Treat me, p.4
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       Treat Me, p.4

         Part #8 of One Night with Sole Regret series by Olivia Cunning
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  “For you?” Sally snorted. “She can have you.”

  Shade’s ego stung slightly. He knew Sally had eyes only for Kris, but she didn’t have to be so harsh. “Guess I’ll go tell her that you gave us your blessing.”

  He started to walk away, but Sally caught his arm. “You do not have my blessing. I suggest you stay the fuck away from her,” she said.

  He planned to do exactly that.

  “And I think you owe me for putting up with your crazy sex partners.”

  “Fine,” he said. “I owe you one.”

  Sally grinned deviously. “So I guess you’ll be performing at Rock on the Range after all.”

  Shade scowled at her. “Nice try. I already said no. Julie comes first. You can run me into the ground on any day except my weekends with Julie. I’m not bending on this issue, so you might as well quit pushing.”

  She sighed with resignation. “Fine. I get it.”

  “You aren’t going to mention this to the rest of the guys, are you? The last thing I need is everyone ganging up on me.” Not that it would change his mind.

  Sally shook her head. “No, I’ll keep it to myself. That daughter of yours is a lucky little girl, you know.”

  “I do my best to be a good father.” Yet he always felt as if he wasn’t measuring up and that he didn’t get to see her nearly enough. That was why he was determined to make the most of the time he did get to see her and why he guarded those precious moments ferociously. Performing at Rock on the Range on the main stage was a big deal, but nothing was more important than his daughter.

  Sally left him while she went to make sure the setup was running smoothly. She was excellent at her job, and usually Shade had a hard time telling her no, but she knew better than to try to schedule performances or events during his visitation weekends.

  Shade ventured out into the backstage area to chat with other musicians, the roadies, and the fans who had lucked into backstage passes. Next to performing onstage, this was his favorite part of the rock star gig. He met so many interesting people, and there was always someone to talk to, always someone to share a beer with and pass the time. The cellphone in his pocket vibrated, and he pulled it out to see who wanted to interrupt his good time.

  His heart stumbled over a beat when he saw that the message was from Amanda. God, he couldn’t wait to see her later that night. And if he was lucky, all weekend long.

  I know you’re probably busy, her text said, but I can’t stop thinking about you.

  Understandable, he texted her back in jest.

  Egomaniac, her return text accused.

  Any man lucky enough to have you thinking of him would have a swollen head.

  In his mind’s eye, he could see her smile. See her eyes light up and the green flecks in their hazel depths brighten with mischief. Very soon he wouldn’t have to imagine what she looked like as she thought of him. He would see for himself.

  Her reply came quickly. I hope you have TWO swollen heads when you think of me.

  He laughed out loud. No doubt. I’ll see you soon.

  Not soon enough.

  She sure made it difficult to keep his head on his work. A pretty brunette stopped in front of him and smiled. “Can I get a picture with you?” she asked shyly.

  “Sure.” He stood and wrapped an arm around her slight shoulders, smiling for the camera phone. He did have the best job on the planet. Now if he could only create the perfect home life to match it.

  Chapter Two

  Amanda waved at the pretty black-haired woman who walked through the front door of Jack’s Bar and Grill. Leah was stretching every inch of her five-foot frame to try to spot Amanda through the crowd. Their favorite table had been occupied when Amanda had arrived, so she’d been forced to sit at a counter-high table in the corner.

  “Leah!” Amanda shouted, waving more vigorously.

  Leah smiled when her gaze landed on Amanda, and she pressed her way through the boisterous crowd. She hugged Amanda before climbing up on the tall stool across from her.

  “The nachos should be out in a few minutes,” Amanda said.

  Amanda waved a hand at the cute Latino waiter who’d already brought her margarita and would know what Leah wanted to drink without asking. The chicken nachos, the margaritas—hers lime with salt on the rim, Leah’s strawberry with sugar—the flirting with their regular server, and the dissuasion of inebriated cowboys were all part of their Friday night routine. They’d been coming to this bar since they’d turned twenty-one. Before that they’d hung out at a coffee shop every Saturday morning and studied together each night in the library. Before that, they spent almost every afternoon at the mall. And before that, they’d been together every waking moment playing with frogs in the Carmichael’s backyard koi pond. Leah was no longer Amanda’s next door neighbor, but they still saw each other regularly. They even worked in the same school district.

  “I thought you might bail on me tonight,” Leah said with a wry grin. “Isn’t that new man of yours coming home for the weekend?”

  “I’d never miss our girls’ night.” Amanda took a sip from her straw; the cold lime kick bathed her tongue and traced a frigid path down her throat as she swallowed. “Besides, he won’t be home until after midnight.”

  Leah grinned knowingly. “Ah, so you’ll need to leave here by eleven thirty.”

  Amanda wanted to leave early and meet Jacob at his house, but she wasn’t sure that was a wise approach. She’d seen what had happened to the last woman who’d stripped off her clothes and surprised him—wet, naked, and gorgeous—in his hot tub. As the lead singer of a popular metal band, Jacob was used to women chasing him. Perhaps he’d like to do the chasing for a change. But Amanda wasn’t sure she could keep herself from pursuing him; she’d had a crush on him for ages. Their one night together had turned into two when she’d surprised him backstage at his show in San Antonio. If she hadn’t taken the initiative to hunt him down, he’d have likely forgotten about her by now. The man’s attention span was more miniscule than most of her sophomore biology students’ fascination with cellular mitosis. So she could hold the man’s interest for five minutes. Tops.

  “Maybe,” Amanda said with a shrug. “I haven’t decided yet.”

  Leah snorted. “Coward.”

  “I’m not a coward,” Amanda insisted. She folded her arms on the table and leaned over to press her forehead into her forearm. “Just a little yellow.”

  “I don’t get what the problem is. You’ve been lusting after the guy since he started dating your sister.”

  “Reprehensible behavior,” Amanda muttered.

  “You’ve always gotten along well with him—even when Tina was trying to destroy him in the divorce. Then he finally notices you as a woman, you have the best sex of your life with the guy, and now you’re backing off? What your deal, Amanda?”

  “I don’t know.” Amanda lifted her head from her folded arms and stared into Leah’s dark brown eyes. “Do you think I’m a horrible person for having an affair with my sister’s ex-husband?”

  Leah lifted both eyebrows. “You know how I feel about your sister. How many times did she steal your boyfriends? Ones you actually wanted? Do you think she felt a twinge of remorse for causing you so much heartache over the years? And Tina hates Jacob now. Loathes him. You’re not a horrible person, Amanda. You’re incapable of being a horrible person.”

  “You’re incapable of being a horrible person. I’m capable of lusting after my brother-in-law for seven years.”

  “Ex brother-in-law.”

  “And then at the first opportunity, I screwed him until I couldn’t move.”

  A bright red drink was set before Leah and an enormous plate of nachos topped with fragrant, steaming chicken placed in the center of the table.

  “Who did you screw?” their regular server, Tomás, asked.

  “None of your business,” Amanda said.

  “Her sister’s ex-husband,” Leah said at the same time.

 
The woman’s infallible openness could be a liability at times.

  “Ooh,” Tomás said. “Sounds scandalous. Does your sister know you’re screwing her ex?”

  Amanda shook her head with marked exaggeration. “Noooo. She’d flip.”

  “Only because she’s a mean, selfish whore,” Leah said.

  Tomás jerked back and blinked at Leah. The sweet, shy Asian woman—with her narrow frame, pink sweater set, and smart black-rimmed glasses—didn’t seem the type to call others names.

  “Who could make my life miserable,” Amanda added.

  Leah leaned closer and laid a hand on her shoulder. “If he’s not worth it, then you should back out now.”

  Tomás nodded his agreement, as if he had suddenly earned a degree in relationship counseling.

  “But he is worth it. He’s so worth it.” Amanda dropped her head back down into her crossed arms. “Argh! I’m so conflicted,” she said to the floor.

  Her cellphone, which was sitting on the table, dinged as a text message arrived.

  “Not for long,” Leah said and giggled.

  Amanda lifted her head to find Leah eying her cellphone screen and part of the message that was openly displayed for a few seconds before the screen went dark.

  “Snoop,” Amanda accused before lifting her phone and typing in her password so that she could read the message Leah had already seen.

  “Is it from the guy?” Tomás asked, standing on tiptoe to try to read over her shoulder.

  “Don’t you have work to do?” Amanda asked, tilting her phone so he wouldn’t be able to see the screen, and elbowing him in the chest to get him to back off.

  “Probably,” Tomás said, “but it will wait.”

  As Amanda read her message from Jacob, a smile spread across her face and her heart fluttered in her chest.

  I hope I find you waiting in my bed when I get home. Nothing would make me happier than holding the most beautiful woman in the world while I sleep.

  She couldn’t resist teasing him in her reply. Are you sure your bed is big enough for you, me, AND Pamela Anderson?

  It was a running joke between them. When she’d surprised him backstage in San Antonio, he’d pretended to think it was Pamela Anderson who’d come up behind him and put her hands over his eyes.

  Probably. He texted back. But I want you. Only you.

  Leah was right—as usual. Amanda was no longer conflicted in the slightest. If Tina couldn’t handle the thought of her big sister making the moves on her ex-husband, well, tough titty,kitty. And what Tina didn’t know couldn’t hurt her.

  “So you’re going, right?” Leah said.

  “Could you say no to him?” The man was even more gorgeous than he was a master of smooth talking.

  Leah chuckled. “It wouldn’t even cross my mind.”

  “Living dangerously,” Tomás said before he left them to eat their nachos in peace.

  Are you sure you want to see me tonight? I figured you’d be tired. She sent that text to give him an out if he wanted one.

  An instant later her phone buzzed. Can’t you take a hint?

  She chuckled. Another running joke between them. Hint taken. I’ll see you when you get home. Though sleeping is not my favorite thing to do in your bed. ;-)

  He replied, Hint taken.

  She set her phone aside and glanced at Leah, who was slurping her strawberry margarita through a straw.

  “How’s summer school going?” Amanda asked as she scooped cheese and chicken onto a chip.

  Leah searched their plate of shared nachos for a chip with minimal cheese. “You know those kids that you privately celebrate when they’re absent?”

  All teachers had them. Whether the student in question was a troublemaker, a mouthy brat, or the teacher just had a plain old personality clash with a kid, every teacher had a few students on her roster that drove her absolutely nuts. One mark of a good teacher was never letting the student know you’d like to strangle them.

  “Yep,” Amanda said.

  “That’s my entire class this summer.”

  “You always find a diamond in the rough and make a personal connection. Change a life forever,” Amanda said. She knew that was what excited Leah about teaching.

  “At this point, it isn’t looking promising. Maybe it’s time I took summers off. It’s only two weeks into summer term and I’m already drained.”

  “I highly recommend summers off,” Amanda said, lifting her nearly empty margarita glass in toast.

  “And maybe I’ll start taking Christmas breaks too.”

  Which reminded Amanda of something she’d meant to ask Leah but kept forgetting. “Are you doing your GED prep class this December?”

  Leah sighed. “Yeah. I already signed up to do it. But next year . . . Next year I’m going to take some time off for me before I completely burn out.”

  “Is the class already full?” Amanda asked, setting her drink down and reaching for another nacho.

  “Isn’t it always full?”

  “That’s because you work miracles.” Yep, Amanda was buttering her up and for a very good reason. A reason she’d be seeing in a few hours.

  Leah flushed with pleasure at Amanda’s compliment and took a sip from her bright red cocktail.

  “Any chance you could squeeze one more into the class?” Amanda asked, biting into her chip and using her free hand to tip escaping crumbs into her mouth.

  “I’m already stretched to my limit.”

  “Please? It was nearly impossible to get him to agree to it in the first place.”

  Leah scowled. “Who are you talking about?”

  “Jacob.”

  Leah jerked her hand back from the plate of nachos, hit her drink with her elbow, and barely rescued the tottering glass before it dropped from the table.

  “What?” Leah sputtered, mopping up a few escaped drops with a napkin. “He didn’t graduate from high school?”

  Amanda shook her head. “We were talking about regrets, and he said his only regret was not finishing high school. So I mentioned getting his GED and taking your prep class. He was against it at first, but I told him how great you are and he eventually came around to the idea. But I don’t think he’ll go through with it if you can’t work him into your roster this winter.”

  “So basically you’re saying that if I don’t let him into my class, I’m crushing his dreams and will be responsible for turning him into a shell of a man. Is that what you’re implying?”

  “Pretty much.”

  Leah shook her head at Amanda. “Why don’t you teach him?”

  Amanda chuckled, imagining that the only studying he’d get done around her was the study of her anatomy. And she was more than okay with that.

  “You’re the miracle worker. I just teach biology.”

  “You’re a great teacher,” Leah insisted.

  “I’m a good teacher,” Amanda admitted. “You’re a great teacher.” A little extra butter never hurt.

  “Fine,” Leah said, using both hands to flip her long straight hair behind her ears. “I wouldn’t do this for just anyone, you know?”

  Leah was lying. She was always burdening herself to help others, but Amanda appreciated her friend’s giving nature far more than she would ever realize.

  “You’re the best!” Amanda leaned from her stool to give Leah a hug.

  “You can make it up to me,” Leah said.

  Amanda released her and scooted back onto her stool. “Anything. Name it.” She reached for her margarita and sucked down the melting dregs of her growing-tastier-by-the-minute drink.

  “Does the hot cowboy at three o’clock look a little lonely to you?”

 
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