“You look like you need a drink.”
James was standing by my desk. He looked great as usual in a black graphic T-shirt and dark blue jeans, but the worried look on his face was what caught my attention. I wiped my eyes quickly, suddenly worried about the state of my mascara after a day like today.
“I thought everyone was gone.”
“I had to wrap something up here. I figured we could catch up.”
I straightened and silently hoped that he hadn’t heard my exchange with Blake.
“Maybe later. I should head home.” I piled up the papers that had accumulated on my desk over the course of the day.
“On a Friday night? I thought you’d be celebrating the new account.”
“Well it’s not final yet. Plus I still have work to do. I need to figure out the direction for the ad campaign we’re planning.”
“How about you toss some of that work my way and let me take you out for a drink. I’ll come in tomorrow if I have to.”
I shook my head. “I don’t expect you to do that.”
“I want to. Come on, there’s a cool dive bar down the street. Unless you’re more into those fancy martini bars?”
I lifted my lips. He had one thing right for sure. I could use a drink. Having someone to talk to, even if it wasn’t about my solidly heinous day, was pretty appealing too.
“Fine. One drink.”
James delivered on his promise for a quintessential dive bar. Dark and sparse on decor, the place attracted a local crowd. Most were casually dressed, so I stood out with my suit. Maybe a martini bar would have been better based on the double takes I was getting.
We found two seats at the crowded bar and each ordered a drink. I tried to ignore the news scrolling on the one television mounted on the wall.
“Are there any new developments?”
I panicked slightly. “What do you mean?”
“With the Cooper kid?”
“Oh, yeah, he’s definitely our man.” I thought back to the scene at the house and resented that I couldn’t tell him the whole truth. He’d made a good find with tracking down Brian’s family, and I silently wondered if he might have any other ideas about getting to the bottom of this situation.
“You’re kidding. You met him?”
“I swung by the mother’s house last night. He lives with her, so I ended up meeting them both.”
“Is he going to back off?”
I shook my head and thanked the skinny blond bartender who had delivered our drinks.
“So how does Landon tie into this?”
I took a sip of my drink, savoring the bite of the liquor. “Let’s just say that the original group didn’t break up on good terms. Trevor is holding a grudge against Blake, and based on how last night went, that’s not going to change any time soon. That grudge has spilled over onto our company due to his involvement with us. So I’m basically at a dead end again unless I can figure out a way to reason with Trevor somehow.”
James rested his elbows on the bar, circling his beer with his hand and showcasing his strong arms and the tattoos.
“Maybe I could reason with him.”
I laughed. “I’m sure you’d have no problem strong-arming him, and at this point I’d probably try anything if I thought it might work. Unfortunately I’m not sure it would do any good. Blake doesn’t seem to think he’ll be easily deterred.”
“What’s with you and Blake anyway?”
He took a sip of his beer and looked up at the television, as if he weren’t too concerned with the answer. Before I could reply, someone yelled my name from across the room. Dressed in a backless black top and ripped up boyfriend jeans, Simone marched up to us.
“Woman, I didn’t know you came here!”
“I don’t,” I said, immediately happy to see her face outside of the café. She looked carefree, her red hair loose and falling over her shoulders.
“This is my place!”
“You own this place too?”
She laughed loudly, attracting the attention of nearly every red-blooded man around us. “No, this is like, where I come when I’m not working or sleeping.”
“Oh, cool. I like it.”
She wrapped her arm around me and paused when she saw James.
“Hey, you.” Her eyes narrowed suggestively.
He smirked. “Hey.”
“Simone, this is James.”
“My pleasure. You guys wanna play some pool?”
James looked at me to gauge my interest and I shrugged. “Not my best game, but I’ll give it a go.”
“Whatever, you’re probably a fuckin’ shark.”
Simone’s Boston accent was coming out thicker than usual. She had clearly gotten a head start on me in the drinking department. Still, she was undeniably entertaining. If she was a character before, she’d be a downright show-stopper now.
James put our name in for the next table and was talking with the people playing while Simone and I stayed back.
Simone propped herself up on James’s seat. “Let’s get you a real drink.”
“I’m drinking whiskey. Doesn’t get much more real than this.”
“I’m talking ’bout shots.”
“Uh, I’m not sure about that.”
“We’ll just do one.” She pursed her lips and waved to the blonde who was now ignoring us. “Hey, blondie. Two redheaded sluts.”
I rolled my eyes. “Subtle, Simone.”
“What? I’m the redhead and you’re the slut.”
“Excuse me?” I looked around self-consciously, hoping no one had caught that.
She downed her shot without answering me and I followed suit. She immediately ordered two more rounds. I’d barely eaten anything today. I was running on coffee and the munchies I had hidden in my office drawer. I needed to slow down or pay for it later.
“What’s going on with him? I thought you were with the investor guy.” Simone nodded in James’s direction.
“Nothing’s going on with James. We were just having a drink. And I am with the investor guy. So don’t get any ideas.”
“Don’t worry. Not my type. That one, however, is more my speed. I’d like to get a better look at that ink.” She bit her lip.
“Go for it. He’s a really nice guy.” I tossed back one of the two shots the bartender had set in front of me. Blake was thousands of miles away and I’d had the day from hell. Maybe I needed a couple shots to take the edge off.