“I’ll get me some too,” I said, standing up and leaving the table. Steel needed to get out. He didn’t need any damn pie. Whiskey and women. That would help.

“Don’t leave those dishes dirty in my sink,” Momma replied.

“Never do,” I drawled. As if I’d be that stupid. The woman had taught us to load our dishes into the dishwasher when we were old enough to stand in a chair and rinse the plate.

Momma made a humph sound but said nothing more. She knew I was right.

Coming up to stand beside Steel I muttered under my breath. “Let’s go drinking. Out of town.”

Steel cut his eyes at me. He studied me a moment while he made up his mind. Then finally, he nodded. “Yeah. Lets.”

“Hurry with the damn pie. I’m done with this family dinner shit,” I told him.

He smirked. “Not as much as I am.”

I’d give him that. He definitely had more reason to want out of this place. Hell, I wanted out for him. I hoped this wasn’t a regular thing. I’d rather eat at Jack’s and pay for my meal than sit through this again.

Taking that moment away from the table, I took my phone out of my pocket and checked for a reply. Nothing. Damn, Scarlet. I’d had to fucking steal Dallas’s phone while he was working out in the barn yesterday to get this number.

He’d refused to give it to me. Little bastard.

Even after all that, it had done me no good. She wouldn’t answer my calls or text.

“You expecting a text? Thought you were in a snit about Scarlet leaving again. Didn’t think you’d move on that fast.”

“Fucking nosy,” I said, knowing the moment I checked my phone someone would notice. Did these people have nothing better to do than watch my every move. “Eat your damn pie and let’s go.”

He smiled this time. He took a piece of pecan and peanut butter pie, then began eating without going back to the table. He was stalling. Dallas was entertaining everyone with football practice stories. At least it was a more neutral topic. Not Asher and Dixie related.

“Y’all sit back down and eat that!” Momma called back to us without looking to see us standing at the counter still.

“Shit,” I muttered.

“Damn,” Steel echoed.

We made our way back to the table slowly. Asher was watching us. Trying to figure out what was wrong. He was a smart man. One would think he’d have that figured out.

“Hey, y’all been able to get on that mustang yet?” Dallas asked Brent and me.

I cut my eyes at him. I’d already warned him not to get on Satan.

“No. Damn animal is insane. Impossible!” Brent said with obvious frustration in his tone.

I didn’t say anything. No reason to tell them I could ride Satan just fine. They’d all fucking kill themselves trying. They’d never get on him. He was a moody son of a bitch.

“You still refusing to try?” Dallas asked me.

“No reason to get on an animal that wants to be wild,” I said, then stuck some pie in my mouth so I wouldn’t have to say anything else.

“I don’t think he can be broken. Told Norton that but he grins like a fool and says the right person can ride him. He figures if Satan finds a kindred spirit they’ll be able to ride. Damn horse is so mean it’ll take an asshole to ride ‘em if that’s the case.” Brent was amused by this as he said it.

“Then Bray should have no problem riding him,” Dallas said, then laughed at his own joke.

I rolled my eyes, then took my last bite of pie. “I’m heading out. Steel, come with me,” I said as I stood up.

I waited for Momma to argue or ask questions. I should have known she already knew. Glancing at her she kept her lips in a tight line, then gave me a warning look. As if to say, “I know where you’re going. Don’t be stupid.”

With a small nod to let her know I understood her silent words. I took my plate and rinsed it before putting it in the dishwasher. Steel was right behind me.

“Thanks,” he whispered.

“Fuck, I need out of here now.”

He frowned. “Why?”

“Life,” I replied simply.

He shrugged and we finished cleaning up our dishes, then said our goodbyes before heading out the door. Once we were at Steel’s truck he sighed in relief. “God, that was annoying.”

“Nothing whiskey can’t fix,” I told him

“How are we gonna get whiskey somewhere other than Jacks?”

It was my turn to smirk. “Watch and learn, brother.”

Steel chuckled and shook his head. “Let’s stay out of jail at least.”

“I make no promises.”

Scarlet

THIS USED TO be a time of peace for me. Cleaning up after closing. I would clean tabletops, vacuum, sweep, mop, and think about nothing. Just work silently and alone. This week, things had been different. I glared at the door to the kitchen where some awful loud music was playing. I didn’t even know what to call that. Diesel was banging around in there sometimes singing even louder than the music. He was ruining my peace.

I had told Ethel I could do closing myself. She argued that I work too much and Diesel would give us all a break. If I heard what a good boy he was one more time I was going to start screaming and throwing shit. Possibly that potato salad that was causing so much fuss with the older crowd. I imagined throwing a bowl of that in Diesel’s smiling face and it made me feel better. I liked that idea.

“You want some of this peanut butter pie? It’s amazing,” Diesel called out from the doorway. I glanced back to see him standing there with the pie plate in his hands and a fork.

“We serve slices of that pie to customers. Are you seriously eating out of the pie plate? We can’t serve that now.” Idiot I wanted to add and didn’t. How stupid!

“Calm down, boss. Ethel told me to eat the rest. She said it’s two days old and she doesn’t serve it after two days.”

He had taken to calling me boss and I hated it. Just like I hated his dimples. Just like I hated his singing. And his always happy attitude. He had been in prison for God’s sake! Shouldn’t he be angry at the world?

“Speak now or I’m finishing this up. It’s too damn good.”

As if I would eat from a plate he had been eating from. Not likely. Then I let the snarky out. “I’m sure after eating prison food that it doesn’t take much to make you happy.” I was tired. I wanted silence. He asked for it by talking to me.

He winced playfully, then chuckled before taking another bite. “You’re a bitchy one, aren’t you? I stopped making the coffee, I’ve tried to get the trash out before you have to carry it out, and I even attempt to share my good fortune in food with you. But not one inch. You haven’t given one little inch. Tell me, Scarlet, what is it about me? You hate me but you don’t even know me.”

This. He wanted to talk. Waste my time. Annoy me. Charm the customers. Make them laugh. Get big tips. His stupid name. Ugh. All of it.

“It’s the package,” I snapped, then picked up the mop bucket to fill it with fresh water. I refused to mop with water once it started getting dirty.

“The package . . . Ooookaaaay, and what does that mean exactly? What is the package?”

I stomped past him into the kitchen. The loud music was better than his constant talking. I wouldn’t have to say anything in here. He couldn’t hear me if I did. I used to like this job. It was an escape. I worked hard. Exhausted myself, then went home to sleep. Now, I had to deal with Diesel. He was ruining the already shitty life I had.

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