Frayed Page 66

’’Yes, but you sound like everything isn\ .’’

’’I\m talking to Aunt Celeste. Jagger\s father is really sick and Jack and I are going to fly out in the morning to be with her. Can I call you back?’’

’’Of course. No rush. I hope everything is okay.’’

’’I\ll call you back,’’ she says, and hangs up.

I try to call Jagger but there\s no answer. I try Aerie but no answer there either. My aunt and Jagger\s father were close;at least they were when I spent a year with my aunt in Paris. She spoke to him every day. I felt they were in love, but they were two ships that passed in the night, star-crossed lovers, I remember thinking.

With sadness for my aunt and Jagger in my already broken heart and no one else to talk to about Ben, I head for the door, leaving my cell phone behind. I need to chase away the dark clouds storming in my head a few bottles of wine, maybe even a bottle of vodka can certainly help me do that.

CHAPTER 21

Away from the Sun

Ben

The winds have picked up as I tear down the road. I haven\ wanted a drink in a long time, but I do now. I ride like hell to get out of town. I don\ pay any attention to where I\m going, turning right or left depending on which light is green. A few hours later I end up far from where I started, in West Hollywood, only a few blocks from Beck\s. The traffic is f**king bumper to bumper and I can\ sit in it. I park in the first open spot I find and walk the rest of the way to his place.

The sign above the door is lit in neon red. It\s like a beacon lighting my way in a storm. I slip inside the hole-in-the-wall bar and look around. The place has really changed. The jukebox that sat in one corner is gone, as are the few booths that used to line the wall to the right. They\ve been replaced by a stage and a dance floor made out of parquet wood. The few bunches of tables that used to be scattered throughout have multiplied into many. The giant L-shaped bar is the same and the wall of beer taps that rests behind hasn\ changed. I sit at the end of the bar and a chick I don\ know approaches me.

’’What are you having?’’

I scan the more than one hundred beers behind her. ’’Whatever you want to give me,’’ I answer, unable to decide.

She pours a beer and sets it in front of me. I stare at it for the longest time as she tends to some other customers. Then I pick it up and down it.

She bends down in front of me to wipe a few too many times around where the condensation from my beer mug dripped on the bar. ’’Another?’’

I nod. ’’Beck around?’’

’’Senior or Junior?’’ she asks, twisting to refill my glass.

’’Junior.’’

’’No, he\s not around much anymore.’’ She bounces her tits in my face.

’’Who are you?’’ I ask her.

She smiles. ’’I\m the new manager. My name is Kate.’’

I lift my glass. ’’Nice to meet you, Kate. The place looks great.’’

’’Yeah, the band Echo starts tonight. They\ e really good. You sticking around?’’

’’I might be.’’

Beer after beer . . . I chug them down and before I know it I\ve moved on to my trusty old Jack. She pours me another drink and I hazily stare at what she\s wanted me to notice all night. Her tits hang out of her tight T-shirt nicely. They\ e not bad-looking and neither is she short blond hair, medium height, about forty.

’’How do you know Beck?’’ she asks over the start of the blasting sound of the bass.

I glance around and notice the band is onstage and the dance floor is full. ’’I met him here. He works for me now.’’

She smiles. ’’You\ e his new boss.’’

I try not to slur my words. ’’That would be me. I\m Ben. Ben Covington.’’ I reach for her hand.

She extends hers. ’’Nice to meet you.’’

A redhead I hadn\ noticed before calls her over to the other end of the bar. When I look over toward her, she winks at me and I can\ keep my lips from pulling into a frown as I think of S\elle\s red hair. My mind wanders back to what she told me today I have a child out there somewhere in the world. A child that is about the same age I was when my father died. My mood turns dark.

’’She\s bad news,’’ the bartender says.

I turn to look at her. ’’Makes no difference to me.’’

She nods. ’’Trust me, it should.’’

I shrug. ’’A chick\s a chick.’’

I stand up and gain my balance, needing to hit the restroom. To get to the back hallway I need to weave my way through the crowd. The number of people has multiplied tenfold since I arrived and everyone seems to be in their own world, caught up in the music and seduction of those around them. The band is pretty decent and I catch the sound of horns in the background, which even in my state draws my attention. The bartender chick was right, they are pretty good.

When I come out I run right into the redhead from the bar. Her gaze traces me and I allow mine to do the same to her. She\s tall, really tall. Her features are attractive enough and her body isn\ bad. I zero in on her ample chest and catch sight of her ni**les pebbling through her sheer top. F*k, she\s not wearing a bra.

’’Fancy meeting you here,’’ she says, her eyes locking on mine.

I allow a smirk to cross my lips. ’’Something tells me you planned it.’’

She raises an eyebrow. ’’Cocky, aren\ you?’’

I shrug. ’’Can I buy you a drink?’’

She smiles and steps a little closer. ’’I\d love that.’’


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