition to being hot, she’s also a lot of fun to hang out with, so easy to be with and great to talk to as well. We’ve gone running twice more since that first time, each time going a bit further while I slowly start to get myself back in shape.
She’s been mixing up the routes, showing me around the town, but also giving me an opportunity to work out. It’s nice, more than nice actually, and I’m not sure if it will continue to happen if I move out. Which is also part of the reason I’m stalling on the house hunting.
When I get home, I head inside to find the place quiet, everyone else clearly in bed. I grab some sweats from my bag and head into the bathroom to take a quick shower.
When I walk into the kitchen to grab something to eat though, Ruby is sitting at the counter, an open beer in front of her and a second one sitting in front of the empty stool next to her.
“Hey,” I say, surprised. “I didn’t know you were still up.”
Ruby looks up and smiles at me. “Yep, I am,” she says, swallowing hard. “I got you a beer.” She points her pencil toward the second bottle sitting beside her, before ducking her head.
“Thanks,” I reply, taking a seat beside her. “What are you doing?” I glance over at the books in front of her.
Ruby shrugs, taking a sip of beer. “Just some reading.”
I reach for one of the textbooks, spinning it around so I can see the cover and title. “Professional Counseling: A Process Guide to Helping,” I say out loud, as I glance at her, a brow raised in question. “There’s a process to helping, huh?”
Ruby takes another sip of her beer, her eyes staring at the textbook in front of me. “Yeah I guess, although mostly I think you just need to be a good listener.”
I slide the textbook back to her. “I think it’s probably more than that.”
Ruby tilts her head to the side as she watches me, and I suddenly feel a little nervous. I didn’t mean to start a discussion on the ways and means of counseling someone, because that’s honestly the last fucking thing I want to talk about.
I’m not sure how much she knows about me and what happened back in Providence. I mean the situation with Reid’s dad: the arrest, the charges and him going to jail, was all over the news, so that she definitely knows about. Plus, I’m pretty sure Sienna filled her in on some of the details while we were in hiding back at the safe house and again when we eventually got back here.
But all the stuff that came before that, the reasons I didn’t come to Hawthorn two years ago, all the shit I went through with my dad and the even bigger shit that came after that. I’m pretty sure Sie hasn’t told her about those things.
Because if it’s one thing Sie and me have always done, it’s protect each other and the shit we’ve come from. Neither of us is big on telling people about our fucked up family and with the exception of Reid, who of course knows everything, we’ve basically kept our mouth shut. It’s why the three of us have always been so tight. We know each other’s secrets, but we know how to keep them, too.
I take another sip of my beer, my eyes on the kitchen window and the darkness of the night on the other side of it. “I think in order to be a good listener,” I start, unsure why I’m even saying this, “you have to be able to make people feel comfortable enough to talk.”
From the corner of my eye, I see Ruby reach for her beer and take a long sip, nodding almost to herself as she lowers her bottle to the counter. “Oh hey,” she suddenly says, turning on her stool to face me. “So how was your first night of work?”
I chuckle, surprised at the total one-eighty in conversation, but also grateful. “Yeah, it was good,” I say, shrugging. “Quiet night, no major drama. Seems like a cool place though.”
“Good,” she says. “I’m glad.”
I take another sip, looking sideways at her. “Reid and Sienna came by,” I say, trying to act casual as I add, “You should come in sometime.”
“Yeah, I would have,” she says, “but I had a late class.”
“How’s things with the creepy professor?” I ask.
Ruby’s brows narrow. “He’s not that bad, really.”
Now it’s me giving her a questioning look. “Yeah, he kinda is,” I say, finishing off my beer. I get up to grab us two more, not bothering to ask if she wants one. I also grab a slice of leftover pizza from the box in the fridge, suddenly realizing I’m starving. “You should be careful around him,” I add, turning to her as I walk back to the counter.
I can feel her eyes on me, watching as I walk over and take a seat beside her, opening her beer before sliding it down to her. I realize again, that I’m not wearing a shirt, but I seriously wasn’t expecting her to be here when I came out of the shower and going to put one on now would just be weird.
Unfortunately, she is not wearing the tank and panties she had on the last time we met in this kitchen late at night. This time she’s wearing a t-shirt and leggings, her hair all piled up on the top of her head in a messy knot. She still looks fucking gorgeous though, all long legs and smooth skin, eyes the color of chocolate. And the one good thing about the kitchen window having no blinds, is I can check her out without her noticing.
“How many classes do you have with him?” I ask, sitting back down.
“Um,” Ruby says, finishing off her first beer. “Three, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
I take another sip of my beer mentally taking note of the days. “So, we running tomorrow?” I ask, changing the subject.
Ruby chuckles. “Sure,” she says. “We can go after my class if you want.”
I turn to her. “The creepy professor class?” I ask.
Ruby rolls her eyes but she’s smiling. “Yeah,” she says. “I should be done at three, so if that works for you, I can meet you back here and then we can go?”
I take a sip of beer as my eyes stay locked on hers. Smiling, I say, “Great, sounds like a plan.” Knowing I won’t be waiting for her back here. Not now I know what time her class with that creeper ends.
Might be the perfect excuse to go meet her when she gets out, remind this prick that Ruby is off-limits.