Page 26 of Claimed (For Her 3)

“It’s fine. I think I’m ready to go.” She winks at Skyler before placing her empty plates on the table and standing up. She tells everyone bye, and before she can make it halfway to the exit, Miles is by her side. She shakes her head, but I see the look they give one another.

“They’re kind of cute in a gross way,” Skyler says and then leans over to talk to the woman on the other side of her.

“I think they’re sweet,” Jay says, and I lean over to be closer to her.

“I think you’re sweeter.” I kiss her below her ear and savor her shiver under my lips.

“Guess I’ll take this empty seat,” McCoy says, and hands me my beer.

He plops down between two women who work in marketing and starts chatting them up. The redhead on his left is Lori. She’s recently divorced, and her supervisor is waiting to make his move. He’s over by the bar, pretending not to stare at her as she flirts with McCoy. The woman on the right is Corey. She works weekends at a strip club to help support her younger brother and sick mom.

“What are you thinking about?” Jay asks me as she holds my hand and sips her wine.

“Just how I know so much about these people, but none of them know me.”

She frowns. “Do you think I know you?”

“Better than anyone. Probably as much as my pop.”

“Are we still going to see him on Sunday?” She brightens when she asks, like she’s genuinely excited.

“There’s no way you’re getting out of it. I called him this morning and he’s beside himself.”

I called him on the way to work, and he sounded like he’d been waiting for this call. He told me he’d make a special dinner and not to be late. I knew he was excited because he didn’t remind me to bring his scratch-off.

“Maybe I’ll make something to bring. Does he like cake?” she asks, leaning into my side.

I wrap my arm around her, and for anyone looking at us, it’s clear we’re together. There’s no hiding the look on her face and the one I’m pretty sure is on mine.

“Little bird, every man likes cake made by a beautiful woman.”

She beams at my compliment, and I vow to give her more of them.

I look over to see the redhead McCoy is talking to flipping her hair and touching his arm. He doesn’t look to be enjoying it, but she doesn’t stop. In the distance, I see the supervisor getting worked up at the blatant flirtation. For a second I think she might not notice, but then I see her glance ever so slightly out of the corner of her eye at her boss.

“Maybe we should get out of here,” I whisper to Jay.

“Why?” A look of disappointment crosses her face, but before I have a chance to explain, all hell breaks loose.

The boss must have had one too many drinks in him, because he clearly doesn’t see the size difference between him and McCoy as he lunges for him. McCoy reacts instinctively and blocks him, tossing him into the middle of our group, sending him crashing down on the table.

Drinks and food go flying, and Skyler is on her feet, cursing a streak that would make a sailor blush. Lori covers her mouth, but I can see her shoulders shaking. She’s trying to cover her laugh as she goes to help the poor guy who just got laid out with an arm drag. McCoy always did love wrestling.

Corey shakes her head and pulls out some bills for the drinks when McCoy stops her. They exchange some words, and she takes off, leaving him there with his mouth open.

I look down and see Jay is in my lap and I’ve got her turned away from the wreckage. Without even thinking, I wrapped her up and protected her, and she came straight into my arms.

“Ready to go?” I ask, tucking her closer to me.

“I am now.”

I stand her up on her feet as people from the restaurant come over and help clean up the mess. Lori and her boss are arguing in hushed voices, while McCoy has his eyes glued on the door Corey exited.

“You okay to handle this?” I look around at the mess, and he finally snaps out of his trance.

“Yeah, yeah. We’re good.”

I nod to him as I tug Jay’s hand behind me, helping her out of the bar. I hear her say her goodbyes over her shoulder to a steamed Skyler and the group she was with.

“I just don’t get it,” she says. “Why didn’t she just tell that guy how she felt instead of creating a scene?”

“You caught all that?” I ask, feeling pride at how she paid attention to her surroundings.

“Oh, I see more than most people give me credit for. It’s the reason I’m so good at my job. I can sit in a meeting and afterwards tell Miles about a hundred things he didn’t catch. And it’s how I’m able to get what I want from most people.”