From behind the counter at Joanna’s, I grinned as I folded my arms and leaned against the countertop. Luckily, the diner was virtually dead, since it was Saturday night. There were only two tables set, and both parties had already handled their checks. Bobby was somewhere out back smoking half a pack of cigarettes, and I had no idea where Felicia, the other waitress, was. “So did you make a list?”
“Oh, yes. Yes, I did.”
Abbi snuck a fry. “Can’t wait to hear this.”
“It was the best list ever.” She popped a fry in her mouth and wiped her fingers on a napkin. “I listed amazing careers such as hooking, stripping, dealing drugs...and not the small stuff. I’m thinking heroin. Oh, by the way, I heard Tracey Sims is on the brown sugar.”
“Okay.” Abbi twisted on the stool, angling her body toward Megan’s. “I don’t know if you’re talking about heroin or the actual sugar.”
“Heroin. You’ve never heard it called that?”
I shook my head. “I haven’t, but where did you hear that?”
“You know how my cousin used to date her?” She picked up two fries and made a cross out of them. “He told me she’s using. That’s why they broke up.”
Abbi frowned. “Are you serious?”
I pushed away from the counter. “God, I hope not.”
Megan nodded. “I’m serious.”
“That’s so...so sad,” I murmured, glancing up as the door opened. I almost couldn’t believe what I saw. It was Cody Reece and crew, including Phillip, glued to the phone in his hand. Why were they here? None of them usually hung out in Joanna’s unless they were with Sebastian.
“It is. I mean, that’s some hard-core stuff right there,” Megan continued, smacking her fry cross off the edge of the basket. Sprinkles of salt hit the counter. “Just can’t even imagine actually taking a needle and injecting something into me. And if it’s going to cause me to pick at my face, so not volunteering as tribute.”
“I hope it’s not true. Tracey is nice.” Abbi’s eyes widened as she glanced over her shoulder, just as Phillip spotted Megan.
He raised his finger to his mouth as he crept forward, looking ridiculous as he walked on the tips of his sneakers, which made him about six foot twelve or so. With his dark brown skin and a flirtatious grin that had gotten him in trouble more than a time or two with Megan, he was just as crazy-smart as she was. Grinning, he stopped right behind Megan.
“Come to think of it, there are a lot of things I wouldn’t volunteer for,” Megan continued, dropping the fry cross into the basket. “There are a lot of things I don’t—” She squealed as Phillip circled his arms around her.
“Hey, babe.” He rested his chin on her shoulder. “Miss—”
“What are you doing here?” Megan asked the question of the century as she elbowed him hard enough that he grunted. “Seriously? Are you stalking me or something?”
“Maybe.” He let go, leaning against the counter as he grinned at us. “Hey, if you don’t want me stalking you, don’t check into every place you visit.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m not talking to you right now. Do you remember that?”
Dark skin around his eyes crinkled as he smiled. “You didn’t have a problem talking to me last night.”
“That’s because I was bored.” Looking up at me, she brushed her thick braid over her shoulder. “Can’t you make him leave?”
“No.” I laughed.
Abbi helped herself to another fry as she leaned forward. “What does your shirt say?” She squinted. “‘Ain’t no party like a George Washington party, because a George Washington party don’t stop...until the colonies are free and the world recognizes them as a sovereign nation’—oh, what the hell?” Laughing, she shook her head. “Where did you find that shirt?”
“Found it on the street, by a Dumpster.”
I rolled my eyes as the other guys took the booth in the back. “What do you want to drink?”
“Ha ha,” I replied drily. “What age-appropriate drink do you want?”
“Coke is fine.” Phillip smacked his hand on the counter as he changed focus. “Megan, my love...”
Shooting Abbi a look, I pivoted around and grabbed him his drink from the soda station. Then I picked up the pitcher of ice water and made my way over to the table.
I hadn’t seen Cody since the night at Keith’s party. Heat was already creeping steadily into my cheeks, but I squared my shoulders. “Hey, guys.”
Cody looked up first. The other two guys had their heads bowed, watching something on their phones.
“Hey,” he said.
Plastering a smile on my face, I ordered myself to not think about that party. I had to admit that Cody was definitely good-looking, which led to my bad life choices that night. He had a head full of wavy blond hair and an easy smile that he broke out frequently, complete with perfectly straight, blindingly white teeth and a cleft chin. He looked like he belonged on the beaches of California, hauling a surfboard behind him, instead of in Nowhere, Virginia.
And Cody knew he was good-looking. That knowledge was etched into that smile he gave so freely. “So what are you guys doing here?” I asked as I poured their water.
“Is that a question you ask all your customers?” Cody threw his arm along the back of the booth.
“Yes. Always.” Ice clinked off the glasses. “My version of great customer service.”
“We’re bored. Plus Phillip saw that Megan was here.” Cody swiped the glass of water. “Wanted to see her.”
I glanced over at the counter, where Phillip looked like he was serenading Abbi and Megan.
“And I wanted to see you.”
My head swung back around and I raised a brow. “Are you high?”
“Not at the moment.” He winked. “Why is that hard to believe? I like you, Lena. And I haven’t seen you in a while.”
“I’ve been around, working.” I stepped aside as Phillip joined them, scooting in beside Cody in the booth. I quickly took the others’ drink orders. “Do you guys need menus?”
“I do.” Cody gave me that smile, and my expression turned bland. “I like choices,” he added. “Lots of choices.”
Thinking that sounded like a really poor sexual innuendo, I shook my head and walked away. “Someone kill me now,” I said to the girls as I grabbed a stack of menus.
“Hey, don’t leave yet.” Megan twirled on the stool. “While you were busy adulting and I was busy ignoring Phillip, Keith texted Abbi and asked her out.”
“Oh, really?” I cradled the menus to my chest.
“To his party tonight,” Abbi clarified.
“He wants to get with you,” I reminded her, backing away.
Abbi rolled her eyes. “He can want whatever he wants, but that is never going to happen.”
“Famous last words,” muttered Megan, and then I heard her say, “We should go. I haven’t been to Keith’s in a couple of weeks.”
“I don’t know.” Abbi stared down at the napkin she’d been doodling on. “I have a feeling if I agree, you’re going to embarrass me.”
“Never,” gasped Megan.
“Well, you guys figure that out.” I turned away and brought the menus to the guys, placing one in front of each of them. Then I filled their drink orders and brought them over. “You guys know what you want yet?”
“I do.” Cody’s brown eyes twinkled as Phillip chuckled, and I prepared myself, knowing it had nothing to do with the menu. “What if I wanted a piece of you for dinner?”
I cocked my head to the side, not entirely surprised. Cody was... Well, he was just Cody. It was hard to take him seriously and he could be, as my mom would put it, crude as hell. “That had to be the absolute stupidest thing I’ve heard in the seventeen years of my life and I don’t even know what human being would be impressed by that statement.”