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One Last Chance
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I have two weeks to convince Jack to give me a second chance. Two weeks working in his bar and sleeping in his bed to prove that I’m sorry. And he can be as cruel as he wants, trying to get me out the door, but I won’t leave him. Not again.
But forgiveness is tricky…and Jack’s may cost me more than I have to give.
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Natalie collapsed onto my chest and I could feel her heart beating against mine. Her body trembling in the dark.
“Wow,” she breathed.
She crawled off me and my body was instantly cold where we’d touched. Where I’d been inside of her. It was hot in the Bronco, sweaty and stuffy, but as she crawled off of me the chill was undeniable. Even as she curled up next to me, sweat dripping down her sides, it didn’t seem close enough.
But that’s love for you, I guess. I pulled off my condom, tied a knot in it, and set it to the side.
Don’t forget it.
Last time I forgot the condom, the whole car smelled like latex and come, and Natty had almost caught hell from her parents. We didn’t need to feed their hate for me—they were doing just fine with that on their own.
“If there was a sex competition, we would win,” Natty said, brushing her red hair off her face and away from my beard stubble, which attracted her hair like magnets.
“World champs,” I said, and I could feel her smiling in the dark.
We were at Our Spot, which was just a trailhead off a dirt road outside of town. It was a shit trail with no view, so no one came out here, especially at night.
Which meant it was just us, the coyotes, and a sky full of stars.
Our Spot. God, I loved it.
“Tell me the story again,” she whispered, her hand pressed against my chest like she was cupping my heartbeat in her palm.
“The story?” I was distracted by the brush of her silky bare leg over my thigh. The smell of sex on her body.
I took a deep breath and let it out nice and slow. Oh right. Our Story. We needed this story. All the shit that stood between us out there in the world could be overcome if we just kept believing in us.
“Okay,” I said. “First you graduate.”
“Three more months,” she said.
“Then we get a place together in San Antonio.”
“A little two bedroom with lots of light.”
I shook my head. “Slow down there, moneybags. With what we have saved we can maybe get a one bedroom and still afford to send you to culinary school.”
I could see her face, like a black-and-white picture in the moonlight that was coming in through the windows. “Don’t,” I told her. We’d had this argument more than once.
“I just…I feel bad that you are going to use your savings to send me to school.”
“It’s an investment, baby,” I said and kissed her lips. “I feel bad that it’s not a really fancy one.” God, she deserved Cordon Bleu. But we could only afford some community college courses. Not that it mattered—Natty would be a star no matter where she went.
“I don’t need fancy,” she said. “I need you.”
“Well, that’s a given. So, you go to culinary school, and I get a job in some swank restaurant and learn the management ropes.”
“I’ll work evenings and weekends,” she said. “On the line in that swanky restaurant. They’ll have to take me.”
I laughed. “We’re a package deal.”
“We are, baby,” she said. I was getting distracted again. My girl had the sweetest mouth.
“And then what?” she asked.
“We save our pennies.”
“We’re good at that.”
We were good at that. While I’d learned the hard way, Natty grew up in a house that had plenty of food and enough money to pay all the utilities every month. She didn’t have to live as close to the bone as I did, but she put any extra money her parents gave her into the coffee can with all of my savings.
And part of me, dark and hateful, loved that her parents were going to fund our dream.
Our life as far away from them as we could get. There was some poetic justice in that.
I was making pretty good money working as a barback on the weekends and a waiter during the week and learning, too, about the kind of place I wanted to operate when I had my own bar and restaurant. When we had our own bar and restaurant. Because the dream was only a good one if Natty was right beside me.
“And then we get our own place,” she said. “The kind of restaurant that’s special enough for occasions, but comfortable enough for people to come for happy hour.”
“Part dive bar, part gourmet restaurant. Good beer and excellent whiskey.”
“The kind of place that gets written up in food magazines.”
“The kind of place that makes us money.”
“We’ll have employees that will be like family,” she said, and she couldn’t hide the sadness. Man, it hurt her so much that her folks didn’t like me. And I used to feel bad about her being in the middle, because that was a shit place to be, but her parents were assholes.