With a deep biker voice (that was not as attractive as Joker's, but it was still attractive), that voice shaking like his shoulders, the mustachioed man replied, "Bet not."
I was confused.
"Sister," the black lady started and I looked to her. "I see either Joker didn't communicate the dress code to you or, better option, you chose to ignore it, struttin' your butterfly ass in here not wearin' a halter top and daisy dukes." She tipped her head to me. "Kudos to you. Be who you are. Bikers be damned."
The redhead and brunette started giggling.
I was still confused. More so now since there were three women among me and none of them were in halter tops and daisy dukes.
"Sorry?" I asked.
"Joker!" the goateed man roared again.
I jumped again.
This came barked from the back of the big room, and my eyes flew there to see Joker striding out of a door that appeared to lead to a hall. He did this looking irate.
He also did this looking like a tall, dark, bearded, broad-shouldered, sinister biker.
And I liked the latter.
A whole lot.
My legs started shaking.
"Company," a gravelly voice declared.
Joker looked to me.
I nearly dropped the pie.
I held on and called a chirpy, "Hey!"
He kept striding in, his eyes glancing toward the bar then back to me. He stopped five feet away.
"I came in to, uh... take care of my tire like you said I should and I made you this." I extended the pie to him, both hands still under it, a smile I knew was tentative on my face. "To say thanks."
He looked to the pie. His expression said nothing.
But I was watching him looking at the pie and I again got that feeling I knew him, and not just because two days ago he changed my tire.
It was a weird feeling. A feeling that felt like it was rattling my memory banks.
But it was also tugging at my heartstrings.
I no longer could concentrate on that feeling, or get a lock on why I was certain I knew him, when he stopped looking at the pie and came to me, took the pie, walked to the bar, dumped the dish on it with no ado whatsoever and looked beyond me, to lanky guy.
"They dealin' with her ride?" he asked.
"Got on it immediately," lanky guy replied.
"Right." Joker turned his attention to me. "They'll sort you out."
"I... um. Okay," I replied.
"Pie's nice," he went on. "Brothers'll like it."
The brothers will like it?
Wasn't he going to have any?
Maybe he didn't like pie.
My phone started ringing in my purse when I said. "Well, that's good. But-"
" 'Preciate you comin' by," he cut me off to say. Then he looked to the bar. "Got shit to do."
I was struggling with my bag on my arm to get to my phone. I was doing this feeling a variety of things. All of them bad.
"Good to see you again, uh..." he trailed off just as my hand closed around my phone and my head jerked up when he did.
"Carissa," I whispered.
"Yeah, good to see you. Take care," he returned.
He'd forgotten my name.
It really hurt
To hide it, I looked to my phone as I heard a gravelly, "Joker."
But I wasn't listening because the caller was Tory.
Aaron had long since delegated communication about most everything to his fiancée. That most everything was always Travis, since that was now all Aaron and I had to talk about.
This was mean. It was also awful. And last, it was very much Aaron.
I hated it.
It wasn't nice, but I also hated her. She stole my husband. She got to spend every week with him and every other one living my dream, being a family with my baby. She drove a sporty Mercedes Aaron bought for her and was regularly in ads in the paper for local department stores or on TV commercials for local furniture stores, sitting in loungers and on couches, her long, thin legs always bare and stretched out.
She was beautiful. She had glossy dark brown hair that I suspected was glossy without product, which was irritating. She was taller than me by probably five inches. She had a natural grace. And even though I was not even close to over the hill, heck, I couldn't even see the hill, she was almost four years younger than me in a way that made me feel fifty years older than her.
Obviously, for these reasons and about a thousand others besides, I didn't want to take her call.
But she had my son.
So I had to take it.
"Excuse me," I mumbled, knowing probably no one was paying any attention to me. I took a step away, turned my side to the others, and put the phone to my ear. "Tory."
"Uh, hello, Carissa."
She didn't sound right.
My skin started tingling.
"Is everything all right?" I asked.
"Okay, don't freak. It's all good now. It's gonna be okay. Aaron didn't want me to call you because it's normal, it happens, the doctors say..."
My back shot straight and my heart clenched even as my hand gripped the phone so hard, if I had any attention left to pay to it, it would hurt.
"The doctors?" I whispered.
"Yes, they say he's gonna be okay. But we had to take Travis to the hospital last night."
"Hospital?" I screeched, and again, if I had any attention left to pay to it, I would have noticed the feel of the room had gone alert.
"He's fine. Fine," she said hurriedly. "It was just croup. So little, working so hard to cough, it was scary but it's totally okay. The doctors took care of him. Sent him home. Aaron didn't want me to say anything, but I thought you should know."
My head was buzzing, my skin still tingling, my heart beating so hard I could feel it thudding in my chest as I said, "I'm coming to your house."
"No!" she cried. "No, Carissa, don't do that."
"He's my son!" I snapped. "He's been to the hospital, he doesn't feel good, so now I'm coming to your house." I looked up and said to the first person I saw, which was lanky guy. "I need my car. Immediately."
He was studying me but when I spoke, he jerked up his chin, turned, and jogged out.
"Carissa!" Tory called from my phone. "You cannot come here."